This is hilarious in a very dour, Scottish way. I'll be honest; it's dark enough I had to put it down for a couple of days. Not dark in a painful way,...moreThis is hilarious in a very dour, Scottish way. I'll be honest; it's dark enough I had to put it down for a couple of days. Not dark in a painful way, but dark in a repetitious, unending slog kind of way. But, once you push past that? It's pretty funny.
It's about Scots day laborers and their travails. But what I first thought was going to be a fairly standard workman's humor type quickly transformed into this dark, dour, funny, THING. I cannot stress this enough: the humor is DARK, almost Kafka-esque. To be honest, I had to remind myself it was a comedy before I could pick it up again. But, with that in mind, the workers' travails and endless evenings in the local pub become funny. As does the ever growing pile of bodies.
At any rate, it took me a while to get into, but once I did, I loved this book. I'm going to lend it to my dad, actually. I think he might get a kick out of it. However, warning, I think it's a pretty British brand of humor. Uncertain if it'd translate well to someone who doesn't think Cold Comfort Farm is hilarious, so yeah. Bear that in mind.
P.S. Plus, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Worth considering. (less)
I Capture the Castle is not what I expected from the author of "101 Dalmatians." Cassandra Mortmain wants to become a writer. However, she has to deal...moreI Capture the Castle is not what I expected from the author of "101 Dalmatians." Cassandra Mortmain wants to become a writer. However, she has to deal with her family: sullen sister Rose, washed-up father James, and sensible-with-a-dash-of-crazy stepmother Topaz. James wrote a book, but unfortunately hasn't written anything else for 10 years and the family is rapidly running out of money while living in a rented castle. Despite this myriad of obstacles, Cassandra gets hold of a journal and begins to write. One of her best lines: "I have just remarked to Rose that our situation is really rather romantic, two girls in this strange and lonely house. She replied that she saw nothing romantic about being shut up in a crumbling ruin surrounded by a sea of mud."
Cassandra is an utterly charming narrator. With every chapter beginning with an explanation of how she has time to write, she tells the story of her sister's courtship of the new wealthy landlords and her father's gradual intellectual reawakening. Cassandra is so sensible you forget she is only 17, until she falls in love. And then you remember. Hoo boy, do you remember. I have to say, Smith PERFECTLY captures the longing and overly dramatic sensibilities of a literate 17 year old girl. Falling in love at that age is all pain and longing and dizzying joy and Smith allows Cassandra to experience all of it without becoming annoying. And seriously, I've read my old journals. The fact that she made teenage love bearable, let alone compelling, is pretty damn impressive.
The characters are well-developed, if sometimes a bit cliched. My favorite (other than Cassandra herself) is Topaz, a woman who lives up (or down?) to her name. Mini diversion here. I live in New Mexico, and we have what is called a "Santa Fe type." The women wear cowboy boots with broomstick skirts, practically drip turquoise and silver Indian jewelry and drive Subarus. The men wear Teva sandals and stringy pony tails, are deeply, deeply tanned, and hit on young women. They are a common and instantly recognizable sight in New Mexico. Now don't get me wrong, I see the attractions of a red broomstick skirt, but... Do other regions have these? Not Santa Fe in particular, but New Agey, sanctimonious types? But, back to the book: Topaz in a 1930's English Santa Fe type. She likes to wander about naked in the woods and she'll randomly spot nonsense about the beauty of nature. But her affectations covers a deeply sensible and pragmatic woman who keeps the deeply dysfunctional Mortmain family together. She's utterly charming and scatty and my second favorite character this year.
Although I loved Topaz, the writing, the characters, the ending, really everything about the book, I'm not putting this in the reread pile. There are certain books that I just fall in love with, finishing them only to turn back to page one so as to prolong the experience. This book reminded me a bit too much of my adolescence to comfortably revisit it soon. But I'm keeping it in case I ever find myself in the company of a lovesick preteen or teenager. (less)
OK, this was the book that's convinced me I want to start reading real books again (after a 2 month hiatus). I started it this morning, reluctantly we...moreOK, this was the book that's convinced me I want to start reading real books again (after a 2 month hiatus). I started it this morning, reluctantly went to work, and finished it after dinner.
The Hegarty clan gather in Dublin to mourn the suicide of their brother Liam. The structure of the story is interesting. The titular gathering doesn't take place until about 3/4s of the way through the book, but the consequences for Veronica, the narrator, have been in full play for the first part of the book. Enright weaves reminiscence, past, present, future, and fantasy to portray a woman in grief and a family coping with a subtle, insidious evil. And Veronica works through all this before we find out what the secrets are, or how the family reunion goes. And her anger and her grief is so real, and her hatred of everything, of her family, her husband, her children, herself rings so true. And so does her epiphany at the end of the book and all of this hatred, this rage and disgust at her husband, the world fundamentally shifts. This bone-deep shift is what I'm looking for in therapy, so finding it in a novel? Was an unexpected gift.(less)
What can I say? I finished the last page and turned to the first. Pragmatic, light, sly, and funny as hell. Just a gem of a book. Can's be more cohere...moreWhat can I say? I finished the last page and turned to the first. Pragmatic, light, sly, and funny as hell. Just a gem of a book. Can's be more coherent than this. (less)