stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
I can't believe I'd never read this. I knew the basic gist of the plot, and most people I've spoken to did it at school. I'm rather glad I didn't, for I don't think I'd have enjoyed it nearly as much. I've been putting off reviewing it, because I honestly can't think of what to say. However, it's a book club choice, so I will eventually have to pick a single word to describe it -

which is -

- gripping

Not the first few chapters; it did take me a while to get into it, though I can see that the slow start is essential background-painting - but once the plot really kicked off I was very reluctant to put the book down. Unreliable narrators again: telling an adults' story through a child's eyes is a very effective trick if you can pull it off, and here it really works, trading off the different levels of cynicism. Favourite book of the year so far.
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
The most recent book club choice - and goodness knows it's taken long enough to get round to actually getting a meeting together and talking about it (over Dark and Stormys, Espresso Martinis, and Mojitos, and all on a Tuesday night). The choice was announced in May. How, then, did I find myself having to order it off Amazon the preceding Thursday and read it in three days? Sheer incompetence, and other people taking the communal copies on holiday with them.

I wish I'd had longer, because it was very heavy-going in every sense of the word. Three hundred pages, counting the contextual notes at the end, very small print, and harrowing content. It was a frustrating book and, if I'm honest, stylistically a bit of a let-down. In the introduction Janice Boddy, one of Aman's co-authors, enthuses about the Somali tradition of poetry and story-telling, which wasn't borne out in the narrative itself. The style was very same-y all the way through, no matter what was going on. Opinions at book club were divided as to how effective this was - whether it highlighted the horrors of colonialism and misogyny even as it presented them as part of everyday life, or whether it blended everything into a vaguely depressing mush.

Like I said, I read it too quickly.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10125792/
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
The advantage of book clubs is that, when one is not slavishly following in the footsteps of Richard, Judy, et al, one occasionally comes across an author of whom one would never otherwise have heard. This book was picked by my French colleague - Anna Gavalda is not, so far as I am aware, a big thing over here.

The problem is that my colleague read this in the original, and the rest of us read it in translation, which is not bad exactly, but very, very American. There's a lot of slang in there, and one finds oneself having to trawl through two layers of foreignness. One alone would be fine, but the combination of French culture and American language is a little disorientating.

It's a book of short stories, some of which are memorable, three weeks down the line, and some of which are not. The one about the vet. Yes. The one about the pregnant woman. The one about the rich kids and the wild boar. And the one about the car accident. And the first one in the book. The rest, obviously are Not Memorable.

Worth a read, but probably more rewarding if you plough through the original with a French dictionary.
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
A classic example of 'never judge a book by its cover'. I did, and title + cover photo of Keira Knightley made this a book I'd never have picked up but for book club.

So, as it was a book club book, we're playing by book club rules. My one word to describe this was 'dystopia'. I had to define this. It's the opposite of utopia.

Never Let Me Go took me right back to sixth form and Nineteen Eighty-Four. It's another of those wonderfully bleak, understated, British dystopias, where everything is quietly miserable, up until you get a glimmer of hope three quarters of the way through, and then... nothing changes. You can't beat the system. You love Big Brother.
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
This was someone else's choice for the book club at work, and not something I'd have picked up out of my own choice. It's worth a read, though.

Book club will involve choosing one word to describe this, and explaining precisely why I chose it. My word will be 'evocative', and the reason is this: Kathryn Stockett has put an awful lot of effort into describing the Deep South of the 1960s, and (from my twenty-first century, British, perspective, at least) it works. Utterly convincing. She's good with dialect - uses enough of it to set the scene, but uses it well enough that it becomes part of the background, and doesn't get between the reader and the story.

I did feel uncomfortable about the fact that this is a white woman telling the story of a white woman telling the stories of black women. Happily, Stockett does question this explicitly both in the text itself and in her author's notes.

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