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May 2007

May Books

Infidel: by Ayaan Hirsi Ali; Free Press, 2007.

Despite death threats and public critiques, Ayaan Hirsi Ali has continued to act as an outspoken opponent of radical Islam and its consequences for women. Born in Somalia, she sought asylum in the Netherlands en-route to an arranged marriage in Canada. In just a few years, she was elected to the Dutch Parliament. Hirsi Ali used that platform to raise her voice against Islam. She published a book (The Caged Virgin), and helped make a documentary about domestic violence and Islam (with Dutch director Theo van Gogh, later assassinated). In this new book, Hirsi Ali narrates the course of her life, and why it led her to question the tenets of her Muslim faith.

Christine Falls: by Benjamin Black; Henry Holt & Company, 2007.

A local maid’s death turns into a messy problem for Irish pathologist Garret Quirke. Following the trail through the back rooms of 1950s Dublin and Boston, Quirke uncovers a web of crime and corruption in which the Catholic Church and his own family are implicated. This atmospheric thriller is the first in a planned series of crime novels by Black—the alter ego of Booker Prize winner John Banville. Black’s tawdry content is tempered by Banville’s unmistakable literary imprint. Nevertheless, Banville writes, “If it is art, then it is so by accident. And anyway, what does it matter, art or otherwise? For oh, dear, what fun I am having.” His readers will surely agree.

Ten Days in the Hills: by Jane Smiley; Knopf 2007.

This latest novel from Pulitzer Prize winner Jane Smiley transplants Bocaccio’s Decameron to the Hollywood Hills, just weeks after American troops entered Iraq. A constellation of circumstances brings various show business has-beens and family to lodge in a mansion high above Los Angeles. Essentially, the book consists of more than 400 pages of people talking. The characters, however, are intelligent, witty, sexy, and deeply concerned with the problems of the 21st century: war, entertainment, and modern relationships among them. These conversations are well worth listening in on.

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