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July 29, 2008

The Love Of A Good Woman - Alice Munro

The Love Of A Good Woman - Alice Munro

Book 30 in my 52 books in 52 weeks in 2008

I'm a bit behind in my reviews. This always means that the reviews I write are shorter, as it only takes a few weeks for the details to fade, and the character's names too, especially on shorter books that were quick reads. This is exaggerated a lot when it comes to collections of short stories, like this one. I can remember reading the book, and liking the stories, but without leafing through it, or looking it up on the internet, I cannot actually remember one of the stories from it.

So, my review would be something along the lines of "great stories about real life from one of the most popular short story writers alive today". That's a bit lame, I know. Sorry.

Posted by se71 at 01:43 PM | Comments (0)

July 14, 2008

Of Mice And Men - John Steinbeck

Of Mice And Men - John Steinbeck

Book 29 in my 52 books in 52 weeks in 2008

It's good to read some of the classics. It's even better when they are interesting, entertaingin, and short. This book is all three. Oh, and it's even better if it's a book your child is studying at school, so you can read it together.

I actually know nothing about this novel before I started it. Except that it was set in the depression in America. I always prefer to start a book with a clean slate like that.

This is the story of two itinerant farm workers, George and Lenny. The are travelling from ranch to ranch, trying to save some money to buy a place of their own to settle down in. George is smart, and looks after Lenny, who is mentally disabled Lenny finds it difficult to distinguish right from wrong, and it's mostly his fault that they have to keep leaving their workplaces.

As this is a standard textbook for many schools, much has been written about it, and I wouldn't really like to try and compete with the multitude of criticisms out there. It's a very interesting book that has a lot of action, and some really good tension. It explores many weighty topics, including poverty, racism, friendship, and disability, but in a matter of fact way that never makes the story drag.

I recommend the book highly.

Posted by se71 at 01:20 PM | Comments (0)

July 02, 2008

The Poisonwood Bible - Barbara Kingsolver

The Poisonwood Bible - Barbara Kingsolver

Book 28 in my 52 books in 52 weeks in 2008

There are very many books in the world that I will never read, and this could easily have been one of them. The outine isn't promising. An evangelical American baptist minister in the late 1950s decides to take his wife and four daughters to the Belgian Congo to be a missionary there. So that's religion and history as main topics - not usually my cup of tea.

However, I was talking to a friend about books this came up as one of their favourite, and I was told that I must read it. So I tried to get a copy but baulked at the full price and eventually got it second hand off Amazon. It was thicker than I'd imagined, but I finally made a start, and was glad that I did, as it turns out that it is one of the best books I've read recently.

Each of the females in the family get to tell parts of the story. It starts tantalisingly with Orleanna Price, the wife and mother, writing from 30 years in the future after she has returned home to America. She hints at terrible things that happened, and quickly lures you in so that you cannot stop reading until you find out what it is.

All the first person narratives from the Congo are written by the daughters. Ruth May is only about five years old, Leah and Adah are pre-teen twins, and Rachel is the teenager. After only a few chapters, you can recognise their unique voices from the way they 'talk', and from how they are reacting to life in the jungle. You quicky realise that their father Nathan is a bit unhinged. His mission is not even fully sanctioned by the church, and he refuses to accept any logical arguments on how to live in this new environment, alienating himself from the villagers with entreaties to baptise them in the crocodile infested river.

Emotions run high, and as disaster approaches the tension makes this a real page turner. I found it hard to out this down up to the emotional climax, which is unfortunately only about 2/3 of the way through the book.

If the novel had stopped there I would have been very happy with it. if I was to make a film of the book, I would definitely stop it there. But instead, it changes quite a lot, and turns into more of a history of the Congo region over the succeeding thirty years rather than just a family saga. The politics overwhelms this final stage too much, and though the case against the white man in Afica is pretty strong, I'm sure that the native people are not blameless either. However, America in particular, white people, and men, all get a very thorough bashing, and there are no bad Africans, or women at all, just a few who are corrupted by circumstances and by their colonial overseers. A bit more balance wouldn't have gone amiss. I found this less compelling. It was interesting, and I learned a lot, but I cared a lot less about the characters, and was glad when it finally came to a conclusion, of sorts.

I do highly recommend this book to anyone of any age; it is a marvellous piece of story-telling which you will not forget in a hurry.

Posted by se71 at 11:39 AM | Comments (0)

July 01, 2008

52 Books in 52 Weeks - June 2008

No real excuse for the low volume this month. disappointed by most of my choices however. Bach's book is very short and a reread to see if it was still as good as I remembered - it wasn't. Chabon's was highly recommended, but wasn't good. Reynolds is a favourite author, but this one was a bit flat, and the Hoban book was me filling in the gaps, light and fairly enjoyable, but a bit insubstantial.

24 Jonathan Livingstone Seagull by Richard Bach
25 The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon
26 The Prefect by Alastair Reynolds
27 The Bat Tattoo by Russell Hoban

Posted by se71 at 07:25 PM | Comments (0)