I realise I’m pretty late to the party on this one which was a massive hit in the 90s but somehow it just passed me by. This year is the 20th AnniversI realise I’m pretty late to the party on this one which was a massive hit in the 90s but somehow it just passed me by. This year is the 20th Anniversary of its publication so it was as good a time as any to read it. I think I’ve caught a few minutes of the film and heard a couple of episodes when it was serialised on Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime recently, and of course you’d have to have been living in a hole not to know what the basic premise of The Beach is so I didn’t come to it blind. So did I think it lived up to the hype? In a word, maybe.
In case you have been in the aforementioned hole (no offence!) the plot is basically- British backpacker in Thailand finds secret beach paradise but eventually discovers all is not quite perfect.
It’s definitely a page turner and Richard makes for a good narrator, his character becoming increasingly dark as the book goes on. I guess it’s a little dated now with its references to GameBoys and Street Fighter but as a 90s teenager that still means something to me. And the references to/ parallels with Vietnam films are a good touch. I never took a gap year and I have always felt a little cynical about the Westerner in South East Asia ‘finding themselves’, making a clear distinction between ‘travelling’ and ‘tourism’ and searching for a truly ‘authentic experience’, so I was glad to find that this confirmed my prejudices when it all goes horribly, horribly wrong! (Not that I would wish the type of brutality which does occur on anyone, I should point out!)
Incidentally, not having seen the film (or able to recall any bits that I have seen), does Leonardo DiCaprio play Richard as an American because I’m really not sure how that would work? There seems to be something quintessentially British about his attitude to everything.
I was both excited and reticent to read this. Louis de Bernières is one of my favourite authors. I was entranced by Captain Correlli’s Mandolin and, eI was both excited and reticent to read this. Louis de Bernières is one of my favourite authors. I was entranced by Captain Correlli’s Mandolin and, especially, Birds Without Wings but left disappointed by his last outing, Notwithstanding. This had all the promise of greatness- a family saga set against the backdrop of the build-up to, enactment of, and fall out from the First World War.
I liked it but I did not love it, which is a shame. The plot is good, there are a few unexpected developments as well as lots of, pleasantly, predictable ones and there is a great cast of characters but herein lies my issue. Whilst the book does go off and explore the lives of many characters from different angles (the soldier, the airman, the working class maid, the pretentious and increasingly eccentric/ antagonistic mother, the good hearted father, the bi-sexual sister, the Army chaplain and so on), I found the main character Rosie is very dull as she wrestles with her grief and religiosity. Hers is the story on which the book hangs but thankfully it is not limited to her perspective. ...more
Apparently the second book in a series, but the first to be translated into English I saw a review of this some time ago and when I saw it on the shelApparently the second book in a series, but the first to be translated into English I saw a review of this some time ago and when I saw it on the shelves at my local library I decided to pick it up for holiday.
It starts off as what you think is going to be a pretty formulaic police procedural. Beautiful girl is kidnapped, tortured in a grisly way and flawed cop is put on the case. However there are some unexpected and intriguing twists which for me give this the edge over other such novels, like those by Jo Nesbo of which I’ve read a lot recently. Without giving too much away, the eponymous Alex is no ordinary victim! The writing is slick and the plot races along nicely and comes to a genuinely satisfying denouement. I’ve just got two more in the series out from the library, I hope they don’t disappoint!
This book came highly recommended by a few friends and the critics reviews I've seen have been pretty much universally rapturous so I approached The BThis book came highly recommended by a few friends and the critics reviews I've seen have been pretty much universally rapturous so I approached The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao with high hopes. It has all the elements of a book I would typically love- a family saga set against the backdrop of dramatic historical events (in this case the dictatorship of Trujillo in the Dominican Republic), characters wrestling with their racial/ gender/ sexual identities, a quirky writing syle. And I did get into it very quickly. I liked the narrative voice littered with sci-fi/ fantasy references and Dominican slang some of which (both the references and the slang) I got, a lot of which I didn't and just had to let wash over me. However, for some reason it just didn't maintain my enthusiasm all the way through. Whereas at the start I sympathised with Oscar, an overweight geek desperate to be loved, as the book progressed I began to find him irritating and in the end, downright stupid....more
I was interested to read this one as I remember quite enjoying Everything is Illuminated sometime ago and I knew this one had been made into a film stI was interested to read this one as I remember quite enjoying Everything is Illuminated sometime ago and I knew this one had been made into a film starring Tom Hanks. I didn't know much about it except that it had a young boy as its protagonist and was set in post-9/11 New York.
