Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Thursday, September 3, 2009
The cities of the title are Beszel and Ul Qoma, they are located somewhere towards the Balkans in an otherwise identical world. Each city has it's own characteristics, food, fashion, colours and administrative systems. The point of departure from the conventional is that the two cities occupy the same physical space. The citizens of each city live their lives around the citizens of the other city having learnt to 'unsee' from an early age, the penalties for 'seeing' or Breach, being severe.
The book is narrated from the point of view of Inspector Borlu of the Beszian Extreme Crime Squad, a woman's body is found in a run down area of the city of Beszel and it soon becomes clear to Borlu that the murder involves the illegal passage between the two cities or Breach. The murdered woman is involved in an archaeological dig in Ul Qoma which is recovering mysterious artifacts, as the investigation progresses it becomes clear that the murdered woman had become convinced that there is a third city, Orciny, which exists in the spaces between Beszel and Ul Qoma unseen by the occupants of both cities and which wields power greater than that of Breach. As Borlu pursues his investigation he travels to Ul Qoma and both he and his Ul Qomaan counterpart slowly begin to believe that Orciny may be real. China Mieville has created a novel that deals with our modern busy crowded urban lives. We all 'unsee' things we don't want to see from the beggar in the street to that big chap coming towards us on a dark night. He has taken this idea and stretched it to create this engrossing murder mystery which offers us a view of how we deal with the chaos of life lived in the city.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
The Children's Book - AS Byatt
Summertime - J M Coetzee
The Quickening Maze - Adam Foulds
How to Paint a Dead Man - Sarah Hall
The Wilderness - Samantha Harvey
Me Cheeta - James Lever
Wolf Hall - Hilary Mantell
The Glass Room - Simon Mawer
Not Untrue and Not Unkind - Ed O'Loughlin
Heliopolis - James Scudamore
Brooklyn - Colm Toibin
Love and Summer - William Trevor
The Little Stranger - Sarah Waters
Check out our reviews of The Wilderness and The Little Stranger. We will bring you reviews of the other nominees in due course.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Buell Pennsylvania is a steel town, or it was. It is now in the Rust Belt of America, the steel works have been closed and the only jobs are those involved in dismantling the mills and at WalMart - packing groceries. In a period of twenty years
'the area had lost 150,00 jobs-most of the towns could no longer afford basic services; many no longer had any police...It was like this all up and down the river and many of the young people, the way they accepted their lack of prospects, it was like watching sparks die in the night.'
Two of these young people are Isaac English and Billy Poe, high school friends who have been left behind in Buell where others their age have fled. Isaac steals $4,000 from his invalid father and plans to head west, to California to study at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. His friend Billy, a High School football star agrees to accompany him on the first leg of his journey. But when they shelter from rain in a disused mill and encounter three homeless men, Billy refuses to run and Isaac kills one of the men. It is from this morally ambiguous incident that Meyers builds and layers his novel.
The two boys panic and run instead of going to the police. Billy is eventually arrested and charged with murder. Isaac, unaware of his friends arrest, fleas as originally planned. The novel explores the consequences of the boys actions on themselves and those around them, Billy's mother Grace, Isaac's sister Lee and Bud Harris the local Chief of Police. Each chapter is narrated by a different character which allows Meyer to focus in on various aspects of the repercussions of the murder but also explore the consequences of the economic decline of Buell.
This is not just a story of a murder but an exploration of the choices we make, be they large ones such as not investing in new technology and maintenance of a mill or the relatively smaller one of not taking up employment in a city because it would mean moving your son from the school where he is on the football team. Also how people are swept aside by history, marginalised and overlooked. Meyer gives us the modern dispossessed, living in trailer parks and disused houses, the corruption of municipal politics and the barely contained violence of a maximum security prison.
Throughout 'American Rust', below the surface and waiting in the wings, is nature herself. The Mon valley where Buell is situated is a lovely verdant area and with the decline of industry and the depopulation of the towns nature is beginning to reassert itself. Deer walk down deserted streets and those people that remain are turning to almost frontier lifestyles of growing their own vegetables and hunting their own food. Is this a simpler time? The people of Buell are living lives of quiet desperation.
Meyer puts hardly a foot wrong in this novel, there are however two niggles, the lack of interest in even looking at an alternative scenario to the murder theory and whether anyone awaiting trial would be sent to a maximum security prison. These are very minor criticisms which do not detract from a novel that explores the economic and personal reality of decisions made at the highest levels of government and at the intimate and individual level.
