Archive for October, 2010

Book 864 Esther Freud – Hideous Kinky

October 27, 2010

When I reviewed  Muriel Barbary’s ‘The Elegance of the Hedgehog’ I complained that the twelve year old narrator was overly precocious and her sections of the book lost credibility due to this.

The funny thing with Hideous Kinky , the narrator is a five year old who is both naive AND over verbal but this didn’t bother me at all! why?

Anyway the novel is about a British hippie mother who moves to Morocco in order to find spiritual peace. In the process she brings her two daughters, Lucy (5) and Bea (7) along with her, Hideous Kinky is told solely through Lucy’s eyes and we see that both children have an agenda as as well.

In Lucy’s case it’s the need for a father figure to keep her grounded, the fact that she latches on the every man her mother meets proves this. Bea, on the other hand, desperately wants to return to European civilsation and tries to keep those customs  and towards the middle of the book rejects her mother’s  ideas.

If you do want a spoiler, all three never end up satisfied and return to London.

Hideous Kinky is a very enjoyable book. I read it within a 24 hour period (which did mean stealing a chapter or two during work).  I enjoyed the bits about Morocco and in a funny way Freud does capture that childish innocence with some humour. Apparently it’s also autobiographical.

If you do want to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon indoors, this si the perfect book to read. Short, to the point and a good overall story.

Book 865 Sunetra Gupta – Memories of Rain

October 25, 2010

As such Sunetra Gupta’s debut novel, Memories of Rain, is nothing new. There have been countless of time where we have read about an Indian living abroad and the various cultural difficulties.  However Gupta does approach this often used plot differently.

Here the power lies in the writing style. Gupta is very descriptive and a good number of them take up quite a few pages. It is not only material objects either, Gupta excels when she is describing the raw emotions running though her characters.

Plot-wise it is quite easy to summarise

English man (Anthony) goes to India to visit

Falls in love with Indian girl (Moni) and brings her to the U.K.

Man has an affair

Indian girl wants to escape.

As I said before it’s the words which change everything and Gupta is a wordsmith of the first degree. Plus the concept of time is all mashed together so past present and future do not have any boundaries.

Unfortunately I cannot say that I loved this novel. It can be exhaustive and at times the incredibly long sentences made me impatient but I did keep on reading and wondering how Moni will cope with her situation.

Not the worst I’ve read but not the best either.

Book 866 H.D. – Asphodel

October 23, 2010

I have been staring at this screen for the past few minutes as I am struggling to actually write what Asphodel is about. Honestly though it feels like doing that is a useless exercise. There is a plot but this is a ‘textured’ novel. Anyway here goes :

Hermione is an American who is now living in Paris. Us readers get an insight to her views of European culture and relationships with both men and women, then the same thing happens again except in London.

The thing is Asphodel is more about sights and sound being brought out repetition of certain words, certain spelling and twisted viewpoints. The prose is very rhythmic and after a few pages you get used to it.

However there’s a lot of different styles chucked at you, dialogue mashed up with ‘formal’ text so the book shifts narrator-wise, although not as bad as Jachym Topol’s  City Sister Silver, I did get a bit frustrated while reading the novel.

I am trying my hardest to like this narrative form but it honestly is something that just irritates me. I’m hoping that there will be one book which helps me change this silly attitude of mine!

Book 867 Patrick McCabe – The Butcher Boy

October 23, 2010

 

Each and every book that I read represents a memory. The Butcher Boy always reminds me of 1999, when I was  in my first year of university and reading novels at a voracious rate.  I first read it in one sitting on a rainy March day and felt sort of sad when I read the last sentence.  I also then read all of McCabe’s work (well nearly, last one was Emerald Germs of Ireland)

The thing is I can relate to McCabe’s novels. Malta is a lot like Ireland ( Catholicism, Jesuits, close community, constant rain – albeit for us May to September is blazing hot) and characters like Francis do definitely exist and have been treated in similar manner.

Frances Brady is a product of a bad household, Suicidal mother, alcoholic mother. He’s not very bright either and lives in a state of naivety, thus he is totally unaware of  what is happening in his life and spends his days fooling about with his best friend Joe. Although it seems that he spends more time bullying Philip Nugent, a boy who is perfect.

We jump a few years and Frances is now living on his own and a petty thief, but his IQ is still low, when he pays a visit to his father he finds out that his mother has committed suicide, Brady goes insane and breaks into the Nugents household and craps all over their house. As a result he is sent to a correctional institute run by Jesuits. This backfires as well due tot he fact that one Jesuit molests him and Francis is sent back to his village.

Now a young adult Brady tries to relive his past life but is finding out that the rest of the town has either a) Matured and b) refuse to associate with him. He does find a job as a butcher but has a lot of rage over this treachery and quietly plans out his revenge.

I will not go into the details in how Francis carries out his plan but all I can say that it is the highlight of the novel and is McCabe;s finest piece of writing. It is a great example of how depraved the human mind is in times of stress.

Although I am not a fan of  ‘Stream of Conscious’ writing I will definitely make an exception for The Butcher Boy. McCabe tells it like a story and at time a certain musicality emerges out of the book’s pages. Also despite the sordidness of the whole story, there is a lot of fiendishly black humour and at times a certain cartoonishness.

It’s worth checking out Neil Jordan’s adaptation, although not 100% faithful he does capture the spirit of the book. There’s also the added bonus of seeing Sinead O’Connor as the Virgin Mary appearing out of a toilet.

Book 868 Peter Hoeg – Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow

October 23, 2010

 

Considering the fact that I have loved every single thriller that that was on this list, I had very high expectations with Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow but, I was let down.

