Catching up

The Prague Cemetery - Umberto Eco
Translated from the Italian by Richard Dixon,
Harvill Secker - London, 440 pages
I should know by now having read a couple of Eco's books that I should do some historical research before hand. That way I will have a deeper understanding and appreciation of the scale and breadth of the story telling. The Prague Cemetery is a wonderful exploration of 19th century Europe with conspiracies all the rage, our protagonist is central to what is happening as is 'The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.' A work that was initially given some credibility and then found out to be a forgery. Eco treats us to a fictional exploration of how the work came into being.
The writing is truly marvellous and he is able to succinctly capture a person and provide some wonderful insights "leaders with too much charisma should be removed immediately, for the peace and security of the kingdom' or "People are never so completely and enthusiastically evil as when they act out of religious conviction." There is also a lot of descriptions of food, lots of descriptions. At times the food seemed to be the real focus of the book and the story almost secondary.
As much as I love Eco's work, I was not drawn into this novel. Normally as I read Eco's work there is this 'click' where the light bulb goes on and the story all makes sense to me, or I am completely swept into the narrative. The click never came with this story, I don't know why.
It is wonderful book but I just found I was missing something from it or was not fully invested into the story. It certainly won't stop me from reading any more of his work.

Captain Bullen's War - The Vietnam War Diary
edited by Paul Ham, Harper Collins, 454 pages

First of all I have to say my father features in this book. I had picked up this book several years ago,
saw my Dad's name referenced in the index and he confirmed it was indeed him. Dad spent the next couple of days reading the book and even caught up with Captain Bullen. However, it has taken me several years to obtain a copy and read it for myself. I resisted temptation and did not rush to the bits where Dad makes an appearance, I read the book from front to back.
The blurb at the back says the book is a mixture of the hilarity of Mash and the satire of Catch 22. There is plenty of great material in the book, the need to terminate some cows is funny but completely mad. Bullen provides some insightful descriptions about the people and the land. There are some moments that make you cringe because of the sheer stupidity. For example a service man can not get prescription glasses for over five months.
A highly enjoyable read.
What was most poignant for me, was the last mention of my Dad in the book was on my second birthday.

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