stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
An author I'd never heard of, a book bought on impulse from an 'ALL IN THIS BOX £1' box, an intriguing and pleasantly creepy story. Set in what was contemporary Cambridge (this was published in the mid eighties), this has a vaguely old-school M R James 'academic ghost story' vibe, with a side of Turn of the Screw, but with rather more sex. Subtext becoming text, if you see what I mean. Stays this side of the overtly paranormal, though, which is very effective. Gorgeously atmospheric, with a real sense of time passing. And so refreshing to find a happily bisexual character.
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
Another BookCrossing roundabout: this one is Favourites of 2011. And I can see why Fugitive Pieces is somebody's favourite. I'm not sure yet that it will be my favourite of 2012, but it is certainly a striking work.

The narrator for the most part is Jakob Beer, a small boy who escapes the Holocaust with a Greek geologist and grows up to be a poet. Geology is used as a metaphor again and again, and Michaels does an evocative and convincing job of it. At times I found the writing rather too dense and wandering towards the pretentious; at others I was completely immersed.

I was disappointed by the absence of deep women characters. While I appreciate the fact that this is largely an artefact of the first person narration, and the restrictions associated with that convention, it did feel rather dismissive of the female experience, given the importance in the plot of relationships between men. It also seemed to me that the last section didn't really add much, and was simply the geology metaphor re-imagined as meteorology.

Well worth a read, though.
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
This took me a while to get into, but once I had I was hooked. This novel comprises three narratives, two set in the 1910s and one in the 1970s, and deals with the protagonists' travels to and experiences on Te Pito O Te Henua/Easter Island. I was most drawn by Dr Greer Farraday, her research, and her backstory, which was the exciting sort of science - groundbreaking discoveries, academic fraud, extinction, all that sort of thing. As the three stories came together, however, I started paying more attention to the other two. I like the way that Vanderbes leaves some conclusions for the reader to draw; it's nice to be treated as if one were half-way intelligent. I was relieved, too, that the early hints of a tedious faith vs science battle were averted.

One thing I would say is that I was never convinced by the setting - the setting in time, that is; the landscape is very vividly portrayed - the writing around Elsa, Alice and Beazley's expedition always felt a little off, in a way that I can't quite put my finger on. It may be the use of the continuous present; whatever it is, it doesn't feel like 1912. Similarly, Greer et al feel as if they're wandering around in the mid nineties, not the mid seventies, and it's only the challenges faced by Greer's female classmates (who seem to have been shoved in to indicate precisely this) that reminds us that it was a tough life for a woman in academia way back when, oh, and by the way, we are dealing with way back when. The faux military history sections are by far the most convincing stylistically.

Overall, though, I'd recommend this.


stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)

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