Monday, June 15, 2009
As Jake's memories become uncertain he finds relief in being able to remember as he would like things to be and we, the reader, become more certain in our reading as the novel progresses as more and more, or should that be less and less, of Jake's memories are made available to us. This first novel was rightly shortlisted for the Orange Prize this year it is a heartbreaking and vital look at the decline of a mind.
Friday, June 12, 2009
This years winner of the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award is 'Man Gone Down' by Michael Thomas.
The Judges commented
“We never know his name. But the African-American protagonist of Michael Thomas’ masterful debut, Man Gone Down, will stay with readers for a long time. He lingers because this extraordinary novel comes to us from a writer of enthralling voice and startling insight. Tuned urgently to the way we live now, the winner of the International Dublin IMPAC Prize 2009 is a novel brilliant in its scope and energy, and deeply moving in its human warmth.”
This book is an extraordinary debut that tackles race, wealth and family head on as a young black man finds the American Dream dissolving around him. On the eve of this thirty-fifth birthday, the unnamed black narrator of "Man Gone Down" finds himself broke, estranged from his white wife and three children, and living in the bedroom of a friend's six-year-old child. He has four days to come up with the money to keep his kids in school and make a down payment on an apartment for them to live in. As we slip between his childhood in inner city Boston and present-day New York City, we discover a life marked by abuse, abandonment, raging alcoholism, and the best and worst intentions of a supposedly integrated America. This is a story of the American Dream gone awry, about what it's like to feel preprogrammed to fail in life and the urge to escape that sentence.
The other novels nominated were:
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz; The Burnt-Out Town of Miracles by Roy Jacobsen, in translation; Ravel by Jean Echenoz, in translation; Animal’s People by Indra Sinha; The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid; The Archivist’s Story by Travis Holland and The Indian Clerk by David Leavitt.
Sunday, June 7, 2009
This then is a coming of age story, a story of the road and a quest, a quest to find family and reaffirm the ties that bind us. It is also a celebration of the individual, both in the sense of the nonconformist (such a nicer word than 'dysfunctional') and in the sense of learning to take responsibility for oneself. Hattie fled to Paris to escape her sisters mental illness and the blight it cast over her childhood. Episodes where Min tried to drown her and tricked her into being encased in a total body plastercast so Min could go out when she was supposed to be minding Hattie, together with the death of their father, are stories that Hattie must come to terms with whilst on the road. She must also learn to stop running and take on adult responsibility, after all as Thebes says in relation to her relationship prospects
'Okay, twenty eight, she said. She thought for a second. You have like two years, she said. Maybe you should dress up more, though.'
One of the areas Hattie has to learn to navigate is that of parenthood. She is stuck in a van with a precocious 11 year old and an angry taciturn 15 year old whose form of communication seems to be carving words into the wood of the dashboard with a knife. Hattie is far more relaxed about this than I would be but she also has unique insight into the type of life they have been living with their mother and is aware of her limitations
'Conversing with children is a fine art, I realized. An art form that demands large amounts of honesty and misdirection. Or maybe discretion is a better word. Or a gradual release of information like time-controlled vitamins. Either way my own befuddled efforts were pathetic and I wanted to have more than odd, cryptic conversations with Logan and Thebes.'
Despite, or maybe because of, these limitations in the end Hattie allows Logan and Thebes the space to express what it is they need from the adults around them and Hattie comes to realise that you can take care of someone else but you cannot take responsibility for them, they have take responsibility for themselves, all you can do is support them. Perhaps her greatest gift to these children is making them understand that she is willing to support them but that they are not responsible for their mother or the way she feels, and they have to live their own lives, as must Min.
This makes the book sound terribly worthy, but the life lessons are applied lightly and the book careers along at the same speed as a Ford Aerostar. The occupants of the car spend their time like most families on a long journey, just passing the time
'Who would you rather have as a boyfriend? Frankenstein or George Bush?'
