I'll be honest - I haven't read the whole thing, and I feel a bit bad giving a one-star review to a book I haven't read. I've flipped though it, sinceI'll be honest - I haven't read the whole thing, and I feel a bit bad giving a one-star review to a book I haven't read. I've flipped though it, since it arrived unbidden on my doormat, someone evidently having bought a load of copies and determined to enlighten my neighbourhood, and it appears to be propaganda from start to finish. I wouldn't read a whole Watchtower or a Scientology primer either.
I debated whether to give it a second star for at least denouncing terrorism. Maybe the bonkers religious fantasy style (peace be upon it) might even be an effective way to deprogram a Jihadist teenager. But two stars means "it was OK", and clearly it is not OK.
On the cover, right under the promising title, is a montage of scenes depicting sectarian violence, and gazing at them from either side are none other than Marx and Darwin. Flipping through my free book - nice glossy paper, a lot of colour pictures, amazing how they do all this for £3.00 (Amazon) - we learn that the whole of modern biology is in fact a lie told by people who want you to think there is nothing in the universe but matter and energy. The core lie of Darwinism is that violent struggle underlies the natural world, with the strong constantly kicking the arse of the weak, and on this lie all of materialist Darwinism is built. This being wrong, so is most of GCSE biology.
Except that evolutionary biology says nothing of the sort, as a glance at the adorable kitten snoozing next to me as I write this confirms, not to mention orchids, butterflies, finches with specialised beaks or any of the other gazillion examples that are blindingly obvious to anyone but a nutjob conspiracy theorist without a GCSE in biology. Not to mention either that a lie is a false statement told by someone who knows it is false, and not an honestly held view based on decades of research, or that accusations of lying are a bit rich coming from someone who is entirely uninterested in truth in the first place.
As for the theology, it all appears to be somewhat No True Scotsman, in that people who disagree with Mr Yahya's vision of peace and miracle-driven ecology are not really Muslims at all, which puts them in the other category of unbelievers and leaves the true faith all lovey-peacey.
So, thank you anonymous benefactor for a crude work of conspiracy theory and anti-science propaganda with the positive message in its title so utterly swamped by religious fantasy that it is unable to deal with the actual state of the world. Sorry for not reading the whole thing....more
Reviewers seem to be either won over by the quiet power of Colm Tóibín's writing or frustrated by the dull central character and lack of a plot. I'm aReviewers seem to be either won over by the quiet power of Colm Tóibín's writing or frustrated by the dull central character and lack of a plot. I'm afraid I find myself in the second category. "Nora Webster" reminded me of May We Be Forgiven by A. M. Homes, about which (looking back) I wrote:
"... from about a third of the way in it becomes a tedious listing of dull and irrelevant details that add little to the trite, slow-moving plot."
"... this mind-numbing succession of irrelevant detail goes on and on for hundreds of pages while dull people we don't care about learn predictable lessons in self development to become better, though still unbearably boring, people."
To be fair to NW, the listing of irrelevant details isn't quite so obsessive (we are spared a breakdown of every logically possible colour/fruit combination of the jelly at a barbecue, which forms a high point of May We Be Shot Now Please), but all the same, because nothing ever really goes anywhere, all the descriptions of buying a dress, getting a job, going on holiday, listening to tedious music - all of these decisions agonised over by Nora for weeks - become a chore to be slogged through. (It's the swinging sixties for heaven's sake, but does she listen to The Beatles, The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, Booker T and the MGs? Does she party, experiment with drugs, get laid? No, of course it's Brahms for our Nora. Or possibly Mahler. You can bet she agonised at the record shop.)
Nora is a repressed, prudish, sexless spinster who the author mystifyingly treats as a hero. She tries her hand at singing, and what do you know, she sings like an angel. She gets a job, and of course she's brilliant at it. If anyone is mean to her, they are unreasonable and wrong, and Nora ends up on top with everyone applauding.
So, it's a dull, plotless narrative about an unlikeable character, with everything hanging on the quality of the writing. For me that wasn't enough....more
A pleasant enough jaunt through McCall Smith's unrushed Botswana, where determined ladies choose meek husbands on the basis of their reliability and aA pleasant enough jaunt through McCall Smith's unrushed Botswana, where determined ladies choose meek husbands on the basis of their reliability and are judged on how fat they keep them, and where detective cold cases are solved by going out to the crime scene and getting a feeling about it and then getting some maids and receptionists to gossip.
