Title: The Amorous Heart: An Unconventional History of Love Author: Marilyn Yalom Publishers: Basic Books, Hachette Format: Hardback Pages: 277 Genre: Non-fiction, History
What’s it about?
As the title suggests, this is a book about the history of love, and so much more.
Ever wonder how the heart icon ❤ came to symbolize love? And why is the heart organ linked to love? It wasn’t always so. Of course, this begs the question – what is the meaning of love across the ages?
The earliest depiction of the heart icon is found in 6th century BCE in what is now Libya. Then it was not associated with love but rather a representation of a seed, a sign for contraception. By 6th century AD Persia, it was symbolic of grapes, vines and wine – abundance. It was in the 13th and 14th century that the heart icon came to signify love. How?
This book traces this evolution in Western culture from ancient times – Plato’s metaphysical idealism of “love” to “Ovidian love…embedded in the flesh, with the “heart” a lofty euphemism for the genitals“.
It traces the narratives of love associated with Eros and Cupid. Does carnality and passion undermine love? Is love pure?
Is heart the locus of love?
Yalom’s research took her from medieval times through Catholic and Protestant traditions (where literature, royalty and religion enmeshed) to literary figures in the likes of Shakespeare and Austen to scientific writings as she laid out the trajectory of love and heart.
“The Amorous Heart” tracks amor (sensual love) and caritas (noble love) across the centuries and tells the story of the origin of the word “romance” to the tales of “true love” where “everything is permitted for those who love” taking it beyond the questions of morals and religion.
It gives an interesting account of the age-old discourse between the religious heart versus the amorous heart when Christianity separated sex and sensual love thus delineating the act for procreation and the passion which gave rise to it.
What does history say of the heart’s ability to love one or more persons? Can it? Ought it? How are heart and love tied to marriage and the place of woman? For it wasn’t always that love is a desired prerequisite to marriage.
It is interesting for me to discover for example, present narratives of “one’s true love as one who brings out the best in us” and the notion of “unconditional love” are not modern concepts. They can be traced to the songs of the troubadours of 12th and 13th century France, Spain and Germany who professed the same.
This impressive book provides a story of the social evolution of the iconography of the heart, of the sexes in relation to our capacity to love; it serves to demonstrate our natural instinct for love and erotic expression.
Would I recommend it?
A fascinating read of a phenomenon we take for granted and for which we believe we are entitled – love.
Who’s the Real Criminal: Blackbeard the Pirate or Governor Spotswood Who Hunted Him Down?
By Samuel Marquis
In Blackbeard: The Birth of America, Historical Fiction Author Samuel Marquis, the ninth great-grandson of Captain William Kidd, chronicles the legendary Edward Thache—former British Navy seaman and notorious privateer-turned-pirate, who lorded over the Atlantic seaboard and Caribbean during the Golden Age of Piracy. A Robin-Hood-like American patriot and the most famous freebooter of all time, Blackbeard was illegally hunted down by Virginia Governor Alexander Spotswood, the British Crown’s man in Williamsburg obsessed with his capture. This year marks the 300th anniversary of Blackbeard’s death.
On February 14, 1719, Virginia Lieutenant Governor Spotswood wrote a letter to Lord Cartwright, a proprietor of North Carolina, in which he attempted to explain his justification for authorizing the invasion of his lordship’s colony and killing of Blackbeard the pirate and nine of his crew members at Ocracoke Island on November 22, 1718. The pirate, whose real name was Edward Thache of Spanish Town, Jamaica, and his men had recently been pardoned by Governor Eden of the colony, and Spotswood wanted to make sure that he was not accused of exceeding his authority and committing murder in North Carolina waters. His deliberately misleading letter was one of the British governor’s usual interminable fussy letters, and in it he falsely boasted to have rescued “the trade of North Carolina from the insults of pirates upon the earnest solicitations of the inhabitants there,” even though only one complaint involving a single minor incident had been filed. He further expressed his hope that his actions would “not be unacceptable to your lordships.” He admitted that he had not informed either the proprietors or Eden about his invasion plan, which was required by law, but chose not to mention that this was because he believed Eden to be conspiring with Blackbeard.
When Spotswood invaded the proprietary colony of North Carolina to the south, neither he nor the seventy Royal Navy officers and crew members he commanded to hunt down Blackbeard and his pirates had the authority to invade another colony. In the fall of 1718 at the time of the attack, Blackbeard was, legally speaking, a citizen who had broken no laws and was in good standing. He had been pardoned by Governor Eden for his previous piracies, had paid the appropriate fees to the governor and customs collector Tobias Knight in the form of casks of sugar, had applied for and received legal approval to salvage a French vessel captured near Bermuda from that same governor, and had yet to be indicted for any crime. Spotswood had, in effect, authorized the kidnapping or killing of the resident of another colony—depending on whether Blackbeard resisted or not.