singing songs, creating art (Thebes' speciality is giant novelty cheques made out to the various members of her family and people she meets) and talking about their past and present. Toews has created a funny, engaging and grim tale which carries you along with it in search of the family of these unique and individual children.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Dr Faraday is a country doctor who would seem to typify this social change, his mother was a servant at the Hall, his father a grocer's boy. His parent's gave everything they had to see him achieve their ambitions for him but he is a lonely middle aged bachelor in the village of Lidcote until called to the Hall in his colleague's absence to tend to Betty the 14 year old live in maidservant. Betty is faking her illness in the hopes of being sent home as the house gives her 'the horrors' but Faraday's attendance on her brings him into contact with the Ayers family - Roderick who was with the RAF in the war and suffered extensive burns in a crash, Caroline who 'was noticeable plain, over-tall for a woman, with thickish legs and ankles' and Mrs Ayers herself who, despite wartime austerity and rationing still manages to display good breeding and 'a Frenchified air'. As the four take tea together in the collapsing house their social differences are brought to the fore as Caroline and Roderick recall stories of past family servants and Dr Faraday feels 'the faintest stirring of a dark dislike'.
Matters take a more supernatural turn when the family dog has to be destroyed following an incident with a child and Roderick becomes more withdrawn. Burn marks begin to appear on the walls and it appears the house itself starts to hound the family with unexplained noises, fires and writing on the walls
'Rod stood perfectly still, in that still room, and watched as the shaving-glass shuddered again, then rocked, then began to inch it's way across the washing-stand towards him....It moved with a jerky halting gait, the unglazed underside of it's porcelain base making a frightful, grating sound on the polished marble surface.'
Sarah Waters has created a Gothic ghost story which will have your hair standing on it's end. This is achieved not with blood and guts and gore but with supreme confidence and suspense. All the elements of the ghost story are here, an isolated country house and a finite cast of characters with questions about their motives and soundness of mind abounding. But this is so much more than just a ghost story, the book charts the decline of the great country houses after the war and indeed the decline of the landed gentry as the working and middle classes loose faith with the old order and the new phenomenon of the self made man and new money begin their inexorable rise.
As the story unfolds and we watch the fall of the House of Ayers who will be left in possession of the land represented by Hundreds Hall, who will be the victor in the class battle unfolding in England at the time and, more important, who will be last man standing as one by one the various characters succumb to whatever haunts the Hall and who or what is responsible?
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Intertwined with the story of Georgy and the royal family is the story of Georgy and his wife Zoya living a quiet life in London in 1981. Zoya is in the last stages of cancer and Georgy looks back over his life and that of his wife since leaving Russia in 1918. The two stories are told in alternating chapters, the Romanov strand moves forward in time whilst the post 1918 story goes backwards in time until both stories collide in 1918. This device allows Boyne to cover a lot of ground and whilst it is effective in moving the narrative on (or backwards) at a clipping pace it is also a source of frustration as potentially interesting episodes, such as the death of their daughter and Georgy's war work, are dropped and people appear and disappear in the lives of the Jackmenev's very quickly.
The two emigres life after 1918 is quiet and unassuming which contrasts nicely with Georgy's life in the Winter Palace. We see him at the centre of events as Rasputin excercises control over the Tsaritsa Alexandra, the Tsar continues his disasterous campaign against his Cousin Kaiser Wilhelm across the battlefields of Europe, the Bolshevicks take control and the history of the House of Romanov is played out in the House of Special Purpose. Boyne's Georgy is a passive narrator, there is no attempt to analyse the events of the day or the reasons for the fall of the Romnov's other than occasional references to the poor conditions in which the general population lived and the luxury of the royal family's life. However, Boyne manipulates the narrative effectively so that when the two stories collide anyone who does not know the history of the Royal Family will see how the otherwise quiet and unassuming life of the two Russian exiles begins and ends in 1918.
The lack of analysis or anything approaching an exploration of the ideas and ideals of the various factions in Russia at the time places the book firmly in the young adult fiction camp. It would be a good starting point for an interest in what was happening in Russia during the First World War together with the later controversy over the identity of those members of the Royal family who were killed. A good story well told.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
The book initially centres on recently married Avery and Jean who are in Egypt. Avery, an engineer, is involved in the dismantling and relocation to another site of the Abu Simbel temple, the site of which will be flooded to make way for the Aswan Dam. As Avery works on the deconstruction of the temple he and Jean at night work on the construction of their relationship, telling each other about their history and past. They are building an enviable relationship filled with intimacy and silence and talk.
But around them, not only is the temple being relocated, thousands of people whose villages will be inundated with water are being moved to new settlements hundreds of miles from where their ancestors have lived and are buried. Avery is haunted by the fear that by moving the temple he is merely creating a copy of the original, that something significant will be lost and this concern is echoed in the creation of the new villages for the displaced, where villagers were neighbours they are now thousands of miles apart and families are torn asunder.
