Tuesday, 21 December 2010
Friday, 8 October 2010
The novel is about a black slave family in America. The novel is quite hard to read both in terms of style and content, but I can definitely see why it made the panelists lists. It is very high impact and leaves a very memorable impression. The problem I had with this book is that I didn't hugely enjoy reading it. It felt a bit like eating wholemeal bread - I know it is good for me and worth it in the long run but soft, white bread is much tastier. I think this is a novel which would be brilliant to study and to re-read but on the first reading it is a bit overwhelming. The writing is very clever and there is a lot of imagery. Whilst I am sure this style makes this a rewarding novel to study, it also makes it hard to engage with on an initial, surface read.
Overall, I do agree that this is a good book to read before you die but it is not going to be a book you fall in love with immediately or read in one sitting. It needs to be absorbed slowly. And I would recommend sandwiching it between some thick slices of white bread so you have a bit of escapism after what is quite a tough read.
Wednesday, 22 September 2010
Saturday, 28 August 2010
This novel is about an author in Victorian England, who is loosely based on Charles Dickens, and is written from the point of view of his estranged wife (called Dorothea in the novel). I am at a loss as to why this book was longlisted for the Booker Prize as it was, frankly, pretty light reading and is more suited to a Richard & Judy.
It also surprised me that this was written by a woman as Dorothea’s narrative is pretty unrealistic. Dorothea was usurped by her younger sister , forced to separate from her husband and refused access to her children whilst her sister continued to live in the matrimonial home. Instead of behaving like a normal woman and doing the nineteenth century equivalent of maxing out his credit card, keying her sister’s car and selling the story to Hello, Dorothea is perfectly understanding and forgiving throughout the separation and her 10 year isolation from her family. Maybe that was likely back in the day, before the Spice Girls and Girl Power, but it is pretty hard to swallow to be honest. There is no fury like a woman scorned and all that.
Leaving that aside, the historical context was quite interesting and it is entertaining. Good for a holiday read but the writing is pretty average so don’t pick this for an A level English critique.
Having said all that, I feel obliged to warn my two readers that I am not sure they would like it. It isn’t really a boys book (sorry Andy) and it requires quite a lot of concentration (no offense Mum). So whilst I really enjoyed it I am not actually sure who else would.
Despite the style irritations I quite liked this novel, which is about a young man who witnesses a murder and struggles with his conscience. He has a few affairs along the way including (possibly) one with his sister. Somehow this book is not as pretentious as that description makes it sound, possibly because the characters are actually quite well written.
There are websites where you can input information, such as your name, a city and the name of your boyfriend, and the website outputs a short story for you (admittedly usually a dirty story). There must be one for novels about happy middle class families whose lives are turned upside down, and then they build it up again. The variable of course being what turns their life upside down. In this case, the father’s money laundering activities. Exciting stuff.
So, a very formulaic story with pretty average writing and dialogue and very two dimensional characters. It is light hearted so a bit of escapism but not recommended for boys.
Down graded half a star because HMS Victory is docked at Portsmouth not Plymouth. How hard is that to check?
The narrative follows the history of a Cretan family, two members of which suffered from leprosy and were exiled to Spinalonga which was a leper colony until 1957. I thought the book was poorly researched. It is very irritating to be smugly (and perpetually) informed that the popular misconceptions about leprosy are incorrect without being given any information on the disease whatsoever. I appreciate that I should not be looking for education in a chick lit trashy novel but I do expect at least a half hearted attempt at some background research. A google search would have done.
This book is definitely overrated. I suspect that the high sales can be traced back to our hotel’s gift shop, which stocked thousands of copies of this book and a few bottles of suntan lotion.
Monday, 9 August 2010
Basically, a girl turns into glass whilst falling in love with a clearly mentally ill photographer who tries to get her help from a man who looks after a herd of flying cows. Like I said, completely ridiculous.
Nevertheless, it is fairly easy to read and pretty quick and a lot better than the other completely ridiculous novel of recent times - the one which is literally about a woman married to a man who travels through time. There is no punchline.
In summary, don't rush out to buy it but you can't go too far wrong with this as a beach read or if you are stuck in an airport and have to choose between this and The Iliad. In Greek. This will be more entertaining (unless you read Greek).
Thursday, 5 August 2010
This is a very dull book. It is very hard to build up any sort of connection with the characters or to care enough to concentrate on the fairly disjointed plot. I think the story is about Pakistani military cadets and middle eastern politics. But I couldn't be sure as this book is not as interesting as my day dreams about being a gangster so I was really focusing on them rather than the story.