But the governor was not bothered by the overt illegality of his scheme. He had already made up in his mind months earlier that he was going to go after Edward Thache without reservation, by taking action first and seeking approval from the British Board of Trade and lords proprietors later. He wanted the notorious Blackbeard—and Governor Eden and Tobias Knight too—so badly that he could taste it. He had long been intent on extending his control and influence over Virginia’s southern border, which he never considered to be far enough south, and he was intent on acquiring the fledgling proprietary colony and folding it into his own powerful royal colony of Virginia. By finding damning evidence that Eden and Blackbeard were in collusion and that Eden and Knight were receiving bribes for looking the other way, he hoped to make a Virginia takeover a reality.
The aggressive overreach of Spotswood begs the question: who is the criminal in this case, the lawfully pardoned and likely retired pirate or the colonial governor who knowingly broke the law to hunt him down, killed him and his crew, and then put the survivors on trial?
Between January 1716 and November 22, 1718, when he was killed at Ocracoke at the hands of Lieutenant Maynard and the Royal Navy, Edward Thache captured more than thirty merchant vessels along the Atlantic seaboard, Caribbean, and Spanish Main, and one 200-ton slaver, which he converted into his flagship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge. At the peak of his freebooting career in April 1718, he served as commodore of a 700-man, five-ship, 60-plus-gun pirate flotilla that rivaled the strength of any pirate fleet in history. According to one researcher, Blackbeard and the other pirates of his short-lived era had at their zenith “disrupted the trans-Atlantic commerce of three empires and even had the warships of the Royal Navy on the run.” And yet, during the course of his career, he never physically harmed anyone until the day he was battling for his life (he was reportedly shot five times and stabbed more than twenty times before he finally fell from being decapitated by a seaman’s cutlass). In fact, Thache typically showed his victims respect and let them down easily after taking their ships as prizes, giving them vessels in trade, food and provisions, and even receipts for merchandise.
In an age when violence was commonplace, he did no more harm to captured ship captains than to detain them for a brief period of time. As pirate historian Arne Bialuschewski states: “I haven’t seen one single piece of evidence that Blackbeard ever used violence against anyone.” Colin Woodard, author of The Republic of Pirates, echoes this sentiment: “Blackbeard was remarkably judicious in his use of force. In the dozens of eyewitness accounts of his victims, there is not a single instance in which he killed anyone prior to his final, fatal battle with the Royal Navy. “
The son of a wealthy plantation-owner from Jamaica and a former Royal Navy officer and privateer on behalf of the British Crown, by 1716 Thache became a no-holds-barred outlaw taking the vessels of all nations. But he and his men did not view themselves as outlaws, but rather as Robin-Hood-like figures and American patriots fighting against British domination and the Atlantic mercantile system that favored the 1% of their day. And that was how the American people largely viewed them, too. While the upper-middle-class Jamaican was portrayed as a “barbarous” monster by the pro-British newspapers, merchant elite, and Alexander Spotswood, he was known as a Robin-Hood-like folk hero defying the British Crown among his fellow American colonists. The image of Blackbeard as a cruel and ruthless villain imbued with almost supernatural powers was largely created by propagandist newspaper accounts of the era (particularly the pro-British Boston News-Letter) and Captain Charles Johnson’s (Nathanial Mist’s) A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates, first published in 1724 six years after Blackbeard’s death. As Bialuschewski states about the latter: “This book has been plundered by generations of historians, despite the fact that it is riddled with errors, exaggerations, and misunderstandings.” More than any published work, Captain Johnson’s propogandist tome created the notorious but unrealistic Blackbeard image that we know today and celebrate in movies like Pirates of the Caribbean and TV shows like Black Sails and Crossbones.
And what about Spotswood? While Blackbeard was playing out the role of Robin Hood of the high seas, the governor of Virginia was getting rich and fat at the colonists’ expense and showing open contempt for the colony’s lower house of elected representatives and the colonial democratic process. The governor’s many critics claimed he employed heavy-handed tactics to control tobacco exports through his Tobacco Inspection Act, rewarded his loyal friends with patronage positions, and acquired large tracts of valuable land through shady practices. With his Indian Trade Act, he granted the Virginia Indian Company that he created a twenty-year monopoly over American Indian trade, and charged the company with maintaining Fort Christanna, a settlement in the southern tidewater region for smaller Indian tribes. Establishing the company was Spotswood’s attempt to circumvent political opposition by shifting the financial burden of defense against Indians from the colonial government to private enterprise, but in doing so, he angered those who had invested in private trade. All in all, his policies were unpopular with Virginia tobacco planters, landholders, and commoners alike since all sought to maintain their independence from the British Crown. By 1722, he was toppled from government due to “an accumulation of grievances” from Virginia’s House of Burgesses and his own Governor’s Council, but by then Spotswood had made so much money from questionable land deals that his governorship had become immaterial. He would remain the wealthiest man in Virginia until his death in 1740.
