A friend told me Alan Garner had written a sequel to his classic children's books set on Alderley Edge, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen: A Tale of AlderA friend told me Alan Garner had written a sequel to his classic children's books set on Alderley Edge, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen: A Tale of Alderley Edge and Moon Of Gomrath, and I was intrigued. Such was the impression his books made on me when I was nine or ten that I still have my original Puffin editions. I reread them in preparation for reading this, but actually it wasn't really necessary, as there is little connection between those children's books and this one, which is definitely for adults.
Well, there is a connection in that the main character here is Colin from the earlier books, now a highly intelligent but mentally fragile astrophysicist desperately searching for his lost sister. Garner's style is laconic and deeply layered with meaning, like a prose poem. There is undoubtedly much to be explored. I'd have given it four stars, but I thought it was let down by the neolithic shaman scenes. I didn't really see the point of them, and given that his earlier books were built on Welsh and Norse mythology I'd have found it more convincing and meaningful if he'd used those for these parts of the book.
Don't read this if you're looking for a classic sequel to his fantasy novels. But if you liked his weirder books, like The Owl Service or Red Shift, then you will probably find this worthwhile....more
This was one of the talismanic books of my childhood -- I still have my three-and-sixpenny Puffin edition, judging by which, I must have read it for tThis was one of the talismanic books of my childhood -- I still have my three-and-sixpenny Puffin edition, judging by which, I must have read it for the first time when I was about nine. It doesn't stand the test of time quite as well as I'd hoped, but I still vividly remember how engrossing and terrifying Alan Garner's books were then. I loved the mythical element too. What struck me this time, which probably didn't when I originally read it, was how Susan is implicitly linked to the old (female) magic. This aspect is more pronounced in the sequel, The Moon of Gomrath. I reread both prior to reading Boneland...more
No, no, no, no! I'm so disappointed with this book. I might have accepted it from some lesser author, but this is Michael Frayn. I have some sympathyNo, no, no, no! I'm so disappointed with this book. I might have accepted it from some lesser author, but this is Michael Frayn. I have some sympathy with the author of this review. If it had been a film, it could have kept me entertained for 90 minutes. But a book gives you longer to mull over the unlikeliness of the events, the stupidity and implausibility of the characters, their sheer annoyingness. After page 80 I skim-read to the end. There were about 10 pages in the middle where it seemed for a moment that it might develop into something interesting, but then it descended into farce, archness, and an utterly ridiculous ending.
Don't read this. Read The Trick of It: A Novel instead. I find it hard to believe the same mind produced both these books.
I'd never read any Patrick Hamilton, but I usually enjoy books set in this era, so I thought I'd give it a try. Hamilton seems a bit misanthropic -- hI'd never read any Patrick Hamilton, but I usually enjoy books set in this era, so I thought I'd give it a try. Hamilton seems a bit misanthropic -- he reminds me of Zoe Heller for his talent in depicting antipathetic characters who remind us of people we have met in real life. But he's funny as well, in a biting sort of way. Life in the boarding house is pretty grim, and you have to feel for poor Miss Roach, despite her own failings.
I love the way he brings the setting to life with his close observation of "the air of debauch about tossed bedclothes, stale air, cold hot-water bottles, and last night's cast-off clothing, which even the primmest of maiden ladies cannot hope to escape". And then there's his description of the local station during the day when the commuters have left: it "seemed to have lost all its intense seriousness and obsessed preoccupation with London, and was playing, instead, a silly game of dreamy shunting, inadvertent whistling, absent-minded trolley-rolling, offhand loading, casual booking, and general wool-gathering -- as if it had never known what war or trouble meant."
I'm giving this four stars only because this isn't Alice Munro's best collection (The Moons Of Jupiter still holds that crown). But even not at her beI'm giving this four stars only because this isn't Alice Munro's best collection (The Moons Of Jupiter still holds that crown). But even not at her best, Alice Munro is streets ahead of any other living short story writer. I read a review in the NY Times that said that these stories are less psychologically complex than what I suppose we must now call her "middle period":
With the exception of four revealing semi-autobiographical pieces that close the volume, most of the stories here pivot around a melodramatic event, and many have ironic, O. Henry-esque conclusions that can feel overly stage-managed ... Ms. Munro, now 81, seems to have increasingly turned toward stories with more tightly plotted narratives, more closure and more Aesop-like morals
I felt this was true of the weakest story here (In Sight of the Lake), but some of the stories still have that depth and complexity of real life that is characteristic of her work (Leaving Maverley and Train especially). And others have the emotional impact of a pivotal event that characterises many of her stories too - To Reach Japan (the first story, and a stunner) and Gravel for example. As always, at the end of the stories you picture the characters somehow going on with their lives: they exist beyond the page.
