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.

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

Image

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.

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Sausages by Tom Holt (Book Review)

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.

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey (Book Review)

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.

Before I go to sleep by SJ Watson (Book Review)

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.

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.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (Book Review)

15/02/2012 § Leave a comment

In 1951 Henrietta Lacks died of cervical cancer on a ‘black ward’ in Baltimore. But her cells lived on. Taken at a time when consent wasn’t required by law Henrietta’s cells, named HeLa, were the first to become immortal in culture. Trillions were produced, helping scientists develop vaccines, cures and millions of dollars. HeLa’s development is paralleled with the hitherto largely unknown woman behind the medicine and the young family she left behind. Scientific elements are explained well and the Lacks’ are elaborately characterised, enamouring the reader to their plight. Despite some overzealous fictionalisations and an author who insists on edifying the reader of her own ingenuity, this book is a great human interest read.

Broadmoor Revealed: Victorian Crime and the Lunatic Asylum (Book Review)

29/01/2012 § Leave a comment

This non-fiction work retells the early history of England’s first criminal lunatic asylum, Broadmoor. Using its recently released archives as source material, Stevens creates a complete picture of the institution within the Victorian period that includes portraits of its staff and (in)famous ‘guests’ as well as escape attempts, births and deaths, all of which occurred within the confines of this eminent and progressive component of the judicial system. Retold in a readable and engaging manner this unexpected gem is an eye opening quick read for anyone intrigued by mental health, criminology or the justice system. And if you own a kindle, it’s free!

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.

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing entries tagged with Book Reviews at booksbeccabuys.