One of his more disgraceful actions was to deny payment of the promised reward money to Lieutenant Maynard and the other Royal Navy seamen who had battled Thache at Ocracoke until four years after the battle—even though Spotswood had, by binding decree, promised prompt payment upon the capture of the pirate and his crew. After four years of delay, many of those who had fought valiantly and spilled blood upon the decks of the two naval sloops had died or retired from the service, and so never received a penny.
For Spotswood, the judgement of history has been severe, particularly when it comes to Blackbeard. He knowingly launched an illegal expedition in violation of the King’s and governor of North Carolina’s pardons to destroy the freebooter (who was likely retired from piracy) and his crew, all in an effort to gather evidence to be used to undermine Eden and his second-in-command and thereby further his own career and financial gain. In the eyes of history, it is Spotswood who is far more criminal, immoral, and unethical than Blackbeard, Eden, or Knight. Not only did he knowingly and illicitly violate the sovereignty of a neighboring colony, he conspired with and was closely associated with the ethically suspect Edward Moseley, Colonel Maurice Moore, and Captain Vail. In December 1718, the Moseley gang broke into the house of North Carolina Secretary John Lovick in an attempt to examine Council records for incriminating evidence against Eden and Knight. When Spotswood’s North Carolina conspirators Moseley and Moore were tried the following year, the event was a sensation and Moseley was fined and barred from public office for three years. Spotswood did his best to distance himself from Moseley and Moore, but his critics knew better.
In the end, he is remembered as a slave-owning British elitist, stodgy bureaucrat, hypocrite, and profiteer who used the governor’s office to lord over “the people” in the name of the Crown, promote his own self-interests at the public expense, and destroy his political enemies or those, like Blackbeard, that he disapproved of.
He will always be Inspector Javert to Blackbeard’s Jean Valjean from Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables.
The ninth great-grandson of legendary privateer Captain William Kidd, Samuel Marquis is the bestselling, award-winning author of historical pirate fiction, a World War Two Series, and the Nick Lassiter-Skyler International Espionage Series. His novels have been #1 Denver Post bestsellers, received multiple national book awards (Foreword Reviews Book of the Year, American Book Fest Best Book, USA Best Book, Beverly Hills, Next Generation Indie, Colorado Book Awards), and garnered glowing reviews from #1 bestseller James Patterson, Kirkus, and Foreword Reviews (5 Stars). Book reviewers have compared Marquis’s WWII thrillers Bodyguard of Deception and Altar of Resistance to the epic historical novels of Tom Clancy, John le Carré, Ken Follett, Herman Wouk, Daniel Silva, and Alan Furst. Mr. Marquis’s newest historical fiction novel, Blackbeard: The Birth of America, commemorates the 300th anniversary of Blackbeard’s death. His website is www.samuelmarquisbooks.com and for publicity inquiries, please contact JKS Communications at email@example.com.
Sorry to be posting this review earlier than I planned, but I was informed that the title was running a promotion on Bookbub on the 20th and I thought that might give everybody a good chance to get a copy if you fancy it or you want to see what you think, but it will be on offer in Goodreadsuntil the 26th too.
Here it comes!
The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict
October 18, 2016; Hardcover, ISBN 9781492637257
Title: The Other Einstein
Author: Marie Benedict
Release Date: October 18, 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Praise for The Other Einstein
October 2016 Indie Next and LibraryReads Pick!
PopSugar’s “25 Books You’re Going to Curl Up with this Fall”
“The Other Einstein takes you into Mileva’s heart, mind, and study as she tries to forge a place for herself in a scientific world dominated by men.”– Bustle
“…an ENGAGING and THOUGHT PROVOKING fictional telling of the poignant story of an overshadowed woman scientist.”– Booklist
“…INTIMATE and IMMERSIVE historical novel….
Prepare to be moved by this provocative history of a woman whose experiences will resonate with today’s readers.”– Library Journal, Editors’ Fall Picks
“Many will enjoy Benedict’s feminist views and be fascinated by the life of an almost unknown woman.”– RT Book Reviews, 4 Stars
“Benedict’s debut novel carefully traces Mileva’s life—from studious schoolgirl to bereaved mother—with attention paid to the conflicts between personal goals and social conventions. An intriguing… reimagining of one of the strongest intellectual partnerships of the 19th century.”–Kirkus
“In her compelling novel… Benedict makes a strong case that the brilliant woman behind [Albert Einstein] was integral to his success, and creates a rich historical portrait in the process.”–Publishers Weekly
A vivid and mesmerizing novel about the extraordinary woman who married and worked with one of the greatest scientists in history.