I suppose the characters are likeable, but it was a bit frustrating that they all seemed to act like 9 year olds, or like very old people (I was never sure which). Newly engaged 30-somethings Precious Ramotswe and Mr J. L. B. Matekoni (yes, every initial, every time - decide for yourself whether that's charming or irritating) are like an elderly couple. I realise this isn't 50 Shades of Grey but Mr J. L. B. Matekoni doesn't give the impression of ever having kissed Mma Ramotswe, let alone seen her naked. It's old-fashioned and sweet perhaps, but all a bit make-believe.
It may be unfair to bring this up in a review, but the digital edition (I got mine from iTunes) is very crudely put together. The title page itself presents the title as
Tears of the Gi- raffe
and the brutal hyphenation regime continues on page 1 with
This kind of thing continues with phrases like a corrugatedtin roof, a mediumranking official and out-side the village. This may not be the fault of the author, although I was puzzled by the enormity of his good fortune, which surely is. Together, details like these gave the feeling of a book quickly written, barely edited and ultimately rather shallow....more
A slightly uncomfortable read for me, I have to say, as a middle-aged and doubtless slightly self-absorbed husband. Veteran author Joe Castleman probaA slightly uncomfortable read for me, I have to say, as a middle-aged and doubtless slightly self-absorbed husband. Veteran author Joe Castleman probably feels like an OK guy on his first class flight to Helsinki to receive a prestigious and well-earned award for his contribution to literature, and I felt for him a bit as his wife Joan seemed to be have based years of seething frustration on little more than some minor self-absorption and arrogance (initially charming but apparently irritating in the longer term) and tendency to talk nonsense with other men - along with the world's treating him like some kind of rock star for it - plus a lifetime of relentless womanising. He even acknowledges her in his rambling, self-important acceptance speech. Can't she let him enjoy this one night?
Well, let's just say there is another side to this well-told, insightful, often funny, bitter story that made total sense of everything....more
I have to admit to being a bit baffled at the enthusiastic reviews for May We Be Forgiven. "She is one of the funniest writers - laugh-out-loud funny"I have to admit to being a bit baffled at the enthusiastic reviews for May We Be Forgiven. "She is one of the funniest writers - laugh-out-loud funny" (Jeanette Winterson); "I can't remember when I last read a novel of such narrative intensity" (Salman Rushie); "To call May We Be Forgiven "compelling" would be an understatement; it is a novel as compulsive as its characters" (Financial Times).
The book starts out well, as we meet mild-mannered academic Harold, his distant wife, nasty brother, and attractive, long-suffering sister in law. Events move quickly and the situation gets interesting. However there it runs out of steam, and from about a third of the way in it becomes a tedious listing of dull and irrelevant details that add little to the trite, slow-moving plot. (It came as no surprise to learn that the initial section was originally a short story, and the dreary remainder a lesson in why it's not always a good idea to develop these into full length novels.) I can't work out whether this is a deliberate effect intended to create a sense of suburban ennui or whether Homes is just struggling with a weak plot and a word count target, but it seemed to drag on eternally.
The constant Nixon references (Harold's academic area of expertise and the subject of his unfinished book) may have more resonance for an American audience, so when Homes links the corruption of the Nixon era to the decay of the American Dream, deeply insightful as that may be, the rest of us probably join with Harold's students in thinking 'so what?'
I didn't much like Homes' 2000 novel "Music For Torching" either, but at least the writing has some pace and style. Compare these:
Music for Torching:
Paul hurries off the train. Monolithic skyscrapers push out of the ground, steely and strong. Shafts of light cut between the buildings, punctuating the boulevard. Park Avenue is like a Grand Canal filled with shining black town cars—gondolas of good fortune. Every morning the streets are filled with Pauls—scrubbed and polished men in thousand-dollar suits thinking they are something. One hundred thousand offices, a million windowless cubicles, creativity and commerce. The metropolis hums—sings of the spirit, of the romance of trade, of the glory of the great game—things bought and sold. Paul is flooded with the anticipation of doing a good day’s work.
