Olsson's Book Bits

by Greta Olsson

The Assassins
by Bernard Lewis
First published in 1967
14O pages in paperback
(2O pages of chapter notes, six page index)
ISBN: O-Q65-OO498-9

The author was Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University,

Because the account of history's first terrorists was far too detailed for me, please forgive my quoting the back cover's summary: "the first group to make systematic use of murder as a political weapon. Established in Iran and Syria in the 11th and 12th centuries, they aimed to overthrow the existing Sunni order in Islam and replace it with their own, by terrorizing their foes with a series of dramatic murders of Islamic leaders, as well as some of the Crusaders, who brought their name and fame back to Europe." The author traces the history "of this radical Islamic sect, studying its teachings and its influence on Muslim thought." If this book had been a movie, I would have walked out very soon after its start. Go see Into the Wild, which is A+++.

The Constant Princess
by Philippa Gregory
39O pages
A Touchstone Book
published by Simon & Schuster, 2005
ISBN: 0-7432-7249-8 (pbk)

Phillippa Gregory is marvelous in bringing Henry VIII's six wives to life, and The Constant Princess shows Catalina of Spain's fierce determination to become Queen of England. In this unusual account she is madly in love with Arthur, and promises to lie about their attempts for her to become pregnant, to lie that he was impotent, and to marry Henry when Arthur knows that he, Arthur, is dying. Henry cannot match Arthur's manliness. Catalina, later called Katherine, becomes as much a warrior queen as was her mother in Spain. Henry would not have been able to conquer the Scots as Kathrine did at the head of her English army. At the time Henry was too young and inexperienced. Catalina grew up in war camps.

Midnight's Children
by Salman Rushdie
First published in London in early April 1981.
533 pages.
ISBN: O-8129-7653-3
Random House Trade Paperbacks.

Rushdie writes a fascinating introduction to the 25th anniversary edition. Saleem Sinai was born at the midnight moment of Indian independence. The nation and the boy would be twins, and the whole of modern Indian history happened as it did because of him.

"When the sadistic geography teacher, Emil Zagallo, giving the boys a lesson in 'human geography,' compares Saleem's nose to the Deccan Peninsula, the cruelty of his joke is also, obviously, mine."

The number of amazing characters and wacky happenings certainly foretell Satanic Verses. It is far too long and too complicated a story to summarize for you here. It is better to quote: "a glittering novelist - one with startling imaginative and intellectual resources...." - The New Yorker. "A marvelous epic...Rushdie's prose snaps into playback and flash-forward...stopping on images, vistas, and characters of unforgettable presence. Their range is as rich as India herself." - Newsweek. "..,a writer of courage, impressive strength, and sheer stylistic brilliance." - The Washington Post Book World. "Pure story - an ebullient, wildly clowning, satirical, descriptively witty charge of energy." - Chicago Sun-Times.

I agree.

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