Thursday, 15 June 2017

March 2017 Reviews

The Essex Serpent
Sarah Perry
Serpent's Tail 27/5/16 Hardback

The Christmas book of the year I think, this gem was in all of the bookshop windows and I was lucky enough to be given a copy. It is a beautiful gift edition with gold embossing everywhere. But as beautiful as the book was the writing inside it. Historical fiction, which perfectly captured the climate of medical and anthropological history at the time. Women's emancipation is also in sight, in the age of  Mary Anning and George Elliot and Cora Seagrave, the fictional widow in the story. On a hunt for the mythical Essex serpent she makes friends with the people of Aldwinter.

I was swept away in the tide of descriptive language particularly descriptions of the illness of consumption. This is her second novel, the first being After Me Comes The Flood, an infinitely more difficult read, I found that her writing had come on leaps and bounds but the same skill of weaving an intricate story full of mysterious and eccentric characters remains. But beyond the characters and their lives, there is the wider narrative of the serpent itself. I found my self googling the myths and legends that must have inspired Perry. Her research is evident in the pages and I find myself talking about various little facts I've picked up, only to discover that I read it in The Essex Serpent. A great gift and a good second novel. It can be slightly rambling, as her first book was, and I expect that the writing will be even tighter for her next. I look forward to reading it!

The Vegetarian
Han Kang
Portobello Books 1/1/15 Kindle

Winner of the Man Booker International Prize, and on a personal recommendation, I had to pick this one up. There were so many things I liked about this book. The perceived lack of mental health for the protagonist, guided by culture, and then the very real deterioration. The translation is immaculate and one of the best I've seen in terms of readability. Its hard to describe the book because the plot is an unusual blend of realism and fantasy, but more like talking through someone's imagination.

My absolute favourite section was the middle where the formation of an art work is talked out in the writing. It was sensual and beautiful and so evocative. In fact the whole book is very visual and I had the experience of being able to see everything I was reading. The only reason it's not a five star review is because it devolved into madness. Which I think was the right call for the plot, but it put a distance between me and the protagonist that I was less keen on.

Anil's Ghost
Michael Ondaatje
Vintage 24/4/01 Paperback

Much harder to read then the previous two books, where beauty of language becomes unfollowable. I felt like I was reading a number of disjointed sentences that were beautiful but meant nothing. Eventually things came together in the last 10 pages or so, but I felt no empathy with the characters, and very little interest in the political point that I think was trying to be made.

Perhaps nothing appealed to my interests and that's why I couldn't connect. But the main character was so unlikeable and had so few redeeming qualities. Often in these books you're not meant to like the protagonist. But I think I was meant to. Not a fan of this book at all. But it did not stop me from reading The English Patient. Put it this way, no one has made a film about Anil.

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