Women Pirates; Paris: A Love Story; You Changed My Life
by Sylvia Perrini
Female con artists, female serial killers and wicked women over the centuries. That is Sylvia Perrini's niche, to which she has added a book on female pirates. If this slight volume can be used to judge the rest of the series, readers will think twice about spending their money on the other titles. Bios of eight pirates fill the book; two, Loi Chai-san and Ching Shih, were from these parts. With nary an attribution, the chapters read like fiction, although that is also because of their colourful lives. Ching Shih, a prostitute who married the commander of a pirate fleet that terrorised the waters from Malaya to Korea, took full control in 1807 when her husband was killed in a typhoon. With her at the helm, the fleet grew so powerful the Chinese emperor had to bribe her into retirement with the offer of an amnesty. Another interesting pirate was Mary Read, a cross-dresser born in England in the late 1600s who fell into piracy after a ship she was on was captured by the pirate Calico Jack. If nothing else, this book will spur readers to do their own research.
Paris: A Love Story
by Kati Marton
Simon & Schuster
Paris and love have long been companions and frequently the focus of memoirs. But still Kati Marton's homage to the city stands out largely because hers would have been a life lived to the full with or without Paris playing the role as the perfect host. Written after the death in 2010 of her third husband, Richard Holbrooke, it reveals not only her strong relationship with the American diplomat but is also telling of the life she and her second husband, Canadian-American journalist Peter Jennings, led as reporters striving to be stars. About that tumultuous marriage, she says, "It was assumed I was leaving because I could not adjust to life in the giant shadow of Peter's celebrity." Lives led apart because of different career paths, and together (often in Paris), produced intense relationships, several of them with third parties. Paris: A Love Story, Marton writes, was based on a journal she began after Holbrooke's unexpected death. Readers will warm to this book, which remembers private history in the context of world events.
You Changed My Life
by Abdel Sellou
(read by Ray Chase)
This is a story best told on the big screen and not through a book. Which is why it will not come as a surprise to discover that Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano's movie Intouchables, based on You Changed My Life, has been a huge box office success. The book, written by Abdel Sellou and read in a heavy French accent by Ray Chase, tells of Sellou's life as a petty criminal and caregiver in the unlikeliest of situations. Born in Algeria and given away in 1975 to a relative in Paris when he was four, Sellou spent time in jail before he applied for a job as a "life auxiliary" to Philippe Pozzo di Borgo, a French aristocrat who became a tetraplegic after a paragliding accident. In his preface, "Pozzo" writes, "[Sellou] supported me after [my wife's] death and helped me to live again with joyful determination and rare emotional intelligence." Each, it turns out, changed the other's life, for the better. Too much dialogue blights the book, which should have been taken over by an editor willing to perform intensive surgery on its structure and writing.