10 August 2011

The Gathering ~ Anne Enright

< OK >

Winner : Man Booker Prize 2007

Yikes! What were they thinking?!

Just not my cup of tea! Think you would have to have masochistic tendencies and a devotion to boredom to enjoy.

It probably is an insightful slice-of-life but the narrative is shallow and padded out with so many aimless sentences. So many aimless sentences littering the pages. Aimless sentences well expressed. Aimless sentences blithering around about not much at all and hinting at maybe something. And aimlessly composing scenes about grandmother Ada’s sex life. Get the idea.

The storyline jerks repetitively up and down the timeline making it fractured rather than a slow reveal. It’s vagueness makes it torturous and tortuous. I cried ENOUGH half way through!

Obviously the judges were into tedious melancholy ... I just feel a bit sad for whoever else was on the Booker prize short list. And I wonder if it was the same panel of judges who had awarded the prize to the similarly boring “The Sea” by John Banville a couple of years earlier.

09 August 2011

The Advancement of Spencer Button ~ Brian James


An Australian Classic! Published in 1950.
This is a must read for school teachers!!

Apart from the fact that it was a joy to read a book that was so well edited ... grammar, punctuation, language, plot ... all precise ... there was so much else that made it a joy!

It was a wonderful period piece of the NSW education system. Ahhhh! The old days of The List and Country Service! This follows Spencer’s path from the 1890’s to the late ’40’s, from his days in a country school as a student to beginning teaching to principal (with Mudgee Fort Street, Broken Hill, Grafton disguised with pseudonyms.)

How easy it is to “recognise” characters on staff and Spencer’s broadsheet plan for his advancement. I can see so much of Mr B. in Spencer ... always does the right thing, upright and conventional. Spencer seems so remote and uncaring about anyone or anything including his wife.

True, nothing much happens in the book ... such is the lot of teaching! Life is spectacularly predictable (right down to the track to Advancement).

08 August 2011

The City And The City ~ China Mieville


Multiple Award Winning Sci-Fi detective story :
Phillip K Dick meets Raymond Chandler?

Took me quite a while to get into it but then it paid off.

This is a sci-fi detective story. The book blurb compares it to Phillip K Dick meets Raymond Chandler ... slightly overgenerous praise.

The City is kind of a doppelganger of The City. They co-exist, not as parallel universes but within and beside each other. This was a good analogy to the blind eye we turn to groups within our society (the poor, different racial groups) or to suburban enclaves. People were trained from birth to “unsee” the other City, even though it may be just across the street. Contact between the two Cities is strictly controlled and enforced by Breach.

Turned out to be interesting and unusual. But lots of long, poorly constructed sentences. Quite wordy and the plot became convoluted.

Winner of Hugo, Nebula, Arthur C Clarke ... big stuff

07 August 2011

The Long Song ~ Andrea Levy

**** RECOMMEND ****

Shortlisted : Man Booker Prize 2010

Soooooo much better than the Isabel Allende “Island Beneath the Sea” which has a similar story background.

Set in Jamaica, the story tells of the last years of slavery through the eyes of July. She is a plantation slave who becomes a house slave and finds love then abandonment. There are many bitter-sweet moments and the characters are well drawn against the social upheaval.

06 August 2011

The Killer Inside Me ~ Jim Thompson


Dark dark dark
Did I say this was DARK

Just as the blurb says “... most chilling and believable first person story of a criminally warped mind ...”

Whoa ... talk about dark ... too dark for “noir”.

SO glad that I read it before seeing the movie. The movie was a faithful to the book but I would have turned it off because of the horrible nature of it. The book had pre-conditioned me.

Set in a small town and told through the voice of the deputy sheriff. There is mindless violence and killing ... though, as we are seeing it through his eyes, it is not mindless to him.

A savage look at a psychopath.

05 August 2011

Cold Comfort Farm ~ Stella Gibbons


Reviewed on First Tuesday Book Club.
A scathingly funny portrait of society in rural England in the 1930’s.

Flora is such a delicious caricature ... because she is all so real ... yes, she is exaggerated and easy to lampoon but her heart is in the right place.

All the characters are exaggerated and easy to lampoon because that is what the book is all about ... poking fun at the Great Rural Novel (Hardy, Lawrence, the Brontes). And it does so with great relish. It is all about good manners, repressed urges, religion and oddballs.

It is also chock-a-block with repeatable sayings ... like “something nasty in the woodshed”

First Tuesday Book Club

04 August 2011

The Fifth Witness ~ Michael Connolly

< OK >

#4 in the Mickey Haller series.
Wearing thin ... next one will be #Who Cares

Another beach read ... a bit of a yawn though ... I found it a “page-turner” because I wanted to get it finished.

Didn’t really care if he got his client off or not.
Don’t care if he gets back with his wife or not.
Don’t care if I read another or not.

There seemed to be a lot of courtroom blah blah blah and maybe I watch too much CSI stuff but the courtroom “drama” wasn’t that dramatic.

03 August 2011

Started Early Took My Dog ~ Kate Atkinson

< OK > 

Odd plot, jumpy narrative, unsatisfactory ending
... and there wasn’t much about the dog.

I never mind when a narrative jumps from one character to another - I enjoy seeing the plot develop through other points of view ... but this one didn’t do it well for me ... maybe because there were jumps in the time frame as well.

There was an excess of characters who were not necessary to the main plot. And after allllll this being about stolen children/ missing children, all is left up in the air about the child that was “sold” at the start.

02 August 2011

The Lock Artist ~ Steve Hamilton

Edgar Award 2011
Average not award winning for me

I actually found this a little juvenile ... the language, characters and plot. And not just because the narrative jumps between the man character in his youth and now.

The hero’s interesting characteristics are that he can’t talk, he loves drawing graphic comics and he is an expert safe cracker. There. That’s it. Throw in heart’s desire and manipulative baddies and there isn’t much more going on. The end.

Winner of 2011 Steel Dagger Award