Reviews of books read last month, all fiction: a collection of short stories, a novel and a novella. 1. "This is How You Lose Her" by Junot Díaz <http://www.amazon.com/This-How-You-Lose-Her/dp/1594631778> This is a collection of short stories connected by the theme of love, in particular how passion fades. Most of the male characters are objectionable, especially in the way they mistreat women. The stories centre on a handful of Dominican Americans living in New York from the 1970s to recent times. I was intrigued by the theme of this collection, and that the stories look at the lives of immigrants. Unfortunately, I found many of the stories a bit disappointing. A few years ago I read the author's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao". While I could relate to some of the cultural references, I couldn't see what all the fuss was about. It seems other people consider the author's work is over-hyped: <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anis-shivani/the-15-most-overrated-con_b_672974.html> 2. "The Prague Cemetery" by Umberto Eco <http://www.amazon.com/The-Prague-Cemetery/dp/0547577532> The latest novel by Italian essayist, semiologist and author, Umberto Eco, is a fictional account of the origins of the Protocols of Zion. It's a sweeping story set in 19th Century Europe, mixing real-life events and historical figures. The chief protagonist, though, is a purely fictional character. Simonini is an Italian emigré living in Paris, who has a long-standing grudge against Jews. His pettiness prompts him to foster a conspiracy involving Jews, Masons, Jesuits, mystics and devil-worshippers. The origin story for the Protocols of Zion is a meeting of rabbis in the Prague cemetery many years earlier that his grandfather witnessed. Despite his general incompetence, he manages to get support from government officials and other political groups. He finds other misfits to do his dirty work, often with unintended consequences. It seems many reviewers missed the irony in the book, superficially criticising it as anti-Semitic. Much like in his earlier novel, "Foucault's Pendulum", Eco explores how easily conspiracies can spread. Overall, I found the novel a bit challenging at times, but I enjoyed it. A better knowledge of European history would've made it even more enjoyable. 3. "Bartleby, the Scrivener" by Herman Melville <http://www.amazon.com/Bartleby-Scrivener/dp/1480255416> This is a novella set in the late 19th Century in the offices of a small legal firm on Wall Street. The narrator is the lawyer who runs the firm, and he has some interesting employees. The strangest of all is his newest copyist, or scrivener, Bartleby. In the days before photocopiers, legal documents had to be copied by hand, so lawyers hired scriveners. Bartleby starts out rather promisingly, but eventually his quirks come to the fore. He starts become very particular about what work he is willing to do, often answering requests with "I would prefer not to". Despite the problems this causes, his rather timid boss can't manage to let him go. The hard-up Bartleby even begins treating the law offices as his home. The situation soon becomes untenable. I found this less heavy-going and more enjoyable than the author's epic novel, "Moby Dick". I also appreciated the dark humour.