Fiction

I love reading, so I’m taking my trusty Kindle away with me, this is a record of what I’ve read while I’m away and waiting to go away and what I thought of them … let me know what you thought of the books or if you have any you’d recommend for me to read while I’m away …

Big Brother by Lionel Shriver                   My rating: 3/5

Lionel Shriver also wrote “We Need to Talk About Kevin”, which I thought was an excellent, thought provoking read.  Big Brother is about a woman whose famous Jazz musician brother comes to stay with her having not seen each other for a long time.  When he arrives at the airport she doesn’t recognise the morbidly obese man who turns out to be her brother.  The book explores their relationship and the lengths a sibling may go in support of  family.  I romped through it; so it’s a very readable book, but I didn’t love it.  I found the ending a bit of a disappointment; a bit limp. I suppose in an age when so many people struggle with their weight, the book gives a voice to their experience a little bit, and looks at how society has adapted to take into account people’s enormous weight and size; but the book seems to try very hard at not making judgments.  I suppose the problem of obesity is more mundane than the problem of murdering teenagers, which may explain why I didn’t find Big Brother as thought provoking as We Need To Talk About Kevin and it won’t rattle round in my head in the same way at all.

Goldblatt’s Descent by Michael Honig                  My rating: 4/5

I thought this was a real page turner.  Everyone  with experience of working in hospitals will be nodding their heads at the portraits of the, for example, EMINENT PHYSICIAN or the research obsessed professor.  It paints a pretty terrifying picture of a world of institutional bullying, of an unquestioning hierarchy and the fruitlessness of not ‘towing the line’; all delivered with humour and warmth through a character who is a flawed and doomed to always being one of the ‘Three Wise Men’.  I loved this book and couldn’t put it down and that’s despite it being full of medical terminology.  I think this should be a must read for everyone thinking of going into medicine as a career.

Never Forget by Lisa Cutts                                   My rating: 3/5

This is written by a serving police officer who said she got fed up reading the mistakes and inaccuracies in crime novels.  It’s a perfectly good read and I understand it’s to bethe first of a series, but I found it a bit slow to begin with and the story’s climax was a bit of a let down -a bit loose – even by the character’s own opinion the link between the murderer and her was tenuous at best.  It was good to read about a strong, female British police officer and glimpse the camaraderie between serving police officers, but it isn’t one of the best crime novels I’ve ever read.

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov.           4/5

My kindle had a blip on the way to Moscow, so my Dad very kindly treated me to a new book and I thought since I was in Russia I should read a Russian writer. The plot for this is easy: the devil visits Moscow and chaos follows. However the text is pretty dense, for example, here are the opening lines of chapter 20: “The moon in the clear evening sky hung full, visible through the maple branches. Lindens and acacias drew an intricate pattern of spots on the ground in the garden. The triple bay window, open but covered by a curtain, was lit with a furious electric bulb.” It was lovely to read a book with a bit more depth than I normally choose and to recognise some of the places in it having just visited Moscow. It’s a romping good story.

Bring Up The Bodies.  Hilary Mantel.      3/5

A fictional account of Henry VIII relationship with Anne Boleyn told from the point of view of Thomas Cromwell. She’s won lots of top notch awards for her work this year, so I’m guessing it’s well researched and written. I found it an excellent yarn and I enjoy fictional accounts of historical events because it helps me to put myself there, but I’m not sure how much it adds to the already very well known events of this time.

The Tinder Box . Minette Walters.     3/5

i do like a good “who dunnit?” And Walters is one of my favourite crime writers. Her books are quite often laid out as diary entries or include exerts from ‘the local paper’ and her writing has a bit more substance than some other writers of this  genre.  This was written in preparation for a much more substantial book : “Acid Row” which i would recommend over this one – both deal twitch the topic of the distructiveness of prejudice.

The Newlyweds            Nell Freudenberger.     4/5.           (ChildLine book club)

Probably not a book I would have chosen had it not been for the book club.  I enjoyed it. I liked this main character and the perspective she gave as to why non Western women marry Western men. I’d only really thought about the advantages for the bloke , so this was quite illuminating. I felt a bit let down by the chapter where she interferes with her ‘friend’s’ marriage situation – a bit silly and childish, surely? I enjoyed the the descriptions of life and culture in a ‘Desh’ village and how difficult it is when you first arrive in another country.

Beautiful Ruins.        Jess Walter.  4/5

A ‘must read’ / ‘summer best seller’ – a well paced fantastical love story. A good dose of imagination and what if … Again, I enjoyed this epic love story, it spans 50 years and Italy and America. I enjoyed the way it describes how the decisions you make as a young person play out later in life and even on the next generation. Sad and hopeful and a very easy read, I can really see why it has had such good reviews.

Skios.        Michael Frayn.        1/5

Not my bag at all, a very transparent farce with a largely unlikable floppy male character. The story takes place in, unsurprisingly, Skios, which is why I chose it – Greek island and all. The main male character flops his hair and smiles, choses to steal someone’s identity and confusion and misunderstandings follow. Not a lot of warmth in this tale for me . Michael Frayn is a play write too, so perhaps this story would work better as a play.

Tree of Hands.      Ruth Rendell.    3/5

I started reading the hardcopy of this because it was in a hotel room we stayed in. A perfectly readable ‘bang bang’ – quite fast-paced with a bit of a twist. Story of a missing child and interwoven lives. Mental illness doesn’t come out well in this book though.

Middlemarch       George Eliot      4/5

A while ago I downloaded the complete works of George Eliot, because as a kid I really enjoyed reading Adam Bede and Silas Marner.  I didn’t love Middlemarch quite as much but it’s still a right good soap opera of a read.  There are some pretty clear messages in the book about gender roles and class and a wide spectrum of characters to get to know.

Police                      Jo Nesbo           3/5

I’ve really enjoyed the Harry Hole series of thrillers.  But it’s been a while since the last one I read, and this one follows on directly from it, so it took a while for my brain to dredge up the necesary information about the previous book.  It’s a bit clunky in places with some very obvious red herrings and wrong turnings thrown in, but it’s pretty standard fare now from Mr Nesbo.

The Illuminaries      Eleanor Catton       5/5

Following on from my theme of reading books written by authors from that country, I thought I’d give this one a go.  Kindle reading is sometimes a real joy when you don’t have to heft around such a big tome as this.  I thought this was by far the best book I’ve read in years.  It’s told in a kind of old fashioned story telling way and the myriad of characters that pull the narrative along are truly engaging.  What a gripping tale taking ‘who done it’ to a whole new level and it was lovely to read descriptions of the wild life and plants and recognise them from our travels on the Te Araroa.

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