Some books are powerful - thanks to the prose, the story or the subject matter. Far From Home is powerful because of all three. It describes the sharpSome books are powerful - thanks to the prose, the story or the subject matter. Far From Home is powerful because of all three. It describes the sharp and terrible events in what used to be Rhodesia and is now Zimbabwe. It shows the rise of Robert Mugabe to power. It manages to portray both sides of a conflict that tore a country apart and was a dark period in world history.
First we meet Tariro, and gain an insight into the lives of the Karanga people. She is a bright and charming young girl, in love with the brave and handsome Nhamo. Her whole life is in front of her - but then the white settlers arrive and steal all of that life away from her.
The second part of the novel shows Katie, a pampered daughter of one of the white settler families. She has been brought up to consider black people beneath her, and is forced to confront those prejudices when her uncle takes her into his home - the uncle that has taken a black woman to wife.
There is a connection between Tariro and Katie that brings the two story lines colliding together, and is fitting and neat.
Robert's prose is stark, clean and elegant. It details the sometimes shocking events with quiet dignity and helps to evoke feelings for both Tariro and Katie, despite the fact that they are on opposing sides of the tale.
The characters are brilliantly written, and it is simply awesome to see two female protagonists take centre stage.
Robert clearly writes from the heart and has a great deal of experience in the subject matter. She manages to convey a complex political situation with direct language and a lot of sympathy.
This, as I say, is a powerful book. It is very well written. But it is not fun or light. It is challenging, thought-provoking and has enormous depth. ...more
Jacob's grandfather tells him tales. Tall stories about peculiar people and his home on a magical island. As far as Jacob is concerned, these storiesJacob's grandfather tells him tales. Tall stories about peculiar people and his home on a magical island. As far as Jacob is concerned, these stories are just that - fibs, tales, something to pass the time. That is Before. After he discovers that there might be something to what his grandfather has said, and heads out on a journey to try and find the island from the past.
This is a quirky, beautiful, haunting, spooky little novel. I really had no idea what to expect going in - but did assume it would be a horror from the rather creepy photo adorning the front cover. I was left to uncover the secrets of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, and I hope that you decide to as well. I would hate to spoil anything, so will leave my discussions of the plot entirely. (I know that some people regard that reviewing technique as a complete cop-out, but I desperately want people to come to this novel with fresh eyes - it is a complete treat).
The prose is exceptional - leading the reader in a drifting manner through the first half of the novel, exploring Jacob's reaction to his grandfather's stories and his quiet life as an ordinary boy. At times it is quite stunning, and led me to think of such authors as Peter S Beagle. The second half of the novel increases the pace, with some exceptionally scary moments.
In fact, the best word to sum up Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is "atmospheric". I thought about old-time shows and circuses, featuring bearded ladies and the like. I thought about haunted houses and ghosts. Having the background of WWII to much of the novel gave it a weight and oppression. Some scenes drip with menace. Others show a dreary town haunted by its past. Altogether, this novel is atmospheric!
The atmosphere is increased by the wonderful archive photographs in sepia scattered through the novel. Riggs used them as his inspiration for the story, and you can see exactly why they created such a strange little tale. Indeed, the picture on the front cover of the novel shows a little girl in a dress - fairly ordinary. Until you look closely and see that she is hovering a foot above the ground. This manner of secrets being revealed is perfectly in tune with the prose of the novel.
I do have a quibble - as I always do where time travel and loops in time are concerned. It is too easy to see paradoxes and loopholes in the idea of people moving back and forth in time. If I thought too hard about what was occurring, my head started to ache with the logistics of it all.
Apart from that incredibly minor point, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is an exceptional tale; one that is destined to become a classic. It is undefinable and entirely beautiful. I think this has managed to do the impossible and knock the Chaos Walking trilogy from my top spot this year. Well worth your money! ...more
Christine Lucas suffered a car accident that causes an anomaly with her memories - every time she goes to sleep, she forgets who she is and what has hChristine Lucas suffered a car accident that causes an anomaly with her memories - every time she goes to sleep, she forgets who she is and what has happened to her over the last twenty years. On the morning we meet Christine she is called by a Dr Nash, who tells her about a journal she has been keeping. The reader discovers, along with Christine, what her story is - and is drawn into a taut emotional thriller that keeps you guessing from page to page. Don't trust Ben.
