Monday, 20 November 2017

A Pale View of Hills by Kazoo Ishiguro

"In any case, that's when it started, Mariko's obsession with that woman."

Fancy a dash of moodiness? A melange of suspense with just a hint of horror? This might be the one for you. This strange and rather short tale is both evocative an interesting. If, perhaps you seek things spelled out clearly then this may not be the novel for you. If, alternatively, you enjoy second guessing and getting to grips with strange, dreamlike occurrences, I'd say grab yourself a copy. I was keen to explore another of Ishiguro's works, particularly in celebration of his recent win of the Nobel Prize - quite the achievement. While I did not enjoy this nearly as much as Never Let Me Go,  which I consider an amazing novel, it does nonetheless pack a punch. Unease is something which pours forth from the pages and that, in of itself, is rather impressive. Apparently this was his first novel and I think there are aspects which mark it as an earlier work, less polished.
Thematically, its treatment of mothers and daughters and distance and priorities struck me as particularly interesting, albeit jarring. This is a book I could re-read and possibly discover more new, and alternate views; perhaps that is a testament to its promise.
Happily this represents another tick on the 1001 novels to read before you die list. In fact at this point, I've read 461 of the 1,305 combined list of all the series published and this one was a winner.

5 out of 5 strange neglected children can seem rather ominous.

In a Grove by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa

“What profound silence! Not a single bird-note was heard in the sky over this grave in the hollow of the mountains. Only a lonely light lingered on the cedars and mountains.”

A rather intriguing short story of only some 14 pages and yet its structure makes for an engaging read. A dead body has been found and everyone involved has their own take on what exactly transpired.
 I really loved the way each character vented their own, different perspective. It makes for a fantastic read. My only quibble and the reason for deducting one point, is that there wasn't more of it. Proof positive that 14 pages can still pack a punch. I mean there's rape, murder, violence and intrigue and who knows the truth? One gets closer to it with each step.

 4 out of 5 perspectives can differ.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

The Garden of the Finzi-Continis by Giorgio Bassani

"How many years have passed since that far-off June afternoon? More than thirty."

My appreciation of this novel was a little hampered by reading it in fits and starts. Isn't that always the way - a busy life and reading can sometimes be difficult companions. Once i did engage with the narrator and his passion for the attractive Finzi-Contini daughter, Micòl.
The foreboding sense of what is coming hangs over the story of children growing up given that they are Jewish and live in Ferrara  and the time is just before the holocaust. Their world grows increasingly restricted and yet the trials and tribulations of love and rejection are universal and the juxtaposition makes this novel particularly interesting.
Originally written in Italian and one of a series of novels by Bassani, I wish I'd experienced it in the native tongue so to speak. My Italian is probably a little too rusty for that. Did I mention this one is yet another tick on the 1001 novels list - I'm making progress this year.

4 out of 5 frustrations and tragedy can be an unappealing mix.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan

"Nicky are you there? Alamak this is getting ridiculous."

I have a confession to make. I'm kind of in love with the unlimited excess of the world that Kevin Kwan has created. As I noted with my review of the third book, I accidentally bought them out of sequence. This rather ruined some of the suspense of this, the second book. I think what makes this so delicious is the way we can all relate to the helicopter parenting that goes on. Well, perhaps I should qualify that. I guess it depends on the kind of social norms of your parents. My mother's side falls squarely in the hands on, control and keeping face side of the coin. I do not profess to live the lifestyles of the rich and famous existence of these personages - no private jets for this lady. I celebrated my first business class upgrade the other day and it was only to Brisbane, ah but it was glorious. Everything goes better with bubbly and therein lies part of the appeal of these books. I devour them like oysters. I really like oysters. You either love or hate them. I digress.
The other aspect that is so relatable is the way tight groups keep potential entrants out through bullying and in this case some rather extreme examples of it.
It helps that Rachel and Nick are as adorable as creme brûlée. Who can say no to creme brûlée- not even me and I'm gluten intolerant.

5 out go 5 confectionery sweet and easily digested.

In Between The Sheets by Ian McEwan

"He was horrified , sickened, that he could enjoy being overwhelmed, like one of those cripples in his brother's magazines."

How to describe these little snippets which are all about, well what you might get up to in between the sheets? The scope is broad and some short stories work far better than others. One that certainly is hard to forget might possibly have been the inspiration for Lars and The Real Girl, I'm not sure, and yet the subject matter is rather similar. A passionate tryst with a shop dummy is certainly not something you read about everyday.
I dread to say it and yet the brevity of the stories seemed like they were....pullling out of the station before the last stop shall we say? I guess you could say they are a bit of a tease - they stop just when things are getting interesting. Perhaps that's why I didn't give this a five. I think the first story, Pornography,  is brilliant and rather a good advertisement for condoms, particularly if your paramours number in the greater than one bracket.

4 out of 5 kinks in the page.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer

"But my reverie was soon tempered by disastrous news."

I rushed out and got myself a copy of this when I heard that it was being adapted into a film. My usual preoccupation with reading the novel first, kicked in as always. It does read something like a film treatise. It has moments of pure suspense and horror and then there's a kind of void. There is just something missing and I think its the fact that the story doesn't really finish. Perhaps it is the start of a longer series and I lack the patience to embark on another series of anything.There just aren't enough hours in a day.

4 out of 5 moody, suspense ridden moments but lacking a certain something.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

"Here was the most remarkable thing about the Keating children: they did not hate one another, nor did they possess one shred of tribal loyalty."
Families are complicated, their strange inconsistencies are a never-ending source of fascination. Patchett's novel really captures the ins and outs of the strange way that families function. An unlikely dalliance combines two very disparate families and some rather earth shattering consequences. It took me a little while to get into this and when I did I was hooked. The author beautifully captures multifaceted dimensions of the same story through the perceptions of all the players. There is also another level to appreciate there, the tale within a tale, first in the form of Leon Posen's novel and then its cinematic interpretation. Indeed there is something particularly post modern about the whole conceit and it is a delight. It is rare to find a novel with so many emotional and cerebral touch points and that can only be a testament to the work of its creator,

5 out of 5 would be authors dream of that kind of skill.