Book Twentynine: The Janissary Tree

The Janissary Tree, Jason Goodwin

I've been waiting to read this book for, like, ever. I heard about it many years ago, bought it a couple of years ago on a trip to Powell's, and it's been sitting in my stack waiting to be read at just the right time. I figured a fast-paced historical mystery would be a good read for the weeks before my due date to take my mind off things. But honestly, it was way too hard to concentrate on this novel. I'm not sure if it's the fault of the book or just me, but either way I just couldn't wrap my brain around the words on the page. I had to reread sections over and over again because I wasn't sure what was going on. I think I can partly blame the book. It's a description-dense read, as it seriously tries to evoke a sense of place in early 19th century Istanbul. And, as a thriller/mystery, there is a lot of action described in painstaking detail. Like, "he moved his left hand two inches this way, and felt so-and-so's right ear moving 35 degrees this way, and then his knee abutted something to the north northwest as he turned his head 48 degrees south." (No, that's not a direct quote, and yes, I am exaggerating a bit. Apologies, but this is exactly what it felt like at times. Pages and pages of this level of detail.)

I did find the hero, eunuch and investigator Yashim, intriguing, especially in that I had no idea what level of eunuch he was. Like, no testicles and no penis? Or just no testicles? Was I supposed to know? Because I assumed it was a full package deal until a scene that led to me to believe, but not explicitly, that he engaged in sex with a woman. So I'm still scratching my head. And also, while I'm on the topic of vagaries, there was just so much language in here that it seemed I was expected to know. And I mean, language and words specific to early 19th century Istanbul. I don't mind looking things up, but this book could have used a nice glossary or at least, some explanation for all the very foreign terms.

But again, this lack of patience could have stemmed from my very pregnant brain. Did I mention that tomorrow is my due date? Yup, I'm ready to be done.


Blogger librarianista said...

Happy due date! Hope it happens soon, and is easy breezy beautiuful (Cover Girl--sorry).

June 28, 2011 at 5:31 PM  

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