Before I Go To Sleep is an incredibly thought-provoking novel, as well as an exciting psychological drama. The nature of memories, and how they create a personality, are discussed thoroughly here, as we follow Christine's story. This lifts Before I Go To Sleep into truly literary realms, providing plenty of arenas for debate.
Without our memories, who are we?
How much do memories define us?
Is lying to someone in their best interests?
This debut novel by S J Watson seeks to explore these matters, and does so within a story structure that works unbelievably well. First of all, we wake with Christine, in an unfamiliar bed, with a strange man next to her. We feel her panic, we're desperate to know what is going on and who this man is. We're aghast with her when we find out that this man is her husband. We're curious about Dr Nash, and finally we're completely engrossed as we read the story of Christine's journal, learn about what has been taking place over the last twenty years.
While the plot is simply excellent, Watson's prose cannot be dismissed as something lesser. It is his prose that keeps the reader turning pages - its simplicity, starkness and, at times, bluntness creates the atmosphere of dread and claustrophobia.
At times I was deeply uncomfortable with the subject matter and found myself confronting ideas that demand dissection. This includes the nature of consensual and non-consensual sex. If you are told that a man is your husband, if you believe this to be true and yet feel uncomfortable when he initiates sex, is this non-consensual? I have to say, every single time I put down Before I Go To Sleep, I found my thoughts returning to it. I was desperate to go back to Christine and couldn't bear the idea of not finding out what was happening.
This is one of those books where you would pay extra for another copy if your original was missing the last chapter! Before I Go To Sleep is the type of novel where you seriously consider only catching a few hours sleep yourself in order to finish reading it.
It is breathless, highly accomplished and damn near perfect. Go and buy this book today. ...more
These Things Hidden is not the type of book I usually read and enjoy, but I was intrigued enough by the description to say yes to a review copy. I fouThese Things Hidden is not the type of book I usually read and enjoy, but I was intrigued enough by the description to say yes to a review copy. I found myself reading late into the night, saying 'just one more chapter, just one more chapter...' as I took on this gripping book. These Things Hidden is a startling, complex look at the mother-child relationship, and how different women react to it.
We principally follow the story of Allison, and I loved the way that we gradually discovered the reasons behind her jail sentence. This was handled beautifully by Gudenkauf, who gave compelling and realistic reasons for every one of Allison's actions. Despite the fact we should dislike this woman for the crime she committed, it is easy to feel great sympathy for her plight and her estrangement from her family and the life she had before.
Alongside Allison, we are shown the viewpoints of Brynn, Allison's sister, and Charm, the girl who has become embroiled in the secrets of the two sisters. Gudenkauf does sterling work presenting very different voices for these three women, and showcasing how their situations have led to the way they react when encountering Joshua Kelby, a boy who is about to become central to their lives.
These Things Hidden is a quiet story, with a chilling denouement that I just did not see coming. In fact, there were a number of twists in this relatively short book which kept me guessing. This, alongside the short chapters, meant I compulsively read These Things Hidden every chance I got - literally opening the book for five minutes while I waited for my work computer to boot up because I couldn't wait any longer to read more about Allison, Brynn and Charm. Make sure you set aside a lengthy period of time to enjoy These Things Hidden.
This is a lyrical and very poignant book, which surprised me on all levels. I am definitely going to be picking up more work by Heather Gudenkauf. ...more
I can't imagine there are many of you who don't know the story within One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (I must be one of the few to have never watchedI can't imagine there are many of you who don't know the story within One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (I must be one of the few to have never watched the film or read the book), but here is a brief summary: Nurse Ratched rules her ward in an Oregon State mental hospital with a strict routine. Her regime is unopposed until the arrival of McMurphy, a swaggering rogue of a character, who takes it upon himself to defy her at every turn on behalf of his fellow inmates.
I've been sitting on this review for a couple of days, and those who follow me on Twitter know that I have been having trouble marshalling my thoughts - how best to provide commentary on a book that completely devastated me?
I was told to read this - I've always been ever so reluctant to pick up those books deemed to be classics. I don't know why. Maybe because I feel I'll be made to look stupid when I fail to understand why everyone loves the book. With One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, I completely understand why people talk it up so much - in fact, I plan to become one of those unutterably boring people who constantly recommend the same book to everyone.
