Mystery Man by Colin Bateman (Book Review)
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.
Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now by Craig Taylor (Book Review)
29/11/2012 § Leave a comment
This collection of interviews aims to paint an original picture of one of the world’s most enigmatic cities. Spanning squatters to bankers, north to south, Taylor’s five year odyssey allows readers glances into the windows of an array of the city’s relationships, acquaintances and pen-pals. Unfortunately, Taylor peaks with his poetic introduction, with exciting and surprising accounts (the voice of the tube and TFL lost property deserve a mention) too sparsely scattered. More importantly, despite well thought out categories, the domineeringly bitter portrayal of the city as grim and unfriendly alienates those readers who are residents and overwhelms the remainder.
To paraphrase Carrie Bradshaw “If you only get one great love, then London may just be mine… and I can’t have nobody talkin’ shit about my boyfriend.”
600 Hours of Edward by Craig Lancaster (Book Review)
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.
Yes Man by Danny Wallace (Book Review)
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.
After My Own Heart by Sophia Blackwell (Book Review)
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.
The Restaurant of Love Regained by Ito Ogawa (book review)
31/08/2012 § 1 Comment
Broken hearted Rinko stoically returns to the isolated village that holds long buried memories of a fractured relationship with her mother. With internalised grief rendering her unable to speak, Rinko channels her energies into opening a unique restaurant, and gradually finds empowerment through the healing power of food. The Restaurant of Love Regained is essentially a cook book seasoned with a bit of fiction. Nevertheless, charmingly optimistic characters and some shocking revelations are delicacies that complement the mouth-watering recipes. Clunky translation renders this quirky novel a starter rather than a main, but the overall reader experience is pleasant and appetising.
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.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesley (book review)
13/08/2012 § 2 Comments
Bromden, a paranoid schizophrenic in a 1960’s mental hospital is taciturn and feigning deafness. Initially a remote narrator, Bromden is drawn into his own plot by the new and apparently sane patient, McMurphy. This venerated clown effectively unnerves the reader by representing at once a hero subverting the tyranny of ‘Big Nurse’, and a paedophilic psychopath with a warped vendetta. Powerful demonstrations of insanity are diluted by patient inactivity and Bromden’s long delusionary parentheses. This contrasts the monotony of institutionalisation with the terrifying immediacy of a psychotic break, with the unfortunately inevitable result of making the novel tiresome in places.
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (Book Review)
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.
Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay (Book Review)
30/05/2012 § Leave a comment
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.