Sunday, 17 November 2013

The Reading List # 6

It’s been a busy old week, and I’m a bit behind on my reading lists. The good news is I’ve been reading lots so there’s enough to fill a good few posts over the next couple of weeks. The majority of this next list was pulled together by grabbing things from my parents’ bookshelf, and one is a trashy re-read from a few years ago. Here goes:

Beach Babylon, Imogen Edwards-Jones and Anonymous

This is another in the Babylon series I have mentioned before – ‘true’, insider accounts are drawn together in a narrative to give an insight into a week of certain luxury worlds. This one covers a week at a tropical island resort, where money is no object and the guests are demanding to the extreme. It’s told through the eyes of the resort manager, covering the staff’s side of things. It is an over-the-top, funny and trashy read, and perfect for a lazy weekend or holiday.

Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

This is the biographical account of Greg Mortenson, a mountaineer who stumbles across an impoverished Pakistani village and vows to help its people. I was not a fan of this book at all. It was fairly nicely written, but there was a buzz when this came out suggesting this story, or at least parts of it, are made up, and that’s definitely the way I was leaning. It could have been a third of the size, as there was a lot of unnecessary embellishment, and I just found no reason to warm to Mortenson.

There are too many things that don’t add up, such as what motivated strangers to give one man so much money, and how he manages to keep flitting to and from America despite having ‘no money’. His failed relationships are introduced but then brushed over as trivial, and I’m sure such an impoverished village wouldn’t keep demanding so much, so rudely, as opposed to being grateful for what they have received. Too much of this book just didn’t add up for me, and I’m inclined to believe it certainly has been embellished or falsified.

Mister Pip, Lloyd Jones

Mr Watts, the only white man on a tropical island, appoints himself teacher and teaches his children from the only book he has: Great Expectations. It is set against the backdrop of a civil war, and I thought every element of this book was just stunning. It’s almost poetic in the way it is written, and short, making it easy to read over a fairly short period, so you can view it in its entirety.

I know Great Expectations so well, and this intertextuality really added something to the narrative – there are so many themes within it I would not have thought of, but the way it is used and explored works incredibly well. This is a thoughtful novel, including themes such as war, childhood, education, race… It is a beautiful read, and well worth picking up.

A Partisan’s Daughter, Louis de Bernieres

Chris picks up Rosa in the street, assuming she is a prostitute, and she decides to go home with him. The two become friends and he spends hours listening to her stories. Rosa is Yugoslavian, and came to England illegally in the 70s, bringing many tales of pain, love and excitement. Readers and Chris are never quite sure which stories are true and which are Rosa’s fantasies, but that isn’t the part which matters.

The relationship between the pair is believable and it reads very well. Chris and Rosa take it in turns to narrate chapters, and the ending is beautiful.

Yet another random list, there. I never understand how people can read the same type of book over and over – I like to try different things!

What have you been reading recently?

Sophie x

Sunday, 3 November 2013

The Reading List # 5

Weekends are the perfect time to catch up on reading, so here’s the latest instalment of things I’ve been reading recently.

Fatherland, Robert Harris

It is 1964, and Hitler is nearing his 75th birthday, having been victorious in the Second World War. Detective March finds a naked dead man in a lake, and this begins to unravel a huge conspiracy.

The premise of this book was so interesting, and it certainly delivered. There is enough fact weaved in to make the events believable, and the atmosphere and architecture of this 1960s Germany is conjured up well. The book is realistic in that there is still plenty of discontent in the country, so it was a rounded picture, and then in amongst it all was a gripping detective story. This is well worth a try.

Revenge Wears Prada, Lauren Weisberger

Ten years after The Devil Wears Prada ended, Andy is co-running her own successful wedding magazine. Her life has changed a lot, and is the usual rollercoaster of emotions. This is a trashy novel, of course, but well-written enough to still feel like a good read.

There’s a great twist later in the book, although I did find the end a little annoying… On the whole, this is a fun, escapist read, but I think after waiting so long for this sequel, it was always going to have a hard time living up to the original.

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared, Jonas Jonasson

Firstly, this is such a great title for a novel. There was a buzz about this when it first came out, and my family were divided on loving it and hating it, so I was looking forward to giving it a try. Alan escapes from his nursing home on the morning of his 100th birthday party, and this sets off a story of murder, travel and gangsters. You need to totally suspend reality to read this one – the story is silly, exaggerated, and everyone in it is a ridiculous caricature. Personally, that’s not the type of thing I like to read, but I did enjoy the nods to so many 20th century historical events, and the book was well-crafted.

I really warmed to the character of Alan, despite not liking the overall silliness of the novel, and I was a huge fan of the ending. Despite not loving the book, the final chapters allowed it to make sense to me, and let me fully appreciate why it had been written in such a way. This is definitely worth a try – I know people who have loved and hated it, and I can’t compare it to anything else, so see what you think!

Nineteen Twenty-One, Adam Thorpe

Joseph Monroe just missed out on fighting in the war, and tours the fields at Flanders with a friend, where he decides he would like to write the first great novel of the war. This is stunningly written, with brilliant characterisation, and looks at a fascinating moment in time.

It was so interesting to read about the battlefields tour in the immediate aftermath of the war, and to read something set in that strange time of limbo just after the war’s end. There were overarching themes of love, war, loss, and art, and I was really impressed.

This list was quite a successful one, and with a variety of styles. I’m already well on my way through the next four, so the next post will be coming soon.

What have you been reading recently?

Sophie x
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