I loved this book. It took me over a week to read and it is only 281 pages. For comparison purposes, over the last day and a half I have breezed through a book that had almost 400 pages. I just did not want One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest to end - partly because I knew it was not going to end well, and partly because I couldn't bear to leave the characters.
Argh, I'm struggling, I knew I would! I want to talk about the darkness in this book which is chilling in the extreme. I want to tell you about the moments of hilarity that come out of nowhere and made me laugh out loud. I think you should know about the chilling social commentary that this book provides - showing the fine line between sanity and madness. But I honestly don't think I can do any of it justice.
McMurphy's struggle is seen through the eyes of Chief Bromden, a half-Indian who sympathises and understands McMurphy's desire to try and beat the system. Bromden's voice has moments of sanity and then will plunge into fog and disorientation which gives some indication of the pain and frustration that mental illness must force onto people who suffer it.
In the past I have made jokes about being an accountant, by saying that, although I do deal in numbers, I haven't had my personality lobotomy yet. Having read this book, those words will never again pass my lips. The treatments suffered by the inmates, including electroshock therapy and, in the worst cases, lobotomy, are described with harrowing honesty. I wanted to cry when I saw how many of the inmates were treated - what they had to go through for the sake of trying to cure them seemed absolutely unreal. (And can I say that it is positively barbaric the procedure of lobotomy has taken place in the UK as recently as 2001?!)
Okay, I'm starting to ramble so I'll close here. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is a sensational read - honest, funny, harrowing. The characters and their fates are bitter-sweet in the most part, but you leave the book feeling a strange sense of hope. I desperately want you all to read this. It is easily the best book I've read in years - and it is one of the few books to move me to tears. Excellent. ...more
The Slap is a novel looking at a cross section of Australian life by taking the viewpoints of eight characters, all whom were present at the BBQ whereThe Slap is a novel looking at a cross section of Australian life by taking the viewpoints of eight characters, all whom were present at the BBQ where the eponymous slap took place. Hector is first up, a Greek bureaucrat, married to Indian Aisha but considering an affair; then Anouk, a hard Jewish writer who cannot see the problem with hitting a child - and, in general, has no understanding of, or liking for, children; Harry is next - Hector's hot-headed cousin who delivered the slap. Connie is a teenager who regularly looks after Hugo, the child who was slapped, and dreams of becoming a vet; Rosie is the mother of Hugo, pathologically attached to him and still breast feeding her child even though he is three years old; Manolis is the father of Hector, a doting grandfather and fiercely Greek. Finally we hear from Aisha herself, as she and Hector take a holiday where truths come out, and Richie, Connie's best friend, a young lad waiting to hear his exam results and struggling with the fact he is gay.
I struggled with this book. It is annoyingly readable, but has so many flaws that, despite a storming and compelling start, it really tails off towards the end of the novel and you find yourself wondering why you are still reading.
The premise is fantastic - taking a child being slapped as a starting point, and exploring how this affects friends and family is just brilliant. I heard about this book at a blogger event and was determined to seek it out and read it purely based on the premise. It must be such a great sell - in fact, I have mentioned it to other people and they have shown the same intrigue.
Tsiolkas does a brilliant job at showing us a cross section of Australian life, a seething mass of religions and cultures, sexualities and races. With this morass of humanity, conflict is inevitable and Tsiolkas handles the macro issues of life in Australia as well as the micro.
I also liked how Tsiolkas was able to explore perceptions of people through the slap - at first we think Harry possibly had a case for slapping a child who was both misbehaving and threatening his own child (as much as anyone has a case for slapping a child, anyway), but then we discover that Harry is a foul-tempered man who keeps a mistress and has hit his wife in the past. I enjoyed having my perceptions overthrown like this - a literal exploration of not judging someone by first impressions.
So that is the good... On to the bad...
I've mentioned my dislike of profanity in books before. I can handle it when it feels natural and when it serves the plot - here we had (excuse me) cocks and cunts on virtually every page. It was an endless stream of bad language - and mostly used in universally poor sex scenes. It got to the point where I was sickened by the profanity and the relentless, grotesque mentions of masturbation and rough sex.
In fact, this book hit a number of my literary black spots: women being mistreated in terms of hitting them and forcing them into sex; young girls feeling as though they have to have sex to make them women; adultery; flagrant and accepted use of hard drugs. This book was simply filled with horrible misogynist men and women with victim complexes.