I gave this an extra half star because it is not as offensive as The Still Point (the worst book in the world), but seriously - don't bother.
Sunday, 1 August 2010
The plot is pretty unrealistic but the narrative is very clever and engrossing. Once I got into it I also found the characters likeable and interesting. It is quite funny in places although not as hilarious as it says it is in the reviews quoted on the back.
This is quite a long book but I would definitely recommend it and it is worth putting the time in.
Sunday, 25 July 2010
Opening in 1930s Czechoslovakia this novel begins with a young newly wed couple looking to build a modern home to raise a family. The couple hire a German architect who builds them a large, open space bounded by glass walls and known as the glass room. Throughout the story many of the most dramatic events take place in the glass room and the house itself is an important part of the book. The family are forced to move as the war begins because the father is Jewish, so the novel then splits to follow the family's emigration as well as the fate of their glass room.
I did really enjoy this book, which is very well written and the historical setting is interesting. There are a lot of inter-connecting characters which at times is slightly too convenient and coincidental, but perhaps that is a bit unfair as it was of course necessary to make this such a good story. Definitely worth reading.
Sunday, 18 July 2010
I didn't enjoy this book. It is very supernatural and everything is left unexplained. There are just too many things which don't make any sense so instead of being intrigued by the mystery it is just confusing and bizarre. For example, Martin recovers from a terminal illness (a tumor) following a dream involving spiders, the boss constantly eats sugarlumps and Martin discovers a basement of wooden lifesize puppets of himself and all his friends in the basement of the boss' house. None of these things is ever explained, just dropped inexplicably into the narrative.
It is a very quick read but personally I wouldn't bother. Despite all the twists and turns this book is pretty boring because the narrative thread is impossible to follow.
Monday, 12 July 2010
Sunday, 4 July 2010
Saturday, 26 June 2010
I really enjoyed this book and read it very quickly. It is really well written and the plot is very gripping. There are a number of different characters introduced fairly quickly at the beginning, which is a bit confusing, but I loved the way they were all linked together. The central character is Polly, a divorced human rights lawyer raising her 2 children in north London. In places the story is quite dark as it does follow the lives of several immagrants whom Polly tries to help. But the way the narrative works means the darker bits are not too gruesome and are interspersed with some much more lighthearted moments.
I would recommend this book - I think it would be a good holiday read. Don't be put off by the rubbish cover.
The novel is set in Ireland just after the first world war. An English army major goes to visit is fiance, whom he has only meet once on a three day leave earlier in the war. His fiance is Irish and her family run a dilpidated hotel on the Irish coast. The narrative is very gentle and charts the majors return to real life following the war with an undercurrent of the Irish troubles. Personally I thought this was a bit boring. I enjoyed the characters who were easy to relate to and there are some lovely parts of this book. However, it is very slow paced and does not focus enough on any of the main themes so it is a bit lacking in direction. I did like this book but I didn't love it and I wouldn't particularly recommend it.
Sunday, 13 June 2010
This book is set in the second world war and follows a young girl evacuated to a large country house in Yorkshire, which is set up as a war time boarding school. The novel focuses on her relationship with her teachers at the boarding school and how that affects her relationship with her parents. Meanwhile, the owners of the country house have their own relationship difficulties which the young girl gets inadvertantly involved in.
I enjoyed this book and it is a fairly easy read. I didn't think it was particularly memorable but it is quite a good holiday read.
Sunday, 6 June 2010
The detail of the hardship of the badlands is very interesting. The way communities work together, regardless of race, is touching particularly as the novel is set in the 1920s during the Chicago race riots.
I enjoyed this book although it wasn't fantastic.
Sunday, 30 May 2010
A newly wed couple arrive in Trinidad from the UK intending to stay for 3 years whilst the husband works with a shiping company. The husband falls in love with the island and despite the wife's unhappiness the couple stay and raise two children on the island. The novel spans the family's life in Trinidad and charts their involvement with riots and revolution as the black Trinidadians revolt against white colonialism.
I didn't really like this book because the characters are not very realistic. The wife is so depressed and hates her husband so much that it is impossible to believe that she would realistically stay in Trinidad. Neither of the two main characters are developed enough so it is hard to get emotionally involved in the story.
There's a fairly interesting history of Trinidadian politics but other than that a pretty average read.
Saturday, 29 May 2010
Tuesday, 18 May 2010
The novel focuses on a family of three children, whose parents have both died. The oldest child, a boy in his mid-20s, is charged with the sole responsibility for his aspergis youngest sister as the middle sister moves out and advocates this task. The book is very well written and very believable. The narrative moves from each child very smoothly which makes the book very easy to read.
