As you might expect, this book is creepy. Not in a blood-and-gore-everywhere-women-screaming kind of way but in a subtle, building way that will leaveAs you might expect, this book is creepy. Not in a blood-and-gore-everywhere-women-screaming kind of way but in a subtle, building way that will leave you checking over your shoulder while out in the dark even though you have no idea why. It is a fine example of everything that makes Gothic literature so appealing - thunderstorms over great, looming asylums for the insane, the sound of howling wolves carried on the wind, mysterious castles and a good amount of hanging around in graveyards.
My favourite thing about the book? The fact that no detail, no matter how seemingly incidental, is superfluous. After the story moved back to England, Stoker spends a lot of time building up his characters and 'setting the scene'. Renfield is a perfect example. Unsettling though the ramblings of a 'lunatic' no doubt are, there doesn't appear to be much point to the man who eats flies and rambles on. He's a great distraction for Dr John Seward, of course, but didn't appear to be much more than that. How wrong I was! Likewise Lucy's suitors. Even though their wanton proposals of marriage did irritate me (see later mini-rant...), Lucy's descriptions of them serve as a brilliant introduction to Quincey Morris, Arthur Holmwood and Dr Seward.
I loved pretty much all of the main characters of Dracula. Mina Murray is a fantastic female character, especially considering the time in which she was written. She's smart, feisty, devoted and witty. Most importantly, she doesn't simper or faint. She may be pretty too (I seem to remember her being so described at some point...). The band of unlikely heroes (Quincey Morris, Arthur Holmwood, Dr Seward and Dr Van Helsing) are also great. My undisputed favourite was John Seward for his sensitivity, respect (mostly) in his dealings with Renfield and his selflessness. Quincey Morris is a close second for just being so refreshingly gung-ho about vampire chasing!
The least appealing aspect of the book for me was a small one but one that grated on my nerves more than once: how fervently everybody seemed to love Lucy. For some unusual reason, three men propose to her on one day. My guess is that we're supposed to be being shown how wonderful she is so that later events have more impact. Possibly also as a way of binding the characters more tightly together. For me, though, the abundant declarations of love were unnecessary. The characters were strong enough without them.
Oh, and perhaps I could have had one or two less of Van Helsing's speeches on science, morals, history etc. His 'voice' is occasionally tough to read because he's Dutch and his letters/diary entries etc are written authentically in a Dutch-man-speaking/writing-English structure and tone. It is endearing, in a way, but also hard work. Bear with him!
I couldn't write anything about this book, either, without mentioning the obviously incredible atmosphere. There's a constant feeling that something is lingering around the corner and Stoker writes gloomy, windswept and haunting vistas like nobody I've ever read. It helps that I visited Whitby only a couple of months ago and had walked up to the Abbey visited regularly by Mina and Lucy and remember saying how desolate it must be in the winter (let's ignore the fact that it was sunny for the time being...) It made it easier to imagine a lot of the scenes there and added an extra layer of disturbing realism.
Overall: You probably think you know everything about this book. In reality, you probably don't. (Unless you've seen a film version or something, in which case, you're probably right and do know a lot...so shhh...) There's so much more to this story than a rampaging blood-sucking fiend. This story is all kinds of dark, deftly woven, extremely clever and genuinely gripping. It's a must-read for anyone curious about the Count that brought vampires into mainstream fiction and a great choice for a dark, stormy evening. Just maybe close the curtains first......more
For some reason, I'm struggling to sum up how I feel about this one. Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy it - just not as much as the first and I'm not suFor some reason, I'm struggling to sum up how I feel about this one. Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy it - just not as much as the first and I'm not sure why - hence the struggle. I actually suspect I just missed some of my favourite Ixian characters from the first...
The story moved from Ixia to neighbouring 'country' Sitia which was fantastic for a couple of reasons. One: there was a lot of character development as family members were discovered and relationships developed; two, there were (and forgive the potential over-analysis going on here) some really interesting political points being made.