The pacing of the novel was entirely off. The premise was to do with the slap and this drove the narrative admirably for the first two thirds. The resolution to this part of the tale came way too early, and left me wondering why I was still reading the novel as it petered off into a limp ending.
Also, for a literary novel, this felt very much like a trashy summer read. I could imagine seeing similar characters and events in a novel that is as far from Booker Prize winning as I can imagine!
Altogether, I hated this book. Yet I read it greedily and compulsively. Something must have driven me to keep turning these pages, and I guess it was Tsiolkas' writing. Ultimately I wanted to finish the novel - whether that was simply wanting to find out the result of the court case, or seeing whether Tsiolkas could descent into worse depths of depravity in his writing.
Man Booker thoughts: Please don't let this book win! It might have something to say on racism, homosexuality, the life of ordinary people, but it is wrapped up in a novel that is filled with one dimensional cliched characters. There must be better novels on the long list than this one... ...more
The Long Song chronicles, from a first person perspective, the life of July, a female slave born and brought up on the plantation Amity. She speaks abThe Long Song chronicles, from a first person perspective, the life of July, a female slave born and brought up on the plantation Amity. She speaks about her life at the behest of her son, starting with the rape of her mother by a cruel overseer, through her time as a house maid for a white lady called Caroline Mortimer, the two children she bears, and touches on the dying days of slavery, including the Baptist Wars.
The book is written with simplicity and grace, using the Caribbean patois to great effect. July's voice is warm and cheeky, insisting that she will tell her story without "...words flowing free as the droppings that fall from the backside of a mile..." The words bounce from the page, idiosyncratic and humorous: 'fatty batty', 'bug-a-bug', 'licky-licky'.
With the prose reading so smoothly, it is easy to disregard this novel as being merely light and readable. It deals, rather, with the true realities of slavery and plantation life: the gulf between the house slaves and those who worked the fields; the hateful mistreatment and casual cruelty by the white people of those who slaved for them; and, indeed, the undercurrents of tension between the blacks regarding the colour of their skin: "Only with a white man, can there be guarantee that the colour of your pickney will be raised. For a mulatto who breeds with a white man will bring forth a quadroon; the the quadroon that enjoys white relations will give to this world a mustee; the mustee will beget a mustiphino; and the mustiphino... oh, the mustiphino's child with a white man for a papa, will find each day greets them no longer with a frown, but welcomes them with a smile, as they at last stride within this world as a cherished white person."
Despite the weighty subject matter, Levy manages to avoid it becoming a depressing read. In fact, we delight in the japes played by the slaves on their white owners, such as when they switch the good table linen for soiled bedsheets during an important Christmas meal. However, there are a couple of occasions when the sheer horrors of the slaves' lives is brought home to us, such as here when Kitty carries dung in a container upon her head: "...the solid odour did choke her at the throat, after mighty coughing and a few strong inhalations, all the air about Kitty, be it sweet or bitter, came to smell like shit, so the offence was lost. But for her tongue there was no such accommodation. When, unwittingly, a piece would fall into her open mouth... it would burn so fierce upon her tongue that she feared a hole was being bored right through it."
The white people in this tale are, universally, to be derided or hated or pitied - none of them emerge well, but all are three dimensional with realistic motives ascribed to them, such as Robert Goodwin who seeks to do well by the blacks he owns right up until the point where they refuse to work for him.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Long Song - in fact, my only complaint was minor and thus: the story was written from first person perspective which meant that a) sometimes July wouldn't have known things that she was presented as knowing e.g. how her mistress feels when smelling the bodies of her slaves and b) we missed hearing an awful lot of external events, since July herself did not see them or know of them.
Other than this, The Long Song was a fine book - telling an authentic tale about a very shameful point in British history. It represents a feat in research and imagination, combining to present a novel that, though slight, presents an honest account of what it must have been to live as a slave in the 1800s. I found it entertaining, funny and horrific by turns and the story of July will stay with me for a while.
