Kitchen (台所)

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Read 11/04/2019-16/04/2019

Rating 5 stars

Kitchen is the first novel by Banana Yoshimoto. She’s written a few more since then, but so far I’ve only read The Lake. I enjoyed that one well enough, but I enjoyed Kitchen a whole lot more. Continue reading

White Teeth

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Read 20/03/2019-27/03/2019

Rating 2 stars

White Teeth is Zadie Smith’s debut novel. It won the Whitbread First Novel award in 2000. It was touted as a new writing for a new millennium.

I tried to read White Teeth once before, because people raved about it, Continue reading

The Accidental

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Read 17/03/2019-20/03/2019

Rating 3 stars

Prior to The Accidental, I’d read four novels by Ali Smith, all of them belters. The Accidental is her third novel but her sixth published work. It appears on Boxall’s list of the 1001 books you should read before you die (I know, Boxall says you MUST read them, but I don’t think you should put that kind of pressure on people in case they end up resenting you and the books you love). I’m having a small moment of trying to read the female authors on the list, so I borrowed The Accidental from my local library. Continue reading

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

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Read 10/03/2019-16/03/2019

Rating 5 stars

The Elegance of the Hedgehog is the story of the intellectual and philosophical engagements with life of two residents of a Parisian apartment building. Renée Michel is the widowed concierge of the building and Paloma Josse the 12 year old daughter of one of its residents. I bought the book a little more than three years ago but haven’t felt any urge to pick it up.

Continue reading

The House of the Seven Gables

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Read 07/03/2018-14/03/2018

Rating: 3 stars

I bought The House of the Seven Gables for £1 from the book shop in the café at Mrs Gaskell’s House. Once upon a time, it had cost five shillings, and its purchaser had given it to a friend. There’s an inscription inside the front cover. The recipient is nameless, the donor signs themself M.L. and it’s clear that the book meant a lot to them. Continue reading

In Cold Blood

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Read 26/09/2017-06/10/2017

Rating: 4 stars

As I started this book, it felt like I knew the story already, and yet I didn’t. I had watched the film starring Philip Seymour Hoffman as Capote, based on his experience writing the book, which has left me with a strange half knowledge.

It took a while for Capote’s writing style to gel for me. I’d come from volume 7 of The Sixth Gun (review to come), and prior to that had read Peter Carey’s memoir Wrong About Japan, both of which were punchy and fast flowing in their own ways. In Cold Blood starts off more melodramatic in tone. It made me think of those true crime TV programmes where re-enactments take place and a man with a sonorous voice intones the story over the top of the action. A bit like Judge Rinder’s Crime Stories, for readers in the UK.

As I settled into Capote’s style, though, I found myself gripped by the scenes he was setting. Continue reading

Rabbit, Run

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Read 05/08/2017 to 11/08/2017

Rating: 3 stars

Read for The Reader’s Room Road Trip Challenge

Rabbit, Run is the first novel in John Updike’s series about Rabbit Angstrom, an unlikeable man in his mid-twenties who is suffering an existential crisis. He lurches from selfish act to selfish act, abandoning his pregnant wife and two year old son, taking up with an escort, playing golf with the local minister, and all the while bemoaning the fact that he hasn’t achieved anything since his high school basketball team. He has no self-awareness, no interest in other people, and is almost a parody embodiment of the male condition.

I’ve had this book on my shelf for a number of years. I bought it because I’d never read any Updike, and he’s a Pulitzer prize winner twice over, so there must be something about him. Recently, though, I’ve read a few reviews and comments on social media written by women excoriating him for his misogyny. Passages that have been quoted show a man who lacks the desire to see women as anything other than objects in the lives of his male protagonists, objects that are a source of irritation and a receptacle for loathing.

As I took in these opinions and comments, I knew that I had Rabbit, Run coming up as one of my Road Trip Challenge reads. I don’t like to knee-jerk to others’ opinions, even when I respect the people giving those opinions, but part of me felt I shouldn’t read the book, knowing that I was approaching it with an expectation that bordered on prejudice against Updike, and that it would likely raise my hackles. Another part of me felt that this wasn’t giving me the chance to experience Updike on my own terms, that I should put the opinions of others to one side and approach the book without preconceived ideas. Continue reading

The Quiet American

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Read 28/06/2017-02/07/2017

Rating: 4 stars

Graham Greene’s The Quiet American is somber look at the war between France and the Vietminh through the eyes of a British journalist. Fowler has made a life for himself in Saigon, with a girlfriend, a routine, and all the distance he needs from his regular life in England. Into his settled existence comes Pyle, a young and idealistic American working on a clandestine mission under cover of the medical corps. Continue reading