Upon arriving in Sitia's main city, our favourite lead female encounters a group of beggars and fails to grasp the concept - why? Because it seems beloved Ixia is in fact a communist state - where "basic necessities are provided to all by the Commander's military". The Sitians fail to comprehend how this is possible because the beggars surely were just lazy and got themselves into their plight? Add into this some discussions on the nature of crime and punishment - Ixia: all judged by the Commander with capital punishment prevalent; Sitia: all judged by a group of officials with high-tech prisons the norm. All of which led me to love the book all the more - not just your average fantasy fodder!
Forgive my digression, the lawyer in me couldn't help it! Political undertones aside, this novel is also brilliant as a fantasy tale - the magic element is the focus here and the mix of new characters and old favourites is perfect! Again, we have a truly bad 'baddy' - a serial murderer/rapist no less - and it makes parts of the story really strong. Overall: A fantastic sequel for those who loved the first -again, prepare for more than just light and fluffy magic spells - it gets dark but it's awesome for it! Roll on #3: Fire Study. ...more
I always forget how much I love stories like The Perfume Garden. The back of the book likens it to the novels of Kate Morton and Victoria Hislop and tI always forget how much I love stories like The Perfume Garden. The back of the book likens it to the novels of Kate Morton and Victoria Hislop and that's the best description I can start with. Family secrets, scandals, mixed messages and misunderstandings and half-forgotten intrigue are all blended together and sprinkled with such warmth and compassion that there are some wonderful poignant moments tucked amongst the mysteries.
The story kicks off strongly and goes straight for the tearducts. I'm an easy target for films and books and am more than happy to shed a tear but I usually save them for when I've had the chance to get to know characters. With The Perfume Garden, I was welling up in the first few chapters. Maybe because the novel starts out with a depiction of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and I can empathise more readily with the pain and suffering experienced by thousands while I was in my late-teens than I can with the tragedies of the 1930s. The sympathy I felt for Emma Temple did also make me more inclined to like her so I didn't have those awkward few chapters where I'm trying to work out if I even like the character I know I'm going to need to be rooting for.
Sympathy vote aside, Emma did turn out to be a character I liked and respected, independent and brave as she was. My heart hurt for her as she dealt with her mother's recent death and I was willing her to make her peace with her past and her family's past. I had a hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach that I get when I'm really invested in a story a lot of the time while I was reading, which made me oddly happy. The characters are a blend of emotionally-scarred, complex and wonderful people and I loved them. Except for the ones that I HATED, in which case I just loved to hate them.
The only real down-side with the characterisation was painting Emma as a world-famous perfumier. Some speeches about the glory of aromas and comments on characters' unique scents aside, I felt that there wasn't quite enough to make me really believe that Emma was as talented and passionate as other characters seemed to feel that she was. The title had me expecting indulgent descriptions of smells and a vision of the world through Emma's nose and it wasn't as strong as I'd hoped.
The story has a very rigid structure, with chapters alternating between 1930s Spain and twenty-first century Spain. Most of the time, I was more than happy to flit between the periods because it meant that I never had long enough to get sick of either. The obvious flip side is that the narrative moves around a lot and when the chapters are shorter, it can feel a bit as though you're being dragged around. Generally, though, I thought that the balance between the darker Civil War story and the relatively lighter modern day one was well held and worked.
I really did enjoy The Perfume Garden but I was rather disappointed in the final few chapters. There was definitely one twist of drama too many in the final pages and I felt that some events were done almost for a last-minute shock for readers. Perhaps intended to have readers closing the pages gaping. I wouldn't go so far as to say that the ending spoilt the book for me because that would be a bit melodramatic but I did feel it completely jarred with the rest of the story and was unnecessary.
Overall: The writing in The Perfume Garden is really very charming and I got that jumpy feeling in my heart while I was gripping the pages and yearning for a happy ending in both eras. Recommended to readers looking for something a little bit bitter-sweet that will give more than a few solid tugs on your heartstrings. A word of caution: I loved the combination of "women's fiction" and historical fiction but fans of the fluffier side of romance/women's fiction or of the grittier side of historical fiction might be put off by the presence of the other. If you're a fan of both, you won't be disappointed....more
"When I watch the news, when I read the paper, when I meet people, when I hang out with friends and acquaintances, when I see how each of us struggles, as best we can, through life's absurd meanderings, I think that the world is ridiculous, moving and cruel. The same is true for this book: the story is cruel, the protagonists are moving, and I am ridiculous"
[Chapter 251, Vintage paperback]
Oh my goodness, this book. This book broke my heart and is what all non-fiction should be like.
