600 Hours of Edward by Craig Lancaster (Book Review)
13/11/2012 § Leave a comment
Edward is a 39 year old Asperger’s and OCD sufferer living alone in Montana. Coping with solitude and a fraught paternal relationship, Edward relies on his stringent routine of diligently recording seemingly benign data and religiously watching episodes of Dragnet. That is, until an unexpected friendship with a nine year old and enlightening foray into internet dating proves more therapeutic than even the most logical of psychiatrists. 600 hours is to Mysterious Incident what the Wilderness years were to Adrian Mole. It may be less enthralling and inventive, but spending 25 days with Edward is still heart-warmingly hilarious and enlightening.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesley (book review)
13/08/2012 § 2 Comments
Bromden, a paranoid schizophrenic in a 1960’s mental hospital is taciturn and feigning deafness. Initially a remote narrator, Bromden is drawn into his own plot by the new and apparently sane patient, McMurphy. This venerated clown effectively unnerves the reader by representing at once a hero subverting the tyranny of ‘Big Nurse’, and a paedophilic psychopath with a warped vendetta. Powerful demonstrations of insanity are diluted by patient inactivity and Bromden’s long delusionary parentheses. This contrasts the monotony of institutionalisation with the terrifying immediacy of a psychotic break, with the unfortunately inevitable result of making the novel tiresome in places.
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (Book Review)
11/06/2012 § Leave a comment
Lily, a fourteen year old living in 1960’s South Carolina, flees her abusive father and her cantankerous housekeeper’s racists attackers to search for answers about her mother’s tragic death. Led by an abstruse clue to a harem of black bee keeping sisters, Lily is transformed by their sacred world of honey, heart and home. Although at times implausibly cerebral, Lily’s narration is mesmerising; artfully rendering the intricacies of those she describes. A seductive new religion, bigotry, mental illness and grief are carefully balanced ingredients that yield a deliciously sweet read reminiscent of, if not quite equal to, Harper Lee.
To Kill a Mickingbird by Harper Lee (Book Review)
16/02/2012 § 2 Comments
Scout narrates as her and her brother are wrenched from a childhood spent fascinated by their mysteriously clandestine neighbour and engulfed by the baffling and infuriating world of adulthood. Scout observes with enchanting naivety as her stalwart father, Atticus, mounts a case for the defence against a black man accused of raping a white girl in 1930s America’s Deep South. Full to the brim with intricately drawn, likeable characters this novel is abundant with charm and humour that enhances its profound subject matter. Scout is a timelessly relatable tomboy and Atticus is perfectly characterised as endearingly magnanimous and infinitely lovable.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett (Book Review)
03/10/2011 § Leave a comment
The Help is set in 60s America’s Deep South, told from the points of view of two black maids and a white society lady, Skeeter, whose journalistic ambitions lead her to confront the shocking realities of living a life of servitude for less than minimum wage. Skeeter’s project provides the novel with a conduit through which a wealth of anecdotes surface. Whilst numerous incidents are harrowing, many are brimming with love and humour. The three distinct but complimentary voices are perfectly drawn, and Stockett’s bold choice to adopt voices of black Mississippian women paid off superbly. It’s popularity is well-earned.
Tiger, Tiger by Margaux Fragoso (Book Review)
05/09/2011 § Leave a comment
This memoir of child abuse that doubles up as a deranged love story begins when Margaux was 7 and her molester, Peter, was 51. The writing style is tainted by the victim’s own numbness and detachment, resulting in some inelegant over-narration. This instils the intrusive sense of reading someone else’s diary. Tiger, Tiger is an education in child maltreatment and manipulation that is perversely engaging despite, or perhaps because of, some moments that are truly difficult to read. Purposefully controversialist, this book is worth the few hours it takes to read for those whose curiosity gets the better of them.
In Malice, Quite Close: A Novel by Brandi Lynn Ryder (Book Review)
15/08/2011 § 1 Comment
This artistically written novel opens with the shocking and beguiling account of the seduction of a fifteen year old girl by charming but perverse Frenchman, Tristan Mourault. Years later the working class girl has been reborn into opulence as her voyeur’s most prized work of art; preserved through lies and manipulation. This story, despite to soon giving way to narration by weaker characters, exhibits an intoxicating mystery to be solved, full of elegiac eroticism, decadence, forgeries and fakes. Every chapter creates a cliff-hanger, gradually exposing the reader to more sins and secrets than Tristan alone can be guilty of.
The Snow Whale by John Minichillo (Book review)
08/08/2011 § Leave a comment
This retelling of Moby Dick sees a contemporary John Jacobs turn his mediocre life inside out after learning (via a dubious DNA test) that he is of predominantly Inuit descent. The brave move to describe a modern American white man leaving an almost-happily married life in suburbia to hunt whales is, of course, utterly absurd. Sadly the novel isn’t quite funny enough to pull of its ludicrousness and Minichillo, like Melville before him, too late submerges the reader in engaging adventure. A quirky and readable homage for those familiar with its predecessor, The Snow Whale is otherwise unjustifiably ridiculous.
The Five People you Meet in Heaven by Mitch Ablom (Book Review)
26/07/2011 § Leave a comment
Eddie’s 83rd birthday will be his last; he is about to be killed by the amusement park rides he has maintained for most of his life. As he journeys through the afterlife, Edward meets the five people who affected, or were affected by his troubled existence. Visitations into Eddie’s life contextualise the heavenly odyssey and give depth to his characterisation. Although the central idea of a heavenly plane provided to “make sense of your yesterdays” is quaint, it is not well enough executed to be as profound as intended. Nevertheless this sentimental, short narrative is touching and easy to read.
A Million Little Pieces by James Frey Review
05/07/2011 § Leave a comment
James Frey’s memoir describes his odyssey through a notable American rehabilitation centre after hitting rock bottom as a crack addict. The author’s thoughts tumble onto the page unhampered by grammatical rules, blurring the line between his thoughts and actions and reflective of his chaotic mental state. This hard hitting book is not for the faint hearted; the narrative is permeated with harrowing and sometimes gruesome scenes, necessary to the book’s raw and brutally honest portrayal of lifelong addiction. A Million Little Pieces is immensely rewarding, and all the more affective for being based on a true journey.