For starters let's just forget where she got the plot from and whether it's "original" or not as that hardly matters. What Donoghue has managed to cre...moreFor starters let's just forget where she got the plot from and whether it's "original" or not as that hardly matters. What Donoghue has managed to create here is a carefully crafted, existential study of the human experience. By employing a 5 year old boy with deprived sensory and social awareness she has chosen the perfect vehicle to explore the human condition. Donoghue forgets nothing - even dropping the definite article from the boy's description of objects. Wardrobe, Room, Chair are never the wardrobe, the room or the chair because as far as he's concerned they are the only ones in the world. But Room goes beyond this and examines our own self of self when it cannot be objectified or separated from our environment. This is a particularly haunting narrative that delves into the readers sense of perspective and questions how much of what we may consider to be identitiy is learnt from our sensory experience and ultimately what is our own essence. This book is a great achievement as both a considered philosophical debate and a sociological one and it is handled tenderly with immense pathos and even humour. John Paul Sartre's Nausea and modern psychology had a lot more influence on the creation of this book than tabloid newsreel. All Donoghue can be accussed of stealing is the setting.(less)
This book deserves 5 stars for it's tenderness, poetry and technical genius. Enright's adept use of metaphor and imagery are in a class of it's own an...moreThis book deserves 5 stars for it's tenderness, poetry and technical genius. Enright's adept use of metaphor and imagery are in a class of it's own and her ability to carefully segment and lay before us the human experience makes you shake your head with wonderment and awe.
I was particularly impressed with the way she analysed the theme of human emotional and spiritual growth with deliciously dangerous images of human flesh. Her frank and sometimes course references to sex organs reminded me of DH Lawrence's masterly attempt in Lady Chatterley's Lover to neutralise the negative connotations of swearing by taking ownership of those very words; to empower the human animal by taking it's own 'dirty' language and using it to celebrate the sexual act, thus transforming the langauge into something cleansed, even baptised. What Enright seems to do is just slightly different. Her harnessing of the language used to describe male and female anatomy is a transcription of who we are and where we are from - our fossilised history through flesh.
In The Gathering, flesh imagery cannot be separated from the imagery of Christ, as the Hegarty family are Catholic, and it seems obvious that flesh, sex, guilt and death had to be major themes. These are explored intimately and cleverly and though an unshirking voice and tenderness of touch.
Veronica, the central protagonist, is more complicated than it first appears and her coming to terms with grief is, after all, what the entire novel is dealing focussed on. She is neither likeable nor dislikeable and it is hard to judge her and her actions. If anything I have sympathy for her struggle and confusion - she is after all just flesh and bones.
This book clearly deserves a long insightful review and I'm not the person to do it but I will record my following opinion, just for my own records:
It could have been perfect - if she hadn't overwritten it. She asks a lot from the reader when she expects us to remain unbaffled by her occasional clumsy structure and temporal tangles. Some of the scenes are hazy like watching through a fog and the tapdancing across narrative timelines in the middle of paragraphs was annoying. The plot sometimes descended into blank abstraction leaving me feeling like I was plodding through mud. Yet there were moments when I flew through the narrative and more than once I was surprised to catch myself recognising some dark witticism underlying this painful tale of a ravaged family history.
This book is a masterpiece but it deserves to be read more than once. It is not a gripping pageturner but it will take you to places within yourself that you should INSIST on venturing to. This is great literature but I wouldn't recommend it as entertainment. The word 'entertainment' suggests mindless consumption of a non challenging stimulus. The Gathering demands so much more of you than that and may even take a piece of you with it.(less)
Massive in scope and themes and accomplished in structure, this original novel is a brave and noble work that tackles the problems of the world and th...moreMassive in scope and themes and accomplished in structure, this original novel is a brave and noble work that tackles the problems of the world and the shortcomings of the human race. Wow! Is that all?
The timeline of this novel begins in nineteenth century and ends (?) in a post apocalyptic future sometime after 2200.
By taking six separate narratives and layering them carefully within one another, Mitchell has succeeded where many more experienced novelists would fail – he has managed to explore the boundaries of human history and the realities of power by revealing their nature through the most splendidly crafted metaphors of diary entries, letters, the thriller novel, narrative film, digital recordings and the oral tradition.
It’s essentially six very well written vignettes peopled with distinguishable and realistic characters that each happen to be travelling through time at a different point. The portrayal of Timothy Cavendish is a tragic-comedy that had me chuckling out loud, Luisa Rey had me on the edge of my seat and I adored Robert Frobisher, the arrogant, self obsessed composer.
What emerges is a meditation on power and the old proclamation that those who win power have the right to record history. But Mitchell goes further and tears apart the Hobbesian view of Man as inaccurate and a view peddled by the warmongers of humanity desperate for Dominion.
In fact it’s an optimistic, sensitive and compassionate book that asserts that Man is inherently selfless and peaceful and will evolve. Man’s true nature never changes and this is delicately insinuated by the comet tattoo motif.
The most remarkable part of Cloud Atlas is that he manages to explore all of these themes in an entertaining way. Cloud Atlas is thrilling, it’s funny and it’s poignant. Cloud Atlas is one of the best novels I’ve read in the last ten years and what’s more I will certainly be reading it again and again. It’s deeply textured and multi layered and deserves more scrutiny. Discovering a book like Cloud Atlas is the reason I read books. (less)