The four final autobiographical fragments are quite different from her normal stories -- where those cover whole lifetimes, these recount just a few days or even hours in her childhood. Of course it's not quite true that these are her "first and last" things she has to say about her own life -- any Munro fan knows that the mother with Parkinson's and the father with the fox farm who appear so often in her stories, and the house not quite in the town but not out of it either, are based on her own memories.
Her short introduction to these pieces has a valedictory note -- as do the fictional stories,dealing with death, ageing, regret, dementia. People do bad things to each other -- betrayals, lies, abandonment -- but life goes on, and perhaps the overarching moral is in the much-quoted very last line of the eponymous last story: "We say of some things that they can’t be forgiven, or that we will never forgive ourselves. But we do — we do it all the time."
I hope she isn't going to stop writing quite yet. But I seem to remember she said the same about The View from Castle Rock, and that didn't stop her. Even if she does, we still have the treasure of fourteen volumes of stories, all of which can stand re-reading (over and over in some cases).
Hmm, this review is much longer than I intended! You can read an interview with Munro here, in which she says:
For years and years I thought that stories were just practice, till I got time to write a novel. Then I found that they were all I could do, and so I faced that.
There are enough reviews of this that I feel I don't need to add one :) I enjoyed it, though I wouldn't say it was my favourite KA book (that's stillThere are enough reviews of this that I feel I don't need to add one :) I enjoyed it, though I wouldn't say it was my favourite KA book (that's still Behind the Scenes at the Museum). It's a strange premise, in which Ursula gets to live her life over and over again, and I wasn't sure what the point of that was. The best parts were those set in London during the Blitz -- this is where the book really came (ahem) alive, whereas some other parts felt a bit stilted, especially the ones set in Germany. I haven't seen this mentioned in any other reviews, but the Blitz parts reminded me irresistibly of Sarah Waters' The Night Watch. Funnily enough, that's another novel that plays with time, as the story is told backwards. Intriguing ... ...more
This review from the Observer just about sums up this book for me. It's a Tolstoyan work in more ways than just the length. Faulks tries to combine grThis review from the Observer just about sums up this book for me. It's a Tolstoyan work in more ways than just the length. Faulks tries to combine grand themes (the early history of psychiatry and psycohanalysis in this case) with personal stories, in the same way Tolstoy did in War and Peace. It doesn't work as well though, because the characters are too obviously vehicles for ideas, instead of being fully rounded characters as Tolstoy's are. I will admit to skipping some of the historical exposition in War and Peace, and I skipped large expository chunks here too. It's carpet-baggish as well, sometimes seeming like at least three novels in one. Especially at the end, when he suddenly tacks on a World War One trench novel featuring one of the main characters' son, Daniel, who has been virtually invisible for hundreds of pages before reappearing here. The female characters too tend to disappear from the story when they are not considered useful, before reappearing to have clunky, forced conversations about their husbands' work. I really liked Sonia at the beginning of the novel, but she barely got a lookin later -- until the lovely final passages.
But there's just enough of Faulks' exquisite writing to keep you from giving up altogether, the odd scene or description that captures your attention. So I'm giving it two and a half stars....more
I think The Accidental Tourist is still my favourite of the four Anne Tyler novels I've read so far, because Macon is such a delightful character, andI think The Accidental Tourist is still my favourite of the four Anne Tyler novels I've read so far, because Macon is such a delightful character, and I was really fond of him by the end of the book. But this book comes a close second. None of the characters is really likeable, and Cody is positively nasty. But Tyler has a George Eliot-like way of making you see the whole of a character, asking you to understand why they are this way.
Each of Pearl's children reacts very differently to the absence of a father and Pearl's rather erratic mothering. One thing I liked a lot was the way that the three of them recall their childhood in the same family very differently, especially in the scenes at the end of the book. Cody never seems to have figured out that once you are over 21, you have to stop blaming your parents for your problems. I found Pearl a bit of a shadowy figure -- it was hard to see what was going on in her mind. But she surely didn't intend to blight her children's lives -- she was just doing the best she could with what she had.
