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.
19/08/2013 § Leave a comment
Richard is a money-driven Misogynistic bigot, happy to discard his dysfunctional family in favour of fast cars, booze and women. That is, until he has a stroke and winds up in a coma; terminal until a disembodied voice seems to offer him a final chance to make amends. In stark contrast to Gibbings’ crude comedy Malice in Blunderland, this parable-like novella reads like A Christmas Carol for grownups. Theological dilemmas are interjected by touchingly believable anecdotes and struggles against every-day excesses and egocentricity. A quick and impactful read; what ‘Remember to forget’ lacks in laughs it makes up for in morality.
12/08/2013 § Leave a comment
Stimulated by the systematic delivery to academics of a cryptic book, Jon Ronson investigates the business of madness. Encountering belligerent Scientologists, psychopaths and disgraced and acclaimed psychologists alike, Ronson finds himself empowered with the ultimate psychopath spotting gismo; the Psychopath Test. Ronson’s most engaging anecdotes are regurgitations of the work of others (the Rosenhan experiment being the best example), but he does enlighten the reader to the madness that is inherent in some systems of psychology, as well as its subjects. The Psychopath Test is an entertaining and didactic documentary collection of case studies that will both shock and amuse.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.