Book Review: Culture Shock! Netherlands by Hunt Janin & Ria Van Eil

Author: Hunt Janin & Ria Van Eil
Title: Culture Shock! Netherlands
Publication Info: Marshall Cavendish Corporation (2008)
ISBN: 0761454926


This guide to for customs and etiquette of the Netherlands was not particularly helpful as far as planning for my upcoming travel there.  Most of it boiled down to be polite, don’t be arrogant, and respect other people which is good advice but not really targeted to the Netherlands.  There were some good points about the Dutch being very direct people and to not take offense at that as well as tips on what to do if invited to someone’s home.  There are also sections that would be useful to someone making an extended stay and/or conducting business in the Netherlands

Rating: **

Book Review: Blindspot: A Novel by Jane Kamensky & Jill Lepore

Author: Jane Kamensky & Jill Lepore
Title: Blindspot: A Novel
Publication Info: Blackstone Audio, Inc. (2008), Edition: Unabridged, Audio CD
ISBN: 1433257637


Blindspot is an historical novel set in colonial Boston against the backdrop of the Stamp Act Crisis.  The narration alternates between the journal of Scottish painter Stewart Jameson and the letters of  Fanny Easton, a young woman of an elite Boston family disowned by her family.  Jameson has come to Boston to escape his creditors and Fanny disguises herself as a boy to become Jameson’s apprentice and escape poverty.  Ignatius Alexander,  a black man of brilliant intellect educated at Oxford, also joins the story having escaped being forced into slavery.

The book is partly a recreation of the farces of 18th-century – Fanny and Jameson fall in love of course.  Their entanglement is full of bawdiness and ribaldry.  There’s also a murder mystery tied into the narrative.  At it’s best, Blindspot is an entertaining romp with a good feel for the historical setting.  At it’s worst it has some pretty blatant anachronisms and a characters with far too progressive views on women, blacks, and homosexuality for the time.  The last third of the book also feels contrived with the “Detective gathers all the suspects together and explains the murder” trope followed by the “Confronting the real murder” cliche.  Nevertheless, the strong beginning helps keep this book an entertaining read despite the weak ending.

Recommended books: The Alienist by Caleb Carr, The Sot-Weed Factor by John Barth, and The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party by M. T. Anderson.
Rating: ***