What secrets may have lurked in the shadows of Albert Einstein’s fame? His first wife, Mileva “Mitza” Maric_, was more than the devoted mother of their three children—she was also a brilliant physicist in her own right, and her contributions to the special theory of relativity have been hotly debated for more than a century.
But as Albert’s fame grows, so too does Mileva’s worry that her light will be lost in her husband’s shadow forever. A literary historical in the tradition of The Paris Wife and Mrs. Poe, The Other Einstein reveals a complicated partnership that is as fascinating as it is troubling.
Marie Benedict is a lawyer with more than ten years’ experience as a litigator at two of the country’s premier law firms and for Fortune 500 companies. She is a magna cum laude graduate of Boston College with a focus in history and art history and a cum laude graduate of the Boston University School of Law. She lives in Pittsburgh with her family.
Thanks to NetGalley and to Sourcebooks Landmark for offering me an ARC copy of the book. I voluntarily decided to review it.
We’ve all heard the saying: ‘Behind every great man there’s a great woman’ in its many different versions. It’s true that for centuries men (or many men of the wealthy classes with access to education) could dedicate themselves to artistic, scientific or business pursuits because the everyday things were taken care of by their wives or other women in their lives (mothers, relatives, partners…) As Virginia Wolf wrote in ‘A Room of One’s Own’ women had a harder time of it, as they were expected to take care of the house, family, and ensure that their husbands came back to a place where they would be looked after and tended too. Unless women were independently wealthy and could count on the support (financial, emotional and practical) of the men in their lives, it was very hard, if not impossible, to pursue a career in the arts or the sciences.
Mary Benedict’s book explores the life of Mitza Maric, who would later become Einstein’s first wife, from the time of her arrival in Zurich (as one of only a few female students at the university) to the time when she separates from her husband. Maric is an intriguing figure (and I must admit I hadn’t read anything about her before) and an inspiring one, as she had to go against the odds (being a woman at a time were very few women could study at university, suffering from hip dysplasia, that left her with a limp and difficulty in undertaking certain physical tasks) and managed to study and be respected for her knowledge of Physics and Maths.
The book is written in the first person, and we get a close look at Maric´s thoughts, emotions and doubts. The early part of the book is a very good read, with descriptions of the social mores of the era, Mitza’s family, the development of her friendship with the other female students at the lodgings, the intellectual atmosphere and café society of that historical period, and of course, Mr Einstein, whom he meets at University. Mitza believed (like her parents) that due to her physical disability she would never marry, and lived resigned to the idea, having decided to dedicate her life to her research, studies and the academic life she craved. And then… Einstein arrives.
The Einstein depicted by the book is a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde character. He’s friendly, humorous and charming, and also, of course, a brilliant scientist, but can be selfish, egotistical and cares nothing for anybody who is not himself. We see more of the first Einstein at the beginning of the relationship, through their interaction, walks, scientific discussions… Einstein opens the world for Mitza, and if she had been enjoying the company of the other girls, she later neglects them for the world of scientific discussion among men, where she gains entry thanks to Einstein.
When, after much hesitation, Mitza decides to visit Einstein and spend a few days with him in Lake Como, the two of them alone, the book becomes more melodramatic and things start going very wrong. Mitza gets pregnant, Einstein keeps making excuses not to get married yet, and resentment sets in. If I mentioned that Einstein is a Jekyll and Hyde character, Mitza, who was always shy but determined and stubborn, also changes; she becomes sad, hesitant, and she seems unable to follow her own path. In the book, there is much internal discussion and debate, as on the one hand she does not like Einstein’s behaviour, but on the other, she tries to see things from her mother’s point of view and do what’s right for the child.
As some reviewers have noted (and the writer acknowledges in her notes at the back of the book), it’s a fact that they had a daughter out of wedlock, but it’s not clear what happened to her, and that makes the later part of the book, at least for me, stand on shakier grounds. That is always a difficulty with historical fiction, whereby to flesh out the story authors must make decisions, interpreting events and sometimes filling in gaps. In some cases, this is more successful than others, and it might also depend on the reader and their ability to suspend disbelief.
The author comes up with an explanation for the possible origin of the theory of relativity, closely linked to Mitza’s faith (and I know there have been debate as to how much Einstein’s wife contributed to it, and she definitely did contribute, although most likely not as much as is suggested in the book) that hinges around a dramatic event affecting their daughter, the problem being (from a historical point of view) that there’s no evidence it ever took place. That event, as depicted in the text, has a major impact in later parts of the novel and seems to underline all of the later difficulties the couple has, although Einstein’s behaviour, his reluctance to include his wife’s name in any of the articles or patents, the time he spends away, and his infidelities don’t help.
