Sightseeing

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Read 18/06/2017-21/06/2017

Rating: 4 stars

Read as part of the Reader’s Room Read Around the World challenge.

I’m only loosely doing the current challenge on the Reader’s Room. I still have too many books on my pile to commit fully to tracking down books from far flung corners of the world. June is Thailand, though, and I thought some Thai literature might make for good summer reading.

My library has a copy of Rattawut Lapcharoensap’s Sightseeing. This is a collection of short stories set in Thailand, that shines a light on local life, both away from the tourist industry and where it butts up to it. Continue reading

The Dove’s Necklace

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Read 01/06/2017-18/06/2017

Rating: 4 stars

I don’t think I once fully understood what was going on in The Dove’s Necklace, but I can’t say I didn’t have fair warning. The opening sentence of the first part of the book begins:

The only thing you can know for certain in this entire book is where the body was found …

The body, that of a naked woman, is discovered in an alley known as the Lane of Many Heads. It’s the alley itself that narrates the story, introducing the main characters and commenting on their lives. Continue reading

My Name is Leon

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Read 29/05/2017-31/05/2017

Rating: 4 stars

My Name is Leon is a wonderful, warm, funny, tense, sad and hopeful book. When it appeared on the voting list for the Reader’s Room March Madness Challenge, I read the blurb and didn’t feel anything much for it. The blurb made the book sound twee and patronising. Now that I’ve read it, I can appreciate how difficult it is to try to condense its essence to a paragraph. The book is anything but twee or patronising. Continue reading

The Dark Circle

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Read 25/05/2017-29/05/2017

Rating: 2.5 stars

I borrowed The Dark Circle from the library for two reasons: it’s shortlisted for this year’s Bailey’s Prize and it was on the list for the Reader’s Room March Madness challenge.

I knew nothing about it, hadn’t read anything by the author before, so went in blind.

Despite thinking I had no expectations, I must have had some because it disappointed me. It wasn’t bad, it just felt like it could have been better. I have no doubt at all that it will be turned into a tv drama. Continue reading

Every Man for Himself

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Read 18/05/2017-25/05/2017

Rating: 5 stars

Beryl Bainbridge’s novel Every Man for Himself, set on the RMS Titanic, is a mystery. The title hints at that mystery. Every man, and woman, that the young narrator, Morgan, encounters is a paradox. They are, seemingly, in it for themselves and don’t give too much away about themselves. Morgan spends a lot of time puzzling over other people’s opaqueness. He is uncertain whether other people are being straight. He admits early on that he isn’t always straight himself. People begin conversations without finishing them properly, leaving Morgan wondering about what they might be hiding. Or what he might be missing in the cryptic way he thinks they communicate. Continue reading

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

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Read 17/05/2017-18/05/2017

Rating: 4 stars

This is a very funny book, chaotically and terrifyingly so. I don’t need to tell you what it’s about. You already know what it’s about.

I’ve had my copy for about ten years. It was given to me by a chaotic and terrifying writer that I once knew. I think he was attempting to channel Hunter S Thompson. Sometimes that’s all you can do when you live in darkest South Wales.

I’ve been saving it up for a moment such as the one that hit me this week. I’m calling it existential nihilism, even though that gives more weight to my ‘so what?’ than it deserves. Continue reading

Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All

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Read 14/05/2017-17/05/2017

Rating: 2 stars

I’ve read both of Jonas Jonasson’s previous books. I really enjoyed The Hundred Year Old Man. I thought it was an inventive piece of fiction that had some nice moments of comedy and an affectionate warmth running through it. The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden was less successful in its attempts to be inventive, but I found it entertaining enough. While it shared its satirical bent, I thought it lacked the warmth of The Hundred Year Old Man.

Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All didn’t completely do it for me, either. Continue reading