05 July 2012

Galore ~ Michael Crummey


Epic!  Mythic!
Wild and wooly like the setting

This is intricate without being detailed, sprawling and yet stark.  It is a difficult ride to describe ... somewhat like 100 Years of Solitude set in Newfoundland!

 I really enjoyed being transported to this untamed place peopled with a strange collection of characters.  Not a book where you developed empathy for the characters but one where the narrative was a passing parade of their lives and times.  And what a harsh, bleak life that was!  And what times of deprivation and endurance!

There were definite elements of "weird" ... lead by Judah who is "born" from a whale's belly, forevermore bleached and stinking.  But there were elements like the village custom of passing a baby through the branches of an ancient tree, or the itinerant priest who sleeps with the widow with the ghost of the husband sitting by the fire, or the webbed fingers passed down after an encounter with a mermaid.

As it was a cross generational novel, it crossed history.  There were wonderful insights into such things as the unionisation of the fishing fleet, the ebb and flow of religious tolerance, long-held superstitions, and the intermingling of families.

04 July 2012

Zone One ~ Colson Whitehead


How to turn yourself into a Zombie
Bore yourself stupid reading this!

I think this may have turned me off zombies for a while (not matter, there are always werewolves and vampires).

One line of thought could be that this more literary author was attempting a more literary style of zombie narrative ... another is that he was just "taking the mickey" out of the reader.  And personally, I lean towards the second.  I think it was a shameful poke at readers of dystopian futures where he swathed his premise in higher order gobbledy-gook and pretended that he has written a deep-and meaningful literary work for them.

This was so poorly written.  I have not read any of his "serious" fiction - and am totally disinclined to do so! There were repeated lists. Lists of who did what, who was there, what they were doing, what they were wearing, what they had done.  And then just a page later you would have another long string lazy writing with background information provided by yet another list.  He achieved the amazing feat of overwriting and underwriting at the same time!

Maybe it is just "author jealousy" and he was trying to emulate the amazing Margaret Atwood who does powerful "literary" and "dystopian".  Give up Mr Whitehead!!!

03 July 2012

Crossing To Safety ~ Wallace Stegner

 **** RECOMMEND ****

Finalist : National Book Critics Circle Award  1987
First Tuesday Book Club

A time when we were selfless rather than self-serving
Eloquent Mature Comforting

This is one of those "quite achievers" that seeps into the recesses of you mind.  It is not big and showy.  It is not peopled with larger-than-life memorable characters.  But it is filled with high ideals, a forgotten humanity and decency, and a warm sense of time and place.

You are absorbed into their circle of friendship.  You want to experience the journey of life with them. You want to understand them.  And Stegner wants you there as well.

This is simple.  This is beautiful.  This is simply beautiful.  The writing is sensitive and evocative.  It recalls a time that may be forgotten - when we cared about the welfare others more than about self aggrandisement.

02 July 2012

Gold ~ Chris Cleave

 < OK >

An alchemist is needed to make this gold!
Such a disappointment.

The race was on!  For me it was a race between throwing it across the room or getting to the finish. Only the fact that it was on my Kindle saved it being thrown. And only the hope that it would improve got me to the finish.

I had been so eagerly awaiting this.  I had read pre-release review and interviews, so I knew that it was a change of pace to The Other Hand (aka Little Bee) and Incendiary.  But I did expect the depth, the empathy, the sharp observations, the bittersweet storytelling that I found in both of them.  But that was not to be.

The storyline followed the rivalries of Olympic cyclists.  It gives backgrounds of the main protagonists via flashbacks.  But the storyline itself is predictable and saccharine, and the dilemma seems so contrived.  The language was often cliched and clumsy.  Characterisation is set out at the beginning and doesn't get any development.

Where the child in The Other Hand had cute characteristics, the child in Gold is cloying.  I was amazed in both of the previous books at how well Cleave writes female voice, but in Gold I didn't quite believe in Kate.  As a highly competitive athlete, she lacked verisimilitude.

01 July 2012

The Brothers Karamazov ~ Fyodor Dostoevsky


Supposed to be reading  for The Rooster Book Group
But it is sooooo long

I think I have put it aside for a while!  (Gold was just released)

I have picked it up again ... the journey continues

And I've put it aside ... again (this time for Crossing To Safety)