Archive for March, 2010

Book 924 Ann-Marie MacDonald – Fall on your Knees

March 26, 2010

Honestly I have to admit that this novel left me with quite a few mixed reactions. On one hand you’ve got to admire it’s scope, characters, plot, unpredictability and writing style. On the other hand I felt that some bits just dragged and a few good chunks could have been left out. It’s a 100 pages too long.

Plot-wise it’s a family saga, but one that has a bit of everything chucked in so there are glimpses of Horror, Comedy ,  Historical and even some LGBT (which is the most revealing and surprising part of the book). Throughout five decades we see the fall and rise of the James Piper, his Lebanese Wife and his three daughters ( SPOILER – and granddaughter) Absolutely nothing is as it seems with the Piper women and the reader learns about the dark secrets of the family til the very last page.

As I said before my enjoyment of the novel was hindered by the dull sections and sometimes even the archaic writing style was bothersome and I did struggle to finish reading it. However I have a feeling that lots of other people would adore this book. Maybe I read it at the wrong time? or have I read better novels in the same vein? Anyway if you do decide to tackle Fall on your Knees do bear in mind that you need a bit of patience.

Book 925 Alessandro Baricco – Silk

March 14, 2010

Silk is a book that I read once a year (I’ve been upholding this tradition for the past years now), not only do I find the translation excellent but I personally think it is the most perfect/unperfect love story I’ve ever read. Then again I am very biased when it comes to Italian authors (and directors)  so maybe take this review with a pinch of salt.

It is 19th Century France and disease is wiping out silkworms, so silk merchant Herve Joncour decides to go to Japan as he finds out that silkworms are plentiful there, eventually he ends up smuggling eggs into Europe.

Once he arrives he falls in love with a non-Asian women, who speaks Japanese and over the course of his visits his love for her increases, despite the fact that he is married. They do send love letters to each other though albeit in different languages.

It’s not as simple as that though. Baricco inserts a nasty twist which makes you question the nature of love.

Silk is a very thin book but despite that it’s got a depth and beauty in it that resonates with each page you turn and until Cunningham’s ‘The Hours’ no other book effected me so. It goes to prove that sometimes the simplest things are the most profound!

Book 926 Arundhati Roy – The God of Small Things

March 14, 2010

I first read The God of Small Things back in 2002. At the time I was at the bookstore and I had a split shift, meaning that from 1 :30 til 4:00 i had ample time to sit and read.  I remember those cold February days when I’d plonk myself on a bench with my sandwich and just read sizable chunks of books, while staring at the sea now and then.

When finished reading this eight years ago I was happy that I read it but could not really see the fuss about it.

As we jump into the future and I finish reading it for a second time,  my ‘like’ for this novel has increased into a ‘love’

Estha and Rahel are  twins (male and female)  who have decided to meet again after a very long absence. As they are wandering in their old house a flood of memories start reappearing. Mostly about how their half  Indian cousin drowned and the fate of their carpenter who rebelled against his caste (this happened in the 60’s). Apparently these incidents affect Estha badly for throughout the parts of the book which take place in 1990’s India , he is a mute who obsessively washes his clothes.

This is the focal point of  The God of Small Things. Roy criticizes the caste system and very savagely.  However this is all told through the eyes of Estha and Rahel, who are children at the time so us readers see an innocent viewpoint of some very serious matters. Roy portrays 1960’s India as a corrupt country that is rigid due to the caste system.  Mind you the sections which deal with modern-day India is no less forgiving.

One can also say this is a book about love but to go into detail about this aspect will spoil the novel. All I can say that love definitely shapes the destinies of the characters of this book , for better or for worse (mostly the latter)

The writing is reminiscent of Rushdie, There is liberal use of puns , wordplay and words spelt and pronounced in childish jargon, whereas Rushdie can appear a bit lofty doing this, Roy brings it down to Earth. Her style also does mutate throughout the book, especially during the last chapter which is indescribably beautiful, not to mention her eye for detail.

While re reading this book, I was amazed at the amount that I had forgotten, including some major scenes so I’m glad that I went through this a second time for it is indeed a modern classic.