When a tragedy strikes Jean and Avery are unable to deal with the scale of their loss together and agree to separate. The novel then takes a turn away from the joint story of Jean and Avery to concentrate on Jean and her journey back from loss. This narrowing of focus acts as a lense for Michael's to move away from the larger themes of the loss suffered by whole peoples down to the personal tragedies and losses of individuals.
The second part of the novel finds Jean and Avery in Toronto living separately. Jean becomes a guerrilla gardener, planting in public spaces at night as a way of evoking memories in passers by when they smell the scent of the plants she has placed in the ground. She meets Lucjan aka 'The Caveman', a graffiti artist and Polish emigre with whom she begins a relationship. Lucjan lived in the destroyed wastes of Warsaw during the Second World War and helped in it's rebuilding - an almost exact copy of what had been destroyed. This fact provides a link between the two men in the novel together with the the need for Lucjan to tell his story in much the same way that Avery and Jean told theirs at the beginning of the book
Monday, April 27, 2009
Timo also views his fellow loggers as men first. They are clearly unfit for the role assigned to them by the Russian authorities and Timo takes it on himself to teach them how to survive in the harsh Finnish winter. The cold is a major element of the novel - what it is like and how to survive it. There is a lot of going to bed, sleeping, eating and cleaning in the story. When the Russians began their offensive many of the troops came from the Crimea and were unused to such harsh conditions. The Soviet army was ill equip both in terms of heavy mechanisation which confined them to roads and with regard to winter camouflage clothing for the troops. Timo teaches the loggers the importance of taking care of yourself in the cold, in such cold humans become careless and when they are careless it is easy to freeze to death. But the Russian loggers also save Timo from being an outsider, he becomes part of a group and finds strength in himself
There is therefore a moral ambiguity about the book which is intriguing, is Timo right or wrong, is he a hero or a coward? Timo himself believes he is neither all he wanted to do is survive and faced for the first time with others who had none of the skills of survival he had, who looked up to him and admired him, he drew strength from the Russian's weakness and became more than he had ever been before.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Published in The UK in 2007 'The Archivist's Story' has been shortlisted for the Dublin IMPAC Award, the most valuable literary award for a work published in English. The six shortlisted books were selected from 146 titles nominated by public libraries in 117 countries making the award one of the most unique in the world and the six shortlisted books some of the best fiction you are likely to read.
Travis Holland takes us back to 1939 when Europe is on the brink of war and Stalin is at the head of Soviet Russia. Pavel Dubrov is working as an Archivist in the Lubyanka cataloguing and sorting the mountain of manuscripts censored by the NKVD ( precursor to the KGB ) whose authors are 'disappeared', either dead, exiled or prisoners in the very prison where Pavel works. A former teacher of literature Pavel's job is ultimately to burn an author's complete body of work when their file is eventually closed.Holland explores the meaning of memory and literature's place in memory. The society in which Holland's characters exist is a place with no memory, where it can be dangerous to remember, thus famines become 'disruptions', a son must stand by whilst his father is denounced and arrested and you can not talk about those who have disappeared.
'...the Lubyanka is simply a microcosm of Moscow itself, where night by night the black sedans and unmarked prison trucks - black ravens, black Marias - slip down the darkened narrow lanes and alleyways, going about their terrible business'
A turning point comes for Pavel when he is instructed to meet with Isaac Babel to clear up the authorship of a short story which has not been recorded in an evidence manifest. Babel was a Jewish short story writer and his final statement to his NKVD Military Tribunal on January 26 1940 is included at the start of the book. At this point in the story Babel is confined in the Lubyanka and almost without thinking Pavel slips the story out of the prison and hides it in his basement. Thereafter we follow Pavel as he comes to realise that:
'With every manuscript he destroys,Pavel can feel a little more of his soul being chipped away...by this time next year there will be nothing left of him.'
This image of there being nothing left of Pavel is echoed in the deterioration of his mother who is suffering blackouts and memory loss due to a suspected brain tumour. His mother's insistence that nothing be done leaves Pavel feeling that there is nothing left for his mother but diminishment and loss and that when she no longer recognises him or their life together there will be two deaths, her past and his. Pavel is therefore facing a future where he will not be remembered.
Literature is also dying in the flames of the Lubyanka's incinerator. Literature is
'A window, Pavel thinks. An entire world.'
and to contemplate life with
'no stories, no novels or plays, no poems. Just empty shelves. The end of history.'
