04 June 2016

Not Dark Yet ~ Berit Ellingsen


See the purple on the cover - suits the prose!
See the nebulous shape - suits the narrative

01 February 2016

The Turner House ~ Angela Flournoy

x NO x

The house is derelict ... so is the storyline
The haint was flimsy ... so was the narrative

This was a struggle because, ultimately,  it was boring as.  A family portrait, nicely drawn, capturing their faults and failings and background and (yawn) interactions, but nothing more.  I wouldn't sit contemplating my own family for the length of time it took to labour through this.

Unless it was pseudo-semi-autobigraphical, there was no sane reason to have thirteen siblings, the majority of whom were just fleeting names and random descriptions. 

It started so well but in the end it was too much of nothing (a bit like the haint!!!).

04 January 2016

The New World ~ Chris Adrian & Eli Horowitz

** OK **

Artsy, experimental artifice
Disappeared up its own oriface

By the time we got to the pointy end of the pyramid it was digital drivel. 
... Ohh!  How clever!  What an interesting way to finish! 
... Hogwash!  Gimmickry!

The novel started out with such promise as futuristic genre writing.  Its chapters changed in point of view and place in time.  It was an interesting take on cryogenics and grief and love.

But then it started to wallow. It could have been a great short story rather than a novella (it was only 150 odd pages ... shorter actually if you don't count the rubbish at the end).  Instead it became a Cheshire Cat, leaving you with nothing but a smug grin.

It only rates the 2 stars because of the first two thirds and the promise of the premise, but the annoying ending makes me inclined to give it a 1!

03 January 2016

Ny Name Is Lucy Barton ~ Elizabeth Strout

**** RECOMMEND ****

Short, sharp and sweet like a sorbet
A mental cleanser

This was a delicious, refreshing read.  Where some narratives are dense and rich with language like a Christmas pudding, this was a sorbet - fresh, mentally invigorating, a literary palate cleanser. 

The language had a poignant simplicity, with an economy of words but a depth of insight.  In so many ways we got to know and understand Lucy Barton by what was unwritten, subtleties that resonated after the narrative had moved on.  This was a novel that provoked thought and discussion.  Even though the book lacked sentimentality, it made you feel a tender concern for Lucy, an ingenue finding her way through life and love.

02 January 2016

Man Tiger ~ Eka Kurniawan

** OK **

Like the garden, an abundance of florid language
Like the garden, characters kept at arms length

Maybe it was the translation.  It flowed well and had beauty of language, but I felt an emotional disconnect to characters.  It often felt like a domestic violence soap opera penny dreadful.  I guess I wanted a narrative with more folklore and magical realism than abuse of women and children.

The plotting was well constructed with the crime announced right at the beginning and the reason behind it slowly revealed.  This was well done with the timeline slipping and sliding to give background and context.  The ending, especially as the reader knew how it ended from the outset, was crisply executed.

While the tiger lived within the main character and was unleashed to wreak havoc, there was an angry beast within many of the protagonists giving rise to depravity and violence.   

01 January 2016

Landfalls ~ Naomi J Williams

*** LIKE ***

Ports of call in differing voices
A voyage and a novel exploring the boundaries

From my Australian history I already had a vague understanding of the explorations of LapĂ©rouse in relation to his arrival in Botany Bay so soon after Captain Phillip, but not much of an idea of his global expedition.  This was an easy-to-read fictionalised account of his travels.

I think the narrative's fractured presentation is what made it so easy-to-read.  Instead of a focus on the travails of life at sea, it was about "landfalls".  The events at different ports of call, or associated land happenings, were told by different voices.  This gave different perspectives, making it almost a collection of short stories that took us on a voyage of discovery of culture, of personality, of the world of the time.  But it was much more than a collection of stories!  The author showed the richness of maritime and scientific discovery, the bravery and tragedy of exploration and made us question the history of colonization. 

I liked it, it was enjoyable reading, but I didn't love it.  Some of the chapters were not as strong or resonant as the others.