Book 927 Kristien Hemmerechts – Margot and the Angels

March 8, 2010

Unfortunately this book has not been translated in English as yet. All I can say is :

Watch this space!

Book 928 Victor Pelevin – The Life of Insects

March 8, 2010

Just like the previous book I reviewed, The Life of Insects is also out of print and you can find a copy at abebooks.com. It was also a bit troublesome to attain as I had to wait a month to receive it then it was a bit tatty. To top it all of it’s a 190 page book and it took me a day to finish it.

As such these are tiny gripes, what really matters is if I enjoyed it or not and to tell the truth I’ve got quite a few mixed reactions and I’m still debating on whether I actually enjoyed ‘The Life of Insects’

On one hand the plot is good. There are fragmented chapters which focus on humans morphing into insects and then back again into human form. The thing is that each chapter deals with a philosophical conundrum or criticises modern-day Russia.

Now I don’t mind this at all. I like a good novel which makes me think and some chapters are brilliant, especially the cockroach narrative. The translation is good as well and brings out the issues that Pelevin is dealing with. What is clever is that the characters transformations are not obvious and it takes a couple of paragraphs to figure out what is actually happening.

One the other hand I felt that the book did not really hold together and that it was just simply a novel of ideas. I would like to say that I’m not adverse to this but I did feel that something was definitely lacking and hindering my enjoyment. Also some chapters are much better than others so there is a lot of inconsistencies.

At the moment I guess I can say that I didn’t love the novel but neither did I dislike it. On the whole there’s some good stuff flowing from this brief novel but you ave to wade through some dodgy territory to reach the better chapters.

Book 929 Ricardo Piglia – Money to Burn

March 7, 2010

First of all Money to Burn is out of print so I ordered my copy through the ever reliable abebooks.com , however if you do decide to invest in this novel there are many shortcomings.

As such the idea is great. A stream of conscious book based on an epic bank robbery that took place in 60’s Argentina. Within the book there are first hand accounts from journalists and psychiatrists on the robbery and the super dysfunctional gang who planned out this escapade. We also get a fragmented view on the robbery and its chilling aftermath.

Unfortunately the translation is beyond terrible. Instead of keeping with the book’s vernacular we are subjected to a lot of British slang. Honestly I find it weird to hear a South American gangster use the words ‘Bollocks’ and ‘Dosh’ Personally I prefer it if the original word is used and then a footnote or glossary works out as a guide. To be fair there are some useful footnotes providing historical background but others that offer a scant explanations of the puns which don’t provide that much help in enjoying the book.

A book you should read before you die? To be honest?  not really!

Book 930 Peter Carey – Jack Maggs

March 4, 2010

In the past I have read two Peter Carey novels (Oscar and Lucinda and The True History of the Kelly Gang) and I found them rather boring.  With Carey I have a tendency to lose focus on the writing and drift off. Thankfully Jack Maggs is a different story altogether.

It’s London 1837 and Jack Maggs returns from his prison term in Australia in order to settle some dues with Henry Phipps. Upon arriving he finds out that Phipps is not there and is hired at the Buckle residence as footman. As soon as Maggs is hired he is thrown into a maelstrom of deceit, hidden relationships, the supernatural and certain secrets, most which affect his destiny throughout the novel and ultimately surprise the reader in the process.

After researching on the background of the novel I found out that ‘Jack Maggs’ is a sort of tribute to Charles Dickens ‘Great Expectations’ Now I confess that I have never read it so I don’t know how it compares but as a stand-alone novel I found ‘Jack Maggs’ to be highly addictive. Carey does not tell you a straight story, instead the novel give you new secrets about the characters pasts so in order to find out how the book develops you have to continue reading to the last chapter, where everything is revealed.

I also liked the way Carey made his characters realistic. I guarantee that you will not root for any characters as they all have their good and bad sides. In reality every human has their quirks and this is brought out.  Carey has a way of presenting his protagonists as innocent people but slowly turning nasty towards the  last few chapters.

Really there’s nothing left to say but if you do think of picking up this wonderful little book make sure you have some time one your hands, it’s one of those novels that will keep you glued to your seat! (in fact I was picking it up at every available moment)