I found it difficult to reconcile the woman of the beginning of the book with the beaten down character of the later part of the book, although there are some brief flashes of her former self, like when she converses with Marie Curie. Although there is much self-justification for her continuing to live with Einstein given the circumstances (she is doing it for the children, she still hopes he will seek her ideas and collaboration and they’ll end up working together), one wonders how the strong and determined woman of the beginning can end up tolerating such a frustrating life (especially once Albert becomes well known and their financial difficulties end). There is also no evidence that she sought to rekindle her career once she was no longer with Einstein, and one can’t help but wonder if perhaps their relationship, at least early on, was also a source of inspiration for her too.
I enjoyed getting to know a bit more about Mitza Maric, and in particular about the era and the difficulties women had to face then, although I would have preferred to be more aware of where the facts ended and author creativity started whilst reading the book, as I was never sure if some of the inconsistencies within the characters were due to their own experiences and circumstances, or to the reimagining of some parts of the story, that perhaps ends up transforming it into a more typical narrative of the woman whose ambitions and future die due to marriage, children and a less than enlightened husband. (It reminded me at times of Revolution Road, although in this instance both of the characters are talented, whilst there…) The author provides sources for further reading and research at the end that will prove invaluable to those interested in digging further.
In sum, this book highlights the figure of a woman worth knowing better; it can work as the starting point for further research and fascinating discussions, and it is eminently readable. People looking for specific scientific information or accurate personal facts might need to consult other books as this is definitely a fictionalisation.
And now, if you want to check the book, you’re in luck!
Thanks so much to NetGalley, Sourcebooks Landmark and to the author for her novel, thanks to all of you for reading, and if you’ve enjoyed it, like, share, comment and CLICK!
In Jesus vs. Santa: Christmas Misunderstood, Jason Royle tackles THE big question of Christmas; Is Santa evil? Okay, maybe he doesn’t quite put it that way, but you know a lot of Christians have issues with Santa.
After reading, enjoying, and reviewing Judas: Hero Misunderstood(clickHEREfor the review of that one), and then bringing Jason onboard LWI as our Christian and Inspirational book reviewer, there was no doubt I was going to read this new one.
One thing about both Jason and I, we are Christians. We are by choice, living it Christians. That means even though Jason works here, he gets an honest review from me. He expects one as well. If his book was so bad I couldn’t finish it, I would do like I do with other books like that, I send an email explaining things instead of putting it out there to the world my opinion that it was bad. The fact there is a review here should give you an idea if I liked the book or not.
In Jesus vs. Santa: Christmas Misunderstood, Royle takes you through the history of Christmas, from the real Saint Nicholas to the daddy of Thor, in a brief and painless way. (I was a History teacher, so I know about painful history lessons.) You’ll learn where the answer to how we handle the issue of Santa with our kids begins. A great deal of what you find in Jesus vs. Santa you can use in everyday life with not only your children, but yourself as well.
As a minister and a father, Jason has to balance the question we all face as parents each Christmas with even more pressure than the rest of us. You might think he’s going to go full force in one direction on this subject, but read. If the answer is as clear as that, why would I read it and review it? If the answer is as simple as No More Santa, I would not waste my novel writing time reading the book and then even more of that time writing a review.
As an ordained Deacon, former Youth Minister, and Sunday School Director, I feel the pains Jason goes through in a family moment he shares. My son is 11 now, and the question of Santa is a big thing at the moment. He’s not asking, but you can see how realization is setting in. Fortunately, I’ve done some of the things Jason mentions in his book, so my hope is things transition well.
If you are about to enter the Santa zone with your kids, are in the middle of it, or coming to the end of it, read this book to find out how to handle things in a way that keeps your kids on the right path of Jesus not only at Christmas, but year around.
5 out of 5 Stars
Bet it at Amazon by clicking HERE NOW for Kindle/Paperback for $2.99/$5.99.
ABOUT JASON E. ROYLE
“Writing, for Jason, is a way to express the ongoing story of theology. With every book or article, he hopes readers get a sense of the complexity of God and the necessity of faith. Captivated by the spiritual component of life, Jason loves to read everything from the Greek classics to the Sunday comics. While serving as pastor of a congregation near Memphis, TN, Jason wrote a weekly column in a local newspaper called Sermon in a Nutshell and has had devotions published in The Secret Place, among others.”
Click the image to follow the latest from Jason on Twitter!
For the last few weeks I’ve brought you some writers whose main work is in Spanish but who have had some of their novels translated to English. I thought it would be interesting to get a different perspective on the business of writing, and it would be an opportunity to meet across the borders of language.
