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Found 11 results

  1. A Little Life is a novel that fails on so many levels. By far its biggest failing is that it is so big. By my estimate, this is a novel that is somewhere between four and five times as long as the content justifies. It is, at heart, a very simple story of a man who was abused as a child, becomes successful as an adult, but is still haunted by the physical and psychological scars of childhood. Yet this very basic premise is played out over 726 huge, densely typeset pages. How is it done? Repetition. Indeed. We have the same events played out over and over again. Conversations happen over an
  2. The Illuminations feels like two short novellas that have been interleaved, presumably in an effort to add bulk. On the one hand, we have Anne, an elderly mother who is succumbing slowly to dementia. Her family knows that she had lived in the United States and England before settling down in Ayrshire, but as her recent memories fade, she exposes the hints of old secrets. And on the other hand, there’s the story of Luke, a soldier stationed in Afghanistan, witnessing brutality and betrayal – then failing to adjust to life back home. Luke is Anne’s grandson. Of the two stories, Anne’s is more
  3. I’ve never really got on with Tom McCarthy. His works are apparently heavily referential – i.e. he lifts and borrows ideas and images from elsewhere and bundles them all together. People who recognise these references say he is a genius; but I don’t get the references myself and even if I did, I’m not sure how this would equate to genius. But I did identify with the basic concept at the heart of Satin Island – satirising the notion that we perceive our lives to be so significant that every last detail must be examined in depth and preserved for posterity. Thus, we meet U, an anthropologis
  4. A Brief History of Seven Killings is not brief. Nor, strictly speaking, does the death toll end up at seven. Set in Jamaica (mostly – there are a couple of offshoots to Miami and New York), spanning the time frame 1976-1991, and featuring multiple stream of consciousness narrators, this is a complex novel. It interweaves drug gangs and politics; it blurs the lines between life and death (at least one of the narrators is a ghost); and the timelines are far from sequential. To further add to the confusion, many of the characters narrate in a bombor’asscloth patois peppered with expletives, sho
  5. This book has been getting rave reviews and I usually enjoy Anne Tyler's books, so I thought I'd read it. I raced through it, so it kept my attention. I found though, that while I liked it a lot, I didn't love it. I'm not sure why. My mother says that she doesn't always get along with Anne Tyler's books and maybe it's that. Or maybe it's that I don't really love novels that are all about relationships. In any event, this is a novel about a family and the relationships among the various family members. The focus is on the family of Red Whitshank, his wife Abby, and their 4 adult child
  6. Did You Ever Have A Family is clever. It’s not a compliment. Opening with the aftermath of a house fire, we meet June, driving aimlessly away from the house where her family have just died. Her daughter Lolly, who was in the house, was due to marry the next day. Will, the groom-to be, is also amongst the dead. The novel continues, mostly in a linear timeline, with several characters taking turns to narrate the story from their viewpoints. Sometimes they use first person, sometimes third person. They each have clearly distinct roles in the family and community, and pains have been taken to
  7. The Fishermen was a swan: A swan that was an ugly duckling for the first half, then blooming into a beautiful bird in the second half. The novel follows a pretty tight formula, opening with an animal or bird related metaphor that often feels like a stretch, followed by a story that is told in a strangely jerky way – a fact or event is dropped into the conversation, followed by a long explanation of how this fact or event came to pass. The novel is supposedly narrated by Ben, a young Nigerian man relating events from his childhood. The timelines become clearer at the end, but it is
  8. Sunjeev Sahota’s The Year of the Runaways is very topical, dealing with the lives of illegal and semi-legal migrants to the UK. But topicality does not guarantee that a novel is any good. In this novel, Sahota introduces us to a number of Indian migrants who have ended up in Sheffield and London. Principally, we follow Randeep, Avtar and Tochi as they embark on a new life. Avtar is on a student visa but has no intention of studying; Tochi arrived hidden in a lorry, and Randeep has hit the jackpot with a marriage of convenience to Narinder, a British woman of Indian heritage. They struggle
  9. Sleeping On Jupiter is extremely neutral. Yes, really. Some of the writing is good, the characters are clear cut, but overall it is very, very meh. Part of the shortcoming is that the novel features three stories all set in the coastal town of Jarmuli. One is the story of Nomi, an Indian refugee returning on a filming mission to the scene of some atrocities she experienced in childhood. The second is the story of Gouri, Latika and Vidya, three older women on holiday and trying to cope with Gouri’s dementia. The third is the story of some of the beach boys who sell tea and guided tours to t
  10. Lila. Where to begin? Lila is a little puzzle box of a novel that seems to break every rule in the book. The opening lines are obscure; the sentences don’t quite seem to hang together and it’s not quite clear what’s going on. In fact, it is a bizarre stream of consciousness style where we can drift from observations of what is happening now, through to flashbacks, flash forwards, wholesale digressions and editorial comment. All with idiosyncratic grammar. But unlike traditional stream of consciousness that forms an interior monologue, the stream of consciousness in Lila is predominantly in
  11. The Moor’s Account is the story of Mustafa ibn Muhammad ibn Abdussalam al-Zamori, a Moor who found himself sailing with Spanish conquistadors in their hunt for gold and riches in the new lands of La Florida. As an outsider, as a slave, Mustafa offers an unusual perspective. Historical fiction can breathe life into dry facts; it can add the humanity into history. Often, historical fiction told in the first person will have a distinctive voice and confront readers with values and opinions that jar with modern perceptions. The scenery can often be as engrossing as the story. So what went wrong
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