Ok, so this should definitely be the last one. Also, I realised while talking to my Mum the other day, that one of the books I read last year was recorded on Goodreads, but not included as part of my book total for that year. I am starting to think they are at it.
That book was
The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro – This was of course what the film staring Anthony Hopkins was based on – not that I have seen it. I really need to catch up with my film watching. It follows the life of a butler in an old school, upper class, British household, and is composed of him reflecting back on his life, and his choices while he takes a driving tour round England, on his way to see a former colleague. It provides an intimate portrait of his life, and his thought process in trying to justify his choices, his manner of living, and his employer’s manner of living, and the legacy that their employer has left behind. It was a slow and a sad book, which I really enjoyed, and the film has made it onto my ‘need to watch’ list. I loved ‘Never Let Me Go’, by Ishiguro, which I adored, and lent to someone and never got it back. Le sigh. I did enjoy the film of the same name, which for once, I have seen. This leads us neatly onto…
The Buried Giant – Kazuo Ishiguro – I really hated this book, it was a struggle to read, it was a slim book, but it took me ages to get through it. Which, is odd, given how much I enjoyed the above two books. In ‘The Buried Giant’, we follow a couple as they travel across their world, in search of their son who has left them. The world is a forgetful place, where people rapidly forget what has happened the day before, it is cruel, and scary, and filled with some fantasy elements. Throughout the narrative it weaves various stories and tales, including that of Camelot, and it was full of symbolism (which as usual, I probably didn’t recognise). I didn’t find the ending satisfying, and I struggled to find any particular meaning in the novel. It isn’t a book I would recommend, and it is currently sitting in a pile to be donated to the pile of books at my work.
The Tawny Man Trilogy – Robin Hobb – As I enjoyed the Farseer trilogy, I was very pleased when I spotted this on sale in a charity shop, and I picked it up, along with a few other things. I then got really excited, as it is a first edition hardback, sad news is, it isn’t worth much. It picks up on the tale of Fitz after his adventures in the Farseer trilogy, and everything that made that so good, is continued in here. I have so far only read the first two books, and have not quite made it to the third. The reason for this, is that I kept on going into the Waterstones on my way home from work, and they have other books, but not the specific third one. I picked up a book, thinking it was the third one, and not only was it not, it also spoiled the ending of the Tawny Man trilogy for me. So I am frustrated at both myself, and Hobb’s naming conventions.
As a quick overview, the Fool comes to find Fitz, who is living in isolation which his adopted son. The Fool has been sent to recruit Fitz for a task (as his Catalyst), which is to ensure that the current Prince of the Kingdom weds the person to whom he has been betrothed. I feel as though these books move a bit slower than the Farseer trilogy, and that they have possibly been stretched too thin, but they examine political power plays and force you to take sides, and most of what happens in them, can also be applied to real world events, and force you to explore your thoughts and opinions on these. In this respect, they are enjoyable. If you enjoy Robin Hobbs then you will definitely enjoy these, but I would recommend you start with the Farseer trilogy, not only because I found them better and more enjoyable, but also so you have an awareness of the backstory going in.
Shrill – Lindy West – As a card carrying feminist, I am a huge fan of Lindy West. I don’t remember how I came across her, whether it was through Jezebel, or the Guardian, or through the podcast that she did for ‘This American Life’, where she confronted her troll, regardless, she is amazing and fearless, and I bought this book on the day it was released in the UK.
And…I was maybe a bit disappointed? I enjoyed the book, and she is an excellent writer, but it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. It is autobiographical, and provides detail about being a shy, young woman, and then finding her voice and being able to express her opinions, loudly, clearly, and while dealing with vitriolic abuse online – the story about the troll is just awful. It also talks about finding acceptance with being fat – which is the word West prefers to use, rather than large, big etc. She talks about reclaiming it, about reclaiming herself, and is unapologetic for taking up space in a world where women are taught to be smaller, to be less than. A lot of the feminist ideas she speaks about I am familiar with, and I always love seeing these put in new contexts.
I don’t think the book was hilariously funny, but I do enjoy her crude turns of phrase. I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to hear her speak at the Glasgow Women’s Library (it was also my first visit, and it is amazing! I have been meaning to get back down when I get the chance), and in some ways it was better to hear her talk about the book, and talk about her experiences, and to hear her reading excerpts from it. It was a really good evening – I even got my book signed, and tried to have some chat with her, but I was just so awkward she kind of made a ‘let’s move this along here’, face at me. Gah. Still, it was signed, which is the important thing.
Perhaps my feelings on the book are because perhaps it wasn’t aimed at me. I am not fat, I probably don’t look like an outsider, I am not particularly vocal or loud, but I did relate to being shy and quiet, and not having a voice, and not being able to find that voice. It was a good book, and even though it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, I would say a 3.5 out 5 rating from me.
Nod – Adrian Barnes – The premise of this, is that one night, no one can sleep, and then again the next night, they can’t sleep and so on, until the world descends into a sleepless madness, apart from for the few.
I had gone into the Waterstones near my work, looking for another book (actually the final book in the Tawny Man trilogy, which obviously they did not have), and picked this one up instead. The premise sounded interesting, and it had good reviews on the cover. Instead, I really disliked this book, it was a slog to get through, it was slow moving, and the protagonist was a total fucking dick, with absolutely no redeeming features. So I decided to google the author, and to see reviews. Yup, the guy has cancer, and so I felt like a dick for hating this book. I mean, what have I done? Have I had a book published? Do I get incredible numbers for my blog? Do I have more than 100 twitter followers? Have I got a stellar career? Well, no. So who am I to judge a guy, who is dying, and has actually made the effort to write a book, which he then got successfully published?
So, I held off on reviewing it, and looking at my Goodreads star review, I gave it a 3, it is not worth a three. It is a 2 at most, I just changed it. Now, however, I figure, it is better to be honest, and I did not enjoy this. I thought it was a good premise, poorly executed.
Boys From Brazil – Ira Levin – I am sure everyone knows the premise of this, as once again there is a film based on it, which once again, I have not seen, but if not, it is as follows. It opens with a scene of German scientists in a restaurant, having dinner, and discussing plans that they are looking to execute, it is overheard by a wannabe Nazi hunter, who then calls a famous Nazi hunter to tell him what he has heard. The race is then on to figure out what their plans are, and what they are trying to achieve, before it is too late.
Note I did not spoil the plot for you, unlike one of my manager’s did for me. I was heading back to work one day for lunch, and ended up buying four books, and back in the office, the manager exclaims – “Have you never read that before? I am surprised.” Yea, OK, thanks, there are a lot of books in the world and I will probably die not having read all those that I want to read, so no. I haven’t read it. What I actually said was probably something like “No, not yet, I am looking forward to it.”
Cue me, at home, unable to put it down, but I had to because life. The next day in work, “Oh, wow, I am really enjoying this book it is so good!” Cue manager, “Yea, well, there were a lot of theories about [redacted], so it makes sense that someone would turn it into a book.” I hadn’t reached that part yet, so whole story ruined. The worst bit? The twist was literally on the next page I read when I got home that night. So, great.
Anyway, the book is great, and I loved it, and I couldn’t figure out what was happening until my manager ruined it for me. I have also read ‘The Stepford Wives’, by Levin, and that is also wonderful. Would recommend.
OK, so that is it for today, and as of next week, we get back into single book review territory. Thanks for sticking with it!