“The Pig Did It,” a fiction book languishing on the library shelf, caught my eye. What did that pig do, I wondered. Oink, maybe? Not a bookworthy event, I thought. I had to find out.Turns out it was a delightful book, and if one pig-themed book was good, more might be better. I decided I’d see what other pig-writers would produce. Since then I’ve discovered Barbara Kingsolver, who can’t write a bad book, and gave me my second pig book, “Pigs in Heaven.” Next came “Pig Candy” a true and lovely story by a young woman taking her ailing father to visit the old home place down south once more before he dies. Book four was “As the Pig Turns,” which told a good story except that it starts with a revolting image of a pig roasting on a pit but instead of the pig body, there is a human body sewed onto the pig head (or vice-versa). I am afraid that offputting image colored my view of the book, although I did complete the read!
Now the fifth pig book has really discouraged me! I am giving up on a book that had real promise; the worst thing is that I appear too stupid (or too uneducated) to understand it. The title is “The Silver Pigs” and the author is Lindsey Davis. It is the first book in her successful series of Marcus Didius Falco mysteries and is set in ancient Rome. The blurb on the back says “All roads lead to treachery when Marcus Didius Falco, a Roman “informer” who has a nose for trouble that’s sharper than most, encounters a pretty girl fleeing for her life and makes a decision to rescue her.” Sound interesting? I thought so. I read all the Brother Cadfael mysteries set in 11th Century England, so why not give ancient Rome a try?I got to page 110 before I gave up. Here’s why: simply, I can’t understand what is going on. First of all, the characters are named Petronius Longus, Decimus Camillus Verus, Attius Pertanax, Publius Camillus Meto, Julius Frontinus, Caprenius Marcellus and so on. I could form no mental image of these people like I could if they were named Charles Smith, Henry Orson or Orville Smith. The female characters were a little easier because they seemed to have less names per person. But with the men I never knew who Marcus Didius was talking about. Also, every place these characters moved to was called by a Roman name; the “silver pig” was an ingot but I could never figure out where that ingot got stashed. I could understand a few things, but that did not include the plot! The author says some funny things, but I don’t know what they are about, so I can’t laugh.
The crowning blow came when I hit this paragraph:Of the four original British legions, the Fourteenth Gemima were currently held in Europe pending Vespasian’s decision on their future: they had been active in the civil war -- on the wrong side. The Ninth Hispana were in mid-transfer north to Eboracum, the Twentieth Valeria had plunged out toward the western mountains, while my old unit the Second Augusta advanced to Glevum, astride the upper reaches of the great Sabrina Estuary…”
That’s it! I said. I’m done for. Close the book. Sorry, Pig, I’m done with you.I admit I am very mis-educated on things Roman. The worst are Roman Gods and Goddesses, which I seemed to have missed completely in my education. If a crossword puzzle calls for one of these, I might as well stop before my blood pressure goes up too high out of total frustration. I have a heck of a time figuring out Roman numerals beyond Xs, Vs, and Is. Oh, I’m OK with C’s too, but D’s and L’s refuse to lodge in my brain. All I remember from a 10th grade reading of Julius Caesar is “Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears.” That’s it.
So I am not blaming anyone but myself for “The Silver Pig.” I wish I were smarter; in setting it aside I did so knowing that it was not the author’s fault, it was mine.
Luckily I have another pig book that arrived in the mail today via Abebooks, since I couldn’t find it at a library. It’s called “On the Pig’s Back” and is an autobiographical excursion by Bill Naughton, the author of “Alfie.” It’s set in present day England and I am fairly confident I should be able to figure this one out!