I haven't read much non-fiction at all in recent years because I do a lot of it during my day job. It turns out that well-written non-fiction is a whole different world to legal journals...who knew? There's such passion in Binet's writing that it shines off the pages and is impossible to resist.
A slightly unusual blend of narrative styles, reading HHhH is a little like wandering around a museum with a knowledgeable guide: there's a relaxed, almost chatty tone as Binet talks you through the "rise" of Reinhard Heydrich and the training of Jozef Gabcik and Jan Kubiš as his to-be assassins but with plenty of tangents as Binet gets side-tracked by another anecdote or gets so caught up in the telling of the story that he dawdles off into the background of people involved. There's one anecdote that has really stuck with me about a Ukrainian football team pitted against a German team. After refusing to start proceedings by saluting with a sturdy 'Heil Hitler!', the Ukrainian team went on to commit a grievous insult and actually win the match 5-1. After strengthening their team with professional football players from Berlin, the Luftwaffe went on to lose the return fixture 5-3. During the rush on the pitch after the match, much of the Ukrainian team disappeared and were never seen again, with the captain allegedly being executed while shouting, "Communist sport will never die!". The closing line to this anecdote reads, "I'm worried that there are some errors in what I've written: since this subject has no direct link with Heydrich, I haven't had time to investigate more deeply. But I didn't want to write about Kiev without mentioning this incredible story". Like I said, very much like talking with a friend around and about a beloved topic.
I've written before about how I find the sheer scale of World War II utterly incomprehensible and this another superb book for bringing to the fore some of the many, many instances of bravery and tragedy. Only this time, they're real. Heart-breaking in fiction, the non-fiction is all the more devastating. I'm always amazed and inspired by the courage shown by "ordinary" people during war time. Gabcik and Kubiš were astoundingly brave but they were supported by any number of equally courageous people that risked life and limb (and their family's lives and limbs, incidentally) to offer shelter, food and local support. There's no way to describe how much I admired the people that I read about in this book. 'Admiration' is even too weak a word...
HHhH reads almost like fiction: I felt gripped by the pages and my chest hurt with how desperately I wanted Heydrich's nemeses to win through. The problem with non-fiction, of course, is that the author can't decide how their subjects' lives pan out. I was so caught up in Binet's account of Gabcik and Kubiš (and so remiss in my WWII history) that I actually had to go and research the story so that I could relax and absorb the detail.
My only slight reservation (that stops this book being a glowing five stars) was that the line between fiction and non-fiction wasn't always solid. I've already said that I loved the writing style but there were occasions where I would read a few chapters only to turn the page and read, "I made that up...but wouldn't that have been perfect?". I didn't mind where the upshot was that dialogue had been added in to flesh out an account of a real event but I was a little disconcerted when it turned out that an event I had just been tearing-up or gawping over turned out to be almost made up. Still, I half think that the point of reading non-fiction is for that moment where you really get caught up in a topic and wander off to do your own digging so it was a feature I could tolerate well enough.
Overall: If you have even the remotest interest in the history of World War II, you really must pick up HHhH. If you are looking for a meticulously told and laid out historical account of Heydrich's life and demise, you might be disappointed. If you're looking for something a little more relaxed and focussed on the human side of WWII, I honestly haven't read a book that I would recommend more. Such a wonderful, wonderful book that I will read again and again....more
I seem to be making a habit of this crime-fiction-reading malarkey! This time it was to branch fully out into seriFirst published at Lit Addicted Brit
I seem to be making a habit of this crime-fiction-reading malarkey! This time it was to branch fully out into serial killers, grim descriptions of the murder of a whole family and a glimpse into the inner workings of a psycopath's mind. The Gift of Darkness follows Detective Alice Madison and her colleagues as they investigate the murder of a local tax lawyer along with his wife and two young children. The early parts of the book are pretty full on: there's very little held back when the detectives are at the crime scene and I was a little bit sceptical about whether or not I'd make it to the end without giving myself horrendous nightmares.
