08/08/2011 § Leave a comment
This retelling of Moby Dick sees a contemporary John Jacobs turn his mediocre life inside out after learning (via a dubious DNA test) that he is of predominantly Inuit descent. The brave move to describe a modern American white man leaving an almost-happily married life in suburbia to hunt whales is, of course, utterly absurd. Sadly the novel isn’t quite funny enough to pull of its ludicrousness and Minichillo, like Melville before him, too late submerges the reader in engaging adventure. A quirky and readable homage for those familiar with its predecessor, The Snow Whale is otherwise unjustifiably ridiculous.
30/07/2011 § 4 Comments
Will is a loser; his writing career was a non-starter and his wife left him. But this story isn’t about these things; it’s about the advancing kidney disease of both of the twin daughters his wife left him with, and Will’s efforts to save them. Fitzgerald creates a small unit of exquisitely flawed characters who, despite their disparities, are impossible to not empathise with. At times outright hilarious, this book entertains and enthrals the reader whilst focusing intensely on the disquietingly identifiable people within it. You will certainly end up rooting, along with Will, for a seemingly impossible happy ending.
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.
25/07/2011 § Leave a comment
The follow up to Frey’s first successful and controversial quasi-memoir sees him dealing with life and death after rehab, guided by his gangster guardian and friend, Leonard. Those who have read the first instalment will already know the fates of the characters who endure to the second. However, this does not detract from the poetically written, heart wrenching narrative. Less deconstructed language and reduced involvement in addiction sets this story free to centre upon James’ relationship with his outlandish and lovable friend. Tragedy and satire are combined brilliantly in a story that is to biographies what Picasso is to portraits.
12/07/2011 § 2 Comments
After his disappearance, Dr Forrest’s friends watch as the abyss that lies in his wake inexplicably consumes their every lead and the Grim Reaper’s touch edges closer to those they hold dear. A foreseeable plot that is typical of gothic literature does not detract from the gripping mystery laid down in this book. A subtly sinister tale of partnership between Hubris and the femme fatale pays homage to the masters of the field (Dante in particular) without being weighed down by them. Kelly’s skilful displacement of the gothic dialect to the modern day lays the foundations for a neo-gothic genre.
05/07/2011 § Leave a comment
Eric, a doctor specialising in trauma care, is persuaded to resurrect his long buried gift of hypnotism to extract information from the sole survivor of a ferocious massacre. But, when Eric’s son is kidnapped it seems that the secrets of his past have caught up with him. Sounds interesting, doesn’t it? Don’t be fooled; the level of awkwardness in the narrative gives this book a childlike feel, and the plot is strung together by the most tedious of tendrils. The Hypnotist was clearly engineered to emulate Larsson and its sole achievement is that it exceeds itself. It is even more appalling.
05/07/2011 § Leave a comment
James Frey’s memoir describes his odyssey through a notable American rehabilitation centre after hitting rock bottom as a crack addict. The author’s thoughts tumble onto the page unhampered by grammatical rules, blurring the line between his thoughts and actions and reflective of his chaotic mental state. This hard hitting book is not for the faint hearted; the narrative is permeated with harrowing and sometimes gruesome scenes, necessary to the book’s raw and brutally honest portrayal of lifelong addiction. A Million Little Pieces is immensely rewarding, and all the more affective for being based on a true journey.
12/06/2011 § Leave a comment
Eva recounts the events leading up to her son Kevin massacring several peers and one teacher in his school Gym via unanswered letters to her absent husband. The plot is openly aligned to the contemporary Columbine epidemic whilst retaining a uniqueness and originality. This is not historical fiction but a persistently unsettling exploration of society’s taboos. Shriver balances the reader’s submissive correspondence with a suspect narrator with the unapologetically unanswerable Nature vs. Nurture debate. The story suspends the reader on tenterhooks despite bearing a largely foregone conclusion and compels its audience to squirm with discomfort as effectively as Kevin himself.
12/06/2011 § Leave a comment
A victimised weakling, Oskar is a Swedish schoolboy who wishes he had the courage to wreak bloody revenge on his teenage tormentors. Enter Eli, the cold and dirty urchin with whom Oskar forms an unlikely and binding friendship. This book is not an average horror story but don’t be fooled into believing that you will not be horrified. Hardly a tale of tender friendship against the odds, this story transports the reader to a bleak and unenviable existence where clever narrative devices and complex characterisation develop sympathy for the unnatural and abhorrent. The plot is suspenseful, terrifying and thought provoking.
30/05/2011 § Leave a comment
Anna is a mother on a remote island struggling to manage her marriage, workload and two young children when she discovers a baby’s skeleton in her garden. She proceeds to neglect all domestic duties in favour of investigating the child’s untimely demise. The narrative is bleak and repetitive, and the subplot of the island’s historically high infant mortality rate is mediocre. It could be said to effectively mirror the trials of daily life with children and an unsupportive husband. But whether anyone would want to experience that over 375 dreary pages, which culminate in an anticlimactic ending, is another matter.