The dirty side of love, politics and business
Synopsis of Zaremba or the Love and the Rule of Law by Michelle Granas: In Warsaw, a shy and high-minded polio victim lives a life of seclusion caring for her odd family until a chance encounter plunges her into the intrigues of dirty politics. Zaremba, a wealthy businessman, is about to be arrested on trumped-up charges and only she can save him. Swept along by events, Cordelia finds her feelings increasingly involved with a stranger for whom she is both rescuer and victim. When Zaremba disappears, Cordelia is painfully uncertain if she has been abandoned and must overcome surveillance, corruption, the media, and mounting humiliations and difficulties to learn the truth. Although set in Poland, this is a story that could happen anywhere, as young democracies struggle against the temptations of covert operations and older democracies sometimes lead them astray.
My two centsThis was an intriguing read. It is a fast-paced espionage thriller, set in Poland, with quirky characters and an atypical love story.
Cordelia, a somewhat recluse, leaves for a job interview as a translator, navigating the rather crazy driver-ridden streets of Warsaw. She has a fleeting encounter with a rude and forgettable man. Little does she know that this man will figure in her life!
Cordelia is drawn out her shell and her reclusive life as she (and her family by extension) develops a friendship with Zaremba, a wealthy businessman who is pulled into the dirty, corrupt and dangerous politicking of government and business. What ensues is a an unlikely love story between two polar opposites with lots of thrill-packed action and danger.
What I liked:This book is full of surprises, a lot of unlikely mixes, and really oddball characters!
I know absolutely nothing about Poland but this book paints quite a grim picture of the dark side of a developing country. I always find it interesting to get an insider's viewpoint of a country as it is often at loggerheads with what is portrayed in the media. As I don't know enough about the country, its form of government or its politics, I found this quite the eye opener. It seems that Michelle Granas had borrowed heavily from reality as she opens each chapter with excerpts and quotations from newspapers and other materials -- this could spark the research juices of someone interested in Polish politics.
Cordelia is also an atypical heroine but she's got spunk and guts that I couldn't help but admire. She's got a withered hand and leg and she needs a cane to get around but it doesn't stop her from getting into (and out of) some dangerous situations. She's a little naive but I found that part of her charm.
Her unlikely friendship, and later romance, with Zaremba was rather sweet (cute, even) though I found Zaremba rather patronizing and annoying at times. Cordelia's family, meanwhile, was such an oddball bunch of characters that I couldn't help but like them: her doting and tongue-in-cheek humor of a father, her mother suffering from dementia, and her spider-photographer of a brother make also for some unusual side stories.
There are so many unlikely (even improbable) encounters and mind-boggling situations in this book that I kept shaking my head and thinking "what are the chances?" I chalk this up to it being a fictional --- as I found some things a little too far out there and rather simplistic in how everything is resolved so very nicely.
Overall, I enjoyed the book because it tests the limits of what one expects from the espionage mold, making for interesting reading. Michelle Granas's writing has an ease to it with some rather subtle pokes at some language oddities she has undoubtedly encountered in her profession as a translator.
Uh-ohThis is a humungous book! It's so thick (518 pages!) that it initially scared me and I wondered if I would actually get through it. Thankfully the action in the book was more than enough to compel me to keep turning those pages!
I was about halfway through the book when I realized that this is could be split into two books. I would have been perfectly happy for the book to end at Book 1 and I would have looked forward to Book 2. As is the length of this book may turn someone off right away.
I'm on the fence about the cover as it doesn't lend itself as marketing an espionage thriller. The Photoshop job isn't too impressive either (top image very pixelated) with a strange juxtaposition of two unrelated images (sorry, I don't see what the cover supposed to convey).
***Verdict: A fast paced espionage thriller set in Poland with very unlikely characters.
Read this if:
- you like page-turning action, unusual situations and an unpredicatable plot
- you like your reading to be dirty -- in politics and business that is!
- you're interested in Polish politics
- you like unusual characters
I received a copy of this book from the author for honest review consideration.