The Red House by Mark Haddon (book review)

11/10/2013 § 1 Comment

Mark Haddon The Red House front cover

Two estranged, dysfunctional families reunite for a week-long sojourn to a rented Red House in England’s rainy countryside. The consciousness of the story flits between eight characters in a narrative that is sparsely populated with insightful observations and overborne by self-conscious characterisation. Characters, young and old, are excessively cerebral and plagued by supposedly shocking illicit desires.  The Red House is a gloomy read, pervaded by resentment and guilt. By the close of the book little has truly changed and the reader is left depressingly aware of the character’s lives continuing to tick relentlessly on beyond the last page.

Remember to Forget by Jonny Gibbings – *Exclusive* pre-release book review

19/08/2013 § Leave a comment

ImageRichard 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.

The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson (Book Review)

12/08/2013 § Leave a comment

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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.

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.

WannabeHacks.co.uk Guest Post

20/04/2012 § Leave a comment

Rather outdated, but here’s a link to the Guest Blog post (‘Stumbling into Journalism’) that I wrote back in June 2011 for the website Wannabe Hacks (a site for aspiring journos).

http://bit.ly/J1seDF

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (Book Review)

13/09/2011 § Leave a comment

Miller retells the Iliad through a Patroclus who is both companion and lover to Achilles. Together they journey through lives that culminate in the Trojan War. In focusing on the romantic element of the central relationship Miller diminishes Achilles into a swooning character more suited to the Twilight saga than a retelling of an epic poem. This novel adds nothing to the pre-existing story; rather using it as a template for an insipid love affair. It contains a few boastful references to peripheral knowledge of Homer that will slightly bewilder your average reader and do nothing to excite a classicist.

Sweeney Todd, or The String of Pearls by James Malcolm Rymer/Thomas Peckett Prest Review

20/06/2011 § Leave a comment

The earliest version of this famous story bears witness to the mysterious disappearance of Lieutenant Thornhill, the details of which only his faithful dog seems privy to. The mutt proceeds to obstinately skulks around a certain barber shop on Fleet street, which lies in close proximity to the famous Lovett’s Pie shop. Its mysterious persistence leads interested parties to unravel a unique story of murder, treasure and love. Sweeney Todd is darkly humorous, with a quintessentially British eccentricity and matter-of-fact divulgence of gloriously gruesome discoveries. The deliciously bizarre plot and wit as sharp as Sweeney’s barber blades make the original version an undervalued gem.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Night-Time by Mark Haddon Review

28/05/2011 § 3 Comments

When Christopher, a teenager with Asperger’s Syndrome, finds a dog murdered on his street he decides to seek out the culprit and write a murder mystery along the way. As he narrates his detecting we witness his ardently regulated world fall apart. Haddon has created a challenging character that is extremely well researched and magnificently portrayed. In addition to succeeding in being an intriguing, if unconventional, detective story, this novel reveals the thoughts of a person who is innately difficult to comprehend. Hilarious and humbling, it’s a whirlwind education in the struggles faced by those with Asperger’s. Everyone should read this.

Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen Review

28/05/2011 § Leave a comment

This is a firsthand account of a girl’s experience of being entombed within the American mental health system.  Girl, Interrupted is an autobiography that reads like a novel, which immerses the reader in a world where the astoundingly abnormal is accepted with sardonic insightfulness.  Kaysen describes her descent into madness with a punchy wit; consistently ignoring her own lunacies in favour of observing those of others. As each character is dissected, the reader becomes aware of their own disquieting fascination with the insane. This book will make you consider your own mental state, and you’ll have fun along the way.

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