After the initial wave of detail, though, matters move more from the gross to the sinister and, I'll admit, the downright creepy. You know in films where there are those *horrible* moments where you're screaming at the detectives because there's a killer RIGHT NEAR THEM and they just can't see them? I *hate* those moments (even while I love them a little bit). This story is full of moments like that where the tension ratchets up ridiculously high and I spent a good few mornings and evenings having those "Must. Keep. Reading" moments, gawping at the pages with wide eyes. Whatever The Gift of Darkness may or may not be, it is definitely a page-turner. And if you read this at a time/place when unexpected loud noises are likely, you'll probably have a heart attack. Just saying.
Without a doubt my favourite thing about The Gift of Darkness was how its blurring of the lines between the "good" characters and the "bad" characters. Madison is a pretty hard character to get behind because she's quite detached. I actually quite liked that about her - she isn't made out to be a hero just because she's a woman doing a traditionally masculine job and she isn't super feminine just to make a point. She's just a professional woman going about her job and I felt kind of respectful of her even while I was a little bit neutral. It's the 'bad' characters that Giambanco excels at writing. If an author can make me have even one moment where I have to check myself for starting to sympathise with a serial killer, it would take something pretty catastrophic to sway me away from admiring it. As always with novels with any kind of twists, it's hard to tell you much more without giving too much away but be prepared to shift your perspective a few times. In a good way.
My only gripe with The Gift of Darkness was that the writing style wasn't always one that I found particularly comfortable to read. Not in terms of subject matter (my hopelessness at reading anything even remotely gory being well-documented enough), but in terms of style. The whole story is told in the third person and moves between a few characters. I don't have a problem with books written in the third person but there were a few moments where the writing was a bit disjointed. And there was something...awkward about some of the dialogue. Maybe I talk in a particularly sloppy manner but when two characters are talking informally, there's something jarring about them doing so in "proper" English. There's a point in the book, for example, where one person is asking another about how well they knew someone and their response is, "We did not go out for food and beer". There are quite a few instances like that and every time it pulled me out of what was going on and had me repeating the phrases in my head to try to get them to sound right. But maybe that's just me.
Let's end on a health warning: if you're wary of blood and gore and the like, you probably won't be a fan. Think more CSI Las Vegas than Miss Marple.
Overall: A clever variation on the good guy v. bad guy theme with more than enough to keep both hardened and fledgling crime fiction fans flipping pages. With the lights on. Obviously...
In 2008, Boyfriend and I went to Krakow (and the photos scattered around this review are ones that I took while there). I was continuously surprised bIn 2008, Boyfriend and I went to Krakow (and the photos scattered around this review are ones that I took while there). I was continuously surprised by the city. It was architecturally beautiful, because World War II was over before it could be invaded and destroyed (unlike, say, Warsaw). It was kooky and fun with adorable boutique-style restaurants and bars (we spent one evening drinking in a bar where all the tables were renovated Singer sewing machines, for example). We had already decided that we would visit Auschwitz Birkenau and I thought that would be at least one part of the trip where I knew what to expect. I knew it would be an emotional day and I knew it would be humbling and would put all of our "problems" into perspective; I just didn't know how emotional and humbling it would turn out to be.
The scale of the site and the associated horror was for me almost incomprehensible; almost as though it is simply too much to process. The part that had the biggest impact on me (and that made me cry) was a corridor filled with framed photographs. Each photograph was a simply shot picture of a woman/man/child in a blue-and-white outfit looking straight at the camera. To this day, recalling the haunted/terrified/devastated looks in the hundreds of sets of eyes can bring me to tears.
This book is the literary equivalent of those photographs.
It's a snapshot of a tragedy that allows you to forget the statistics and remember that those catastrophic numbers were made out of individuals and families who had their own worries, their own battles and their own hopes. Daniel's story is a tiny part of a huge attrocity. I think that too often authors attempt to convey the magnitude of the Holocaust and try to impress their readers with the horrifying numbers. In the end, though, most of us can't really imagine it or understand it. Or at least, I can't. What we can understand, however, is Daniel's sense of loss and hope, his physical and emotional torment and his daily fight to survive.
