Book Count (since 1 January 2012)

Book Count (since 1 January 2014): 30

Sunday, 30 September 2012

The Misremembered Man by Christine McKenna

This novel is set in 1970s Ireland and is about 2 lonely hearts who meet and fall in love. With dialogue like "Deed ye might-a been", the author seems to have got the Irish dialect muddled up with 16th century farming slang. Unfortunately, the plot does not redeem the clumsy dialogue, as it is achingly predictable and dreadfully stereotypical.

Reading this is like walking down a very long, straight road (I am imagining one of those tarmac-ed 2 lane roads somewhere in middle America with little scenery and on which you could film a mediocre One Direction music video without inconveniencing a single passing vehicle) - you can see your destination clearly the whole time but the trudge seemingly takes your whole life.

The Dinner by Herman Koch

This novel is about two couples who go for dinner in an exclusive Dutch restaurant to discuss a disturbing event which involved both their children.

 The narrator is Paul, an ex-teacher who has not worked for 10 years due to an undisclosed mental illness. The language is very simple and the way the narrative is told means the event and its consequences are revealed slowly and subtly. The commentary on social behaviour is often very amusing and I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of all the pomp which goes with a dinner at an up market restaurant.

 Ultimately this book raises some very interesting moral questions but in a gently unassuming way resulting in a powerful, sometimes disturbing book which is surprisingly easy and enjoyable to read.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catheriynne M Valente

I was recommended this novel because I loved Daughter Of Smoke & Bone. Daughter Of Smoke & Bone is much, much better - read that twice instead.

 If you're twelve (or under), this novel is awesome. If you're over twelve, it's a bit boring.

 There are some novels that are written for 12 year olds that adults can enjoy without thinking - 'my God this book is much too young for me - people must think I'm retarded or something for even reading it - can anyone see the cover? Oh, thank God for kindles. What shall I read next? What shall I have for dinner? Ooh look there's an advert for a new mortgage rate. Perhaps I should look into that." This book is not one of those

Painter of Silence by Georgina Harding

A novel set in Romania during the late 1930s and World War II, this book follows Safia a young aristocratic girl and Augustin, a deaf servant boy.

 This book is a very interesting take on World War II and the interpretation which a deaf boy places on it. I enjoyed the gentle but sometimes dark plot very much. Telling the story through the eyes of Augustin is a clever way of highlighting the sometimes incomprehensible politics of war.

 The writing is unremarkable but that doesn't detract from this book which is primarily about the story not the language. An enjoyable and different book about the experiences of residents in occupied countries during the war.

The Most Beautiful Thing by Fiona Robyn

I very much enjoyed this book. The first part is about a young teenager, Joe, who goes to visit is aunt in Amsterdam over the long summer holiday whilst his mother is suffering from depression. The second part sees Joe returning 14 years later for another visit to try and recover from his own mental health issues. The subject matter of this novel is moving but dealt with very sensitively and through some likeable, well developed characters. I did find the dialogue a little stilted at times but overall the writing is good and the plot compelling. This book is not an in depth study of mental health so don't expect any overwhelming insights but it is an unusually light book about depression.

Sarah Thornhill by Kate Grenville

Frankly, I found this a bit boring. It's a novel about a young white Australian girl (Sarah) who falls in love with a half Aboriginal boy (Jack), but they are separated for reasons which Sarah slowly discovers.

The plot is obviously intended to challenge racism and explore the morality of the violent dominance of early white settlers. However, the focus is very much on Sarah and Jack's relationship which in my view results in an average book about falling in love, and any serious message is lost. In particular, the last journey of Jack and Sarah is incongruous and overly romanticised.

This is the last in a trilogy and you do get the impression that the author's material has been stretched to its absolute maximum. This book is definitely readable and doesn't require much concentration, but it is nowhere near as powerful as it could have been, given the subject matter.

Umbrella by Will Self

An unusual book, more of a stream of consciousness, about a psychiatrist at a Frien Barnet hospital and one of his longstanding patients.

 This novel has no chapters, no immediately identifiable plot and no clear distinction between one character's narrative and another's. Usually, this would be irritating and pretentious but although this book is often challenging to read, it is surprisingly natural and enjoyable. The writing is excellent and incredibly intelligent but does not appear forced, so it avoids being smug or superior. Often, I admit I felt a little lost in this book - the only time I confidently knew what he was talking about was when he was describing a bus journey and I thought to myself, showing great intellectual insight, "ah, he's on the number 43" - but the writing itself is worth it even if the plot is barely discernible.

 You need to take your time reading this book, and I am sure that the longer you take the more you're rewarded. I will drink my entire nail varnish collection if this doesn't win the booker. I'd conservatively estimate this would amount to about 5 pints.

The Beginner's Goodbye by Anne Tyler

An enjoyable novel about a young publicist trying to deal with his grief after his wife unexpectedly dies in an unusual accident. The main character is likeable but takes some time to get to know and is occasionally a little irritating. The writing is good and I enjoyed the style, which is refreshing and written entirely from the main character's point of view. Definitely a readable, and at times humorous, book about overcoming grief.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Communion Town by Sam Thompson

I found this a real struggle. It is a collection of short stories following various different characters in a futuristic city. Some of the stories were better than others but none of them were very gripping and the novel suffered for a lack of any narrative thread. The writing was difficult to engage with or follow so overall this is a very hard book to read.

The Secrets Between Us by Louise Douglas

A readable, gripping thriller which is good fun while it lasts but won't stand up to much literary analysis.

Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil

A novel about opium drug dens in India and the people who inhabit them. I really enjoyed this book, which is excellently written and more about language than plot. The characters are diverse and interesting but the power in this novel is in its wonderful descriptions and emotional analysis. This is definitely a book which would bear a second reading.

Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann

A book about two cousins and their complex relationship between each other and their families. It's readable but almost instantly forgettable.

The Lighthouse by Alison Moore

A short, powerful book about a young man who goes on a walking holiday in Germany following the break up of his marriage. The book is very simple in both plot and writing but it contains a powerful message about loneliness and relationships. This novel is hard to enjoy but you can't deny the strength of the impact.

The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman

Set in early 1930s Berlin, an interesting and unusual novel about a theatrical set designer who becomes obsessed with a young girl and follows her around the globe, oblivious to the political dangers of the time. The writing is excellent and the dialogue very natural. The plot is engrossing and fun and I really enjoyed this book.