What Pavel is taking to the incinerator is therefore our history. Novels, storys, poems and plays are how we make sense of ourselves and our history. Without them we have no history and with no history we can not know ourselves.
Pavel saves another of Babel's stories and in doing so he can say
'I lived'but in doing so he also knows he can not stop a bullet with paper and therefore prepares himself. The ending is entirely appropriate as our imagination takes us beyond the story and into the world Holland has created, where we wait to hear the sound of a car sent - perhaps - to take us.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Joseph Boyden's second novel is a meditation on family and identity, both personal and cultural, which takes us from the frozen wastelands of Northern Canada to, in another sense, the frozen wastelands of Toronto, Vancouver and New York City. This is the second in what is rumoured to be a trilogy of works, the first being 'Three Day Road' which was nominated for The Governor General's award in Canada and winner of the Roger's Writers fiction prize, both in 2005. This reader had not read 'Three Day Road' before reading 'Through Black Spruce'.
The novel follows two intertwining stories, that of Will Bird who is in a coma and his niece, Annie Bird, who sets out on a quest to find her missing younger sister Suzanne. Will narrates his story from his coma and Annie tells her story to her Uncle in a bid to wake him. The events they relate catalogue how each of them deals with the conflicts that have arisen within their 'clan' - in it's broadest sense the Cree Aboriginal First Nation People of Mooseonee and in its narrower sense of their family- and the incursion into their community of 'civilisation' with all it's attendant problems of addiction, trauma and Oprah .
The catalyst for the problems Will and Annie face is the disappearance of Suzanne one Christmas morning with Gus Netmaker, her boyfriend. The Netmakers began as bootleggers and graduated to suppliers of drugs to the local community but the local police seem unable or unwilling to move against them. Following Suzanne and Gus' disappearance, Gus' brother Maurius believes Will is informing on the Netmakers and his business partners to the police. Further, Maurius and his associates are searching for the two runaways as they have stolen from the cartel.
Upon this structure Boyden explores the options open to the First Nation Peoples in the face of this incursion of evils from civilisation. Will fleas to the barren north and begins to live as his ancestors did exploring the traditional ways however he is plagued by his own addiction to alcohol. Annie, in pursuit of her sister, travels south and embraces the modern world, she sheds her tomboy past and becomes seduced by the seemingly easy money and lifestyle of modeling. As Will states early in the novel
'you...put out your gill net and pull in options like fish'
but options are closing in both for the Cree as a people and for the Birds. Neither Will nor Annie can survive in the worlds they have chosen and both return to Mooseonee with violence in tow.
Boyden, who was born into a strict Irish catholic family,draws on his own experiences and that of his family to craft this novel. He spent his summers as a teenager living on the streets of Toronto and at the age of 16 began travelling to the United States on his own. He is himself balancing the two parts of his ancestry, the Irish Catholic with the Ojibwe, by spending part of his time in New Orleans and part in the Arctic Gulf. In an interview with Constance Droganes for CTV he says
'If you don't know your personal history you're doomed to repeat it...We may think the past is something we don't need. But that's not true - not to my mind'
This is an important novel, dealing as it does with matters of cultural, family and personal identity but it does not always convince. Whilst Will's narrative is compelling and vivid Annie's task is made harder by the sterility of her life away from home. Her narrative fails to engage partly for this reason and also because elements of her experience are contrived - fits that are cast as visions, her city Indian 'Protector' (who is brought back to the old ways) and an old Indian mystic figure living on the streets of Toronto. However, these issues aside Boyden has created a fine novel which explores the balancing act of competing identities, as he himself explains
'My heart is part Irish, part Ojibwe. I'm a Canadian in America. I'm grounded by history, and I am inspired by legend.'
'Through Black Spruce' won the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2008 and has been published in the UK this year and is therefore eligible for consideration for The Man Booker Prize. In my view it is one to watch!
Saturday, April 4, 2009
'Flood and Fang' is narrated by Edgar the Guardian of Otherhand Castle who it seems is the only sane one among the inhabitants of the castle.
'Castle Otherhand is home to all sorts of oddballs, lunatics and fruitcakes'
and when Edgar spots something nasty in the castle grounds he is right to sense trouble. Unfortunately the other inhabitants of the castle don't have any sense at all and it is left to Edgar to come up with a rescue plan before the Otherhands run out of maids and the castle, who has decided to become involved, successfully brings its own plan to fruition!
