The Illustrated Man

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Read 01/09/2017-12/09/2017

Rating: 4 stars

Read for the Reader’s Room Road Trip Challenge

I love Ray Bradbury. I love his imagination and the way he spins pictures out of words. The Illustrated Man is a collection of stories based around the tattoos on the body of a carnival worker. Continue reading

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The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly

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Read 28/08/2017-29/08/2017

Rating: 4 stars

Weezelle of Words and Leaves posted about her holiday reading recently. One of the books she consumed was The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly. I’ve picked this book up many times over the last couple of years, drawn by its elegant cover design. I’ve also always put it back down again, partly because it’s the cover that has drawn me more than what’s on the pages behind the cover, and partly because I’ve been trying to rein myself in on the book buying front.

On my most recent visit to the library, Hwang Sun-Mi’s best seller caught my eye. It’s such a slim book, I thought it would make a nice break from all the US literature I’ve been reading recently. So I brought it home. Continue reading

The Lowland

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Read 22/11/2014-28/11/2014

Rating: 3 stars

I just read Erik’s review of The Lowland over on The Past Due Book Review, and can’t believe I didn’t post my review when I started this blog. Perhaps it was one of my random thought offers that I didn’t think worthy of a second airing beyond LibraryThing. Or perhaps it was because I hadn’t jotted anything down in my book thoughts notebook on Evernote.

Anyway, here’s what I thought at the time. A few weeks later, I read Rohanton Mistry’s A Fine Balance, which I much preferred.

As I started to read this book, I didn’t think I was going to like it. The characters seemed so blank, so disinterested in their surroundings, so unwilling to say what they were really thinking and feeling. They float through their lives, occasionally making momentous decisions that never really live up to their promise. There was nothing particularly to grab onto with any of them, nothing that made me warm to them or want to root for them as life happened around them.

The book is a sequence of events, sometimes recounted in a linear way, sometimes using flashbacks and multi-character perspective. It never really gets going, it jumps around too much, and doesn’t have anything striking to say. Despite beginning at a time of civil unrest in India, despite portraying the lives of a fragmented family.

And yet, by the end of the book I didn’t want it to end. I’d spent everyday time with the characters and they felt like neighbours I might nod to in the street. Nobody I would sit down with for a cup of tea and a chat, but people I would miss seeing around. The final chapter, told from the perspective of the character I was most interested in, but who doesn’t really get a voice in the rest of the novel, was sad. All of that, and for what, he seemed to be saying. I didn’t know, either.

The End of the World: A Love Story

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Read 19/08/2017-26/08/2017

Rating: 4 stars

Read for the Reader’s Room Road Trip Challenge

I hadn’t heard of Edward Eggleston before. I’m unsure how well known he and his brother George are in the US, but they were certainly celebrated in life and their home in Indiana is now an historical monument. I needed to find a book for the Indiana stage of the Road Trip Across America challenge I’m doing, so I Googled authors from the state and sought out something I liked the sound of. My local library wasn’t much help, so I ended up downloading Edward Eggleston’s second novel from Project Gutenberg.

The End of the World sounded like the kind of easy going 19th century literature I typically enjoy. It’s very much as you would expect a novel written in 1872 to be. The characters are extremes of human nature, almost clichés. There is the hen pecked husband who is easily manipulated by his shrewish wife, and a pair of young lovers who are kept apart by her parents because he, a farmhand and a foreigner, isn’t good enough. Lots and lots of prejudice, and lots and lots of over dramatisation. On the first page, Mrs Anderson is introduced as a manipulative harridan, and I almost stopped reading right there. However, as other characters were introduced, I realised that the descriptions were intended as comedic, and the novel was tongue in cheek. It made me think of the musicals I loved watching when I was young. Calamity Jane, Oklahoma!, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Lots of rambunctious action and foolhardy decisions before everything comes right in the end. Continue reading

Deadeye Dick

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Read 12/08/2017-18/08/2017

Rating: 5 stars

Read for the Reader’s Room Road Trip Challenge.

I love Kurt Vonnegut. He is one of my favourite authors. I enjoy his deceptively simple prose and his wryly weary take on how ridiculous humanity is. His books are part satire, part morality tale, and part whimsy.

Deadeye Dick follows Rudy Waltz, resident of Midland City, Ohio, a fictional place based on the Midwest towns Vonnegut was familiar with. Rudy is the son of the black sheep scion of a family whose wealth came from their success in the pharmaceutical industry. Continue reading