Today I bring you a writer whom I’ve also met in a variety of social media platforms and when I got to check his writing, I was impressed by his background and the variety and number of publications, some more directly related to his studies and profession but others not so much.
And without further ado:
Mario Escobar Golderos (Madrid, Spain) has a degree in History, with an advanced studies diploma in Modern History. He has written numerous books and articles about the Inquisition, the Protestant Reformation, and religious sects. He is the executive director of an NGO and directs the magazine Nueva historia para el debate, in addition to being a contributing columnist in various publications. Passionate about history and its mysteries, Escobar has delved into the depths of church history, the different sectarian groups that have struggled therein, and the discovery and colonization of the Americas. He specializes in the lives of unorthodox Spaniards and Americans. Books:
The Circle an Amazon Bestseller Europe in the category of suspense.
When and how did you start writing?
The truth is that I’ve always enjoyed writing. When I was a child I started writing plays for my school and writing fairy tales to submit to competitions. When I was a teenager I carried on writing. For me, becoming a writer was a dream, but I never thought I would manage.
Describe your experience as an independent writer.
The truth is that I consider myself a mixed writer (or hybrid as others call them), as I still publish some of my books with publishing companies such as HarperCollins, Stella Maris or Edelvives. Publishing independently has allowed me to have more control over the process and more economic stability.
What’s the moment that has had more significance for you (up to date) of your career as a writer:
When two of my readers told me they had become writers after reading my books. Such is the magic of writing and books.
What made you think about getting your books translated?
I’ve always liked to play hard and bet big. I prefer to take risks and make mistakes than never try. I found a great translator, my book in English is better than the Spanish version, and I thought I should give it a try.
So far things have been going well, although it is a bit soon to know what the overall result will be.
What was the process like, when trying to find a translator?
The most difficult think is looking for and finding a good translator. We shouldn’t forget that it is a big investment. To look for a good translator is not cheap. I’ve found one of the best ones. And then you must have a lot of faith in your book.
In my case, the same person had translated one of my books ‘Francisco’ (Francis, his book about the new Pope) for the publishing company Harper Collins, and I was so happy with the results that I offered her to translate what would become The Circle.
Could you tell us what your books mean to you?
My books are a gift I love to give to my readers. I enjoy them whilst I’m writing them, but what I wish for the most is that the readers will enjoy them too. Especially those who are away from their family, country or community; I hope my books will keep them company in the hard journey of life.
Any advice for your fellow writers (especially new writers)?
That you have to do a good job, believe in yourself and not pull any punches. The most important thing is to never give up, to be constant and persevere and to keep improving little by little.
Here are a few links so you can find out even more about Mario.
From Amazon’s Top 100 Books sold in the USA, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Mexico and Spain.
Soon to be adapted for the big screen.
A debut psychological thriller that will forever change the way you look at other people’s lives.
“After the hit saga Misión Verne and The Cloud, Mario Escobar sweeps us up in a riveting adventure set against the backdrop of the financial crisis, the dark nooks and crannies of power, and the city of London.”
Comments from readers on Amazon:
“This is an entertaining read, a really interesting story full of intrigue. When I got to the ‘To Be Continued’ spot, I was on the edge of my seat waiting for the second part… Good thing it’s ready now so I can keep reading.”
“This one grabs you from the very beginning. It’s enjoyable and light but captivating. It’s an easy read, and you learn history as you go. I highly recommend it. It really draws you in.”
“It’s got a dynamic, well-constructed plot. I totally recommend it. It’s so current day. It’s a quick read, and you don’t feel the time going by. It draws you in right away.”
“One breathless night to save his family and discover the mystery locked inside his patient”
The plot of the novel The Circle:
Famous psychiatrist Solomon Lewin has left his humanitarian work in India to serve as the chief psychiatrist at the Center for Psychological Illnesses located in London’s Square Mile financial district. Though well paid, the job is monotonous, and Solomon is also going through a rough patch in his marriage with Margaret. He begins scrutinizing the more mysterious cases of the center’s long-term residents hoping to find something worth his time. When he comes across the chart of Maryam Batool, a young broker from London who has lived in the center for seven years, his life will change forever.
Maryam Batool is an orphan from Pakistan who became one of the most promising female employees of the financial institution General Society, but in the summer of 2007, at the start of the financial crisis, the young broker loses her mind and tries to kill herself. Since then she has been stuck, able only to draw circles yet unable to understand their meaning.
A snowstorm looms over the city at the start of the Christmas holidays. Before Christmas Eve dinner, Solomon receives an urgent call from the center to come at once: Maryam has attacked a nurse and seems to be awakening from her long stupor.
