Finishing an 850 page novel which weighs more than a brick at 1.30 in the morning makes choosing a star rating tricky. The sense of achievement at hav...moreFinishing an 850 page novel which weighs more than a brick at 1.30 in the morning makes choosing a star rating tricky. The sense of achievement at having finally beaten it and given my fingers six-packs in the process has maybe made me star it slightly higher than it deserves.
I'll be honest, to begin with I wasn't really 'feeling' it. I found the narrator annoying. Patronising even. A narrative voice guilty of taking control of the reader, a voice which tells you how you are feeling, or what you are doing, rather than letting you slip into the words and find out yourself. In the early pages, all I really felt was frustration at this anonymous little voice assuming things about how I should interpret everything. It's the voice of one of those pain in the arses who constantly says: 'well, someone's in a bad mood. Why are you in a bad mood?' WHEN I'M NOT. But now I am. Thank you.
But I'm glad I persevered. Eventually, the voice settled down a bit and stopped doing that, and became a more passive guide. I enjoyed it leading me down the streets of London and showing me things, rather than forcing them down my throat. It kept its idiosyncratic persona, but we got along much better after the first few chapters.
I didn't fully get into the book until page 500. Until then, I wasn't sure if I was enjoying it, but I'd read too much to put it down and pursue something else. Until that point, it was overly repetitive with a lot of unnecessary scenes drawn out for far, far too long. Luckily, Faber has a truly delicious vocabulary, so reading the same thing in a slightly different way was quite pleasant. A little dull, on occasion, but on the whole it was a vividly cinematic and sensual experience full of smells and sounds and sensations.
The feeling of being somewhere I shouldn't, and being in such close proximity with Sugar, tailing behind her bustle in a universe which felt so utterly real and disgusting, was what kept me reading. Ultimately, until page 500, nothing much happened. But without those pages and pages of character development and stalking, the final 400 would certainly not have had the impact they had. So many reviews of the novel complain about the unsatisfactory end. But it was in being unsatisfied that in an odd paradigm I felt satisfied. Faber had stuck to the nature of his universe - the Victorian London of grot and grime and misery and open ends where overtly happy endings - indeed, simply conclusive endings, endings of certainty - don't happen, especially in love (or 'love'?). To have one would be patronising.(less)
'Cutting for Stone' is a stunning novel which manages to pack in pretty much everything I want from a story. Actually, make that everything I want fro...more'Cutting for Stone' is a stunning novel which manages to pack in pretty much everything I want from a story. Actually, make that everything I want from a story.
I love reading about foreign countries I've never visited, food I've never tasted, buildings I've never seen, people I've never met, then closing the final page and feeling like I have. I love reading characters who do truly human things; who love and feel and do in such impulsive, stupid but understandable ways. I love watching them grow and develop. Verghese nurtures his characters so breathtakingly well. He brings them from little printed foetuses to tangible people I really felt I knew.
'Cutting for Stone' is a novel you will eventually close for the last time and feel sad, because the adventure of meeting someone new, getting to know them and ultimately knowing them is over. The growth you experience alongside Marion and Shiva and the tight cast which surrounds them can only be truly felt once - not knowing what is round the corner, over the page together is a thrilling experience, and one I haven't had from a novel in a long while.
It's a delicious read. It's hilarious, tragic, joyous, fascinating and intelligent all at once. It's one of the best books I've ever read, and I know finding another book to satisfy me after finishing this is going to be an absolute challenge! (less)
Of course it's an important book and interesting if you give it the time, but the story lags way behind the bigger meani...moreFinishing it was the best bit.
Of course it's an important book and interesting if you give it the time, but the story lags way behind the bigger meaning. I'd hoped for an exciting adventure about a lost seaman losing his mind in the darkest depths of Africa. I wanted fleshed-out characters and more of a perspective from Conrad.
Instead, it's long-winded, unsubtle and stuffed with repetitive metaphors, allegories and overly descriptive passages with no real consequence. Even the characters are just a means to and end.
I wish the story had been given as much attention as all the themes packed in and debates it sparks. But it just feels like a essay.(less)
'Great Expectations' was a strange read, and I'm not sure if I enjoyed it or not. The writing I loved - the narrative is full of sinister comedy, witt...more'Great Expectations' was a strange read, and I'm not sure if I enjoyed it or not. The writing I loved - the narrative is full of sinister comedy, witty dialogue and striking imagery and observations from the word go, and the majority of characters (from the ridiculous to terrifying) are hard not to adore and leave undoubtedly impressioned marks. The pacing, however was extremely unbalanced. Normally, the middle part of a novel would be expected to be the most exciting, yet in this case it was somewhat dry and tedious with the beginning and conclusion providing the most engrossing discussions.
Pip's narration is undeniably genius with apparently two Philip Pirrips throughout: the Pip in the story growing from a boy to young man, and the maturer, reflecting Pip relating the course of events to the reader. These two versions of himself merge fantastically by the end of the novel which provides a really satisfying conclusion in one sense. On the other hand, to me the ending just did not seem to fit with the ambience of the rest of the novel, and while the suggestions proposed by Dickens are endearing in the final line, I cannot help but feel it takes something from what the obscure relationship between Estella and Pip represented.
I enjoyed the moral aspects of the novel surprisingly - clear messages of the importance of friendship, love and family over social class and wealth were expressed without condescension which was certainly refreshing.(less)
'Chocolat' is a book overflowing with colour and every page holds a warm, fairytale-esque glow about it with a soft, mellow haze around the edges. Tou...more'Chocolat' is a book overflowing with colour and every page holds a warm, fairytale-esque glow about it with a soft, mellow haze around the edges. Touch, taste and smell ricochet across the chapters in captivating imagery until it's impossible not to feel a part of the bright French village, Lansquenet, in which the enchanting story of Vianne Rocher and her chocolate shop is set.