The story is told very simply, as you would expect for a book narrated by a prisoner in a concentration camp. Daniel is a wonderful character and I'm sure there's something in him for most readers to identify with, which I took to be part of the point. And in case you were concerned that this would be too introspective, his fictional endeavours are painted against a backdrop of fact. Indeed, on one of the first pages of the book is the statement:
"Author's Note: The documents at the beginnings of the chapters are authentic"
These excerpts are extremely well chosen and timed and the balance of Daniel's emotional narrative with terrifyingly clinical documents is perfect. Because of this elements, I think that it would be nigh impossible to read this book without having at least one moment where you flinch/look away/sneak away to guiltily remind yourself how lucky you are - I know that I did and it was part of what made the book such a powerful one for me.
In a way, because of the strengths of the book, I was disappointed by the ending. I know that sounds strange given the subject matter so I won't say any more than that. I wouldn't want to ruin it for anybody that wants to pick this up and it could well just be me. Don't let it put you off and do let me know if you read this and have any particular thoughts on the matter.
Overall: There isn't much more to say; only that, despite the vocabulary and sentence structure being relatively basic, this book is obviously not an "easy read". It is a short book that I think will stick with me for a long time and one I would certainly recommend. ...more
I hadn't even heard of The Vanishing Act when I walked into Waterstones one lunchtime but there is something about that synopsis that I find strangelyI hadn't even heard of The Vanishing Act when I walked into Waterstones one lunchtime but there is something about that synopsis that I find strangely beautiful. It doesn't hurt that the cover of the paperback edition that I own is adorable - some of the little stars that you can see in the picture are all shiny and silver or blue. I know that we shouldn't do such terrible things as judge books by their covers but, in this case, it worked out superbly well.
On the face of it, this is a very simple story about Minou's life on the tiny island she shares with her father, a priest, a magician and his dog (No Name) and a peacock. More than that, though, it's about a 12 year old girl trying to come to terms with the fact that her mother isn't around, trying to bond with her father as he also struggles with his past and trying to make sense of the confusion of adults around her. We only ever get to see the other characters through Minou's eyes, which means that most of what we learn about them is from how they treat her. Her father, for example, seems intent on raising a philosopher and detaches himself from emotional situations by teaching Minou to look to logic and history. Despite coming across as distant at times, there's something in the way Minou talks about him that somehow makes it clear that his daughter feels his love all the same. Thinking about it that way, The Vanishing Act is actually a rather clever bit of writing.
There wasn't a single character in The Vanishing Act that my heart didn't hurt for at some point. No Name included. It's partly because of the eerie, windswept setting but mostly because of the whimsical way in which Minou ponders her surroundings and neighbours. Her refusal to accept that her colourful, creative mother could do anything so mundane as die kind of broke my heart.
Using a child as a narrator can often seem gimicky but in The Vanishing Act, it does actually add something. There's as much in what Minou doesn't pick up on as there is in what she does. Both of her parents seem to have experienced their own tragedies during the Second World War but, in an effort to protect Minou from the horror, only allude to them. There are plenty of moments where the subtext is clear to an adult reader but which remain a mystery to young Minou. It means that we really only skim the surface of the stories that make up the inhabitants' lives but that's far more realistic than having a young girl suddenly latch on to the truths behind the adults' behaviour so I will stand by the conclusion that it works. I didn't feel as though the story was supposed to be about the residents so much as about one girl's experiences, hopes and fears.
I suppose you could criticise the story for being a little vague or for there not being much of a plot, as such. If it were longer, I might be inclined to agree but at only a little over 200 pages, I was happy to sacrifice action for a little while and meander around a remote island getting to know its residents. Kind of like going for a stroll in some beautiful countryside after spending too long in a city.
Overall: A wonderful little book that would be perfect with a mug of cocoa over a snowy evening or two. And I know that there are plenty of those around these parts at the moment so you have no excuse!
