Late evening reading

Book Reviews

Short reviews by Madhuri of books by authors: Burton Silver and Heather Busch, Pico Iyer, Celia Imrie, Joseph Wambaugh, Marina Chapman, Bernie Chowdhury, Joe Tusker

Reading book

The Last Dive The Last Dive
A Father and Son’s Fatal Descent into the Ocean’s Depths

by Bernie Chowdhury

A fascinating book about cave-diving and wreck-diving, and the people who go in for these extreme sports. The author, a diver himself, a finance tech worker of Indian/German descent, brings considerable experience and expertise to this clear, passionate, very thorough narrative.

It is a dangerous sport – just a little inattention, or a malfunctioning piece of equipment, can bring the end – so, as in mountaineering books, we hear about a lot of people who died. And it almost happened to the author; we are treated to a blow-by-blow account of a bad case of the Bends – when un-exhaled nitrogen expands into bubbles in the bloodstream and tissues if you ascend too fast to the surface, causing excruciating pain, blocked blood vessels, and possibly paralysis or death… indeed, Chowdhury describes seeing the proverbial Tunnel With White Light at the End, before thoughts of his family bring him back.

Others are not so lucky – including the father-son duo the title refers to.

I can only imagine the magic of exploring deep water… Caves just sound too claustrophobic and scary, but clear-water caverns sound rather lovely. Diving in a stormy sea, down to a wrecked ship 300 feet below the surface? No, no, no! But there are plenty of people who do it – particularly they might be searching for artefacts from the ship. Much training is required for this level of diving.

The book is well-written, with comprehensive scientific information about air mixtures for tanks, how exactly the Bends works physiologically, and so on. And the descriptions of the characters he meets and befriends are compassionate and warm.

A good long read about a daring sport which penetrates into the very depths of our world.

Joe TuskerSavage Arena
K2, Changabang and the North Face of the Eiger

by Joe Tusker

A superb mountaineering memoir, covering almost the whole career of the author – for he died on Everest in 1982, soon after handing in the manuscript to the publisher.

The writing is tight, detailed, rich, somewhat terse, intelligent and thoughtful. We go with him up mountain after mountain, suffering the torments of the damned and the exultations of the blessed, and everything in between. Climbing partnerships are forged or unravel, illnesses and injuries endured. Even if the mountain refused to be climbed, as often happened, if the climbers had given their all and then some, they returned (if they returned at all) in some manner transformed, newly and profoundly grateful for life itself.

The Girl with No NameThe Girl with No Name
by Marina Chapman

One of the most extraordinary true stories I’ve ever read. A Colombian child, almost five, is kidnapped and then abandoned in the jungle. She is accepted by a tribe of monkeys and spends about four years with them, learning to climb into the 100-ft canopy. ‘Rescued’ by hunters, she is sold into slavery in a small city.

The ghostwriter is excellent, and she speaks of a sequel, which I hope is forthcoming! What is amazing is how that wild childhood made her into a wild, playful, and impish adult whose family adore her.

She became a housewife in Bradford, not very far from where I live!

The Golden OrangeThe Golden Orange
by Joseph Wambaugh

A superb Wambaugh, set in upscale Newport Beach, California (where I once emerged from a wooden cake dressed quite thoroughly as a bag lady during my strip-o-gram days). About a boozer ex-cop who is beguiled by a beautiful woman, and stuff happens. Chintan loved it too. Lots about sailing and Catalina Island. The usual great Wambaugh dialogue.

Sail AwaySail Away
by Celia Imrie

I’d never heard of this writer, who is also a British actor. She is really good! Full of the scuzzy realities of a stage actor’s life – a thing my actor friend Chintan really appreciated. A theatrical production is suddenly cancelled and the heroine – one of two – ends up working on a cruise ship. Another lady is there too, who has a hidden link with her.

The plot and writing are somehow very sane, yet full of surprises. The bad guy is very bad, but we don’t know who it is for a while. Heroine number two has a discouraging little bout of traipsing about London looking for a place to stay, which is also very convincing. The cover looks a bit silly, but this is a nice mature chewy mystery story.

The Lady and the MonkThe Lady and the Monk
Four Seasons in Kyoto

by Pico Iyer

A more finely-wrought romance I have never read. This writer is always great, but this is a special book even for him I think – a year in Kyoto and a sensitive, spacious, acutely-observed companionship with a local housewife who longs for wings. This is woven in and out with Zen temples, little retreats, and a few other trips he takes. The author is a British Indian who grew up wealthy and was educated in boarding schools, and has travelled and written ever since. A poetic, calmly-paced, beautiful observation of cultures and the change of seasons and one lovely delicate lady.

I have been twice to Kyoto and stayed in a Zen temple so it was poignant for me, but I think anyone who loves the Japanese aesthetic will enjoy it. Very rich!

To be read slowly so as to savour the words and nature-descriptions and concepts.

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Dancing with Cats
by Burton Silver and Heather Busch

The most absolutely batshit gaga weird-stuff book I’ve seen maybe ever… in a good way! Tells you how to dance with your kitties! The pics are so amazing you wonder if it can be real, but it all hies from New Zealand, and who knows what’s possible down there? It took 3 years to get all the pics and create the book, it says. I certainly want to try it! One secret: if your cat is suddenly zipping all over the room being crazy, take that as an invitation to dance with it! There are more techniques too.

Featured image (detail) by Maria Molnarova via Unsplash

Madhuri

Madhuri is a healer, artist, poet and author of several books, To Hills and Waterfalls: a Californian in Calderdale being her latest one. madhurijewel.com

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