I first read Iain Banks’ The Wasp Factory back when I was starting university ( so this would be 1998) At the time I was trying to get my hands on controversial literature ( All of Irvine Welsh’s books , Crash , The Story of O etc etc) At the time I loved the novel. It had everything I wanted back then, gruesome deaths , black humour and unpredictability. Thus as a 33 year old , would I still appreciate it?
Well I did look at it differently.
Frank is a 16 year old bent on destruction. He has murdered three people and kills animals for shamanic purposes ( his wasp factory being part of this) His insane brother has escaped from an asylum and is planning to visit him. In the midst of all this Frank starts to questions some strange things that are cropping up in his life and is determined to get to the bottom of these mysteries when he does find a secret about himself.
Back then I just thought the Wasp Factory was written for its shock factor but really its about the male gender and how it is a myth , Frank’s emphasis of his manly qualities are just a build up to the apocalyptic (and stunning) conclusion. Probably the book’s only fault is that it does veer off in places a little too quickly (the scenes with Jamie are complete waste of time imo) , in fact the story becomes thrilling when Banks does stick to the novel’s storyline
I would say that Banks has written better and more consistent novels ( The Crow Road being a fave) but they don’t have the punch The Wasp Factory does.
I have been hearing about Joan Didion for a very long time and I was dying to read her books ( the first one I heard about is The Book of Common Prayer) but it was impossible to find her novels as they could only be shipped from the US and at a costly sum.
Thank God for the World Wide Web.
Democracy is a portrait of an upper middle class family , that’s at the point of disentegration. The wife, Inez is having an affair with a CIA agent, the daughter is a drug addict , the son is a rebel and the husband is desperately trying to run for politics but is failing miserably. Oh yes Inez’s father is also a murderer , albeit an insane one.
Yes I’m know you’re inwardly groaning, but don’t forget Didion precedes Roth and Franzen so I guess she’s the main influence. Also saying that , the novel as a ton of interesting twists , the main one being that it is narrated by the author herself , as she is writing a book about Inez’s family AND in the process us readers are guided to the wrongs and rights of writing prose.
Democracy is interesting , intelligent and unpredictable. If you want to see where Franzen got his chops from – look here.
The Lover is a book I have been hearing about and eyeing for years , Now that I finally have a chance to read it ( the big plus point of this list is that I am able to read books that I have been putting off for a long time.) I can see why this novella is so revered.
It is a semi autobiographical story about a teenage girl from a poor background, who falls in love with an older and rich man. This creates a lot of tension from both sides of the family and eventually the romance is called off by the lover’s father.
Really, though The Lover is not as straightforward as I tell it. The book is not written in chronological order. The reader gets bits and pieces of the author’s past plus the background is Vietnam during the French rule so politics slyly makes its way into the novel.
Although not an easy read there is a certain deranged beauty in the book and if it wasn’t for the so so translation I would have probably liked it more.
For some weird reason , I cannnot write below the picture So I guess this will have to make do for now. First of all I’m very sorry for the lack of updates. I know this year posts have been sporadic but bear with me. Eventually things will be back on track. I don’t know when but it will happen. I feel quite guilty when I don’t write for a few weeks , let alone a month! At the moment reading is becoming a bit of a struggle, however I WILL persevere. Hopefully by the end of the uear i’ll be over and done with the 80’s section. Now on with the book.
The Year in the Death… is one of those books that is about everything and nothing at both the same time. Ricardo Reis (who was the alter ego for the poet/novelist Pessoa) returns to Portugal after a long stay in Brazil. Once he arrives to his hotel , he falls in love with the chambermaid and a sophisticated women and by the end of the book he must choose the right person. Portugal is going through a bad time ( I guess history does repeat itself) as it is entering its communist phase.
This whole relationship plot is a Maguffin. In reality this novel is a huge love letter to Portugal. We learn about its history and eventual dictatorship under Salazar. When Reis walks along the streets us readers get an intimate view of Portuguese way of life and mentality.
Now my gripe with the novel is that I had trouble relating, such is love for his country so intense , that it builds a metaphorical wall between him and the reader. I was not born and bred in Portugal so a lot of things went over my head despite the research I did beforehand. Really I didn’t love the novel so much, I can see why he is loved in his home country but this love cannot be shared by an outsider like me so its resonancy falls a bit flat.