Jun. 1st, 2012

stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
An utterly unmemorable book. I didn't exactly dislike it, but it didn't grab me, and it was a bit of a struggle to plough through to the end. The plot was unconvincing, the characters less so, but difficult to relate to, and OK, I admit it, I'm not a dog person.

The author obviously has a very defined sense of place, but, not knowing the Cotswolds, I was unable to plug into this, and it all rather passed me by. Perhaps if I knew the area I'd have enjoyed this more. As it was, it all felt very flat.

I did pick up the next one in the series to try to work out what I felt about this book, and discovered within a few pages that my prevailing emotion was boredom.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/8101473/
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
Unusually for a Howatch, I let this lie for several months after I'd read the first section. This is the first of her super-epic-historical-romans-à-clef, and it seems she hasn't quite got into the swing of things yet. The historical period in question is the reign of Henry II and his two sons; Howatch has translated them to turn-of-the-century Cornwall, and made the realm of England a mouldering folly of a country house. Helpfully, she has included quotations from actual history books so you know who she's really talking about - it would have been useful if she'd kept that up in later books which would have made me feel less stupid. As the beauty of this particular style is how she translates the people, places and incidents, I don't want to give too much away, but I was particularly struck by how she manages Philip, the Richard I character, which is very bold but yet makes perfect sense in context.

Having been thinking a lot recently about unreliable narrators, it struck me how efficiently Howatch leads one up the garden path. One is inclined to trust the narrator; one does tend to identify the narrator, and the way she closes the door at the end of each section and lets an antagonist loose on the person who's just spoken can be quite a shock. She is good at characterisation, but bad at distinguishing voices (if I had a quid for every character in this book who says 'of course I realise that...' I could buy a couple of pints at least, and if I included her entire oeuvre it would be a couple of rounds).

But that's not news. What has struck - and disappointed - me in this particular book is the lack of resolution. A couple of times I have caught myself thinking 'oh, I must finish Penmarric...' before realising - I have. Perhaps finishing with King John was not a good idea.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10056864
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)
I'm sure I've read one of the alphabet series before, but it was a long time ago. Anyway, I like Kinsey Millhone and the way she does things. This was a clever plot, too, with a genuinely surprising ending. Perhaps I'll look out for A, B, C, D etc.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/7469428

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