The Owl Service

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First read 1982/3

Re-read 21/03/2021- 27/03/2021

Rating 3 stars

Alan Garner’s The Owl Service is set in a Welsh valley not far from Aberystwyth. The valley contains an ancient, mysterious power. Teenagers Alison, Gwyn and Roger somehow unlock that power and have to deal with the consequences. Continue reading

The Bloody Chamber

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

Rating 4 stars

Angela Carter’s collection of re-imagined folk tales and fables presents tales originally told to the detriment of women as bold stories of female resilience and triumph. Inspired by, among others, Bluebeard, Red Riding Hood, Beauty and the Beast and Sleeping Beauty, Carter has her heroines rise up against their male oppressors and find freedom. Continue reading

Touch

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Read 07/12/2018-22/12/2018

Rating: 2 stars

Touch is the second novel by Claire North, one of the pen names of Catherine Webb. I hadn’t heard of her in any of her guises, but a colleague saw me reading one of the Wayfarer series of books and thought I might like Claire North.

Its 423 pages took longer to read than they deserved. It was a grind at times. The central character has the sort of transient existence that makes it hard for them to have anything they care about, and the things North decided they would care about didn’t grab my attention. Continue reading

Lincoln in the Bardo

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Read 12/12/2017-22/12/2017

Rating: 3 stars

I went into this novel blind. I’ve heard of George Saunders. He features in Nick Offerman’s book Gumption. He’s someone I’ve been meaning to read but never got round to. Lincoln in the Bardo won the 2017 Booker Prize. It was on the shelf in the library last time I went in to change my books, and someone had recently told me I should read it.

The same someone told me that Lincoln in the Bardo is a strange book, boring for long stretches then, just as you’re about to give up on it, something interesting happens that hooks you back in. They also told me that it was kind of like Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, but not.

It’s certainly a strange book. Continue reading

Slade House

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Read 31/10/2017-01/11/2017

Rating: 3 stars

David Mitchell’s Slade House is an adjunct to his previous six novels, an Easter egg laid on Twitter turned into a book. I enjoyed it as a quick read on Hallowe’en, surrendering myself to its suspense and tension, allowing myself to be played with, as the visitors to Slade House are played with. I indulged myself in Spot-the-Link, appreciating the way plot lines from Mitchell’s previous works made tangents with this story. Continue reading

Saga Volumes 1-5

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Read 28/06/2017

Rating: 3 stars

There’s a war raging across the universe, started by hostility between the winged inhabitants of the planet Landfall and the horned residents of its satellite Wreath. To prevent the destruction of their planets, both sides have outsourced the war, so now it is fought everywhere else but Landfall and Wreath.

I borrowed the first five trades of the comic book series Saga from a friend a while ago. Every time I’ve published a review in the interim, he’s been disappointed that it hasn’t been about Saga. We met up recently and I felt bad about not having read it yet, so I brought it up the list. My husband was out on a work do, and the football had replaced Coronation Street, so I binge read all five in one evening. Continue reading

Notable American Women

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Read 24/01/2017-27/01/2017

Rating: 4 stars

Read for The Reader’s Room Winter Challenge

Recently I watched The Man Who Fell To Earth for the first time. It’s a strange film, I didn’t understand all of it, I found some scenes confusing and uncomfortable, but I enjoyed the shape and colour of it. That’s how I feel about Ben Marcus’s books. They unsettle me in an enjoyable way, and quite often I have no idea what’s going on.

This is the third Ben Marcus book I’ve read. There are definite themes across each work. Dysfunctional relationships, sexual inadequacy, father-son issues, not feeling manly enough, possible misogyny. There are distortions of language, oblique references to the human condition that only dawn on you when you’ve peeled your way through the clingfilm of condensation that Marcus stretches over the narrative.

With Notable American Women, in a Paul Auster kind of way, Ben Marcus presents a book written by Ben Marcus, but it’s a different Ben Marcus. One from a different reality. On the face of it, the book tells the story of a dystopian society. It’s set in America but not the America we know. As I read the book, I came to realise that it was about a dysfunctional family as seen through the filter that Ben uses to process the world. Continue reading

Titus Awakes

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Read 13/12/2016-17/12/2016

Rating: 2.5 stars

Read for The Reader’s Room Winter Challenge

This is the fourth Gormenghast book. Peake died after completing only three of his series, which has for a long time been thought of as a trilogy. It turns out his intention was to write more, to follow Titus further into his life. A fragment of the fourth book exists, a fragment which Peake’s widow Maeve Gilmore took and expanded into a novel. Continue reading