Hmm, well, I loved hearing about all the Mitfords Junior. Decca's unreconstructed if very loyal view of Esmond Romilly not so much. They were not suchHmm, well, I loved hearing about all the Mitfords Junior. Decca's unreconstructed if very loyal view of Esmond Romilly not so much. They were not such a likeable couple in the American years. Anyway, throughout, Mitford is maybe not quite self-aware enough to make this book really draw you in. But hey it's a memoir, that can happen. Some other reviewer says she lacked insight and I'm inclined to agree somewhat, though to have come as far as she did in the direction she did from the background that she had is still fairly impressive. Not enough depth here to truly truly engage. But those Mitfords, man, I'd like to read a good bio of the girls that gives you what they can't themselves be detached enough to do....more
I've had an extraordinary year, this one. Perhaps it's the hormonal-emotional rollercoaster I've been leaping on and off for the last nine months or sI've had an extraordinary year, this one. Perhaps it's the hormonal-emotional rollercoaster I've been leaping on and off for the last nine months or so, but this book left me feeling raw, and in no doubt as to the importance in my life of those I love, and the need for me to stay focused on what counts; family, friends and meaningful work. Here's what I love about David Mitchell: he's a neo-Forsterist. That doesn't mean anything, but it's a segueway into what I want to say, which is that he is all about the connecting. And some other things, more on which shortly. But logistically, it's there, functionally, he writes these segmenty things with little tasty little connections to each other which is somehow so tantalising, this idea that everything/one is connected and you just have to tease it all out. And emotionally it's there, he writes characters humanely, they seek out and make and value connections with each other, like the best humans do. It makes you know that Mitchell is essentially an emotionally healthy person, because he writes from that position, not because he wants to write out all his own hang-ups, and that's just a good place to go, as a reader. I'm not saying there isn't conflict or that his characters are all nice or that the world he draws isn't fucked up like the real one, but just that he inhabits it in an optimistic light, even when the scenario he is creating isn't inherently optimistic. Something about connecting, loving, and continuing to try. Perhaps sometimes he trades a bit of subtlety in for this, but fuck it it's rare for a literary writer to come from somewhere upbeat, and I've read enough Rabbit Runs and The Roads to appreciate a change of heart at times. I am not of the school that says only the voice saying 'everything's shit' is authentic. (view spoiler)[Which I know is strange given the last chapter of this book. Even it is about hope, and love, despite everything. (hide spoiler)]
OK, so having said that, he has a couple of other things generally going for him as a writer. One is that he can really feckin' write. He works hard at authenticating and distinguishing his varied voices, and on the whole it works (except one bit where an American soldier says he'll make enquiries 'for form's sake' and I just went oh there's an English writer behind that, but in general he's quite convincing). He brings style and colour and movement to all his sentences. Every word hits the ground running.
The other thing I like a lot about David Mitchell is that he writes fantasy AND see paragraph above (ie, can write). He gives a shit about the story. I've wasted so much time reading craply written books in search of a good plot-driven speculative experience; ie fantasy or science fiction, and most of it reads like it was written by a bloated squid. Either dull and cold and messy, or as flighty and shallow as a little bit of fluffy goosedown. It's a pleasure to read speculative fiction/fantasy that isn't a) full of maiden/wizard or technogeek/manic pixie girl patriarchal fantasies (Snow Crash, The Magicians), b) incoherent (Blackout), c) neo-Blyton-esque (Harry Potter Boxset), d) ya (Alif the Unseen), e) so whimsical it's practically Glee (Lost in a Good Book), or f) just another sludgy part of the characterless genre-ocean (The Diviners), which seems to write itself, just to sell. And it's not cold, like hard SF. It's warm. I'm not saying this book is perfect; merely that I thoroughly enjoyed it and still feel changed in some way by having read it. Much of it will stay with me.