If you start this book and find it dull and pedestrian, don't give up on it. I'm glad I didn't. It took a while to get going, but once Stedman has intIf you start this book and find it dull and pedestrian, don't give up on it. I'm glad I didn't. It took a while to get going, but once Stedman has introduced the tension of what happens at Lucy's christening, she really hits her stride. The pedestrian writing style doesn't improve, but she does a really good job of building up the situation and getting you inside the heads of the key characters. You don't have to like them or agree with their choices -- you can see they are all struggling with the situation they find themselves in, and their moral dilemmas are believable and well conveyed.
Unfortunately it fell off again towards the end. I didn't like the 30-years later epilogue at all, and there was a bit of a cop-out over Lucy's final adjustment to her new life after her heart-rending separation.
It's not great literature but it's good holiday reading, and it would be an excellent book club choice too. Three and a half stars.
PS ignore the reviews that suggest you won't like this book if you're not a mother. It's about moral choices....more
Well, I was a bit disappointed with this. I started out enjoying the rich prose and period detail, thinking it was going to be a modern Wilkie CollinsWell, I was a bit disappointed with this. I started out enjoying the rich prose and period detail, thinking it was going to be a modern Wilkie Collins. But the disparate strands never came together, there was no great intrigue or the cunning false trails of a Collins novel, the detective was completely uninteresting, likewise the villains, and in the end it just fizzled out. I don't know why I read to the end really. It took me a long time too, because there was always something more interesting to do....more
This bears little resemblance to Sebastian Faulks' "big" books, like Engleby or Charlotte Gray. It's five (very) loosely linked novellas (linked moreThis bears little resemblance to Sebastian Faulks' "big" books, like Engleby or Charlotte Gray. It's five (very) loosely linked novellas (linked more by theme than content), set in times ranging from the mid-19th century to the mid-21st. Although short, in each case they encompass the main character's whole life. As such they lack the intensity and detail that I associate with Faulks, and I didn't get fully absorbed in the stories. The third story, set in the near future, was particularly weak and unengaging. But the last one, You Next Time, about a relationship between two young musicians, at least partly redeemed it for me. The last few paragraphs in particular really resonated with me, and Faulks conveyed the way that however deep Jack's feelings, he was only a parenthesis in Anya's life. But it just made me wish he'd dedicated a "real" novel only to this story, fleshing it out and giving us more insights.
It's probably worth reading if you're already a fan of Faulks -- otherwise I'd start with one of the books I mention above.
I actually downloaded this book to my Kindle after seeing a photo inspired by its first pages. There are some wonderful images related to fire in it.
II actually downloaded this book to my Kindle after seeing a photo inspired by its first pages. There are some wonderful images related to fire in it.
I hesitated between three and four stars and finally decided to be generous. It's difficult to review without spoilers. The beginning is captivating, introducing us to the asocial, misanthropic Victoria after she is "emancipated" from the care homes she has lived in all her life after being abandoned as a baby. She is homeless, jobless, and seemingly without hope.
The second part, where Victoria starts to build a viable life, seemed almost too easy given the first part. It seemed implausible that Victoria could empathise so easily with rich, superstitious brides and dissatisfied wives. None of her life experience has prepared her for this, and she just doesn't like people, is not tactful or polite, nor is she interested in their desires and feelings. I am prepared to believe that despite her spikiness, some people are prepared to help her; Diffenbaugh gives most of them plausible motives (for example Elizabeth recognises aspetcs of herself as a child in Victoria; Renata recognises her talent with flowers.)
Part three got back on track. Unlike some reviewers, I found Victoria's behaviour quite plausible. She is terrified, alone, and unable to ask for help. Gradually the guilt and shame from her past is revealed. There is a powerful moment when for the first time she manages to take responsibility for her own actions and apologise. She's on an upward path from there. There are some implausibilities, and the ending is a bit corny, but it works.
I don't really understand reviewers who slate the book because they can't identify with Victoria or don't like/understand some of the things she does. Part of the function of novels is to introduce us to other lives, other world views, maybe make us more compassionate, and this one does. It's a good young-adult novel, but adults will enjoy it too....more
I think Adichie is a good writer, but I just never got into this, or felt for any of the characters. I can't really explain why. I put it aside for seI think Adichie is a good writer, but I just never got into this, or felt for any of the characters. I can't really explain why. I put it aside for several weeks, then skim-read to the end....more
This is the best book I've read in a while -- it made a nice change to have a book I actually wanted to sit and read, instead of doing a myriad otherThis is the best book I've read in a while -- it made a nice change to have a book I actually wanted to sit and read, instead of doing a myriad other things. I do admire Sebastian Faulks, although his books are uneven. This is the best since Birdsong: A Novel of Love and War. Once again we're inside someone's head -- but Engleby's head is not a very nice place to be! He's a classic unreliable narrator, claiming to have a near-perfect memory, which has convenient "holes" in it where he wants them to be.