May We Be Forgiven:
Cheryl invites Madeline, Cy, and me to come for dinner later in the week—before heading off for a month in Maine. “A yar-becue,” she types, “yard barbecue, just Ed and the boys.”
Cy and Madeline are excited. “It’s been a long time since we were invited to a dinner party,” Madeline says, and then whispers loudly that after Cy’s fall from grace they were dropped socially by pretty much everyone they knew.
“I didn’t fall from anywhere,” Cy mutters. “I stole some money. It’s more common than you realize.”
Madeline and I make a Jell-O mold—with pineapple chunks suspended in green, mandarine oranges in yellow, and green grapes in red. I’ve never made Jell-O before—it’s magical.
We arrive at Cheryl’s to find to yard thick with smoke and the dense perfume of hot meat. The three boys, Tad, Brad, and Lad, are helping their father, who is hovering near something that looks like a cross between a fire pit and an antiquarian outhouse.
“We built our own smoker,” Ed says, welcoming us.
Perhaps that doesn't sound so bad. They made some jellies for a yard barbecue - or "yar-becue" as that Cheryl would say, hilariously, what a character - with Ed, whoever the hell he is, and it was important for us to know the full set of jelly colour / fruit combinations. But this mind-numbing succession of irrelevant detail goes on and on for hundreds of pages while dull people we don't care about learn predictable lessons in self development to become better, though still unbearably boring, people....more
I started reading this for my book club, then about halfway through found out that I should have been reading May We be Forgiven instead, so I read thI started reading this for my book club, then about halfway through found out that I should have been reading May We be Forgiven instead, so I read that and then came back to finish Music For Torching afterwards. I can now say I have a more rounded feel for A. M. Homes' writing, but to be honest I didn't like either of them.
For me, Music For Torching was the better written, as there is at least some pace, wit and style in place of May We Be Forgiven's drifting structure and endless listing of dull and irrelevant information, but the characters are utterly unlikeable and spend the whole book frustratingly mismanaging their lives while wondering why they hate themselves. The only enjoyment either of them seem to get from their miserable lives is some furtive extramarital sex - and even then they manage to mess their affairs up, Elaine by feeling pointlessly guilty about hers and Paul by trying to have one too many. The purpose of the ending may have been to show these self-absorbed, neurotic characters some real perspective I suppose, but all the same it seemed arbitrarily tacked on by an author struggling with plot structure....more
A book club choice that I didn't think was going to be my kind of book, but turned out to be one of the best things I've read in ages. A great "book wA book club choice that I didn't think was going to be my kind of book, but turned out to be one of the best things I've read in ages. A great "book within a book" story, with likeable characters and great dialogue. There's a real sense of danger - but also cute toddlers, sassy maids, controlling mothers, unlikely friendships, ladies who lunch and a disastrous charity dinner. Alright, the maids may have been a little idealised, idealistic nerdy Skeeter might be a wish-fulfillment fantasy version of the author herself, and segregationist Hilly is a straight-up witch - but Stockett has a story to tell and she tells it with style and passion. I loved it, and now that I've finished it I miss the characters, especially wise, kind Aibileen, irrepressible Minny and Mae Mobley Three....more
My neighbour had us read this for our book club, which raised a few eyebrows as it's not exactly a work of literature, but more a manual with month byMy neighbour had us read this for our book club, which raised a few eyebrows as it's not exactly a work of literature, but more a manual with month by month tips for those beginning beekeeping. It's entertaining though, describing a year in the unusual life of a beekeeper with anecdotes and recipes along the way (I recommend the spiced chocolate and honey harvest cake) as you follow the progress of rooftop hives on London's Fortnum and Mason department store and Tate Modern art gallery, among other locations, as well as Benbow's own hives which he moves around the country to follow the flowering seasons such as heather on the Yorkshire moors. It does remain a practical guide though, and although I found myself hearing the narrator's voice as Monty Don from Gardeners' World, the writing is patchy and Benbow loves the word "colossal" a little too much. I finished it liking bees more, while appreciating that keeping them is probably quite hard....more