Monday, January 31, 2011

What I Read This Month

Anatomy of a Murder by Robert Travers, 1958

Written by former Michigan State Supreme Court Justice John D. Voelker, published under the pen name of Robert Travers, this novel is a fictionalized account (based on a true story) of a murder trial from arrest through verdict, from the point of view of the defense attorney who was recently ousted from his D.A. position and is trying to start up his private criminal defense practice. Set in Michigan's Upper Peninsula in the early 1950's, the book explores all aspects of the process: interviewing the defendant and deciding to take the case, remunerative agreements, witness interviews and trial prep, finding expert witnesses, a bit of private detective work, legal research, and the trial itself starting with voir dire jury selection right on through to the bitter end. I'm not a criminal attorney, but the legal aspects with which I am familiar seem quite true to life, if a bit quaint given that the case comes to trial a mere 2 months after the shooting occurs. A bestseller when it came out; still a great read today.

Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter by Mario Vargas Llosa, 1977

This book has been on my to-read list for quite some time, so when Vargas Llosa won the Nobel Prize for Literature last year, I decided it was finally time to get around to it. Based on events in Vargas Llosa's early life as a writer, this novel is a comedy set in Lima, Peru in the 1950's, and follows a young radio newswriter in law school who wants to go to France and be a full-time writer but despairs of being poor for the rest of his life. He befriends an odd and slightly senile older gentleman who writes and directs all the radio soaps at the station. At the same time, the narrator begins a relationship with his Aunt Julia who is 14 years his senior. The age difference (an 18-year-old boy dating a 32-year-old divorcee) is quite risque, but it's not as incestuous as it sounds: she's not really his aunt, but rather his uncle's wife's sister, and their courtship is quite chaste. Great style, fun story.

Wide Saragasso Sea by Jean Rhys, 1966

Another book that I've been wanting to read for a while. After re-reading Jane Eyre last month, I dived into this prequel, focusing on Rochester's courtship with his first wife and her early life in the West Indies before Rochester's arrival.

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