Man Booker Prize thoughts: I feel like a fraud talking about this novel's chances at the Booker Prize. I genuinely don't think I've read any of the previous winners, unless by accident and all unaware! This being the first novel of the long list I've read, as well, doesn't make it any easier setting out my thoughts. All I can say about its chances is that I think it effectively combines literary skill with a damn good story, that also conveys a weighty message. If this is what the Booker judges are looking for, then I can see The Long Song making it to the short list. ...more
This book is an amazing triumph, an original retelling of the 'boy meets girl' tale, and is thoroughly gripping from start to finish. Henry DeTamble fThis book is an amazing triumph, an original retelling of the 'boy meets girl' tale, and is thoroughly gripping from start to finish. Henry DeTamble firsts meets Clare Abshire when he is thirty six and she is six. Henry is a time traveller - a person with a rare genetic disorder that leads him to vanish from one time in his life and appear in another. He has met his dead mother, his own child before her birth, his future bride when she is just wearing pigtails. He has met himself on numerous occasions - even, in a both amusing and rather odd situation, experimented with himself.
The book is told from both Henry and Clare's viewpoints, with a handy title at the head of each passage which gives the year and the respective ages of the two protagonists. My one slight complaint is that, at times, their 'voices' were too similar and so I had to check which viewpoint I was reading if there was no immediate clue.
The joy in this book is in watching Clare and Henry's courtship, which takes place in a non-linear fashion through the whole of their lives. Their two weddings are both beautiful and poignant, since we know that Clare misses out on marrying the young Henry in her present the first time round so has a very private ceremony with him to ensure she is 'very married'.
The novel has almost two halves - the first unfolds slowly as we flit backwards and forwards in time learning about both Clare and Henry, and the various times they have met. We also meet the secondary characters, some of whom are absolutely delightful and none of whom are one-dimensional. There are ghostly echoes of bad times to come.
In the second half of the book we deal with the bad times. There is heartbreak aplenty and the story brought me to tears a number of times. The grace of Clare as she deals with miscarriage after miscarriage, having quiet faith that she will eventually have a child, is desperately sad and hopeful at the same time. Henry's realisation of his own demise comes partway through the book and foreshadows every glorious day they have left.
We were able to share the feelings of both during those times that Henry was absent - Clare's longing for his return, and her constant wondering about what he did and where he was; Henry's confusion and displacement. At times in his youth Henry was a person hard to like - as he stole and burgled - but his desperation at his fairly unique situation caused me to feel great pity for him.
This book was exceptionally written, sharp with black humour and warm with love. Niffenegger has taken a bizarre and surreal concept, and spun it into both a beautiful love story and a treatise on determinism. Philosophical musings and discussions on morality take place, amongst gestures of romance and sympathy for Baby Punks.
I was hard put to stop reading once I'd started - the short passages and lack of chapters invite you to read on and on until the whole novel is consumed. I think this will take its place as a classic, and would recommend it without hesitation. ...more
This is the first story concerning that most famous detective Sherlock Holmes and the doctor Watson. It concerns the first meeting of Holmes and WatsoThis is the first story concerning that most famous detective Sherlock Holmes and the doctor Watson. It concerns the first meeting of Holmes and Watson, the the case which cements Watson's desire to record Holmes' doings.
I really enjoyed this rather pulpy detective story. It is fast-paced with very little deviation from the telling of the crime and the resolution.
The main delight comes from the characters. Everyone knows of Sherlock Holmes, such as his deerstalker hat and pipe, and his ability to solve crimes. Now that I have read this story, I can appreciate his dry wit, towering arrogance and slight wistfulness that he never seems to garner the credit for solving mysteries.
Watson is often represented as being rather stupid, but I infer from this story that he is merely naive about what human beings are capable of and doesn't have Holmes' expert knowledge of criminology. I loved the way that Holmes was patient and exasperated by turns when explaining his deductions to Watson. You also get a sense of the fact that Holmes is just dying to show off his abilities, and Watson's faithful recording of the case fits this neatly.
The story loses half a star for two reasons, both of which are probably attributable to the time and manner of when it was released.
The first is the abrupt switch from the location in London to the detailed story of Jefferson Hope, who hails from America. At first I was not at all clear why this had been introduced. I believe it may have been done because of the serialised nature of many Sherlock Holmes stories, enabling both new and existing readers to enjoy the tale, but it did jar somewhat.
The second is the way that Mormons and Native Americans are dealt with, although I freely admit that this is due to modern sensibilities and an environment that now decries anything deemed not politically correct. I was a little shocked to see it, but accept that this is the peril of reading anything set in this era.