I bought A Game of Thrones at about the same time as the series was coming out, I think. I'd been aware of it befoFirst published at Lit Addicted Brit
I bought A Game of Thrones at about the same time as the series was coming out, I think. I'd been aware of it before but an impending dramatisation made me keen to get to it before the whole world knew the ending and I would be dodging spoilers all over the internet. My plan was to read each book before the corresponding series was released and to generally stay ahead of the A Song of Ice and Fire curve. Since the third series either has recently been on or still is on (I try to ignore all references to it!) and I've only just got round to writing about the first book, that plan obviously fell apart...
I love epic fantasy and have a lot of patience with first books. I almost expect to feel a few steps behind when I start out on a long series and am happy to spend a couple of hundred pages meandering through back stories, explanations of politics and hierarchies and world building. I say that so that you know when I say that A Game of Thrones' start was slow, it isn't because I'm not used to the genre. Because there are so many characters, introducing them all takes about half of the first book. And I will personally make a gold star for anybody who can honestly say that they didn't have at least one moment later on in the novel where they went, "Who is this person again?!" (I should add that you don't get a gold star if you watched the TV series first because that's cheating).
I'm actually quite surprised that the books have been as widely popular as they have been. Epic fantasy is always one of those genres that I feel gets a bad reputation for being "geeky" or whatever. And yet, with a dash of Sean Bean, A Song of Ice and Fire became almost mainstream and I saw people reading it about the train station all the time. I guess that having seen the key characters and themes played out on screen must be a bonus to readers that would normally get frustrated experiencing the same thing on the page.
There are a lot of reviews for this book that describe how much of a page-turner it is right from the start. I'm sorry (really, because I know how much of a ruckus this might cause) but I just didn't see it. Eventually I was completely hooked and swept through the pages but for the first half, reading A Game of Thrones was by no means a relaxing or absorbing reading experience. There were characters I instantly loved (Lord Stark, Catelyn Stark and Arya Stark) and characters I HATED but mostly there were characters I grew to love (Jon Snow and maybe Daenerys but I haven't quite decided yet) and characters I still don't know what I think about and it took me forever to even draw those meagre conclusions. There was political scheming, murder, incest, conspiracies, epic battles and family trauma. It isn't perfect and it isn't an easy read but the later chapters do reward your efforts and there were moments that broke little pieces of my heart.
One thing that "everybody" says about this series is true, though. Martin cares not for your feelings. Expect to have at least one character you love killed off and to feel as though the world is a dark, dark place for quite some time. It's very powerful writing and I did spend the final half of the novel willing my favourite characters to survive and beat their rivals and gripping my eReader ridiculously tightly. I read it on the 9.30pm train from London to Leeds after a conference about procurement and didn't fall asleep once. It might take time but trust me when I say that, eventually, George R.R. Martin will get you.
Overall: I will definitely be carrying on with A Song of Ice and Fire and have no doubt that it will become a series that I love. This book is the literary equivalent of prepping early for a dinner party; it takes quite a long time and isn't always super fun but you know that when your guests arrive and you can chatter over a glass of wine instead of clamouring to catch up and fit in yet more prep, you'll appreciate it. Think of A Game of Thrones as an investment and you'll be just fine....more
**spoiler alert** The novel is told from the perspective of Kathy, who is a 'Carer'. Facing an end to her time in this role, Kathy reminisces about he**spoiler alert** The novel is told from the perspective of Kathy, who is a 'Carer'. Facing an end to her time in this role, Kathy reminisces about her life and her experiences and ponders her immediate future. The tone of Kathy's voice is perfect and refreshingly honest. She has made mistakes and handled situations badly and may even have some regrets. One thing that can be annoying are characters who respond to every put-down with a perfectly timed sarcastic barb or every romantic advance with just the right gesture/statement. Kathy is nothing like that and it made the book so much more enjoyable and, ultimately, powerful.
Pace is another aspect that Ishiguro has managed to judge perfectly. The story doesn't move quickly but that is to its credit. This novel has a fascinating debate at its core and without the time dedicated to character development and the subtleties that can be incorporated as a result. Readers can watch the characters grow from young children to adults in such detail and with such consistent accuracy that I found myself remembering
At Hailsham, though, something always feels not quite right. The children are well cared for and educated, with a particular focus on developing their creativity. They are encouraged to grow and create, but absolutely not to be ambitious. It's this kind of hint at a more sinister undertone that drive you on.
