Thursday, 22 June 2017

April 2017 Reviews

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender
Leslye Walton
Candlewick 25/3/14 Hardback
Internship Haul

Since I tried to read one hundred years of solitude I tend to stay away from magical realism. But unlike the unreadable mess that is OHYS the Ava Lavender story is the stuff of true imagination. It's a beautiful story of love, or acceptance and of strange brutality. I was captivated by this book. The madness of the events is smooth and although the characters talk to ghosts or turn into canaries or don't talk at all, I believe that all of the characters have so much human depth.

It's aimed at teenagers and was a fairly quick and easy read. I read it at the start of my holidays and it was perfect for that half asleep reading that might happen on a plane.  It's beautiful for younger readers and capturing imagination, just the sort of thing I would have read at 15 or 16 and loved. I think I could find my self rolling my eyes at the ridiculousness of some of the story which is why it only got 3 out of 5.

A Little Life
Hanya Yanagihara
Picador 21/5/15 Kindle

I can sum up this book in one word. Powerful. I finished the last 400 pages at once and spent the whole day in bed to finish it. If you don't cry while reading this book, that would be surprising because it is overwhelming. The Man Booker podcast said that people might find A little life to be a difficult read. I interpreted that as very highfalutin writing, but actually they meant in terms of harrowing story line. It follows the friendship of four friends throughout their lives. But largely focusing on the character of Jude. If you've read Jude the Obscure, or any Hardy novel you'll know its one awful thing after another and I'd say apply the same expectation to this.

It should come with a trigger warning on it for sensitive issues and I did find it quite upsetting. Its a very raw story. Overall, I think it is worth reading the Man booker prize winner. It's long and moving and well written. I'd probably want it to be a couple of chapters shorter, but then you don't get the level of set up that I think was wanted. I found my self skim reading some of it to get to the juicy emotional stuff, which was plentiful. It that way it was a little bit like live plastic surgery, you can't really look away, but the gruesome bits are the best.

The Colour Purple
Alice Walker
1982 Paperback
Mummy's Library

Great book. From the start Walker will have you hooked. There are subtleties in the writing which are genius. at the start the language is halting and colloquial, but but the end there is a confidence in the voice.

I had seen the film before I read the book but I was absolutely carried away with the narrative the loops of which I think are simplified and left unexplored in the film. Plus of course the book goes further into their lives after the climax.

It got my tear of approval, I don't think it is possible to read this book and not cry at some of the most harrowing or uplifting moments. The relationships between Celie and everyone she interacts with are nuanced and detailed and give a real insight into the character's thoughts and opinions. I actually think it is the kind of book I would pick up again.

The Sultan's Organ
John Mole
Fortune 26/4/12 Paperback
Mummy's library

What a fun and interesting little book. An edited almost original manuscript of someone who thought to document their voyage to Istanbul. Complete with misadventures and too much wine eventually the delivery of the organ is made. Actually there wasn't nearly enough focus on the organ itself or people's reactions except that the sultan was pleased. Unfortunately the organ itself was destroyed by the sultan's brother who took an axe to it. Which is a real shame.

The history of this gift is very interesting, but the book doesn't quite do it justice. It is also a shame that none of the original organs by the same maker have been preserved and so there is no comparison to visit in the UK. Luckily I had an interest in the subject having listened to a podcast about the relationship between England and Istanbul in the 18th century. It's a quick easy read (1.5 hrs) but a little too much focus on the voyage rather than the events in Istanbul.

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