Thursday, 27 July 2017

June 2017 Reviews

The Monk
Matthew Gregory Lewis
1796 Paperback
Borrowed from K

Oh, the rage this book brings me. First thing: check the date, 1796! Early early early. VERY old fashioned. Second: Matty was just 19 when he wrote the manuscript. I know that is patronising beyond belief, but it does have a flavour of the juvenile in the writing. Third: It's meant to be a Gothic novel but I was fairly bored throughout the whole thing almost especially the "scary bits" the "dread" that is meant to be built up in this kind of book was dry.

It gained huge success at the time because the author was young and rich. But also at a time when women were reading novels and the biggest nightmare for a woman would be to lose her honor; especially a beautiful one. Another point where both the first and second points come into things. I know it's of it's time, but the women are totally two dimentional. There is one moment where I thought it might get interesting, but Matty failed me. Perhaps he had not had much experience with women at the time... they serve as a plot point and only virtues are being weak, rich, virtuous and beautiful. It's quite painful to read. But to be fair, the characters in general were fairly two dimensional and do not matter that much to the story at all.

Of it's time... but honestly, still not that good. Bram Stoker is chilling and incredible AND old. Wilkie Collins too. Sorry Matty, no excuses The Monk just isn't worth reading.

Erin Lange
Faber & Faber 2013 Kindle
Amazon giftcard

In total contrast, Butter was bliss. Teen fiction, with a really interesting concept that an overweight boy decides to eat himself to death. It's about friendships and teen mentality around depression. Its quite compelling and really interesting how the plot unfolds.

Worth a read, but I am aware that I may be being clouded by how bad I found the Monk to slip into Butter was a much nicer place to be. It's well written and I would definitely recommend it to younger readers between 13 and 16.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

May 2017 Reviews

The English Patient
Michael Ondaatje
Bloomsbury 1992 Paperback
Mummy's Library

An improvement on the first book of his, I think it helped that I knew the story from the film. I enjoyed the beauty of the writing and the intricacies of the narrative. Like Anil's Ghost the story leaped around in time, which could be confusing at times. But It was better handled with more in depth characters. 

I loved the sections with moose, which was explored more thoroughly in the book than in the film. The relationship between Kip and the Patient and Hannah is also more detailed and interesting. In fact I'd say Kip was the most interesting character in the book. What was a nice detail that the film captured in a more nuanced way was the musical aspect of the Patient's personality and the use of music in the film is expertly applied. That's more difficult to get across in the book and actually there was far more of a focus on the books and reading that he had done than the music. I'm into that...

Very enjoyable read. I'd say the style is still a little flowery for me, but it calmed down to carry a great story. 

Dirty Great Love Story
Richard Marsh and Katie Bonna
Bloomsbury 30/4/2013 Paperback
Birthday gift from Z

Fabulous. I read it in about 2 hours and absolutely loved it. In fact I wanted to read it DURING my own birthday party and got told off. It's a transcript of a play that we went to see, a two man show that tells the story of Katie and Richard and how they met.

The experience of reading it was very different from the performance, but I think it helped that I was able to imprint the voices of the actors as I was reading. Similarly the pauses and visual gags which I remembered as I read it again. Not only is this is brilliant play as itself, its such a good gift because I have the memory of the night out with the girls as well.

The play is written in rhyme and is modern and funny, with clever ways of invoking scene and atmosphere. It's a two person production which is dealt with brilliantly live. The actors each play at least two other characters in the story which is done physically and vocally on stage. In print this is easier to get across as the character name changes. I loved rereading this and as the play is no longer touring I recommend reading the play version.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Joining the Mainstream

The key danger of jumping head first into the rushing torrent of mainstream reading is accidentally smashing your brains against the spiky rocks of spoilers. Standard procedures apply, if you're looking to avoid spoilers of your new favourite obsession avoid Twitter and Instagram and pretty much unfollow your friends and favourite authors on every platform. However, some of the responsibility lies with the Spoilererer - the one carelessly throwing out spoilers at the water fountain and live tweeting the latest episode. We expect that these people should at least warn us slow pokes by placing in giant capital letters that there is a SPOILER ahead.

The only way to truely avoid the disappointment and pain of reading or seeing a spoiler is to opt out of mainstream culture entirely. Unfortunately, that does mean that you are left on the riverbank quietly reading a book that no one else has ever heard of and watching true crime documentaries on YouTube. While this has a hipsterish appeal of liking what you like and not following the bend of any trend, there is a loneliness to not reading the one book everyone is talking about.

Furthermore, if you resist the pull of the latest big book/book everyone read in school, then before you know it a studio will pick up the TV or Film rights and you end up having to avoid watching it until you've read the book! It's the ultimate spoiler and those pesky Hollywood studios just keep doing it! A classic case of this for me is The Handmaid's Tale.

I never read it at school and all of a sudden everyone was talking about it because of the new MGM series. The title had appealed to me for a number years because so many authors have Atwood as a key influencer, particularly for dystopian or feminist books. It had mildly been on my TBR and suddenly it rocketed to the top of my list, as well as the best seller lists in America in the lead up to Trump's inauguration.

All of a sudden I was faced with the dilema read the book before I start watching the series? Dip a toe into the first episode and see if I'm hooked enough to read the book? Binge the whole series and then read the book after? Or just binge the series and forget about reading the book entirely. In the end I went with option 3. I devoured the whole of The Handmaid's Tale series and then ordered the book once I'd finished. Personally, this did not affect the reading of the book at all, but if you're fussy about adaptations I wouldn't recommend this method. However, it meant that I am now able to stand at tea stations and recommend both to everyone.

My advice is to avoid this whole mess by reading the popular book alongside everyone, because you'll only be behind when the inevitable series or movie comes out (if it is really good). I had mere weeks to read Gone Girl before the film came out. For years I'd turned my nose up at the popular fiction everyone seemed to love but I'd decided I wasn't interested enough in it. Meanwhile, agents were furiously penning contracts behind the scenes.

The thing is, when it comes to big best sellers and pop culture of any kind... most people are right when it's good. That's why recommendations are so important to readers. Trust the hive mind and get behind the latest sensation and get on the good side of the spoilers. Plus the good bit of all of this is talking about books without worrying about spoiling it for others. I think everyone just needs to jump on the band wagon and avoid the danger completely by gently floating along with the mainstream peeps and enjoy the gems. :)