Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Donna Leon Crossing Cultures

I’m in the middle of a Donna Leon read-fest. When I wrote the reviews the last time, I saw three books by her I had never seen – and I comb the aisles of Barnes and Noble when I am in the US, and Half Price Books, looking for titles by her. I am guessing some of her books haven’t been printed in the US, but I was able to find them from the UK Amazon.com.

The two latest books I have read by Donna Leon are timely. The first, Fatal Remedies, starts out being about Commissario Guido Brunetti’s wife, Paola’s crusade against the sex tours to undeveloped countries, her outrage against trips that allow grown men to exploit the poverty and need that the poorest of families will sell their own daughters and even young children to satisfy these men’s uncontrolled lusts. Her outrage leads her to a jail cell in her own husband’s precinct.

But just when you think you know where this story is going, it turns, as many of Leon’s books do, and tackles another subject, one very much in the eye of the news – falsified medications. There is a huge profit to be made, and huge wrongdoings in the medical supplies field, as expired medications are shipped to the most needy countries, and prescription and over-the-counter medications contain ingredients that are at best, harmless, and at worst – poisonous!

Guido Brunetti follows the money, and exposes the cheats.

In the second book, The Death of Faith, the issue – corruption in the church – comes close to home, as Brunetti’s daughter gets a low grade from her religious education instructor for asking questions, logical questions, about the dogma of the Catholic faith. Leon also tackles the issue of the order of Opus Dei, the same mysterious order featured in The DaVinci Code, an order that does exist, but about which solid knowledge is murky. What is known is that the order, in jihadist fashion, seeks to establish the Catholic church as the supreme guide to behavior on earth, it’s own version of sharia law to be the ruling principle in every country.

This is an anethema to Commissario Brunetti, and to all thinking Italians who savor the separation of church and state. He asks the eternal question – who decides? Who decides what behavior is acceptable, what questions are allowable? Religious belief, or the lack of it, is so very personal – this is a very timely issue that all nations are struggling with. Religious rule? Secular rule?

Underlying all the Donna Leon books is the sweetness of daily life with Brunetti’s family, his beautiful and principled wife, his teenaged children, the food they eat, the family discussions they have, the flowers he brings home and the strength of the connection they have with one another. The Venetian setting weaves its own magical thread through every novel, as we ride with Brunetti in the vaporetto on the canals, as we sit with him in a local bar for a quick coffee – or something stronger – and as he walks the streets from home to office, or to talk with a witness.

And last, but not least, the utter corruption in the Venetian system reminds us that veniality is not restricted to the United States, or to Kuwait, or to Nigeria, or Italy, or to any one country, but wherever man seeks to impose order, the chaos of corruption must be slowly and surely overcome by the building of an honest bureaucracy, people like you and me, serving in seemingly hopeless situations, but doing our best, day by day, like Guido Brunetti, to build a better world for our children.

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June 20, 2007 - Posted by | Books, Bureaucracy, Community, Crime, Cross Cultural, Detective/Mystery, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Generational, Health Issues, Italy, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Relationships, Social Issues, Venice, Women's Issues

4 Comments »

  1. I just found your blog…what a fascinating site!

    I came here because of your book reviews, I read anything and everything and am always looking for new authors. So, I am pleased to find you here with book suggestions.

    I also intend to go through your archives about your life in Kuwait. And to read of your travels.

    Comment by jolynna | June 20, 2007 | Reply

  2. Welcome, Jolyna, welcome. I like your blog, too!

    Comment by Intlxpatr | June 21, 2007 | Reply

  3. Leon’s Death of Faith came across as nothing but an anti-Catholic polemic. I’m not sure what her issues with the Church are but she’s no fan and let her anti-catholicism get in the way of a decent story.

    Opus Dei isn’t all that mysterious or murky. There are about 100,000 members and several charities run by that organization. There are dozens of books out, some by ex-members who are still Catholics who criticize or praise it. But it makes good fodder for Protestants and anti-Catholics.

    Comment by HcH | April 22, 2008 | Reply

  4. Thanks for your input, HcH

    Comment by intlxpatr | April 22, 2008 | Reply


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