Summer

Read 28/10/2020-09/11/2020

Rating 4 stars

Summer is the final book in Ali Smith’s ambitious Seasonal Quartet. It’s about change; the necessity of it so that things can be made new; the opportunity it offers for us to redefine ourselves in response to it; the choices we make and the consequences they hold. It’s also a drawing together of threads that travel through the other books, with returning characters and crossing themes. Continue reading

Hold Tight: Black Masculinity, Millennials and the Meaning of Grime

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Read 06/07/2019-16/07/2019

Rating 4 stars

Read as part of the 20 Books of Summer readathon.

I read Hold Tight as someone who isn’t strictly a fan but who likes the Grime I’ve heard and wanted to know more about its artists and evolution. I’m aware that this review might not be of interest to most of the readers who regularly follow my meandering thoughts on what I’m reading. However, if you’re even vaguely interested in the sociology of working class culture and the music genres that emerge from it, then give this review and the book it’s about a chance. For anyone black, urban and millennial dropping by, please be aware that this review is going to be a bit like the bromance between Michael Buerke and Tinchy Stryder on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. 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

Vernon Subutex 1

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Read 10/10/2018-21/10/2018

Rating 4 stars

The first book in Virginie Despentes’s trilogy about a down-on-his-luck former record dealer is a domino effect romp through the music world and its parallel den of vainglorious excess, the French film industry. The title character, Vernon Subutex, has in his possession a set of video tapes in which Alex Bleach, a recently deceased rock star, interviews himself and shares his wisdom with the world.

Continue reading

Ponti

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Read 04/10/2018-10/10/2018

Rating: 3 stars

Sharlene Teo’s debut novel won a prize before it was even published and was the subject of a bidding war between publishers. Usually, I steer clear of books that have this kind of hype around them because I’ve been disappointed by Emperor’s New Clothes syndrome before. I decided to reserve this one at the library, though, because the debate on Twitter around an allegedly biting review in the Observer intrigued me. Continue reading

Wrong About Japan

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Read 20/09/2017-22/09/2017

Rating: 4 stars

My husband noticed this on the non-fiction shelves in the library. I like Peter Carey’s novels, and a memoir of how he and his teenage son became captivated by manga and anime and travelled to Tokyo to meet artists and directors in each industry sounded interesting. Continue reading

Random thought: film vs book, Cheryl Strayed’s Wild

I watched Wild before I read Cheryl Strayed’s book. Well, I watched most of Wild. I was on a plane and turbulence meant that I didn’t get to finish watching before landing. I enjoyed it more than I expected to, but the film didn’t prepare me for the emotional rollercoaster that the book turned out to be for me.

I don’t mind watching a film before I’ve read a book, but I’m often reluctant to watch films based on books that I have read and loved with a passion, mainly for the reason that the screenwriter and the director don’t share my impressions of the book and its characters.

Wild was on TV last night, though, and I watched it again so that I could see the end. Having read the book, and knowing that Cheryl and her experiences are so much more than the film could contain, I enjoyed Reese Witherspoon’s performance much more. I’d found her strangely earnest on my first watch.

What I didn’t enjoy was the knowledge of what had been cut from the full story in order to fit within the time boundaries of a cinema release. So much of what was behind Cheryl’s life decisions was omitted, and the flashbacks to the actions she was driven to by grief lacked nuance. I suspect that this paring back of context was what made Witherspoon’s performance seem so earnest first time around.

I watched the credits and saw that the screenwriter was Nick Hornby. I recognise that reducing such a packed and complex book into a feature film is a big challenge. I think he did a good job, but it did make me wonder how a female screenwriter would have tackled Cheryl’s past and the way the hike changed her, and whether a woman would have interpreted Cheryl’s encounters with the people she meets along the way differently. One thing in particular that Hornby seemed not to appreciate was why Cheryl’s time with Jonathan was so significant for her.

And for all that Nick Hornby’s own writing as a novelist is peppered with musical references, the film didn’t make the most of how important music is in Cheryl Strayed’s memoir. I found that odd second time around.

Film adaptations can be a double edged thing, I guess. How do you feel about watching films based on books you love?