Solomon heads downtown in the snow, clueless that this will be the most difficult night of his life. The psychiatrist does not trust his patient, the police are after them, and his family seems to be in danger. The only way to protect himself and those he loves is to discover what “The Circle” is and why everyone seems to want his patient dead. It’s a surprise ending and a mystery you won’t believe.
What is hiding in the City of London? Who is behind the biggest business center in the world? What is the truth behind “The Circle”? Can Solomon save his family?
Here Mario replies to a few questions about the book:
What did writing The Circle mean for you?
It was a delightful surprise. It was my first suspense novel. I’d already written several intrigue novels, and I thought suspense would be even more exciting. In suspense, the readers suffer almost as much as the characters themselves. The Circle has all the marks of a detective story. The reader doesn’t know the truth until right at the end. Why did you set the book in London’s Square Mile?
Tax havens are one protagonist in our current worldwide financial crisis. London is the world’s largest financial center, and it holds a lot of secrets, just like the protagonist of my novel. What should the reader expect from this new book?
An avalanche of suspense. A major dose of intrigue and action but also the inner workings of a family struggling to fit in with their surroundings. A marriage that’s not working. Disdain for boring daily life that, after all, turns out to be the most important thing we’ve got. The personal demons of a world that has no idea where it’s headed. Solomon faces countless moral dilemmas, like judging people too quickly, recognizing he can’t defeat evil by himself, and understanding that Evil with a capital “E” has a name and a face. Why does it take place in the middle of a snowstorm right on Christmas Eve?
The storm is another protagonist in the plot. In some ways it’s a symbol of the internal turmoil of the characters. This is not a novel of good guys vs. bad guys. It reflects the complexity of being human, our contradictions and how we face them. The Circle has reached tens of thousands of readers from Germany to Australia, Latin America to Spain, because, at our core, we’ve all got the same fears and hopes. We’re all part of this big family called Earth.
….Little did Solomon know what he was getting into!
It was the summer of 2007 in London. Maryam Batool, a Muslim orphan, was a very successful stockbroker. All she cared about was money. Upon turning on the TV she heard that three American banks had declared bankruptcy.
Fast forward a few years to the London Center for Psychological Illnesses, located in the Square Mile where we meet Solomon Lewin, the new chief psychiatrist of the center. Having spent ten years in Calcutta, him and his family just moved back five weeks ago. He is not expecting much excitement in the job, having the opinion that the wealthy prove boring. Most of his clients are white males aged 35-45, leading arrogant and almost insufferable empty lives.
In his attempt to free up some beds just five days before Christmas, his eyes catch a report on a patient who has been there the longest. Who is this patient? Maryam Batool! She was committed in August 2007 after several suicide attempts. She no longer communicates except to say one single phrase, “The Circle”. John the previous, now retired, chief psych tells Solomon to leave Maryam alone as there is no solution but Solomon is intrigued.
Frustrated with his home life and rambunctious kids even though he still loves his wife, Margaret, he decides to work from home on Christmas Eve. Totally surprised when he gets a call in the early evening from the center saying that Maryam has attempted suicide again! Apparently there was a visitor claiming to be her sister? This is the second visitor in a week! Returning to the center Solomon starts getting suspicious when the receptionist is not at her desk nor does there appear to be anyone else around. Why won’t the light switch on? What is going on? This is followed by a phone call from his house from someone claiming to be from Scotland Yard’s Fraud Squad?
Hopefully this is enough to whet your appetite. The above is truly only the beginning in this fast paced thriller. It gets a LOT more interesting and dangerous as Solomon tries to figure out the truth of who is telling the truth and who is lying. What does Maryam know/have that she cannot remember? Does she have both Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Post Traumatic Amnesia?
VERY clever story. All I can say about the ending is “Oh my goodness!” I will say if you like books with happy endings then don’t read this one! It is a well-written story and just the right length for the time involved. It keeps you gripped and not wanting to put the book down.
Language – mild
Sexual content – none
Violence – plenty!
I was given a complimentary Kindle copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. That’s what’s above! Thanks, Liz
And Mario informed me that there is a special offer on The Circle available now
In case any of you speak Spanish, I leave you a link to a fascinating podcast where Blanca Miosi, another one of my guests, interviewed Mario Escobar. I leave you both the link and the interview direct. It’s a very interesting series where every week there’s a new author, so if you’re confident with your Spanish, it’s a great way to meet new people.
This is the second novel I read by author Jordi Díez after really enjoying Virgin of the Sun. The plots are quite different and in many ways The Pendulum of God is a much more complicated story. Although the main action takes place in the here and now (well, a few years back), there are segments of the story that happen in the early Christian era, others in the Middle Ages (XIII Century), in the XVIII Century and even during WWII. And the settings also take us from Barcelona to Paris, Romania, Switzerland, San Sebastián, Israel and many other places in between.