The writing is such that the book demands to be read aloud and the language does not talk down to either reader or listener, so it will be up to any adult reading to supply definitions of meanings and phrases for the young listener. However, the book works on several levels so that there is humour for child and adult alike:
'Maybe it's her hair. It's long and black, as black as the feathers of old Mrs Edgar; black and shiny as coal, right up to the very day she fell out of the tree and the dogs ate her. Happy days.'
And whilst the Raven swear words will pass clear over a young listeners head Mum or Dad will know exactly what is being said.
A hugely enjoyable book which is not just for the independent reader - it is a little slice of Gormenghast for the young!
But it is what happened next that caused one of those eureka moments. Son the Younger who is seven picked up the book and started to read it, about 15 pages in when I asked how he was getting on he said 'Why is her voice like warm milk?' I mentally did a war dance of triumph whilst trying to explain imagery and metaphor in a way he would understand. A book like this is a rare thing to be cherished and deserves every bit of attention that it can get.
Finally a word about Pete Williamson's illustrations which appear on every page of the book, they enhance the reading experience no end and it is to be hoped that the future books in the series (at least five) will be as funny and knowing and as beautifully illustrated.
I would urge everyone with a 6 to 8 year old in the house to buy this book and grandparents to give it to their grandchildren!
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Larkin provides an eloquent and accurate indicator of one of the central themes of Rebecca Miller's book The Private lives of Pippa Lee'. As the book opens we are brought into the front living room of the Lee's where they are celebrating with their friends the move to an up market retirement community. Pippa is in her early 50's and her husband Herb is 80. One of their friends gives a speech in which he describes Pippa:
'I've known Pippa Lee for a quarter of a century,but I'll never really know her. She's a mystery, a cypher...a person not controlled by ambition or greed or a crass need for attention, but a desire to experience life completely, and to make life a little easier for the people around her.'But this seeming paragon has a dark side and when Pippa experiences episodes of sleep eating, smoking and driving it is clear that all is not well with the Lees. Indeed, Pippa herself does not agree with their old friend's description of her, preferring to think of herself as
'One of those shiny used cars that have been in a terrible accident. They look perfectly fine on the outside, but the axle is all bent.'
The novel is split into four parts, the first, third and fourth are told in the third person and the second in the first. It is in the second part that Pippa comes sharply into focus and it is the retelling of Pippa's early life and experience that forms the core of the novel and where Miller's writing is at it's best. We learn of Lee's childhood, the teenage rage and rebellion against her mother that leads her to flee her home and her subsequent behaviour that is most definitely not virtuous - despite Pippa herself praying to Jesus 'I am begging you to make me good,please'.
It is this desire to be good that leads Pippa into marriage with Herb Lee, a man 30 years her senior, and the married life she builds for herself. 'Marriage' Pippa says 'is an act of will' and Pippa is willing herself to be good, and she is so good at marriage and making life a little easier for the people around her that she all but disappears as a person and becomes a shadow of the 'old' Pippa - and this I think is the intention of the third person narrative. Rebecca Miller, who herself has said in an interview with Julia Llewellyn Smith for the Telegraph Newspaper ' I wouldn't be able to maintain my sanity if I gave up who I was. I just wouldn't be able to exist', has created a distancing of the reader from the central character in the first and last parts of the novel which cause us to disconnect from Pippa in the same way that Pippa is disconnected from herself. Whilst these parts are not as effective as the vibrant first person narrative, they are essential in understanding how far Pippa has moved from her true self so that she just does not exist any more in any meaningful way.
And what of those parents that Larkin castigates? Pippa has two experiences of a smothering intense love, that of her mother from whom she flees and her daughter who she can not flee in body but who she can mould - and the result? reread Larkin's poem.A seemingly slight book, this is a novel that you can come back to again as you think about the mother - daughter relationship, the expected role of women in marriage as the nurturer and the issue of female identity after marriage. A great book club read.
Monday, March 30, 2009
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Keep us updated with what you are reading and what you think of the book via comments to the blog.
We are also considering nominating a book of the month to be reviewed by us and hopefully read by and commented on by you.
We will not be restricting ourselves to adult books, children and teen fiction is a very exciting area at the moment with a lot of good new titles and we hope to bring you reviews and news of these.
Is there a book you loved or loathed and you don't feel that a mere comment will do it justice - why not email us a review and we will consider it for a post of it's own on the blog.
The intention is that this becomes an active forum for book lovers so the more we hear from you the better.