Monday, February 19, 2007

The Time of Green Ginger????

Okay, sometimes I feel a little left out as I read around the blogosphere, and everyone seems to be reading the same books and authors, and I'm not. I don't have access to a library that buys all the latest releases. There are a few sources here that sell new English books, but again, the selection is very limited and Dan Brown gets a lion's share of the limited shelf space. Anyway, I cannot afford to buy every new book that comes out and also sounds somewhat interesting. This is doubly true when I have to order the book and pay overseas postage.

I do just fine. Let no one feel sorry for me or think that I am hurting for reading material. I have more books on hand than I have time to read in the next six months. (That's because I planned ahead and bought a lot of books while I was in the US in 2005.) But sometimes, I do feel a little left out because I can't read what you are reading.

So, to "get my own back," as they say in the UK, let me tell you about a book that I'm reading and you, dear blog reader, probably cannot.

While browsing in the foreign language library here, I found a book from 1964 called The Time of Green Ginger by Armstrong King. I have never heard of this (British or Australian) author, and this appears to be the only book that he published. I could find absolutely no information about him or this book on the internet, although there are a few stray copies for sale floating out there in the cyber-flea-market.

So what is the big deal? I picked up the book because the blurb on the inside jacket says "The violent events in Palestine between 1939 and the final withdrawal of the British forces in 1948 are in themselves the plot of this extraordinarily powerful first novel. Jewish, British, Arab and minority groups are caught up in a maelstrom of antagonism, terrorism and counter-terrorism." Whoa. Sounds timely, doesn't it?

I find that particular period of history in that particular part of the world quite interesting, and that is really why I selected the book. I was unprepared for how relevant to current events the book would be. I am particularly amazed that King, who we must assume could best understand the British perspective, writes sympathetically about all three perspectives. He lets us see into the hearts of Jews, Arabs, and the British soldiers stationed in Palestine, so that each group is portrayed in a manner that lets the reader empathize. When you empathize simultaneously with three dramatically opposite perspectives, you begin to understand the utter futility of trying to reconcile them. Forty years after King wrote this, and 60+ years after the events occurred, I can't honestly say we are any closer than they were then to resolving the ubiquitous "confict in the middle east."

I wish I knew more about Armstrong King. He write so explicitly about Jerusalem and its environs because he actually lived there until the British evacuation in 1948--that is, during the period in which the book takes place. He seems to have moved to Australia and languished unknown after publishing this single book, proclaimed his "first" on the book jacket.

I'm roughly one-fourth of the way through this story, and I remain fascinated. I can't help wondering if one of the three perspectives will eventually be portrayed as the "one correct view," or if the story will continue to reflect sympathetically on every perspective. It is an intriguing book. If you feel inclined to read it, try interlibrary loan. Maybe some remote little branch library with a meager budget for new books has allowed it to remain on the shelf for forty years.

When (IF!) I figure out what the title is supposed to mean, I'll let you know.


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