The next time Goodreads asks me would I like to ask David Mitchell a question, I will suggest, Mr Mitchell wouldn't you like to write a time travel novel? I think I would really enjoy that. But I basically enjoy everything he writes and trust him to come up with something worthwhile....more
This book fed me really well, but it was over so quickly because, as my partner pointed out, I "devoured" it. As always my review will be brief and imThis book fed me really well, but it was over so quickly because, as my partner pointed out, I "devoured" it. As always my review will be brief and impressionistic; I type most of my reviews on my phone with one thumb, and we all know that content often echoes form. I've been feeling like my reading most of the year hasn't been 'nutritious' enough, and geez this was. Not in an 'eat this it's good for you' kind of way, but just in a, well, here's the challenges faced by these characters in this story and how they managed it, kind of way. But Ozeki doesn't want simply to educate or 'enlighten' (which I mean in the secular sense), although I think she does want to, a bit, resulting in some theoretical cramming at the end that dropped this from five stars to four for me (though I got a bit distracted at the end, my fault); she wants to tell an immersive story that is also about the power of storytelling itself. Some reviewers have complained about the Ruth sections/character being flat, but I appreciated that Ruth could be grumpy or negative or unsatisfied without apology: that's pretty human and she struck me as plausible and relatable. I also liked that the book continually surprised: it pretends it's going to be an intergenerational historical fiction (and I was totes up for that), and then it's like, nah, I'm going in this other direction instead. I want to read the book about Jiko, now, though. Also, I liked the broader humanist messages about waking up, and the no-nonsense treatment of zen and meditation more generally. I was reminded a bit of that awful book Sophie's World? Inasmuch as that book would have been a lot better if it were more like this one....more
I really, really liked this book. It's really for slightly younger readers, but it's very intelligent, doesn't talk down to its audience, and the storI really, really liked this book. It's really for slightly younger readers, but it's very intelligent, doesn't talk down to its audience, and the story actually totally didn't go where I thought it would. I also really liked the perky clarity of the drawings....more
An extra half star for including the recipe for peanut sauce. This was ok, dialogue a bit flat (is this a translation issue?) and somewhat slight in gAn extra half star for including the recipe for peanut sauce. This was ok, dialogue a bit flat (is this a translation issue?) and somewhat slight in general. Characters a bit meh - possibly just a length issue. Might improve as instalments continue? This ain't no 'Palomar'. Nice warm look and feel though. *Edit* the recipe for peanut sauce isn't that useful (writing a recipe well is a fine art, you know) so that extra half star is GONE....more
It's almost a four star review, but I found Quentin very prickly and for that couldn't love it *quite* as much as I wanted. I did really enjoy it, thoIt's almost a four star review, but I found Quentin very prickly and for that couldn't love it *quite* as much as I wanted. I did really enjoy it, though....more
I think my views have been marred by the fact that I really dragged reading this out. It reminded me a bit of 'Prep' inasmuch as it spends a lot of tiI think my views have been marred by the fact that I really dragged reading this out. It reminded me a bit of 'Prep' inasmuch as it spends a lot of time working over how childhoon/adolescent social relationships work. Mostly I liked the Brooklyn parts, he describes very well what it would have been like, the street life in the seventies and the early stages of gentrification. Later in the book when he returns as an adult and the place is full of hipsters is really interestingly addressed. Wht does he say, it's the home he never had, because he didn't fit in in the first place. Yeah, I agree that the first half is better than the later, but I liked the payoff of the seeing what became of all those childhood characters. Maybe it's also cheapening to get that payoff, though, because in the end the book seems to amount to less than it felt like it might early on. But that's the point maybe, yeah, how everyone's youthful potential is exciting, at the same time as being constricted by context, and that the freeing up of choices later on also maybe deadens something that was more alive when unresolved. Or something. It also did feel somewhat bleak, like bingeing on too many episodes of Six Feet Under....more
One of Atwood's best, I think. I liked it a lot. I found it hard to warm to Jimmy, but easier as he matured. It was all over pretty quickly ... is theOne of Atwood's best, I think. I liked it a lot. I found it hard to warm to Jimmy, but easier as he matured. It was all over pretty quickly ... is there a sequel? The ending was ambiguous, no worries, but I feel like there could be a lot more to this story. It's very dark, but not nearly as dark later as it felt early on....more
when I've had a couple of drinks and am trekking up the sandstone steps by the Argyle Cut to go to the Glenmore, I sing to myself "oh Mudda, oh Mudda,when I've had a couple of drinks and am trekking up the sandstone steps by the Argyle Cut to go to the Glenmore, I sing to myself "oh Mudda, oh Mudda, what's that, what's that; it's Beatie Bow, risen from the dead!" and chuckle. I loved this book when I was young, it's given me a whole new way to look at the city around me, and to think about history (aside from its romance and strong, appealing characters). I think about the stockings in Abigail's mother's shop, and how Abigail knows that the past is unknowable by the present, because she's been there and she's seen....more