The aforementioned Miss Smilla finds a six-year-old boy, Isiah, that she bonded with dead. Although the police say it was an accident Smilla’s pieces together some clues and has a hunch that Isiah was murdered. Thus she sets up an investigation which even takes her to her native Greenland (she lives in Denmark) . Eventually she discovers that there are a lot of conspiracies behind this boy’s murder ; Meteorites and parasites feature.

Mostly the novel is about nationality,  Denmark’s colonisation of Greenland and Inuit culture and this is brought out superbly, the thriller is gripping and Miss Smilla is a well-rounded character. So why didn’t I like this book?

The one and only reason is that the translation got on my nerves. I have griped about this in the past and I will again. I simply hate reading a book in translation when the book feels like a translation. The whole book is composed of these sentences that are similar to the messages on a telegraph machine. After a while my patience did wear out and it was the mystery that kept me going. It’s a pity cause I liked this book’s plot.

Does anyone agree with me out there?

Inbetweener 12 Paul Harding – Tinkers

October 14, 2010

Out of all the prizes I follow there are two I usually make an effort to follow and buy the winning novel. One is The Man Booker Prize and the other is  The Pulitzer for fiction and lately I’ve been warming more to the latter.

Tinkers focuses on George , an old man who is slowly dying and remembering his past, mostly his relationship with his epileptic father, Howard. Thus this is a story told in flashbacks with some jumps into present. During the last 30 years of his life George repaired antique clocks and thus was a ‘tinker’. His father sold odds and sods to country people and he falls under the name ‘tinker’ as well.

After one particularly bad fit George’s father decides to leave home , something which George can’t get over (and it’s at this point that Howard starts to think about his own father) and it bothers him until a final flashback puts everything into perspective.

Harding does a great job of  integrating the theme of time into George’s and Howard’s life and for some strange reason I thought a lot of Steinbeck during these passages. The descriptions of the country are simply beautiful and intricate. Plus the fact the book is barely 200 pages long makes it a pleasurable one sit read.

Maybe I am going to exaggerate but I feel that Tinkers has ‘future classic’ written all over it? anyone agree?

Book 869 Arturo Perez-Reverte – The Dumas Club

October 12, 2010

 

 

If you like thrillers then The Dumas Club is, without any doubt , a thriller’s thriller AND it’s a thriller about books. Since I also work in a library which deals with antique literature ( although the oldest volume we have dates back to the 16th century) , I knew what most characters were going through.  It’s plot is a bit complicated so take a deep breath.

Lucas Corso , an antiques book dealer is given a chapter from Dumas’ original manuscript of The Three Musketeers. For some strange reason Corso starts to be pursued by people who resemble the characters in said novel. On top of this he is also assigned to seek out the last two remaining copies of the satanic treatise,  The Ninth Gate and to see if they are fakes.

Accompanied by a mysterious girl Corso tries to find out if there is a connection between the Dumas chapter and The Ninth Gate without being killed.

All I can say is be prepared for probably, one of the best literary twists that I have read. Besides that the book is an homage to Dumas and those people who love stories and your brain will be teased and pulled into many directions.

A satisfying read.

Book 870 Jeanette Winterson – Written on the Body

October 3, 2010

My first encounter with Winterson was in 2002 and the book was her debut Oranges are not the only Fruit. I did not like it at all. I found it over emotional and verging on the pretentious at times. Although I approached written on the Body in the same way, the exact problems started to crop up.

Do not get me wrong though. Written on the Body is a very sensuous love story and there are many beautiful passages which spill off the page. It is a tale on both physical and spiritual love and Winterson goes deep in the subject. As a huge plus point we don’t even know the sex of the narrator (although I kept on thinking that it was a female) so there’s a lot of ambiguity. Not to mention the section which focuses on body parts, which is a complete stunner.

My gripes start with the fact that sometimes Winterson can get a bit over emotional in her writing. There were times when I would cringe a the narrator’s inner thoughts on the lover’s husband. I also felt that the ending piled on the melodrama. So I can’t say that I loved this novel.

Although it may not be of any huge importance, does one think that there is a female and a male view on love? When reading this book I felt that the narrator was a female due to the constant emotions and passion she had for her lover.

Book 871 Iain Banks – The Crow Road

October 2, 2010

I tend to find Iain Banks a bit of a dodgy author. Some of his books are great ( The Wasp Factory , Walking on Glass) and some are contrived verging on the mediocre ( I think that Whit is the worst offender here) Thankfully The Crow Road is on of the better novels.

Essentially this is a family saga told (mostly) through the eyes of young adult Prentice McHoan. After the death of his grandmother (and an opening sentence which has been quoted from ad nauseaum) Prentice decides to dig into his family roots and uncover some secrets which have been bothering him for a long time, the top priority being Prentice’s Uncle Rory’s disappearance.

As Prentice starts investigating his past starts to become clear and slowly he does find out about his Uncle’s disappearance.  In the process though he has to go through the deaths of some more family members in order to grasp his roots clearly.

The Crow Road is a slang for death and there is a fair number of corpses in the novel but, say unlike, The Wasp Factory, each death reveals something new to both Prentice and the reader.  Mind you there’s life and love as well , which is what keeps a family going. By the end of the novel Prentice learns about his own role within the McHoans and the two their families he’s connected to the Watts and Urvils.

I have to admit that I did tackle this novel back in 2005 and I didn’t like it at all. I found dry and lacking the grotesqueness of The Wasp factory or Complicity but after this re-read I found it to be quite addictive and, best of all it’s not a novel where you can predict the outcome ( which is one big fault with Banks’ later novels). Although I wouldn’t suggest this one as the first Banks, The Crow Road is definitely one of his strongest to date.