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 § 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
09/03/2012 § Leave a comment
This adult fairy-tale tells of a barren couple who, in an attempt to escape the misery of reality, build a solitary homestead in the bleak forest of 1920’s Alaska. Struck by fleeting frivolity they build a girl from snow, which is replaced in the morning by the child, wild and mysterious, that they have always wanted. Narrative devices skilfully play with the reader’s ability to discern fact from fiction and a consistent notion of the sinister makes this novel a haunting read. However, the extent of surrealism coupled with the detached solemnity of the narrative make the plot hard to embrace and not altogether enjoyable.
09/03/2012 § Leave a comment
Chrissie is unable to hold onto her memories as she sleeps. She is forced to trust the devoted stranger she wakes up to every morning, who tells of a terrible accident that robbed her of her history. That is, until Chrissie begins to keep a secret journal, the truths of which slowly unravel her fragile and transient existence, seeming to reveal everyone as dishonest and unfamiliar, including herself. An intriguing concept is subsumed by the necessarily repetitive narrative, which Watson fails to overcome. The anticipatory nature of the plot is dampened by consistent predictability making this a rather bland and feeble read.