There is intrigue, conspiracy theories, the search for a secret document that two enemy sides have been after for centuries, goodies that are not always as good as they seem to be, baddies who are sometimes worse than anybody would give them credit for, secret identities, crimes, miracles, games of cat and mouse, follow the clues, historical facts and flights of fancy, love and betrayal…The Pendulum of God is a great adventure, that quickens its pace the further the plot advances and you’ll find difficult to stop reading.
I also found connections with Virgin of the Sun because the main character, Cécil, experiments a profound change during his journey. From the rationality and adherence to facts that are part and parcel of his job as an auditor, he sees his cynical stance challenged by communities and beliefs whose life style and assumptions are completely outside of his comfort zone. Many extraordinary things happen in this book, but the evolution of its protagonist is, in many ways, the most extraordinary of all.
If you enjoy following clues, mysteries and adventures, you’ll enjoy this book. If you like to explore historical eras and facts from the past, you’ll find much to occupy your mind. If you’ve always wondered how far you would go to change your life, this book might make you think again.
I will follow the author with interest and hope there will be more novels soon.
I am fascinated with strong female characters, real-life or fictitious. So it is no wonder this book caught my attention when it was first published in 2013. Unfortunately with time constraints, it wasn’t until the paperback was released that it found its way into my home. Title: Empress Dowager Cixi: the Concubine who Launched Modern China Author: Jung Chang Publisher: Vintage Books, London (3 July 2014) ISBN-10: 0099532395 ISBN-13: 9780099532392 Website: http://www.jungchang.net/Pages: Paperback, 528 pages Genre: Literary Non-Fiction – History What’s it about? Empress Dowager Cixi was never ‘crowned’ empress. But she was the de facto ruler of China from 1861 to 1908. At the age of 16, Cixi was ‘honoured’ for being selected to be a concubine to the Emperor Xianfeng. At the death of the Emperor, she (then 25 years old) with the official Empress Zhen, “sat behind the throne” of the successor, Cixi’s son, Tongzhi who was then 5 years of age. From that position, literally behind a yellow silk screen, Cixi ruled China. Whilst she has been credited for her efforts bringing China into the modern age, Cixi’s private life remains very much just that – private, partly contributed by the loss of her personal archives during her reign. In contrast, the public life of this formidable woman was subject to a lot conjecture and criticism for she had dared to thwart the traditions of the patriarchal system and perhaps misogynistic culture of the times. And in comparison to the likes of say, Elizabeth I or Josephine Bonarparte or Cleopatra, Cixi’s life has received relatively little attention, and largely demonised. In similar style to her previous bestseller, Wild Swans (1991), Jung Chang has presented the life of Cixi in a matter-of-fact and impassive manner. It would seem there is a concerted effort to be impartial both in language and the events of that era. In this sense, the book allows the readers to come to their own conclusions as to the morality and values of that Chinese era, and in particular, of Cixi, and the different political parties of the time. Factually, there was enough to provide a political context to Cixi’s rule while not inundating the readers with details. In saying this, the simplification of the rich and complex events belie the political and cultural obstacles Cixi must have had to navigate. Note this was a woman who was not ‘educated’ as compared to her male counterparts. Jung’s depiction of Cixi gives a hint of the chameleon – a public persona and a deeply private person, a traditional woman with modern perspectives. It would have been a treat if Jung had canvassed in greater depth the psychological and emotional landscape of this clever woman. I wonder what it was like to live in that era, being within the Imperial Court, and being responsible for China and its progress. A small detail stood out for me – Cixi collaborated/worked closely with Empress Zhen to make the changes required. While astute, decisive, incisive and at times uncompromising, she it would seem did not perceive ‘female competition’. Quite capable of ruthlessness to achieve her ends, Cixi nevertheless sought first to collaborate. Her political astuteness, in maneuvering for powers besetting China, is rather incredible. She was courageous enough to fight and/or retreat. The book highlights the ingenuity, and political and strategic savviness, of Cixi in wrestling and maintaining power for 47 years. As Charles Denby (an American minister to Beijing during her mid-reign) stated:
“At that time, she was universally esteemed by foreigners, and revered by her own people, and was regarded as being one of the greatest characters in history…Under her rule for a quarter of a century China made immense progress.”
This book is worth a read, for it gave great insight to the comings and goings of the intrigue within the Chinese Imperial Court, and the strength and vision of one woman to bring China into the modern age. Recommendation:LWI Rating: Realistic Characterization: 4/5 Made Me Think: 3/5 Overall enjoyment: 3.5/5 Readability: 4/5 Recommended: 3/5 Overall Rating: 3.5/5 Buy it at: