ARMS FOR ADONIS - Charlotte Jay
I have been promising myself for a few years now to go back to some of the older classic Australian Crime Fiction books and reread them with a view to noting something about them on the website. Mostly because all of these books were read a long time before I started writing my own reviews, and I really need something to check my reactions against if I re-visit them again (which I'm inclined to do every now and then).
Hence ARMS FOR ADONIS, which Wakefield Press published in 1994, with an excellent afterword by Peter Moss and Michael J Tolley. ARMS FOR ADONIS was first published in 1961, and re-reading it again, there are a number of elements to the book which remain fascinating and somehow still topical. I do note that Jay revised / rewrote some aspects of the book for the Wakefield release, and to be honest, I can't remember the orginal details well enough to know what changed / didn't. But there are particular aspects of the book which really make it an interesting read. Originally written in leadup to the "swinging sixties", it was particularly striking how laid back the characters are about their sexual freedom. Another aspect of the book that was subtly but pointedly drawn is the inter-cultural understanding, or more pointedly, lack of understanding. To the point where some of actions of some of the characters were extremely discomforting.
The political aspects of the book are extremely interesting, given the point in the history of Lebanon in which it is set. Jay wrote the book in the 1956, in the time leading up to the Suez Crisis. She was living in Beirut during a year long tour of duty by her husband, a senior UN official. Her admiration for both the country and the people shines through, as does her observations of the erratic nature of local politics.
The major downside to the book for this reader is the overly romantic ending - which, frankly, you can see coming from very early on. Mildly interesting because of the depiction of cross-cultural relationships, but way too "happy ever after" for my taste.
The blood of Adonis, thought Sarah, remembering the church that was built like a pagan temple. Coquelicot rouge - the symbol of a dying man whose blood stained the hillside in the spring.
Sarah Lane, abandoning her French lover for the brilliant Lebanese sunshine, believes that the day will belong to her alone. But when a street bomb hurls her into the arms of a dangerously handsome Syrian colonel, she finds herself trapped once again.
Is this a kidnapping? A seduction? Or merely the chaos of the Middle-East?