Altogether, a pacy read with lovely dialogue and an instantly unforgettable character in the form of Sherlock Holmes. ...more
In the winter of 1917, nineteen-year-old Martha Lessen saddles her horses and heads for a remote county in eastern Oregon looking for work "gentling"In the winter of 1917, nineteen-year-old Martha Lessen saddles her horses and heads for a remote county in eastern Oregon looking for work "gentling" wild horses. Many of the regular hands are off fighting the war, and though the ranchers are sceptical of Martha's quiet, unconventional methods, it is clear that she has a serious knowledge of horses. Over the long, hard winter, the townsfolk witness Martha talking in low, sweet tones to horses believed beyond repair - and getting miraculous, almost immediate results. Ultimately, her gifts will earn her the respect of the men, the friendship of the women, and an indispensable place in the community.
This is a beautiful tale told in a simple manner. The prose is no-nonsense and yet somehow poetic at the same time. It is well worth picking up, even if you have little interest in Westerns or horses.
For me, the particular joy came from individual chapters that seemed to be almost short stories in their own right, telling tales about the ranchers on Martha's 'horse-circle'. Particular tales that touched my heart included Ruth and Tom Kandel (concerning Tom's fight against cancer) and the Thiede's, who are German-born, which becomes an issue as the shadow of World War 1 falls over the county.
Glass writes effectively and without sentiment about the hard lives of the ranchers, many of whom flocked to Oregon in the hopes of making their fortunes. There is heartache, and pathos, and engaging characters on every page.
Glass also offers us a perspective on the world outside the quiet Western county that Martha plies her trade in - Martha finds work because many of the young men have already been drafted into the army. She covers such sensitive topics as racism, terminal illness, and environmental destruction with grace and quiet commentary.
The overwhelming impression of this novel is peace: we drift into the tale with Martha's arrival in the county, spend some time with her as the shy young girl falls into a new life, and then drift away. It is an uncomplicated and ephemeral look at a long-gone time from history. ...more
Benny and Shrimp is a novel about discovering a new passion, and trying to make it work against the day to day problems of everyday life. When they meBenny and Shrimp is a novel about discovering a new passion, and trying to make it work against the day to day problems of everyday life. When they meet at a cemetery - while Desiree (or "Shrimp") mourns her late husband, and Benny tends the shared grave of his parents - it is most definitely not love at first sight. Yet, against the odds, passion grows between Shrimp, the pale, bookish librarian and Benny, the overworked milk farmer. Katarina Mazetti writes in a quirky manner about the trials and tribulations of passion versus practicality: Shrimp is looking for a man who will come with her to the opera and who reads books for pleasure; Benny requires a woman who can keep the farmhouse running while he tends to the cows.
The chapters are told from alternate viewpoints, which made this read all the more pleasurable. Being able to see the same incident from both viewpoints ensured the reader always had sympathy and empathy for both parties in the relationship - unlike most love stories, where it is easy to throw your lot in with one injured party. Mazetti shows us that, most often, misunderstandings are the root of all problems in a relationship.
I adored the little bits of spiky poetry and commentary that headed up each of Shrimp's chapters - they gave a good measure of how she was feeling regarding Benny and the relationship:
"I have to get through the minutes one at a time, swallow them like bitter pills, try not to dwell on the vast number still left."
The strength of the novel is the realism with which the love story is presented. Benny and Shrimp are chalk and cheese and there is no automatic happy ending for them (although I am not going to spoil how it ends for the reader!) as there would be in a standard chick lit novel, say.
"A couple of times we rented a video. Or rather, we've never rented just one, because we can never agree. We rent two. Then she gets out her flowery bag while my video's on, and I fall asleep during hers. We're like chalk and cheese [...:] And I don't want it ever to end."
The chapters are short and sweet, which encourages you to keep reading further: 'just one more chapter...' The language is extremely quirky, and was the main factor in the novel that I struggled a little with - since it is a translation from Swedish (this book is a bestseller in Sweden), I am happy to accept that this might be the cause, but as an example the following sentence made me cringe a little:
"For some I'm a voter, for others a pedestrian, a wage earner, a consumer of culture, a human resource or a property owner. Or just a collection of split ends, leaking sanitary towels and dry skin."
