06 April 2012

05 April 2012

The Buddha In The Attic ~ Julie Otsuka

**** RECOMMEND ****

Shortlisted : National Book Award 2011

A Collective memoir
The Rooster Reading Group pick for May

A wonderful, engrossing read!

Poetic and precise.  How can something so sparse in description, so economical with words, be so vivid and emotive?

I loved the way the research is presented in such a personal way.  I loved the use of the third person plural, "we". The grouping of the information in chapters stopped it seeming piecemeal, giving a focused poignancy and leaving a bittersweet aftertaste.

I have seen it compared to a mosaic but prefer  : "Like a pointillist painting, it’s composed of bright spots of color: vignettes that bring whole lives to light in a line or two, adding up to a vibrant group portrait."—The Seattle Times

04 April 2012

The Light Between Oceans ~ M. L. Stedman


Meh! Froth and bubble
Syrup on cardboard cutouts

My goodness!  Wish I knew what all the pre release fuss was about ... highest praise for the publishing company ... and a shame that the book did not live up to the hype.

This was a girlie read (and OMG ... that is so derogatory to girls!).  OK, it was a simple beach-read aimed mainly at a female audience.  Not a literary experience.

The characters were so stereotyped and never jumped off the page.  They were over written to give them life (yes, he was in the war, yes, tell me again in case I forgot!).  The plot idea was fine but not overly developed, it just rolled along like the author's notes.

The story is set in Western Australia after World War 1.  This is the third book of that era that I have read in the last year.  Bereft by Chris Wormersley does it with so much more eloquence and vividness of the horrors of WW1and the scars of the returning soldiers.  Gilgamesh by Joan London (also set in Western Australia) does the human impact with so much more poignancy and breadth.

First Tuesday Book Club

03 April 2012

Pale Fire ~ Vladimir Nabokov

 < OK >

A canto by Shade ...
and an unreliable commentary by Kinbote

I read this as the book nominated for April by The Rooster Goodreads book discussion group.  My first book club!  This is a reading group for those suffering withdrawals after the Tournament Of Books.

“… like a fiery rooster seems to flap his wings in a preparatory burst of would-be inspiration, but the sun does not rise.”
This quote is just right! After all, this is for The Rooster group and maybe discussions could get fiery … and I am glad that I exposed myself some would-be inspiration … but for me the sun did not rise!

I enjoyed it but it didn’t grab me. I enjoy a slow reveal; I enjoy an unreliable narrator; I enjoy a satire; I enjoy extending my vocabulary. Pale Fire had it all but I found I was keen to get finished and be done with it. Maybe this was to do with starting my reading too late so that others had already started commenting and I felt I was lagging behind??! Maybe it is because I am not overly into analysing and second-guessing the author’s motives and machinations, too much of a literal reader.

My favourite lines from Shade's canto:
“How many more Free calendars shall grace the kitchen door?”
“Summer was power-mowed, and autumn, burned.”
and, of course,
"I was the shadow of the waxwing slain
by the false azure in the windowpane;"

I think my favourite Kinbote–isms were :
“a cricket cricked” or “Thither trudged our thug.” or “He was a regular faunlet.”
“for better or worse, it is the commentator who has the last word.” 

02 April 2012

The Turn Of The Screw ~ Henry James


To each his own ... but this style is not for me
Scary story ... but even scarier sentence construction

This was my first Henry James ... this will be my last Henry James. His writing style got the better of me. The sentences are long with multiple subjects, inserted clauses, excessive wordage. I think I could virtually copy any sentence at random from the book and copy it here to show the repetitive, convoluted, muddy style. I have never minded the old, sometimes clumsy, style of Hardy, Bronte et al, but this was something else! This is wordy and repetitive and often I felt a need to second guess what the sentence was about, let alone the narrative.

At times I thought that I was glad that I had seen the movie so that I could make sense of it all, but I feel that the "unreliable narrator" is as much in evidence as the "gothic horror", giving it a thought provoking ambiguity. Is it haunted? Is she mad? Do I care?

01 April 2012

A Visit To Don Otavio ~ Sybille Bedford


Non Fiction, Mexican travel diary
Another "if only I'd read it before visiting Mexico!!!!"

Just loved it! It is so hard not to be boring and cliched and write that this was "charming" ... but it charmed the socks off me. Her observations were unaffected and personal, sometimes insightful, sometimes naive.

This was travel writing at its best. You visit Mexico (early 1950's) through her eyes and see the colour, taste the food, feel the hospitality and become immersed in the history. And all with a laugh. Her observations are simply and humorously written, the information is fascinating and the writing style is compelling ... a perfect combination for a personable, yet idiosyncratic, travelogue.

I am sure that everyone who reads this book would sigh with a wish that they could have travelled with her!