You can't help sympathising with him early in the book. The first-person viewpoint means you see everything through his eyes, and you can't really tell what other people think of him (although he is clearly not exactly popular). He drips contempt and disdain for most of his contemporaries. There's a masterstroke near the end where we see him through the eyes of his only "friend", who fills in all the gaps we've had to guess at in Engleby''s appearance and behaviour. The "mystery" isn't really a mystery, and I wouldn't describe this book as a thriller as some people do. But the revelations about Engleby are cleverly paced and handled.
I found the last section of the book rather weak -- I'd have preferred it to end earlier -- although there is a final tour de force of fantasy/invented memory at the end.
For someone of my age and background, the 1970s and 1980s setting rings lots of bells, and there's lots of black humour and irony in Engleby's acerbic comments. Although I found some of the "prophetic" things said by him and others about what life would be like in 30 years unusually heavy-handed for Faulks. Recommended; a shorter and easier read than most of Faulks' other books....more
I'm in two minds about this book. It's the first time I've read anything by John Banville, so I don't know if it's typical of his work. I was alternatI'm in two minds about this book. It's the first time I've read anything by John Banville, so I don't know if it's typical of his work. I was alternately dumb with admiration for his poetic skills, and irritated by what sometimes seemed sheer self-indulgence. Parts were boring, parts quite compelling. I could sympathise to some extent with some of the comments in Kathy's review, while at the same time being moved by a review written by someone who had lost his wife and found the novel reflected his feelings of loss.
There's almost no plot, but I don't have a problem with that. Then again, Max isn't that appealing a narrator. The final pages redeemed it for me. Throughout the book, the sea is a metaphor for death, and some of the meditations are moodily beautiful. But I deducted stars for the parts where I was thinking, "Get a move on!" and for the ludicrous part where his dying wife takes explicit photos of fellow patients....more
It started out OK, but got mind-bogglingly tedious very quickly. I skipped whole chunks and skim-read the rest. She could do with a good editor, who cIt started out OK, but got mind-bogglingly tedious very quickly. I skipped whole chunks and skim-read the rest. She could do with a good editor, who could probably have reduced the bulk by at least 150 pages by cutting out tedious descriptions of what everyone was wearing/eating.
I thought it was kind of a weird idea anyway -- taking clearly real people and events, and turning them into a novel. And despite giving them fictional names, she then gets all coy about some other characters, referring to, for example, "Charlie's opponent" or "a Middle-Eastern country". It's obvious who and what they are. Why not give the Al Gore and Clinton characters fictional names too?
It was a good enough read while Alice is growing up, and the part where she meets the Blackwells for the first time is quite entertaining, but then she turns into this completely wishy-washy doormat who, if she does have principles, is certainly not prepared to stand up for them, in public or in private. As for Charlie, the big leap in time between parts 3 and 4 leaves you frankly baffled as to how such a lazy, crude, ill-informed idiot manages to become a successful politician, let alone the most powerful man in the world. Meh. Glad I didn't spend money on this!...more
I was very impressed by Unsworth's Booker-winning Sacred Hunger, and I recently read the sequel, The Quality of Mercy -- so I was pleased to receive tI was very impressed by Unsworth's Booker-winning Sacred Hunger, and I recently read the sequel, The Quality of Mercy -- so I was pleased to receive this via my postal book group. It displays the same dazzling style as the other two but other than that doesn't have much in common!
Strangely, it reminded me of Stephen Benatar's Wish Her Safe at Home, although the setting is completely different. Both of them have a compellingly unreliable narrator. Unlike Rachel, Pascali is quite open about making stuff up. But in both cases you often find yourself wondering whether what is being described really happened, or is a figment of the narrator's imagination. When Basil thinks people in the church are making evil-eye signs at him, are they really just crossing themselves as his companion suggests? Are the other characters really as underhand and double-dealing as he thinks they are or could their motives be relatively innocent?
I felt the ending was excessively dramatic -- I was expecting something lower key and more nuanced. But it was an interesting read....more
This isn't awful. It just ... isn't very good. But I finished it, despite growing irritation, so it gets two stars for that.
All the way through, I kepThis isn't awful. It just ... isn't very good. But I finished it, despite growing irritation, so it gets two stars for that.