One other issue I had with Benny and Shrimp is that later on in the story a character called Anita was re-introduced and I simply couldn't remember at what point I'd first heard about her - this is not because Anita was unmemorable, but because Benny and Shrimp completely dominate this novel. They are the only two characters I want to know about, and the periods where we hear about other characters are, to me, an unnecessary diversion. I do accept that other readers might feel differently, and enjoy the oddball cast of secondary characters.
In summary this was a beautiful but all too brief picture of a sweet love story between two extremely disparate characters. I have heard that a sequel is written in Swedish, but is waiting for translation into English: all I can say is that I want this translation done NOW so that I can hear more about Benny and Shrimp. Moving. ...more
World War Terminus has been and gone, leaving an Earth where radioactive dust keeps the few survivors who haven't emigrated inside for parts of the daWorld War Terminus has been and gone, leaving an Earth where radioactive dust keeps the few survivors who haven't emigrated inside for parts of the day; an Earth where real animals are now status symbols; an Earth where renegade androids are 'retired' by bounty hunters.
In the first chapter we meet Rick Deckard, one of these bounty hunters, as he argues with his wife before work about which setting to put their mood organs on. He then tends to his electric sheep and dreams of owning a real animal. Immediately, we are introduced to one of the main themes of this novel: that of reality. In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Philip K. Dick explores thoroughly the concept of reality - by showing us androids who could almost pass for human if not for a lack of empathy; and a whole business set-up to provide for electric animals; and the theory of Mercerism.
I was struck by the bleak tone, and the fact that Mercerism - a pseudo-religion - is one of the few aspects of life to give people hope, since this could be said to be a false hope. At one point Deckard thinks the following: "This rehearsal will end, the performance will end, the singers will die. Eventually the last score of the music will be destroyed in one way or another, finally the name 'Mozart' will vanish, the dust will have won" and this idea that the world is gradually crumbling shows us why people cling to Mercerism, and the status of owning animals as a way to make it through each day.
I have to confess that I was somewhat reluctant to pick up both my first Masterwork in this project and my first Philip K. Dick novel, I don't quite know why. Perhaps because the story is so well-known thanks to Bladerunner; perhaps because I have always been reluctant to pick up the classics of the genre, out of a fear that they would be extremely dry and unreadable. I'm happy to report that the reverse is true - Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep was extremely readable, at times very tense and atmospheric. There was a particular scene later in the book where an android coldly mutilates a spider and observes its ability to run that made me literally shudder. I was surprised that this novel still has such power and intensity after such a long while of being published.
I really enjoyed the absurd humour that provided such a difference in tone to the bleak hopelessness that prevails throughout most of the rest of the novel. The fact that Isidore was unable to tell the difference between a real cat and an electric animal made me squirm a little with discomfort, but I also appreciated the dark humour. The whole presence of the electric animals was amusing, and yet somehow sad and desolate.
PKD's writing is compulsive and spare, but at times it does meander into somewhat melancholic psychedelia, where PKD becomes more rambling and less punchy. There were a couple of passages that I felt could have been removed entirely to make the novel read better.
Altogether, though, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a science fiction triumph, and certainly deserves its place in the Masterworks list. It can be read on so many different levels - purely as a psychological thriller or as a social commentary about what defines a human being. It is definitely worth multiple reads to fully enjoy the experience. Recommended. ...more
It is hard to know what to say about this novel, to be honest.
It is the story of Liesel, a young girl growing up in Nazi Germany, fostered by Hans anIt is hard to know what to say about this novel, to be honest.
It is the story of Liesel, a young girl growing up in Nazi Germany, fostered by Hans and Rosa Hubermann. The book deals with matters of the Jews and the Holocaust in a poignant manner.
To start with I struggled with the idea of Death as the narrator, especially his little asides to the audience. I found it more intrusive than anything. However, once the story of Liesel and the many characterful people she encounters begins properly, the book does become gripping. It is quite a slow burn and I do find it more of an annoyance than a literary device that Death gives up some of the future details of the story - I would have preferred to see them revealed as they happened rather than being foreshadowed from page one.
My favourite character is Max, the Jew looked after in the basement by the Hubermanns - it is heart-breaking to realise what he is destined to go through as a Jew in Nazi Germany.
I also love the fact that the power of words is a constant theme, especially because the author uses his own words in such a moving and haunting fashion. The language is compelling and beautiful.
Altogether, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will be keeping it for a re-read, but I didn't think it was an instant classic....more