A couple of Henry James ghost stories

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The Turn of the Screw

Read 10/12/2014-11/12/2014

Rating: 5 stars

The Jolly Corner

Read 05/10/2015

Rating: 3 stars

I’ve read a few of Henry James‘s New World-Old World novels: Washington Square, The Europeans, Daisy Miller and The Portrait of a Lady. I read them when I was in my Edith Wharton phase. Whatever that means. I’ve also read What Maisie Knew and wish I hadn’t.

I decided that I would read some of James’s ghost stories. I picked The Turn of the Screw as my first because I like the Alejandro Amenábar film The Others and read somewhere that it was inspired by The Turn of the Screw.

This is what I jotted down about the book. Continue reading

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A Fine Balance

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Read 11/12/2014-29/12/2014

Rating: 5 stars

Sometimes, you think you know what there is to know about a country or a situation. You think the things you read in school, and the other things you read later in newspapers, journals, fiction and histories, have told you the truth. Then you remember that you’re a historian and unless you go back to the source, you’re only ever going to get a version of the truth from the perspective of the person telling it. Continue reading

Burger’s Daughter

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Read 21/02/2016-28/02/2016

Rating: 5 stars

LibraryThing review

I don’t know how to describe how I feel about this book. It’s beautiful. I feel almost as though I’m in love with it. It’s not the book that I was expecting. I thought it was going to be deeply political in the way protest novels usually are, and it is deeply political but not as a protest. It is political about the self. It rejects as central the political situation of the time and country of its setting, and instead places it in the background, incidental to the story of Rosa Burger’s self.

 I feel challenged by it but also strangely comforted. I’m comforted by its pace and challenged by the inequalities hinted at as Rosa moves through her life.

Continue reading

Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

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Read 17/08/2014

Rated: 4 stars

I am biased because I love the way Murakami writes, but I thought this book was wonderful. It has been a while since I have devoured a book in a single day, but once I started, I couldn’t put it down for long. There is a restfulness to Murakami’s prose, like being in a dream and waking up feeling fully refreshed. I found each of the characters well drawn, even the cipher-like Sara. I loved the slow exploration of the relationship between the five friends and the sense of solitude found even in a tight knit circle. Continue reading

Haruki Murakami

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I’ve read so many of Murakami’s books that I can’t review them individually*. Instead, I’m going to write a fan post about him.

He is my favourite writer. I like a lot of different writers, each of whom has what it takes to be a favourite. Writers whose books I have to read because I know I’m going to like what they’ve written. I like Paul Auster, Margaret Atwood, William Faulkner, David Mitchell, Kurt Vonnegut, John Steinbeck, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Glen Duncan, Andrey Kurkov, and Flannery O’Connor in that way. Others as well, but mainly them.

Murakami, though, is something else. Continue reading

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

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Read 08/06/2014-14/06/2014

Rating: 4 stars

LibraryThing review

14 June 2014

Wow. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was a great book. Possibly the best popular science book I’ve ever read. It presents a balanced overview of the conflict between the progress of scientific knowledge through research and what boils down to the exploitation of people’s body parts. The rationalist in me thinks it’s wonderful what has been achieved through the use of cells in research. The emotional person feels aggrieved for all those in the US who can’t afford healthcare while pharmaceutical companies make millions of dollars from the exploitation of cells taken from patients, often without their knowledge or consent.

The person who recommended it to me read it at a book club and said it’s the only book he can remember from everything they discussed.

What Maisie Knew

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Read 23/07/2014-03/08/2014

Rating: 1 star

I’d only read a handful of books by Henry James prior to this one, but I enjoyed them. What Maisie Knew was a chore. The premise is horrible – a child used by her divorced parents in a horrible game of revenge, forced into an adult frame of mind she barely understands but somehow manages to embrace. How utterly miserable. There were long passages where nothing happened that were described by James in verbose and repetitive language. It was so drawn out and rambling that I almost didn’t finish it. I don’t like not finishing books, though, so I pushed on to the end. It took me 11 days to get to the end, because I found myself doing anything and everything rather than sitting down to read this monstrosity. More than not knowing how it ended, I’d rather not have read it at all.

There’s a modern film version that stars Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan. Apparently it’s good, if difficult, viewing. I’m never going to find out though. I hate the book too much to sit through a film adaptation.

Crime and Punishment

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Read first in 2003, and again in 2006, and once more in 2008, in the Penguin classic edition translated by David McDuff.

Re-read 06/07/2014-13/07/2014

Rating: 5 stars

Crime and Punishment has long been my favourite book. I have read the David McDuff translation for Penguin three times, once in a tent at Glastonbury festival where it almost won the battle for my undivided attention. The Pevear & Volokhonsky translation for Vintage, though, blows McDuff out of the water. It is more immediate, more human, simultaneously capturing the period Dostoyevsky was writing in alongside the sense that life is timeless and modernity began in the 1860s.

Crime and Punishment is the first true crime novel. Continue reading