All the way through, I kept thinking that Marks should have set it in 18th-century Europe. The story would have worked perfectly there. It was just implausible in various different ways for imperial Rome. And even the author seems to forget what era she's set it in sometimes. At one point:
Alexander walked to the window, where he watched the rain hit the panes.
Come on ... even the richest Romans couldn't afford glass for windows. It makes it seem as if the author has never seen Roman glass. Or, more likely, she just got carried away by the story, as she does in many places, and forgot what era she was supposed to be writing about.
The good: the descriptions of place are good. And it's a good idea for a plot. Really. It just isn't well executed, for the most part. Theodosia isn't believable, and her various romances, plus her behaviour in the last part of the book, just made me grind my teeth at their implausibility. (view spoiler)[Released from 30 months alone in an underground cave, malnourished and with a badly healed broken leg, she can romp around Rome the very next day, beating off assailants and grilling suspects. (hide spoiler)] The Alexander subplot was much better and more plausible -- it's a pity more of the book wasn't devoted to this. I can see it working well in the hands of a much more skilled writer who could handle it with more subtlety -- Gillian Bradshaw, for example.
And the last couple of pages made me want to puke. But then I'm not in the market for historical romance. If you are, and you want a beach read, you could do worse.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I seem to have been neglecting my reviews ... blame the weather! I actually finished this book a couple of weeks ago, and although I found it a pleasaI seem to have been neglecting my reviews ... blame the weather! I actually finished this book a couple of weeks ago, and although I found it a pleasant enough read -- Georgina Harding is a good writer -- it hasn't really stuck in my mind in any meaningful way. Some scenes are quite powerful, but overall the story and characters are a bit thin. An afterword tells you that the character of Tinu is based on a real-life deaf/mute artist -- google some of his images and you'll see that the careful, detailed descriptions in the book are based closely on his work.
Barry Unsworth was a very good writer and his skill with words is definitely on display here. That said, the plot, such as it is, was rather weird andBarry Unsworth was a very good writer and his skill with words is definitely on display here. That said, the plot, such as it is, was rather weird and disjointed. Benson, the main character, is blocked in his writing of a novel about the Liverpool slave trade (cf Sacred Hunger) and is more or less making ends meet by providing "literary consultancy" to aspiring writers. Some of the extracts from these fictioneers' works in progress are very entertaining, as are Benson's encounters with odd Liverpool characters. Mingled with this are flashbacks to his experiences at the Anzio beachead in 1944, and the whole thing concludes with a comedy-drama act of revenge on his commanding officer from that time, now a wealthy banker.
All in all, a strange kind of novel and definitely not on a par with his masterpiece Sacred Hunger -- nor intended to be. But it kept me entertained with its odd mixture of comedy and grimness....more
Oh dear. This just doesn't work at all. The modern-day story wrapped around the historical part is so flimsy and cliched that it would have been betteOh dear. This just doesn't work at all. The modern-day story wrapped around the historical part is so flimsy and cliched that it would have been better to leave it out altogether and just tell the civil war story. A basic structural flaw was that Miguel simply could not have known all the details given here. Every now and then,Hislop remembers, oops, Miguel is supposed to be telling the story here, so she flips back to the present day for a paragraph so that they can order another coffee. Could he really have told this whole story in such detail over a period of a few hours? It just doesn't ring true.
But if you're going to do that, at least make it a genuine story, not a potted history. Hislop had done her research, but then just regurgitated it onto the page. Large parts of it were just like reading a history book. The characters never left the page to become real people with hopes and desires. It was impossible to feel moved by deaths and imprisonment.
And finally, I don't have a problem with coincidences in novels, or indeed in real life (hey, I enjoy Kate Atkinson, queen of coincidences!). But the coincidences on which this novel relies are just too contrived, and you can see the "twist" coming a mile off. I ended up flipping quickly through the last coupel of hundred pages to have my suspicions confirmed.
But I'm giving it two stars instead of one, because: 1. The descriptions of flamenco are so well done. It's obvious that Hislop is passionate about this dance, and the novel only really comes alive in these passages. 2. A lot of people who like this book say they didn't know anything about the Spanish Civil War. If the popularity of Hislop's work means that more people know about it, that's a good thing. Her heart is in the right place, she did her homework, she just doesn't have the novelistic skill to carry it off.
However, if you want to read a brilliant novel that conveys the true horror and tragedy of the civil war, and its effect on families, don't read this. Read Almudena Grandes' The Frozen Heart instead....more
There doesn't seem to be much point in adding to the rave reviews of this. If you loved Wolf Hall, you'll love this. If you haven't read either, I envThere doesn't seem to be much point in adding to the rave reviews of this. If you loved Wolf Hall, you'll love this. If you haven't read either, I envy you for the treat you have in store.
