Posted by: Corri van de Stege | June 14, 2007

Two Books

Just very quickly before going off on my annual ‘binge’ – two weeks away in France without internet access(?).  So it will go very quiet here for a bit, unless I manage to find something nearby and not too difficult to access.  I doubt it though.  I shall simply stick to my wine and books (and the ‘creative writing’ course…).  So here are a couple of musings I did over the weekend on a few books I have read/ am reading. 

Anne Tyler’s Digging to America is about two couples, one American and one Iranian, who each adopt a Korean baby, delivered at Baltimore airport, where they meet.  The take on the Iranian couple, long term exiles in America, is quite interesting, although we are never quite sure why their families have ended up in America.  Tyler clearly does not want to get too embroiled in political matters, so we hear something vague about the shah and about the new leaders in Iran, but nothing more.  It is clear that they are there as so many Iranians are all over the world: it’s not good to live in Iran for one reason or another.  This gives Tyler the opportunity to build in the nostalgia for the home country, the culture, the family still there, the lifestyles, the food, etc. as it is clear that had things been better, everyone would have stayed at home.  As it is, they make the best of it and try and integrate as well as they can. 

We get to know all the characters through extensive conversations they have, within their own ‘clan’ but also across, with the latter providing the kind of unease, the causes for misunderstanding.  Even though at times I don’t always recognise the Iranian ‘character’ it is very amusing and painfully true at other times.  I remember the endless ‘misunderstandings’ I used to have when living in Iran, not quite getting it, or realising that whatever I said was interpreted in quite a different way from what I intended.  And again, of course, the same thing although to a much lesser extent, happens between European cultures.   It is quite interesting that the Iranian couple appear to be the more ‘modern’ of the two, with the wife working and not seeing any problem in that, whereas the American mother insists on being there ‘full-time’ for children – for a mother to work is quite frowned upon by her. 

Another book, just as absorbing but totally and utterly different is The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (translated by Lucia Graves), a gothic, romantic, mystery set in Barcelona.  It was published in 2004 and somehow or other I missed it at the time; recently a friend gave it to me to read.  I had to get used to the writing style, but once into it it’s quite fantastic, and this book does not shy away from comments on the Franco regime, fascists, Civil War and some real ‘baddies’.  prison and torture are all part of a large mosaic of events unfolding.  I haven’t got to the end yet so I cannot reveal the secret.  I am totally captivated though…. It’s funny, a bit of a thriller and everything else I mentioned before.  A good read.


  1. Interesting, seachanges. I’ll try and get them although in the second case, The Shadow of the Wind, I’ll get the Spanish version because I am very much against translations.

    Enjoy your holidays, please, they are the best healing for the brain.

  2. Do get the Spanish version Jose, it must be so much better! I’ve been to Barcelona a few times and can just about guess the atmosphere of the book – the original must be better though (my Spanish is not up to scratch).

    Now up for healing the brain! Work has been tough even these last few days… English skills / education / training is quite mind boggling at the policy and strategy level!

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