When I finish a book, it's typical that I either:
- like the book, and have a reasonable understanding of why I like it,
- or, dislike the book, and have a reasonable understanding of why I dislike it
But with Donna Leon's The Jewels of Paradise, I find myself in a funny sort of different state: I really liked the book, but I find it a bit challenging to say why.
The Jewels of Paradise is a nicely-constructed dual-timeline who-done-it, with our heroine, in the current timeline, attempting to solve a mystery that happened 300 years ago.
For a who-done-it, it's a bit low key, for she spends most of her time in the library reading books, and when she isn't reading books she's having a coffee and trading emails with her sister. There's a bit of intrigue about a mysterious fellow who tails her as she walks around Venice, and some more intrigue about a sharp-dressing lawyer who may be trying to play all sides off against each other.
But don't expect a lot of action and thrills and chills in The Jewels of Paradise; about as close as we get to that comes at the conclusion of one of her carefully-worded emails:
She pushed the "send" key, thinking that a person could get to enjoy this James Bond stuff, locked up everything, and went home.
In the end, it is the contemplation of the similarities and contrasts between present-day times versus how things were in the late 17th century that are the most interesting parts of the book. Some things are the same, others are different, but in the end people are people and isn't that really what a who-done-it is all about?
After all the emotion and tumult of the last few months, it was lovely to spend some quiet wintertime hours sitting in my rocking chair, reading a book about a woman who likes to read books.