Looks Who’s Back by Timur Vermes (book review)

05/03/2016 § Leave a comment

Look Whos Back Timur Vermes Front Cover

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”

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (Book Review)

23/07/2013 § Leave a comment

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Sulky drop-out Raskolnikov commits the harrowing murder of an elderly shopkeeper. Ostensibly to spare his virtuous sister the obligation to marry for money, Raskolnikov’s motives are grounded in ego and ennui. Dostoevsky’s tale is spun via the construct of conversation, which dismembers the narrative just as Raskolnikov’s mind unravels with self-doubt. The inconsistency of the murderer’s psyche gives the impression of multi-layering, which is buffered by manifold stories and the illusion of guilt over brooding. Watch as the arachnid character is funnelled into his own web, and wonder whether Raskolnikov believes his tangled yarn to involve either crime or punishment.

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson (Book review)

27/04/2013 § 2 Comments

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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.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (Book Review)

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.

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay (Book Review)

30/05/2012 § Leave a comment

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During the brutal 1942 roundup of Jews in Paris Sarah, naively believing her absence to be temporary, locks her brother in a secret hideaway. Her plight to return to him intersperses the story of Julia, an American journalist living in the modern day capital. Tasked with writing a commemorative piece for the 60th anniversary of the roundup, Julia discovers a connection with the past that threatens to unravel her present. Sarah’s mournful and affecting narrative is thrown into stark contract by Julia’s melodramatic and tedious story, leaving the reader wishing the 1940’s tale wasn’t diluted by an unnecessary dual narrative.

Pure by Andrew Miller (Book Review)

30/03/2012 § 1 Comment

In 1785 a young engineer is instructed to remove the vast cemetery of Les Innocents in Paris, which is poisoning its city; literally and figuratively. As he commences his work John-Baptiste and those around him are consumed by the hellishness of their task; to purify the dead whilst fearing becoming them. This novel is enriched with parable and metaphors without being buried by them, and from the ashes rises a quirky story that is poetically written, often quote-worthy, and wickedly funny. Miller makes the engineer’s plight against madness and toward modernity a pungently gripping and compulsive must-read.

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.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (Book Review)

29/01/2012 § 1 Comment

Sixteen year old Jacob has long ceased believing his manic Grandfather’s farfetched tales about a childhood spent with ‘peculiar children’ and hunted by monstrous beings. But a traumatic experience has Jacob questioning his own sanity, and whether there was in fact some truth behind the old man’s fictions. Punctuated with genuine, thought provoking photographs, this novel has a unique pulling power. Unfortunately the story’s substance fails to equal the eerie intrigue or excitement that its images suggest, with an inconsistent narrative voice hindering the characterisation of its central figure. Peculiar children is an overly ambitious children’s novel, which unfortunately fails to translate for an adult audience.

The Book of Lost Fragrances by M.J. Rose (Book Review)

13/12/2011 § Leave a comment

Jac is struggling to supress mental health problems and save her ancestral perfumery from bankruptcy. But when her brother uncovers a familial artefact that may be the saviour of controversial Tibetan beliefs in reincarnation, Jac’s precarious sanity is put to the test by cryptic clues, murder and a reunion with a long lost love. The bizarre plot is not adequately addressed by even the supposedly sceptical characters. However, the mysteries that the reincarnation catalyst ignites are entertaining; enhanced throughout by Jac’s bittersweet romance.  The Book of Lost Fragrances whiffs of intoxicating insanity comparable to Süskind’s Perfume: The Story of a Murderer.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (Book Review)

26/10/2011 § 2 Comments

Allow the perplexing associates of the Night Circus to guide you on a journey to uncover its many mysteries. Fuelled by a bizarre and sinister competition between two formidable magicians, Le Cirque de Rêves is swathed in curiosities and impossibilities. This novel boasts moments of brilliance, where the reader is dazzled by an intricate secret world. However, the overly ambitious plot overwhelms the characterisation and, at times, basic narrative skill. The repetition of words and narrative formulae leave the novel feeling rushed and unedited. Tragically unpolished with an air of an intriguing film pitch rather than a novel, The Night Circus is not quite brilliant.

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