Just a few points: 1. If this doesn't win another Booker, there is no justice in the world. 2. While Ian McEwan was resting on his laurels, Hilary Mantel cruised past him to become Greatest Living British Novelist. She took her time reaching the peak of her powers, but now it's hard to see what she can do to better this trilogy. 3. Power corrupts. In Wolf Hall, we can like Cromwell: intelligent, witty, loyal, hard-working, kind to children and animals. In Bring up the Bodies he still has those qualities. But he sees a chance for revenge and takes it. I found it interesting that the trials are skimmed over in a few paragraphs. Cromwell chooses who will die and who will be saved; the trials are a formality. Could he have saved Anne if he'd wanted to? Probably not; Henry has realised what an encumbrance living ex-wives and their offspring can be. 4. I found a nice interview by a friend of hers which gives more insight than most into Mantel's writing process. And another one here.
Ir's a compelling read. I found it less hard work than Wolf Hall in terms of keeping track of what's going on, but it's more intense and claustrophobic. The writing is mind-blowing in places -- you can read a page again just for the pleasure of it. The last 100 pages are frighteningly good -- Mantel holds the reader in the palm of her hand and never lets go.
Cromwell is at the peak of his powers here, but Mantel is already hinting at what is to come. The old English families think they can use him, and discard him once they have achieved their aims. At one point, Cromwell says that his only friend is the king. That sounds good, but there's an unspoken subtext: What will happen to him when the increasingly capricious, self-indulgent king is no longer his friend? All the characters seem to be in the grip of a huge machine, slowly and inexorably crushing them; those who avoid the executioner are doing whatever they can to survive. Bring on The Mirror and the Light!...more
I galloped through this; it's a frothy read, very entertaining. Of course it's not realistic -- Poppy is ridiculous -- but I really enjoyed the caricaI galloped through this; it's a frothy read, very entertaining. Of course it's not realistic -- Poppy is ridiculous -- but I really enjoyed the caricatures of New York Jews, bohemian Americans in Paris in the 1930s, and, especially, upper-class English people. Very well observed, and there are moments of pathos too, that stop it being completely frivolous. She rather reminds me of Zoë Heller, but less misanthropic -- some of the characters here are actually nice. Not Poppy though :)
The ending fell a bit flat, although I can't really decide how it should have ended. The first half was definitely better than the second.
A book I wouldn't have read without the book group, so thanks!...more
I first read this some years ago, and I enjoyed it, but it didn't make that much of an impression on me -- I'd even forgotten the major twist! It is aI first read this some years ago, and I enjoyed it, but it didn't make that much of an impression on me -- I'd even forgotten the major twist! It is a charming book -- perhaps a little too charming at times, with Cassandra a bit too consciously naive. It is clear that Dodie Smith was missing the English countryside when she wrote it -- it has a wonderfully nostalgic feel despite the hard times.
I am quite amused by some GR reviewers who seem to think it's an accurate picture of English society, or are shocked by Cassandra's father's behaviour. Of course he's a bad parent -- the story wouldn't be a story otherwise. ...more
Any post-apocalyptic novel bears the difficult burden of having to stand comparison with Riddley Walker, and inevitably fails to match up, because RusAny post-apocalyptic novel bears the difficult burden of having to stand comparison with Riddley Walker, and inevitably fails to match up, because Russell Hoban was a genius. This one gets off more lightly though, because it is clearly aimed at teenagers, so it's not competing in the same league.
Although it's not the sort of book I normally read, and I skim-read parts if it, I thought it was pretty well done. It surfs on the wave of the later Harry Potter novels -- lots of blood and gore, but also a strong emphasis on moral questions and the difficulties of growing up. Poor Todd is ill-equipped to face the trials he encounters, and keeps having to make hard decisions on his own and deal with the consequences. The language worked well for me, and it certainly isn't as challenging as Riddley-speak! I thought the whole concept of Noise was really imaginative and well done. It did suffer from the teen-book/fantasy thing of constantly putting the characters in impossible situations, and then ... with one bound he was free! Oh, and again like many of these fantasy books, it was too long and repetitive.
I can understand that some people feel this book is too dark, but I think teenagers do genuinely want to think about these questions, and books like this help them do it.
(view spoiler)[Oh, and Manchee was wonderful -- my favourite character in fact! So the book went downhill for me after his inevitable demise. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more