The Quiet American

0099478390-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_

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

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

3898bd9e1bef8c8597a762b5751434f414f4141

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

There but for the

0241961955-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_

Read 11/05/2017-14/05/2017

Rating: 4 stars

There but for the is the second book by Ali Smith that I’ve read, and it’s confirmed her as a new favourite author for me.

The book is quite surreal. Miles Garth has locked himself in a spare room belonging to a middle class couple he doesn’t know who live in Greenwich. Continue reading

How Late It Was, How Late

b0091r2myu-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_

Read 20/02/2017-26/02/2017

Rating: 4 stars

I decided to buy this after Weezelle mentioned it in her review of Walking The Lights. I put it onto my TBR selection for The Reader’s Room Winter Challenge, and this week it came up.

I loved it from the first page. My brother in law is from just outside Glasgow. He’s not as broad as Sammy, the main character in Kelman’s cautionary tale of life on the blag in Glasgow, but the rhythms of his speech are similar, so I felt at home with the narrative style. The book is a single chapter, a stream of consciousness chronicling of Sammy’s fall one weekend from being a regular petty criminal to becoming a blind petty criminal. Continue reading

Thousand Cranes

0141192607-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_

Read 12/01/2017-14/01/2017

Rating: 5 stars

Read for The Reader’s Room Winter Challenge

It isn’t often that I read a book and don’t want to review it for fear of shattering its beauty. Thousand Cranes is such a book. I can talk about what I love about it. I can boil the plot down to mundanities. Or I can tell you to read it and find out for yourself what makes it such a compelling book.

From the very first lines I was hooked. Continue reading

The Vicar of Wakefield

0192805126-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_

Read 03/01/2017-05/01/2017

Rating: 3 stars

Read for The Reader’s Room Winter Challenge.

I’ve had this book on my bookcase for 18 years. I don’t know why I’ve never picked it up to read. Perhaps because it’s a slim, unassuming volume and I didn’t really know what it was about. The title doesn’t draw you in. The cover makes it look dull.

It’s surprisingly funny in an 18th century comedy of manners kind of way. Wry like Jane Austen when she’s poking fun. Not as acerbic as Laurence Sterne. There’s something of Cervantes about its humour, and something of Mr Bennett about Dr Primrose. Continue reading

The Savage Detectives

0330525808-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_

Read 26/12/2016-02/01/2017

Rating: 4 stars

Read for The Reader’s Room Winter Challenge

I did some reading up on The Savage Detectives. It’s partly a fictionalised account of Roberto Bolaño’s return to Mexico in 1974 and his attempt to set up, with a friend and fellow poet Mario Santiago, a group of renegade poets-cum-practical jokers whose purpose in life is to disrupt the cultural status quo through heckling at poetry readings and to bring about political revolution with poetry as the great liberator.

It’s also partly a quest, a road trip in search of a mysterious disappeared poet. Throughout the book, the savage detectives of the title are neither fully present nor fully absent. They are present in conversations, and present in people hoping for their return, and are absent even when they make a physical appearance. We never hear directly from them. We only hear other people’s impressions of them. Continue reading

The Nine Tailors

0450001008-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_

Read 22/12/2016-26/12/2016

Rating: 2 stars

Read for the Reader’s Room Winter Challenge.

I love crime books. My favourite crime writer is Agatha Christie, to whose works I’ve been addicted since I was about 12 years old. I also recently read a Ngaio Marsh Inspector Alleyne novel and really enjoyed it. I find crime novels soothing. There’s something about the horror of the crimes committed, being able to imagine such awful events while safely tucked up behind the pages, mixed with the dogged determination of the detective to solve the mystery and the successful resolution at the end, that makes me feel happy. As an angry person, too, this genre assuages my rage somewhat. I read some pretty violent crime books, not just the cosy Golden Age type, and jokingly say that, in deflecting my inner rage from external expression, they stop me becoming a violent criminal myself.

I’d never read any Dorothy L Sayers before, so I was pleased when one of my monthly Willoughby Book Club titles was a Lord Peter Wimsey mystery. I used to watch the TV adaptations of the books, so I was looking forward to reading The Nine Tailors. Continue reading

Timbuktu

0571229093-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_

Read 13/11/2016-14/11/2016

Rating: 3 stars

I love Paul Auster. From the moment I read The New York Trilogy, curled up on a bed built into roof space above the kitchen in a friend’s flat in Brussels, I have been hooked. He’s one of my go to authors. There hasn’t been a single book of his I’ve read that I haven’t liked. He is clever and funny, wry and intelligent, warm and understanding of human nature.

For some reason, though, I’ve resisted reading Timbuktu. I’m not a huge fan of anthropomorphised animals narrating books. I find it a bit hokey. Things I read about Timbuktu made me think it would fall into that arena of mawkish sentimentality. So I resisted.

Until someone asked whether I’d read it. I could only think of flippant reasons for not having done so, so I pulled it down from the shelf. Continue reading