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Parakeet
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Happy May Everyone!

This month's book club title is The Janissary Tree, which also won the Edgar Award for best mystery book last week.

You can read my review and find ordering information here.

More detailed general information about the book club and future titles are here.

Please, feel free to join in the discussion, whether or not you've read the book!

Julie

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Parakeet
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Several readers and reviewers have made comments along the lines of feeling that Yashim himself was not as developed a character as they would prefer or that they didn't feel there was enough information about Yashim to really understand him and his roll in society.

What did you think?

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I agree that there isn't a lot of detail about Yasim and definately look forward to learning more about Yashim and his life as time moves on. However, when I think of the people I know who can go anywhere and blend in, it does generally take a long time to get to know much about them. This is particularly true with people like Yashim who are good at eliciting information from others, they tend to know a lot more about others than others know about them. So while I do want to know more about Yashim, it seems very realistic that as readers, we don't know very much about him. I didn't have any sense that Yashim was one-dimensional or less than a full character in the mind of the author, only that he is a private individual who is difficult to really get to know.

Opinions?

Julie

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Just to make it super simple ...

What did you think of the development of the character Yashim?
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Votes accepted starting: 05/01/07 03:54 PM
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Gecko
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You've got a point about Yashim being a private individual and hard to know. I got that impression, too, and that self-control was very important to him. You also made a good point about the author not wanting to reveal too much about Yashim because then there will be nothing to reveal in later books.

(of course I myself get so curious about the character's whole sad / unusual story that I want to know all the details all at once, even though an author is not going to want to do this!)

I think my problem with Yashim was not that we didn't know much about him just yet, but that he had nothing personal at stake through the mystery. He was just doing his job. So I couldn't really feel for the guy or fear for him or root for him because there was nothing personal at stake for him.

But I would definitely read the next book in this series! The historical detail was amazing.

P.S., thanks again for recommending The Collaborator of Bethlehem. That turned out to be a really unusual mystery that I would never have even heard of otherwise.


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Originally Posted By: Karm at Mystery Books
I think my problem with Yashim was not that we didn't know much about him just yet, but that he had nothing personal at stake through the mystery. He was just doing his job. So I couldn't really feel for the guy or fear for him or root for him because there was nothing personal at stake for him.


I guess something about the initial description of Yashim and his early behavior convinced me that he is just a very service oriented individual (someone who gets personal enjoyment out of helping others.) Also, he was very clearly duty oriented and although it wasn't clear WHY he felt that it was his duty to meet with the seraskier in the first scene, it was clear that he felt it was important. Maybe I'm too easy to please...

If you liked the historical detail in The Janissary Tree, you may want to read Goodwin's Lords of the Horizons, it is the same type of historical detail applied to history.

I haven't gotten to the Collaborator of Bethlehem yet, but I'm still looking forward to it!

Julie

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Here's a culture question for you that I've got to admit I was really curious about when I read the book. You remember the dancing girl character who was Yashim's friend?

Clearly this dancing "girl" was a man who had chosen to live life as a woman, and everyone was very open-minded about that. Yashim/the narrative referred to this character as "she" and there seemed to be an established place in society for "her."

Were the Turks in Instanbul in the 1880s really that tolerant of transsexuals? I mean, I guess they must have been (I'm sure the author knew what he was doing), but why? Because Istanbul was a cosmopolitan crossroads type place? Or maybe there was a more Eastern outlook that kept them from being as horrified by transsexuals as, say, a western European nation would have been?

I don't know that much about the history of that time, but I'm guessing a Christian nation in the 1800s (even a crossroads type place like London) or Turkish society nowadays would not be so tolerant, and someone like the dancing girl probably would have gotten arrested! It just got me really curious about that time and place.

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Originally Posted By: Karm at Mystery Books
Here's a culture question for you that I've got to admit I was really curious about when I read the book. You remember the dancing girl character who was Yashim's friend?
<snip>
Were the Turks in Instanbul in the 1880s really that tolerant of transsexuals? I mean, I guess they must have been (I'm sure the author knew what he was doing), but why?


You know, that's a really good question. She just seemed so reminicent of the Indian devi dasi that I didn't really think about it. This is the best I could find about them and their goddess, Bahucharaji, on the web but it's not very inclusive of background. I guess I should go find my notes from the college paper I wrote about them.

At any rate, I'll have to do some research to answer that one, but now I'm curious.

Julie

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Fascinating article about Pamela/Steve! The comments posted were hilarious. I guess even in the spiritual land of India, people are less inclined nowadays to give the guru the benefit of the doubt!

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One of the things I really liked about [i]The Janissary Tree[\i] was the little vignettes that were part of the story. I think my favorite was when the Polish ambassador polished his toes to hide the holes in his boots. What was your favorite vignette?

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