Overall: This is absolutely worth a read and I have lost count of the people I have recommended it to so that I can talk to them about it. The writing has some flaws but the plot and moral/scientific twists that are thrown make everything worth while. It's hard to describe how much this book will wrench your heart without ruining it - so just take my word for it and read it!
**If you want to avoid SPOILERS, look away NOW**
I considered reviewing the book without mentioning what I would consider to be a spoiler and in the end decided that I was dying to talk about it so thought I would tag it onto the end.
The subject matter in Never Let Me Go is a moral minefield - the children of Hailsham are "bred" in test tubes using the cells of 'regular' people for the sole purpose of providing organs to those people. Until they are ready to donate, they act as Carers for their friends, watching them excrutiatingly donate their organs until they 'complete'...which obviously doesn't mean that they've done their time and move on to live happily ever after. The realisation that this is what the characters you have come to love were born to...die and nothing much more was a shocking one and the last quarter of the book is utterly devastating when the revelations just keep on...
While this was unsettling enough as it was, the response of others when they interact with the donors is what is the most disturbing. As though they are happy to reap the benefits of a supply of organs for their loved ones and don't want to consider the source. I think in a society which is driven by genetic development and cures to all kinds of health problems the tale is extremely poignant. ...more
I kind of hate it when I come across a synopsis that so perfectly describes a book because I then try in vain forFirst published at Lit Addicted Brit
I kind of hate it when I come across a synopsis that so perfectly describes a book because I then try in vain for ages trying to come up with something better. Or even as good. Wise, compassionate, haunting, wildly entertaining and disturbing. The Penelopiad really is all of those things at the same time and it's a heady mix.
I originally 'picked up' (i.e. loaded up on my eReader) The Penelopiad because it combined two of my favourite bookish things of 2013 so far: Margaret Atwood and twists on Greek mythology. It turned out to be a riot of literary forms, styles and techniques and has firmly cemented Margaret Atwood onto my list of favourite authors.
Telling the story of Odysseus' wife, Penelope, this glorious novel moves from verse to prose, Ancient Greece to the modern day and from comedy to pathos without ever feeling scattered or disjointed. In some ways, it's more like a collection of short works of fiction on a common theme, tied together by a single voice. There were styles and sections that I preferred to others (as with any collection of short stories and the like) - generally speaking, I'm not a huge fan of poetry so, although I actually did find the verse/song sections more enjoyable than I expected, I still preferred the prose.
Penelope's perspective of Odysseus' questing and Helen of Troy's beauty is witty, self-deprecating and really very entertaining. After years spent in her cousin's shadow and playing second fiddle to her husband's love of a good war, she's wryly bitter:
"If you were a magician, messing around in the dark arts and risking your soul, would you want to conjur up a plain but smart wife who'd been good at weaving and had never transgressed, instead of a woman who'd driven hundreds of men mad with lust and had cause a great city to go up in flames?
Neither would I" [Page 21 of 119 of my eBook edition]
Still suffering from unfavourable comparisons in the underworld, Penelope is sarcastic, biting and funny. I really loved her and was dying to drag her off the pages, listen to her rant about her wayward husband and the nastiness of men in general and then give her a big hug. I know that it's supposed to be the 'lowest form of wit' and all but I will always love characters who are liberal with the sarcasm. The sarkier the better, to be honest.
There's really not much more to say really. A feminist view on a classic myth with a hefty dose of snark. I've read some reviews that dismiss the book as too much of a mish-mash of styles or as somehow unfaithful to the myth on which it is based. I couldn't disagree more; The Penelopiad is almost a companion to the original, breathing life into those that were left behind while their husbands were off battling for a golden fleece or trying to outsmart a cyclops or two. Cracking stuff.
Overall: I know it's a cliché but here it's true - there really is something for everyone. It's a quick read (the eBook is 119 pages) but has plenty to keep you interested with a plethora of clever turns of phrase and creative spins on a familiar story that make it prime for re-reading. Highly, highly recommended and part of a set of twists on myths (Canongate myths) that I can't wait to explore more....more