Well, the bookcase Mr E Man got me for Christmas may not have been a surprise, but it sure is awesome!
(She also hopped into the dresser while I was emptying it, but I didn’t manage to get a photo. She’s very helpful).
SO. MUCH. BETTER!
While I was moving and organising my books, I kept thinking “Oh, right! I meant to review this one on my blog!” My book reviews tag has been sadly underused this year, and I don’t really remember the details of all of the books I’ve read since I posted my last review, but here’s my attempt at catching up!
This was a really, really challenging book. I don’t remember finding any novel quite so difficult to read since I started tackling “proper literature” in my early teens. It took me several attempts to get past the initial few chapters, but while we were on vacation in Cuba I finally managed to push through to the stage where I just had to keep reading to find out what happened .
I’m really, really glad I persevered, because the book is a gem. I love Rushdie’s use of language (and had to be very vigilant about not copying some aspects of his trademark style into everything I wrote while I was reading this book!), and it’s a very rich story; it starts with the main character’s grandfather as a child, which gives you a sense of the historic span of the book, and it’s incredibly densely packed with characters and events. This is the main reason I found it so difficult to get into, and the main reason it was so satisfying.
My one regret with this book is that without a very strong grasp of the history of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, some of the impact of the story no doubt went right over my head. The lives of the main character and the rest of the Midnight’s Children (those born at the moment India became independent) mirror the story of India, and while I know enough to recognise a few of the analogies, my level of education in the history of the region definitely let me down. But even if you’re in the same boat as me in that regard, I’d still recommend this book if you feel like a challenge!
The Satanic Verses is in my pile of unread books (stacked horizontally on the fourth shelf of my new bookcase!) I hope it’s a leeetle less difficult to get into…
This is a love story about a professional violinist in London who rediscovers a former lover. Classical music features prominently, to the extent that it’s essentially a character in its own right; the events within the novel are intertwined with descriptions of several works, from the professionals’ point of view. It’s very well done; I wasn’t familiar with all of the pieces, but the book is so well written that this really doesn’t matter. Familiarity with any music (and especially playing it within an ensemble) is enough.
Overall, I quite liked this book, but I didn’t love it. It didn’t grab me on an emotional level. Part of the reason may be that having been cheated on myself by a long-term partner many years ago, I find it hard to be sympathetic to a relationship-wrecking main character, so your mileage may vary!
I won’t be keeping this book, so give me a shout if you’d like it! (Eva…?!) I’d be happy to mail it anywhere – surface, of course – maybe in return for a used book of your own…? 🙂
I bought this book from GrrlScientist as part of her massive Transatlantic moving sale last year, and I loved it!
The story is set in Turkey before, during and after WWI, and begins with an introduction to the various inhabitants and customs of a mixed Christian and Muslim town. This part of the book is utterly charming – and riveting, despite the introduction of at least one new character per short chapter! The stories from the town are interspersed with snippets from the life of Mustafa Kemal and his rise through the ranks of the military; this, coupled with some knowledge of history and a familiarity with de Bernieres’ style, made me desperate to cling on to the tales of a happily integrated town and its inhabitants, knowing that things would go very, very wrong very soon…
…and, indeed, just as in Corelli’s Mandolin, when the war begins the descriptions of the battles, the living conditions in the trenches at Gallipoli, and the atrocities committed by both sides, were harrowing to read. No details are spared, no punches are pulled. It’s gruesome – but incredibly well written and engaging, even through the worst of the worst. My high school history lessons had covered some of these events, including the Gallipoli campaign and the rise of Kemal, which made it all the more interesting to me.
I’ve passed this book on to a Turkish friend of mine who grew up in the region described in the book. I showed her the book in the pub one night when I was about halfway through it, and it led to a fascinating discussion about many subjects, but especially about religion, history, and how they’re taught in English and Turkish high schools. I can’t wait to hear what she thinks of the book!
Mr E Man and I unaccountably forgot to pack any books when we headed off on our five-day kayak trip in Desolation Sound this summer, and found ourselves in the terrible situation of having to buy books in Safeway while we were stocking up on food. This was the only book we found that looked even remotely readable, and to be honest we only bought it because of the author (yes, it’s the same guy who directed Pan’s Labyrinth).
I won the first turn at reading the book in a game of rummy, and formed a fairly negative opinion very quickly. I informed Mr E Man that it read like a screenplay rather than a novel, and that the writing was similar to Dan Brown’s.
However, this booked reeled us in SO QUICKLY! We ended up arguing constantly about whose turn it was to read it, and whether turns should be based on the number of pages or the number of minutes (I’m a faster reader than him, so of course I favoured the latter while he thought the former approach was fairer). It’s much better than anything Dan Brown’s ever written – extremely gripping and well-paced, even if the subject matter is a little hackneyed.
Yes, it’s a vampire book, but these aren’t your drippy, sparkly, teenage fantasy vampires – they’re grotesque, painfully diseased, and deformed – old-school, old-country vampires. It’s great stuff, and by the end I was totally hooked! I can’t wait for the next two books (yes, it’s a trilogy) and, most of all, the (surely inevitable) first movie!
Moving on to the less serious books on the list…
Everything I said about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies last year also applies to this book: it’s laugh-out-loud hilarious, tons of fun, and extremely silly indeed. At first I thought the side-story – the invasion and siege of England by a variety of grotesque marine dwelling nasties – had more of a narrative to it than did the plague of Dreadfuls in P&P&Z, but ultimately the story wasn’t developed and never resolved.
But really, who cares?!
Very highly recommended – just be careful about reading it in public, as involuntary and very undignified LOLs are a definite possibility.
The P&P&Z prequel is also in my pile of unread books!
I read Alyssa’s review of this book and went straight to Amazon to order a copy for myself. The author is a self-styled member of the Rude Police who calls people on their rude behaviour in a very entertaining way that makes me wish I wasn’t quite so British all the time. She calls people back who’ve had very loud public phone calls that involved giving out their phone number and chides them for their rudeness; she tracks down anonymous trolls from the comments section of her website and calls them to invite them to repeat their insults in person. It’s all very amusing to those of us who also get worked up by other peoples’ lack of manners – but it also got rather repetitive towards the end.
This is another book that I don’t plan to keep, but that’s definitely worth reading; again, let me know if you’d like me to mail it to you! (Again, maybe you can mail me one of your unwanted books in return!)
I think that’s it…
I’ve also re-read a lot of old favourites this year, including the entire Hitchhiker “trilogy” and the two Dirk Gently books, plus all the much-loved John Wyndham books my parents brought over in May. But for some reason I just don’t feel inspired to post reviews for old favourites – sorry! You’ll just have to read them yourselves.
Mr E Man says I’m not allowed to buy any more books until I’ve read all the ones I already own. But I’m already making a list of books to buy next, and recommendations are always welcome!