Lucas Americo Americo itibaren Rasoolpur, Rajasthan 321023, Hindistan
I found this book frustrating. On the one hand, Carre is taking dead aim with outrage at sub-Saharan African politics, back-room dealings and the general indifference/greed of the remaining global nation-state coterie who appear willing to wait out short breaks in the constant bloodbath to run in and scoop out a chunk of mineral wealth. His quivering outrage is clear. He reiterates it over and over and over, even though the best and brightest part is this almost chess-like philosophical and linguistic awakening that Bruno has while he is translating a back-room deal between a faceless Syndicate (global conglomerate) and three Congolese warlords. But, because of the repetition and the endless hand-wringing that Bruno does throughout the entire book, it made it difficult to stay with the plot, and certainly difficult to feel an ounce of sympathy for him as he (quite confusingly since he's highly educated, street-savvy and married to a journalist???) blunders madly from one Bad Person Who Has Clearly Shown Evidence of Not Being A Friend to the next while trying to "out" the back-room deal and avert a new wave of bloodshed. You have a man who knows enough to get away from his home, disable his cell phone and/or only make calls within no real range of his house, but he blindly trusts all of the people he works for in the secret service, and whom he has AUDIO TAPE RECORDINGS of doing enormously, awfully illegal things? REALLY? It was this part which made me feel like I was almost reading a Black Sambo tale "Oh look how charmingly stupid and feckless they are" which I'm quite sure le Carre didn't mean to engender.
Overall I enjoyed this book, but was a bit disappointed in it. Matilda is a fantastic Empress and someone I absolutely love to read about. Her life and struggles are filled with strife and hope, she had everything and nothing. And she fought - my goodness was she a fighter. I love her! Unfortunately, I could not endear myself to the Matilda of this book and when you can't connect with the main character, then what's left? Elizabeth Chadwick is one of my favorite authors, she can write history with the best of them and I always feel as if I am immersed in medieval times, whether it be by place, action, food, dress - whatever, I'm there. So what happened here? I'm not 100% sure, but I will say that I didn't feel Matilda's struggles overwhelm me. I didn't feel the full impact of her choices and how they effected England. And while I liked Adeliza's story as it interacted with Maude, I wasn't necessarily pleased with following her personal story as well. (Although her death is an interesting tidbit - hhhmmm, I have my own theory there - I should explore it more) Could her husband have really not thrown a hissy fit over her letting Matilda land?? I mean it was EVERYTHING, wasn't it? Matilda's brother Robert wasn't fleshed out enough and I wasn't particularly pleased with Brian's story either. I especially did not like part of the story being told from his point of view. The one part I did like was how Matilda and Jeffrey's relationship was handled. Such turmoil and I can easily see Jeffrey behaving as a peacock during the "courtship". Matilda must have been mortified and degraded. But honestly, I think if she had thrown the poor boy a bone, he would have responded to her a bit differently - who knows. As Jeffrey grew, he matured and grew on me. I liked him, he was a great warrior and a big positive to Matilda's campaign. I understand now his reasoning for not coming to England to help her, when in other books I couldn't. It's a shame they couldn't work things out between themselves, but the one thing they did great together was make excellent children and Jeffrey proved to be a great father! Matilda was her own worst enemy. She finally makes it to London and cannot endear the good people to her cause - her fault - most likely. She's cold and unforgivable. She must have held a grudge and couldn't let go. While I completely understand it, successful politicians must learn how to maneuver their way around people and things. Matilda was smart, brave and in the right, but certainly not a politician. So sad. One last critique - Matilda mentioned at one point the coldness of her Mother. I can't exactly remember the line or page, but I have a hard time believing her Mother - the daughter of Margaret of Scotland - could have been a cold Mother. In fact I refuse to believe it! This was not a bad book by any means, does Chadwick make a bad book?! It was well written and engaging and am glad I read it.