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Kingfishers Catch Fire by Rumer Godden.

A semi-autobiographical novel set in colonial India. Sophie, an English widow, decides to rent a house in a small villa in rural Kashmir. Accompanied by her two children, she is determined to live a simple life and to be self sufficient. She starts her own business selling herbal teas, remedies and cosmetics and soon most of the village is involved in this cottage industry. But Sophie is blinded by her idealism, her vision of the noble savage, and despite her determination to treat the villagers like human beings, she cannot understand the local politics or the rigid etiquette that makes the village life run smoothly. She steps on all sorts of toes and unwittingly makes enemies despite all her good intentions and tragedy ensues. 

A Breath of Air by Rumer Godden.

This novel is a modern-day retelling of The Tempest. Valentine, a famous playwright and actor, and his companion, McGinty, are stranded on a small Pacific island when their plane goes down. They find that the island is inhabited by an eccentric Scottish nobleman, Mr. van Loomis, who rules over the native islanders who think of him as a sort of magician. Valentine falls in love almost immediately with Charis, van Loomis’ beautiful daughter. And well, if you’ve read Shakespeare’s play you know the basic plot. The beauty of Godden’s adaptation is in the details and the characterization. Though th parts of all the spirits are played by natives, Godden manages to maintain the atmosphere of magic and awe. Like Godden’s Indian novels, this is an interesting comment on British colonialism.

The Love Hunter by John Hassler.

Chris wants to kill his best friend, Larry. Partly because he’s in love with Larry’s wife and partly because Larry is dying of ms. It would be a mercy for everyone involved, he thinks. So Chris takes Larry to Canada for one last glorious duck hunt. Chris plans to kill Larry and make it look like a hunting accident. To say much more would give away the ending. Wonderful characters, an interesting story. Curious detail, a grace note that sounds throughout the novel is Pope John Paul II’s visit to the US.

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