The remarkable thing comparing my reviews of Millstone City (by S.P. Bailey, 2012) and City of Brick and Shadow (by Tim Wirkus, 2014) is how differently directed my attention was and yet how many similarities the reviews (and their books) still share.
Let’s start with the obvious. Both novels have “city” in the title. Both novels take place in Brazil’s slums. Both novels feature horrific criminal activity. Both novels incorporate missionaries breaking rules, though managing to keep their deviance remarkably nontransgressive. Both sets of missionaries maintain an interest in fulfilling their call to preach even in the least agreeable of situations. Both adventures begin thanks to a link to the criminal world via a local convert. Both novels address the reality of evil and fail to provide a purely pat ending.
Thematically however, the novels are quite different. Continue reading “Millstone City of Brick and Shadow”
Here’s the elevator pitch for Millstone City: “Two Mormon missionaries stumble into the City of God—-will they survive?”
And that’s a pretty good pitch, but it misrepresents the feel of the book. If you’ve seen City of God you know how terrible and sick its violence makes you feel:
The film offers little comfort to viewers uncomfortable with their own complicity in the on-screen violence, or those seeking a ‘ray of hope’ in the narrative. Meirelles introduces alternatives to violence, only to then dismiss or disempower those alternatives. City of God breaks with audience expectations by presenting no viable moral choice. The allegory of the chicken’s dilemma—“if you run away they get you and if you stay they get you too”—illustrates the film’s fatalism, a fatalism that is not only ascribed to Rocket, but impressed upon the viewer throughout the film. [source]
Millstone City is not a fatalistic novel. And so while I’m new to the John Le CarrÃ© game (I just read my first book), I think Bailey’s story of Brazilian gangsters has more in common with Le CarrÃ©’s Cold War spies than City of God or anything else I’ve read or seen recently.
Continue reading “Millstone City by S.P. Bailey”