Neshama’s Choices for February 28th

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The Women of Troy

A sequel to The Silence of the Girls which told the story of the Trojan War from a woman’s perspective. Now the Greeks, emerging from that horse, have prevailed and Briseis, the main narrator, is under the protection of Alcimus after Achilles was killed. She had been a Trojan queen, then became Achilles’ slave. Now she’s risen in rank but is always looking out for other women who are suffering, which describes almost all of them. Much about the body of King Priam, still unburied, and the efforts of rebellious servant girl Amina to redress this enormous insult. We also get to know bigger than life characters like Hecuba, her daughter Cassandra, and Helen (of Troy) up close. Fascinating. 

Fault Lines

It took me a few tries to connect with this novel because it seemed so full of Japanese locations and cultural references I couldn’t quite relate. But perseverance furthers, and I discovered with delight that it was essentially a domestic drama after my own heart. Mizuki is bored and annoyed much of the time. The tedium of taking care of house and kids, the apparent detachment and lack of household involvement from her hard-working husband thus make her ripe for seductive Kiyoshi. For a while they manage to keep it platonic, though always charged with possibility. When it’s finally consummated, she’s awash with happiness that seems to spread throughout but also under a constant guilty shadow. A universal theme and by the time I finished the book I felt surprisingly at home in Japan after all. 

With the End in Mind

Subtitled Dying, Death, and Wisdom in an Age of Denial. By chance I plucked this off the shelf from a recommendation via a Book Riot list and it was perfect timing.  A friend is preoccupied with thoughts on the subject, and I could offer him this compassionate, reassuring guide from a British hospice physician. I’ve read many books on the subject and especially like this one because her vivid vignettes span the many ways in which her patients have met their ends. She uses cognitive behavior therapy, brilliant intuition, and cumulative experience, and lots of cups of tea to bring them and anguished family members to a place of peace.  Not exactly smooth sailing in every case, to be sure; she also shares her own missteps and learning experiences along the way. And she writes like a dream.  Highly recommended.

The Copenhagen Trilogy 

This popped up on the NYTimes best books of 2021 list and I checked it out, knowing nothing about it. And was surprised by joy. Subtitled Childhood—Youth—Dependency, it’s three memoirs by a Danish poet, 1917-1976. Her hyper-observant, introverted days in a working-class milieu, her rebellious teenage years in which she discovered her calling and acted out sexually, and then the shocking third installment as she makes alliances that result in children, moving from one relationship to another with little satisfaction, except from her addiction to drugs. There is something about her style that makes her story instantly accessible, as if she was telling it to me directly over coffee. I told a Danish friend about my astonishing discovery and she broke it to me gently:  these books were great favorites of hers long ago. And now they’re here for our delectation, at last. 


In this evocative, painful book, the Stolen toil under the Thieves (slaves and their masters). None of the Stolen knows what’s beyond the confines of their plantations; they call it Yonder. Hints come through ancestors (ghostly apparitions) and one young boy, Zander, who has irrepressible energy and seems plugged into a mysterious circuit. The boss is a repellent blowhard who prides himself on his study of the enslaved. The hardest trauma is when children and partners are sold off. The book has the quality of a fable but certainly reflects what was going on back then. Vivid, intense, atmospheric.