today I'm reviewing two very different books. The first is an essay on the assassination on John F Kennedy, while the second a historical novel about the sisters of the Scottish king Robert The Bruce. Are they worth picking up? Let's see:
John F. Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald on November 22, 1963. Since then, the tragedy has been surrounded with speculations and conspiracy theories. Posner in his book Case Closed, reissued for the 40th anniversary of the assassination, reviews all the evidence available and reaches the conclusion that Oswald acted alone. The book is long, extremely detailed and extensively noted. Posner examines every document, film, eye witnesses account, newspaper clipping and any other type of evidence related to the case, clearly explaining to what conclusions they point to.
A lot of people find it hard to believe that a single person, a "nobody", could have, on its own, murdered one of the most important and powerful individuals in the world, and yet that's exactly what happened. To better understand this, the book begins with a biography of Oswald, where the reader learns all the details of its life (his upbringing, defection to Russian, marriage to a Russian girl, return to the US, etc), his beliefs (critical of the US, he was fascinated with Communism but deeply disappointed by how it was implemented in Russia) and his disturbed personality. A huge chunk of the book is also dedicated to debunking the many, often bizarre, conspiracy theories, pointing out their mistakes and faults.
Finally, the book contains two appendixes. One features illustrations of the bullets, ballistics and the technical aspects of the assassination, while the other deals with the so called "mystery deaths" of the witnesses related to the case, which turned out not to be mysterious at all, but natural or accidental. Posner writes in a straightforward way that's easy to follow. Despite the sheer amount of facts and details the book examines, it never gets bogged down or boring.
If you firmly believe in a conspiracy theory then it is unlikely that, despite all the evidence to the contrary, you will change your mind after reading this book. But for those who aren't familiar with the assassination or simply want to understand what happened on that fateul day in this Dallas, Case Closed would be a great place to start.
Available at: amazon
It is very rare to come across a historical novel that deals with one of the sisters of Robert The Bruce, let alone all five. So, when I discovered this book, I couldn't wait to read it. These women led very interesting lives, which were deeply affected by the war of Independence Scotland was waging against England. Christina and Mary were captured by the English king. The first was imprisoned in a convent, while Mary in a cage outside a castle exposed, at all seasons, to the fury of the elements. The two younger sisters, Margaret and Matilda managed to escape to Orkney, where they lived in exile for several years. Only Isabel, the older sister wasn't directly affected by the war, having left her family at a young age to marry the King of Norway.
The rich and tumultuous historical background and the tragedies that befell these women provide the author with more than enough material to waive a compelling story and yet, very often, the book reads more like a boring textbook! Rather than making the characters live the events of their lives, the author has them write letters to one another where they summarize what happened. Not all the book is written in an epistolary form, though, but the tendency to briefly narrate events that could have been better described in detail through the actions and thoughts of the protagonists remains.
I understand that the history of this period, which covers more than 20 years, is very complex, and there are just so many characters involved, that it would be difficult for any author to fit it all in just one book. But it often seems like Harvey has chosen the easy way out. As a result, you're very impressed by the courage and bravery displayed by these women, and often feel sorry for what they had to endure, but you can't really relate to them or form a strong emotional attachment to them.
The lack of direct action and dialogue is, however, compensated by the many beautiful descriptions of Scotland, Norway and Orkney. Harvey also shines when she lets her imagination runs free and describes what life must have been like for Mary in her cage, for Christina in the convent, or for the younger sisters in exile. Unfortunately, these scenes are only few and far between.
The book is obviously well-researched, and features, at the beginning, maps, and at the end, a historical note, a glossary explaining the Scottish and Norwegian words used in the narration and the list of characters, which I had to consult several times. There are just so many that it is easy to get confused! Despite its shortcomings, I think this is a decent introduction to the sisters of Robert The Bruce and would recommend it to those who want to know more about them.
Available at: amazon
Disclaimer: I received these book in exchange for my honest opinion. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.