BEST GIFTS FOR THE 2011 HOLIDAY SEASON


There are a very  few  among this year’s  that I recommend as holiday gifts.  The first is EVIL EYE,  by one of my favourite authors, Jason Goodwin. In  this the fourth in the Investigator Yashim   series, the eponymous eunuch shines a dazzling light on the dark corners of the Ottoman Empire, as he pursues an admiral and former mentor who defected to Egypt. Master of  verbal tapestries embroidered in the silkiest of languages, Goodwin weaves a plot that takes  travellers  through  a  landscape dotted with exotic caravanserais,  quaint yalis, and opulent palaces to meet agas, pashas,  dancing girls, Janissaries and Circassian odalisques.  Charming Polish ambassador Palewski, French Empress Josephine’s cousin,  the valide sultan, Greek vegetable merchant George and the enchantress  Preen, reappear  in the cast of characters, bringing the pleasant familiarity of old friendships to the story. Although EVIL EYE stands on its own, the complete series ranks among my choices as one of the best gifts to lovers of good fiction.

My second recommendation is A TRICK OF LIGHT, seventh in the Inspector Gamache series by another of my favourite writers, Canadian   Louise Penny. The adventures of Armand Gamache, of the Surete du Quebec,  unfold in the tiny village of Three Pines, in Quebec, a place of great beauty and magic. There, a group of unforgettable characters–painters Clara and Morrow, vinegary poet Ruth Zardo, jolly innkeepers  Gabri and Olivier, no-nonsense bookseller Myrna Lander–add depth and color to the to elegantly devised plots. Readers have hailed this is a stand-alone book as the best of the series. Penny is  numerous literary prizes—Agatha and Arthur Ellis Awards among others–and it to discover the enchanted world she created is indeed a pleasure.
My third recommendation, LANTERNAS COR DE AURORA, by Brazilian Sanzio de Azevedo, is for Lusophone readers one. This a slender volume of haikus, composed with great skill and grace, highlights  the  imperishable beauty that links  places geographically remote to each other, such as northeast Brazil and Paris. while singing the glories of nature, Azevedo coaxes the sweetest notes from an instrument he has mastereed–the Portuguese language.

Fourth on my list is the present I am getting for myself–MOZART”S LAST ARIA, by  Matt Beynon  Rees. Having followed his evolution from nonfiction to fiction writer, having read his witty blog  I have no reason  doubt    Tasha Alexander when she says that this is  “a stunning combination of mystery and meticulously researched historical fiction.”

Equally noteworthy are,

PORTRAIT OF A SPY, by Daniel Silva– please see review.

THE SILVER BOAT, by Luanne Rice–please see review.

ALICE BLISS–please see review.

CALEB’S CROSSING, by Geraldine Brooks–please see interview.