C by Tom McCarthy (Book Review)

24/08/2011 § Leave a comment

In ‘C’, McCarthy follows Serge episodically throughout his life; beginning in his family’s estate, which doubles up as a silk factory and school for the deaf, before travelling to Germany for WW1, then London and finally, Egypt. The entire novel feels like an overindulgent introduction, which centres hedonistically on the concept of transmission whilst leaving even its central character deliberately two dimensional and impassive. Serge as a character is merely a vessel for the author’s immoderate and dense philosophical musings. The overly literary style of this novel detracts from its own story telling, leaving the reader distant, unmoved and disengaged.

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 Donor by Helen Fitzgerald (Book Review)

30/07/2011 § 4 Comments

Will is a loser; his writing career was a non-starter and his wife left him. But this story isn’t about these things; it’s about the advancing kidney disease of both of the twin daughters his wife left him with, and Will’s efforts to save them. Fitzgerald creates a small unit of exquisitely flawed characters who, despite their disparities, are impossible to not empathise with. At times outright hilarious, this book entertains and enthrals the reader whilst focusing intensely on the disquietingly identifiable people within it. You will certainly end up rooting, along with Will, for a seemingly impossible happy ending.

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.

My Friend Leonard by James Frey (Book Review)

25/07/2011 § Leave a comment

The follow up to Frey’s first successful and controversial quasi-memoir sees him dealing with life and death after rehab, guided by his gangster guardian and friend, Leonard.  Those who have read the first instalment will already know the fates of the characters who endure to the second. However, this does not detract from the poetically written, heart wrenching narrative. Less deconstructed language and reduced involvement in addiction sets this story free to centre upon James’ relationship with his outlandish and lovable friend. Tragedy and satire are combined brilliantly in a story that is to biographies what Picasso is to portraits.

The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ by Philip Pullman (Book Review)

15/07/2011 § Leave a comment

Pullman, in this self-proclaimed ‘story’, skews biblical events by providing Jesus with a familial antithesis, a twin brother; ineffectual to the plot in all but assuming an act of a pre-existing canonical ‘scoundrel’. This is a whistle-stop tour of the life of the Christian saviour that fails to deliver the controversy its title implies. Misgivings about organised religion, whispered with subtlety in His Dark Materials, are shouted brashly via the implausible and bias hindsight of Jesus. Biblical diction is used inconsistently, and paraphrasing of famous quotations diminishes their impact. Further, supposed insights into the development of stories are simplistic and unoriginal.

The Possessions of Doctor Forrest by Richard T. Kelly (Book Review)

12/07/2011 § 2 Comments

After his disappearance, Dr Forrest’s friends watch as the abyss that lies in his wake inexplicably consumes their every lead and the Grim Reaper’s touch edges closer to those they hold dear.  A foreseeable plot that is typical of gothic literature does not detract from the gripping mystery laid down in this book. A subtly sinister tale of partnership between Hubris and the femme fatale pays homage to the masters of the field (Dante in particular) without being weighed down by them. Kelly’s skilful displacement of the gothic dialect to the modern day lays the foundations for a neo-gothic genre.

The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler review

05/07/2011 § Leave a comment

Eric, a doctor specialising in trauma care, is persuaded to resurrect his long buried gift of hypnotism to extract information from the sole survivor of a ferocious massacre. But, when Eric’s son is kidnapped it seems that the secrets of his past have caught up with him. Sounds interesting, doesn’t it? Don’t be fooled; the level of awkwardness in the narrative gives this book a childlike feel, and the plot is strung together by the most tedious of tendrils. The Hypnotist was clearly engineered to emulate Larsson and its sole achievement is that it exceeds itself. It is even more appalling.

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.

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