Book Count (since 1 January 2012)

Book Count (since 1 January 2014): 30

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

I love Thomas Hardy and although Tess is not my favourite of his novels, I enjoyed re-reading this for my book club.  As with all Hardy novels, there is a lot of descriptive prose to get through but the fateful and ultimately tragic plot is worth it.  I still consider this book to be very forward thinking for its time and enjoy reading about the different roles and expectations of the male and female characters.

Quartet in Autumn by Barbara Pym

A dark book about four lonely and cynical office workers nearing retirement and have to face the emptiness of their lives without the routine of work.  A very thought provoking and touching book which asks some subtle but serious questions about the meaning of life.  The four characters are each well drawn and distinctive and they work well together to portray the various ways individuals cope with the prospect of unlimited free time.  It can make for uncomfortable reading at times but definitely a worthwhile read.

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis

A very readable and interesting novel about Hattie and August and their large number of children.  The plot follows each of the children as they grow up and move away from the family unit and is a very entertaining read.  The writing is good, although some of the characters are a little two dimensional.  I did enjoy this book and it is easy to engage with but there was something a little disjointed about the narrative which prevents this being an excellent novel.

Holes by Louis Sachar

A book about a camp for young boys found guilty of petty crime - instead of being sent to prison, they are sent to a camp in the middle of the American desert to dig a hole a day.  The concept and the writing is very simple and the plot engaging but straightforward.  Despite this simplicity, there is something very compelling about this novel which is primarily for adolescent boys but is rather touching and a good adult read.  The way the main character, Stanley, interacts with his fellow camp residents is particularly well observed.  An easy to read and thought provoking book which I would recommend.

Under The Skin by Michel Faber

I enjoyed this book, even though it is science fiction.  It is very easy to relate to and not as intricately scientific as a lot of sci fi so easier to read as fiction.  The main character, Isserley, is an alien who has been chosen to come to Earth and harvest men for a purpose which only becomes clear towards the end of the novel.  It is a very interesting observation on consumerism, human behaviour and the rules of society.  Isserley is surprisingly well drawn and likeable as a character and the dialogue is very realistic.  I really enjoyed this readable sci fi novel.

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

A readable bit of nonsense.  Was perfect after The Luminaries but otherwise would have been too lightweight to be enjoyable.

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

A very dense, plot heavy book with lots of characters and the sense of mystery.  The book is set in New Zealand during the gold rush of the 1800s when a fast growing gold rush town is rocked by a disappearance and a death as a newcomer arrives to town.   You do have to persevere with the different personalities in order to engage with this novel which is a sort of murder mystery book.  The concept is based on the idea of the "golden ratio" so each section is half the size of the preceding section (so yes halfway through the first section you wonder if you will ever read another book in your life) and this irritated me a little as surely a book should start with a concept based on something other than how long it is going to be.  There is also a focus on the signs of the zodiac and two of the characters are (I am reliably informed by the author) the personification of the moon and sun.  Basically, it is a bit weird and although it is readable and has some exciting bits I don't think the ending is worth the investment.  An impressive book to have written, and I admire the effort but the output (for the reader) is not especially entertaining.

The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan

A short dark novel about a small family in rural Ireland.  I actually enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I was going to as it was not as stereotypical as the plot description made it sound.  It is another of the very short novels on the Booker longlist but in my view this was a more rounded story than The Testament of Mary and worked much better as a short book.  The plot is simple but is told from a number of different viewpoints, each character revealing a little more about the overall narrative and this works very well to keep the book engaging.  I enjoyed the writing style, although the Irish dialogue takes time to get used to, and the characters are easy to be drawn in to.  One of the better novels on the list this year.

The Lowlands by Jhumpa Lahiri

A powerful novel about two brothers growing up in Calcutta.  Inseparable as children, the brothers attend different colleges as students and their lives start to diverge leading one brother to a life of revolution and tragedy and another to discover a new career and culture in America.  The book is touching, particularly the beginning sections focusing on the relationships between the brothers and their family.  I enjoyed the writing and the dialogue is believable.  However, I did not connect easily with the character of Subhash who was quite unemotional and at times seemed very disconnected from the narrative.  The female characters were more interesting and complex and their plots were more compelling as a result.  Definitely worth reading but not a book I fell in love with.

A Tale For The Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

A strange novel which I loved at the beginning but which tapered off slightly.  There are two main characters in this book.  The first is Nao, a young Japanese girl who is forced to return to Tokyo from America after her father is made redundant and who starts to write a sort of diary/letter to an unidentified person to try and deal with the emotions which are engulfing her following the move to Japan.  The second character, Ruth is based on the author herself and is a Canadian woman living with her husband on a remote island who finds Nao's diary on the beach and as she reads it, finds herself increasingly drawn to Nao and her family.  I really enjoyed the interplay between the two characters but Nao's story is perhaps more interesting, particularly as she spends time in a Buddhist temple with her grandmother, Jiko, who is a fascinating character.  The writing in this book is simply but elegant and the plot unusual but engaging.  I did think that the narrative slowed a bit towards the end of this book but overall definitely worth reading.  Probably my second favourite on the Booker longlist, after We Need New Names.