I really enjoyed this book and whilst it is not as thought-provoking as others I have read so far it is still worth a read.
This book is quite entertaining but nothing special, principally because the narrative is not very gripping and the plot is fairly thin. I bought the book because we were travelling to New York but there is not much history or local context to the novel, much of which is set in Ireland.
If you only read one book this year, don't read this one. But if you are planning on reading 52, this probably makes the list.
Saturday, 8 May 2010
The story follows an Army officer's family stationed in Cyprus in the 1950s. It is an interesting book from the point of view of the history of that conflict. The writing is pretty average and there is nothing outstanding or memorable about this book. It just about holds your interest at the time but doesn't grab you.
Might be worth taking on holiday for a beach read but nothing particularly to recommend it.
It is about a girl who grew up in Canada with her father and uncle and who returns when her father dies in an accident. The narrative is told mainly by the girl (Audrey) and is a combination of a stream of conciousness and dialogue, which suprisingly works really well.
It is very difficult to describe this book but I would definitely recommend it. The writing is very clever without being too intellectual or pretentious. The characters are very realistic as well as being likeable. Worth reading.
Don't bother reading this book. It is very boring whilst at the same time managing to be increadibly irritating. The writing is much too poetic and takes about 50 pages to say something along the lines of "Simon felt a bit depressed on his way to the office".
There is no discernable story-line and I would struggle to tell you what happened. Basically, an explorer tried to make it to the North Pole in the early 1900s and failed. The book is about his neice but honestly nothing at all happens. The most exciting bit is when the neice's husband thinks about having an affair. But then he doesn't.
The main thread of the narrative follows Mary's life after her first husband dies, when she marries again. Her second husband is a violent bully who terrorises Mary. As a woman in Georgian Britain, Mary has few rights and the narrative follows how eventually Mary is able to obtain a divorce.
It is a very interesting historical book made accessible by the good writing. Worth reading if you have not studied this era. I imagine it could be a bit patronising if you have any knowledge of this area of history. In places it is a bit dull.
Sunday, 11 April 2010
Saturday, 6 March 2010
Friday, 19 February 2010
I did learn that Rupert Brooke died of a blood disorder following a mosquito bite rather than in action. But it isn't worth reading the whole book to find that out.
The characters are likeable and well-developed. The story is well written and intreguing.
Definitely worth reading.
Objectively, an excellent book but for some reason I did not 100% engage with it.
The central character's narrative is a bit difficult to engage with and not very consistent so it is hard to relate to her. The story is well woven and interesting.
Overall, fairly well wirtten and enjoyable but not very memorable. Doesn't have lasting impact.
The story is dark and follows an American boys deep South upbringing during a period where a killer stalks his home town. He moves away to New York and the killer apparently follows.
The tragedy in this novel is a bit over-blown and unrealistic but also extremely touching. The standard of the writing means this novel deserves to be more widely known. Definitely worth a read.
An Icelandic detective tries to get to the bottom of an apparent suicide. He discovers an illicit affair and an emptional manipulation which leads to a women's murder. The detective also investigates an old missing persons case and discovers a tragic accident involving lakes and ice and idiots driving thereon.
A fairly engrossing but not exactly a classic.
The novel itself does not live up to this excellent marketing. It is very good but over-selling leads to disappointment.
In summary, a middle class couple trying to rescue their marriage holiday in Nigeria and meet with violence on a Nigerian beach. One girl survives a massacre by local oil thugs and her life becomes entwined with the couples with significant results.
It is a fairly well written book but not very thought provoking nor does it have the impact you might expect. For some reason, it is difficult to connect with the characters and it feels like there is a barrier somewhere.
Worth reading but not brilliant.
Losing interest at this stage.
More vampires, more werewolves, fewer humans, more ridiculousness.
I am getting increasingly irritated with myself. My head says this book is silly and boring. My heart loves it. Weird.
Even more ridiculous than the first as we are introduced to a werewolf family. Of course when dealing with vampires and werewolves one has to suspend disbelief but I suppose there are limits to everone's willingness to do so. And this book streached the limits of my willingness.
But, of course it is not meant to be taken too seriously and it is entertaining.
You can get through this in a few days and overall it is worth the effort.
I am still not sure I can get as excited about this as I feel is socially acceptable but perhaps I am missing a metaphore.
The whole thing is increadibly silly but despite my best endeavours I was drawn in.
Don't, under any circumstances, watch the film.