05/03/2016 § Leave a comment
Hitler is inexplicably catapulted through time into 2011 Berlin. Making fast-friends with a well-connected Kiosk owner, Hitler, presumed satirical method actor, lands himself his own TV spot.
Although sardonic quips are amusing, they would be none the poorer attributed to any cantankerous old man. The meta-satirical novel, even on a backdrop of Farage and Trump, doesn’t pack enough punch to justify converting Adolf Hitler into a lovably grumpy archetypal grandpa. A distastefully disheartening encounter with a Jewish Grandmother compounds Vermes’ failure to deliver a political point. Genuine YouTube clips of Donald Trump do the job nicely on their own, thanks.
“…my daddy used to say that death was the timing of the world’s worst comedian and I think he was right”
07/02/2016 § Leave a comment
Matt is a sectioned schizophrenic, bound through hallucinations of his disabled brother to the accident that killed him. Matt’s acerbic witticisms cleverly highlight bizarre judgements and nonsensical practices too commonly associated with mental illness. Yet, his poetic insights into his own otherness bring home how close to such an abyss anyone could stand, not realising they are about to fall. As more details of his brother Simon’s death are gradually recalled, the reader is forced to consider Matt’s own dilemma; to struggle out of the grip of insanity would mean killing of the perpetually innocent Simon, once and for all.
“Some madness doesn’t act mad to begin with, sometimes it will knock politely at the door, and when you let it in, it’ll simply sit in the corner without a fuss – and grow”
16/05/2014 § Leave a comment
Piscine “Pi” Patel, the Indian son of a zoo-keeper, recounts a memoir that amounts to much more than floating across the Pacific with only a lifeboat and a cantankerous Bengal tiger. Drifting through the Life of Pi is a meditative, theological experience. Delicate storytelling brings waves of comedic happenstance as well as shocking revelations, which can be difficult to read. Martel successfully strikes a balance between adventure and allegory with a shrewd blend of fact, fiction and a few things in-between. Its messages are sufficiently refined and ambiguous to render the story an uplifting one for atheists and believers alike.
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson (Book review)
27/04/2013 § 2 Comments
Centenarian Allan Karlsson flees his retirement home-imposed birthday celebrations and, through cantankerousness and folly, winds up on the slipper-cloven-shuffle from the authorities with a suitcase full of cash and a trail of corpses in his wake. This books reads like a bad impersonation of a funny story. The title tries too hard to achieve quirky literalism, and it’s downhill from there. The result is a farcical yarn that trivialises murder and shoe-horns in ridiculously unlikely political figures; all without the laughs to back it up. With flaws that can’t be blamed on translation, this novel is lucky to raise occasional wry smiles.
19/12/2012 § Leave a comment
An acerbic hypochondriac and reluctant purveyor of crime fiction finds himself, compelled by the prospect of reward and glory, filling the shoes of a missing private detective. But what begins as a harmless hobby soon transcends into a dangerous murder investigation, with Nazi conspiracies a go-go (albeit suffused with the feminine wiles of self-appointed sidekick, Alison). This novel doubles up as a cynically hilarious parody and genuinely enthralling mystery. The ‘mystery man’ is fantastic to get to know as he begrudgingly overcomes his reticence, and Bateman’s disclaimer about second edition revisions hints at a not-so-fictional basis for a sinister plot, veiled with humour.
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.
28/09/2012 § Leave a comment
Danny, a recently dumped twenty-something, is in a funk. Prompted by the random words of a stranger, he decides to rid himself of perpetual nights in watching Eastenders by saying ‘Yes’ more. Specifically to everything, all the time. The results are comedic, bizarre and highly readable. Admittedly, the portrayals of Danny as both a naïve simpleton who believes internet scams, and also an astute philosopher able to mock his own idiocy are a little hard to reconcile. Despite this frustration, and its over-hyped ‘profound’ message, Yes Man is worth picking up for the Hypnodog encounter and ‘lost glasses’ incidents alone.
24/09/2012 § Leave a comment
Evie is left desolate after discovering that her long-term girlfriend has been cheating on her with a mutual friend. Her journey to recovery (with pit stops for sexual confusion, rediscovered friends, and self-pity) will resonate with anyone who has put on a sardonic brave face to mask heartbreak. Stunning one-liners make your stomach clench with the memory of when you, albeit less eloquently, thought them yourself. To describe this novel as ‘lesbian chick lit’ is to undervalue a relentlessly honest, witty account of post emotional-apocalypse. Blackwell expertly captures today’s London and the cynical humour of those that frequent its underbelly.
31/08/2012 § 2 Comments
Six characters, whose lives traverse aeons, geographies and genres, are linked by disparate windows into one another’s worlds. This is not just another book jumping onto the multi-storyline bandwagon. Mitchell produces both quality and quantity by delivering an extravaganza of extraordinarily distinct narratives that are unified by cohesive themes. This novel reads like an all you can eat buffet; with generous helpings of humour, atmosphere, tension and philosophy. Readers will mourn the loss of one account only to fall in love with the next. Their richness will leave you pondering Cloud Atlas’ intricacies long after you’ve gobbled up the final words.
20/04/2012 § Leave a comment
Polly, a fundamentally average lawyer, and her brother, a profoundly lazy musician, are embroiled in a catalogue of transdimentional cock-ups, which begin with a missing pig and escalate into perpetual time loops, teleporting dry-cleaners and a group of chickens with a serious identity crisis. But it’ll all be fine, provided nobody mentions the ‘M’ word. A chaotic plot where the emphasis of jokes leans towards quantity not quality evolves into a cleverly ridiculous piece of good fun writing. Holt may be a poor man’s Douglas Adams, but a shadow of the Hitchhiker’s Guide still makes for a pretty entertaining read.