It's a simple, cheerful read, welcomely minus the more typical romance of women's books. It was still sometimes predictable however, and the characters regularly enfuriating with their extremes of either absolute perfection or villainy. My general dislike for first person narratives was prodded and poked quite frequently during the book; the heroine Vianne far too wise, cool and collected with a myterious and tragic past, observant of everything and practically perfect in every way as narrators usually are.(less)
'The Magic Toyshop' has so many exquisitely written layers, even though I only just closed its final page, I could easily pick it up and read it from...more'The Magic Toyshop' has so many exquisitely written layers, even though I only just closed its final page, I could easily pick it up and read it from beginning to end all over again and glean something new from its darkly spiralling plot.
This tale is wonderfully typical of Angela Carter and her taboo-breaking narratives. Sex, incest, feminism and a sinister magical realism are all weirdly intertwined. Fantastic imagery and symbolism are constant, transforming the story of the orphaned Melanie into a brooding, twisted Bildungsroman-come-gothic fairytale.
As always with Carter, her characters are inspiring and individual to the point of appearing to crawl off the page in enchanting, vibrant colours and shapes. Even those who shouldn't be charming charm with their eccentricities and sheer imperfections and curiosities.
This is one of those novels where you love, hate, fear and anticipate every sentence.(less)
It's delicious, dark and tantalising. Stunning to read.
Tartt's language is alive and vivid in its imagery and characters: quirky caractures of an alo...moreIt's delicious, dark and tantalising. Stunning to read.
Tartt's language is alive and vivid in its imagery and characters: quirky caractures of an aloof professor, eccentric scholars, pill-popping rich kids, perennial drunks, woozy flirts and the absolutely always unlikeable.
There's a constant feeling of being an outcast, only ever half-absorbed into this bizarre clique of classics students with the new guy and narrator, Richard Papen. The book keeps you at arm's length with all its pretentious references to literature and philosophy and half-told stories about its characters.
Then there's the weird and gothic mood hanging around the pages as the story winds in and out of time, memory, myth, dreams and reality.
It's weird. It's a spooky and strange but thrilling. It's exaggerated and unreal and everyone's horrible, but it really, really sucks you in.(less)
I'm genuinely surprised that I enjoyed this book so much - political parodies/satires normally completely evade me, but I finally got round to buying...moreI'm genuinely surprised that I enjoyed this book so much - political parodies/satires normally completely evade me, but I finally got round to buying myself a copy and reading this because everyone-else-had, and '1984' I 'got' and actually enjoyed reading. If that's the right word, anyway; maybe 'fascinated' would be more appropriate.
I was completely overwhelmed by Orwell's genius creating this entire world of politics, language, technology and institutions so authentically that the whole novel fits perfectly even with today's priorities, influences and lifestyles - the truths and 'untruths' of the media, for example, and the incentives of the government.
Scarily, the 'telescreens' reminded me of a news article I saw several months ago where CCTV cameras had been developed and set up to watch and shout at deviants dropping rubbish and so on. The exercise regimes forced daily upon the fictional society also seemed completely plausible regarding current obesity propaganda. The number of greater political comparisons to be picked out were pretty unnerving!
I really enjoyed the language used throughout, the completely bare-faced humanity of the characters - all flaws bared - and the psychological mixed with philosophical twists and turns. Completely terrifying!(less)
I liked the style to begin. I liked the idea that this was going to be a mystery. I liked the pictures and diagrams and unusual 'descriptions' and obs...moreI liked the style to begin. I liked the idea that this was going to be a mystery. I liked the pictures and diagrams and unusual 'descriptions' and observations of surroundings and 'ordinary' people.
But then it all got ruined when it wasn't a mystery novel after all, and the answer was just thrown randomly out there in the middle of the book and wasn't actually "solved" at all. So I was disappointed because the idea of the murder of a dog being solved and narrated by a 15 year old boy with Asperger's Syndrome just seemed so fantastic and original and potentially great if only it had been carried out to the end.(less)
I can barely put this book into words. It was chilling, gripping, clever and shocking.
Boyne beautifully and tragically constructs and develops his cha...moreI can barely put this book into words. It was chilling, gripping, clever and shocking.
Boyne beautifully and tragically constructs and develops his characters and their setting, realistically captures the innocence and naivety of nine-year-old Bruno to give us a new perspective of a heartbreaking catastrophe. I read it one sitting and never once wished for a page to go faster - they literally flew by to one of the most perfect conclusions I have ever read.(less)
I first read this book when I was ten and adored it. This time round I loved it just as much. The story and its characters are timeless - with so many...moreI first read this book when I was ten and adored it. This time round I loved it just as much. The story and its characters are timeless - with so many little women in its pages, it perfectly captures the growing up of any girl in any period of time. It can be read again and again with new eyes and fresh interpretation, with a closer or more relevant bond to a different character or message - No matter how many times or across how many years, there'll be something new to be discovered and touched by.(less)
I still don't really know what rating this book deserves. It was clever and well written, beautiful and horrific at the same time. It was mostly belie...moreI still don't really know what rating this book deserves. It was clever and well written, beautiful and horrific at the same time. It was mostly believable and the characters were extremely human. But so much included just seemed irrelevant like Daisy's eating disorder which I, like several other people have said, just can't quite decide whether or not it needed to be in there. But it did the job and I think most girls would be able to get something from it as there are some truly stunning passages woven into the text at unexpected moments regarding growing up and humanity. It was also refreshing in that it wasn't patronising in the slightest and definitely addresses the 21st Century teenager.(less)