A Gentleman in Moscow

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Read 29/04/2017-30/04/2017

Rating: 4 stars

Read for the Reader’s Room March Madness Challenge

I’ve been itching for an excuse to read A Gentleman in Moscow for a while, so I was pleased when it came up as one of the reads for the March Madness Challenge over at The Reader’s Room. I was even more pleased when my local library accepted my request for it to be added to their stock. It only arrived on Thursday, though, so I didn’t have much time to read it in. Fortunately, it was gripping.

Now that I’ve read some Zweig, every time I think a novel reminds me of a Wes Anderson film, I’m going to remind myself that it’s Zweig I’m thinking of.

The beginning of A Gentleman in Moscow made me think of Zweig. Moscow in 1923. The early days of the Bolshevik regime. Sasha Rostov, who may or may not have been on the side of the revolutionaries before they brought down the bourgeoisie, finds himself firmly viewed as an opponent of The People, if not quite their enemy. Continue reading

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Winterhill 2: Ghost Requiem

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Read 27/04/2017-28/04/2017

Rating: 4 stars

I’ve made a return to the Winterhill series. I picked up the first volume on a whim and enjoyed it. I decided I was going to whittle down my TBR before I invested in any more in the series, though, but then last month the author announced that any profits on sales of the book would be donated to the charity Hope for Hypothalamic Hamartomas. So I bought the next three.

Ghost Requiem is the second book in this pop culture sci-fi series about amnesiac archaeologist Professor Rebecca Winterhill. It opens with Winterhill and her travel mates Madagascar Talifero and Tareku Wamae resting up on a mini cruise on the planet Kalumpah. Continue reading

The Restraint of Beasts

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Read 25/04/2017-26/04/2017

Rating: 3.5 stars

I’m making my way through Magnus Mills’s back catalogue in a random manner. It suits the structured randomness of his writing.

The Restraint of Beasts was Mills’s debut. I’m finding it difficult to define as a novel. Is it whimsy? Is it satire? Is it crime? Whatever it is, it’s about an Englishman employed in Scotland as a fence layer. Continue reading

The Field of the Cloth of Gold

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Read 24/04/2017

Rating: 3 stars

In an unnamed country, alongside an unnamed river, a tented community grows. The first settler is Hen. Then comes the unnamed narrator. A third man, Thomas, joins. He has a fancy octagonal tent. Then Isabella arrives with her red tent and her penchant for swimming naked in the river. It’s a community of individuals who do little but lead a quiet life in their tents alongside the bend in the river. But then a fully formed society arrives, organised and structured, and putting noses out of joint among the existing residents. Continue reading

Three Craws

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Read 21/04/2017-23/04/2017

Rating: 4 stars

This was a minor risk. I won Three Craws at a book quiz. I think it was a consolation prize, because we never came first in all the times we went. So, it was free, which is something. I chose it because I knew of James Yorkston. He’s a musician. I’ve been aware of him from his Fence Collective days, but never really paid that much attention to his music. I was interested to see, though, whether a musician could translate the stories he tells through song into a story told through prose. Continue reading

The Essex Serpent

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Read 15/04/2017-20/04/2017

Rating: 4 stars

Read for the Reader’s Room March Madness Challenge

Although the book opens with the mysterious death of a young man in a section of the Blackwater river that flows through Essex to the North Sea, possibly killed by an ancient creature freed from its riverbed prison, The Essex Serpent is a story about a woman and the life she chooses to lead beyond the constraints of conventional Victorian society. Cora Seaborne is a complex and strong willed woman who has had much to contend with in her life already. Continue reading

Nora Webster

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Read 12/04/2017-15/04/2017

Rating: 2.5 stars

Read for the Reader’s Room March Madness Challenge

I didn’t enjoy this book. I was looking forward to it, because I’d enjoyed Brooklyn and Nora Webster is set in the same town, Enniscorthy, that Elly Lacey leaves for Brooklyn. I had no patience with the title character in this companion piece.

There was something lackluster about the writing, almost as though Tóibín was too familiar with the characters and setting, and couldn’t be bothered injecting any passion into the narrative. It felt too safe, steadily going along, describing one woman’s life in the aftermath of her husband’s death. I found my mind wandering as I read. Continue reading