Oskar Schell's father dies in the World Trade Center buildings on 9/11 and he is subsequently deeply traumatised by his loss. He becomes fixated with a key he finds in a vase in his father's cupboard and is determined to track down its owner, meeting a host of interesting people along the way. Meanwhile across the street, his grandparents, themselves suffering from living through the Dresden bombing during the war, are muddling through their dysfunctional relationship made more difficult by his grandfather's mutism.
I didn't really enjoy this book although I was occasionally moved in spite of myself. I felt the plot was rather contrived and the grandparent's story just too weird. I'm also a little bored by novels centring around precocious young boys, probably on the autistic spectrum. I don't really know what else to say, it just makes me want to shrug my shoulders.
I had mixed feelings about this one when it was chosen a couple of months ago for one of my book clubs. I had not really enjoyed Life After Life (reviI had mixed feelings about this one when it was chosen a couple of months ago for one of my book clubs. I had not really enjoyed Life After Life (review here) finding it overly repetitive, occasionally confusing and, ultimately, too too depressing. Although this is its 'companion piece' (in Atkinson's own words) I had been told this was very different so I decided to give it a go.
A God in Ruins focusses on Teddy, the younger brother of Life After Life's Ursula. There isn't exactly a 'plot' to speak of as it jumps backwards and forwards in time, telling the story of Teddy's experiences as a Halifax Bomber pilot during the Second World War and his relationships with his wife (much loved but possibly not 'in love with'), daughter (obnoxious and difficult but carrying the burden of a terrible memory) and grandchildren (one good and well-adjusted, the other dreadfully scarred by his awful parents).
I can not tell you how relieved I am to say that I loved this book. I thought the fragmented, time-hopping narrative leaving bread-crumbs and hints of what has happened and what is still to occur was very clever and a real delight to read. Teddy is a hugely three-dimensional and sympathetic character (the opposite of Ursula for me in the first book) and his daughter Viola often hilariously horrible though perhaps, you discover, she has some justification. Its moving and dramatic and completely gripping. I know others were disappointed or angered by the ending but for me it was the icing on the cake.
Another outing for Jo Nesbo's troubled, alcoholic detective Harry Hole and my second book in the series (although it is actually the 8th, I believe).Another outing for Jo Nesbo's troubled, alcoholic detective Harry Hole and my second book in the series (although it is actually the 8th, I believe). This time we encounter our (anti-?) hero strung out on opium in Hong Kong struggling to come to terms with the events in the last book, The Snowman. Fellow member of Norway's crime squad, Kaja Solness is tasked with bringing him back to help with a new serial killer stalking the snowy Scandinavian streets. He is reluctant but agrees when he hears his father is dying in hospital.
And so begins another particularly dark journey into the world of Nordic noir. The opening scene, one of the most gruesome ways to die I have ever come across, sets the scene. There are some satisfying twists, a bit of a love interest (though why anyone would find Hole so attractive I've no idea) and a clever killer. Standard crime fare. Readable and tense, it rattles along at a fair pace but there's nothing particularly outstanding....more
Well I decided to give Terry one more go and as this one came highly recommended by a very good friend and by my sister-in-law, I ordered Equal RitesWell I decided to give Terry one more go and as this one came highly recommended by a very good friend and by my sister-in-law, I ordered Equal Rites from the library.
One of Pratchett’s many Discworld novels, Equal Rites begins with the death of a wizard who passes on his magic, as is customary, to the eighth son of a eighth son. Except, as is definitely not customary, the newbord wizard turns out to be a girl. Esk is taken under the wing of local witch Granny Weatherwax who teaches her all she can about herbs, goats and “headology” but it becomes apparent that Esk needs specialist wizard teaching and the Unseen University only admits male students. Slight spoiler alert… Esk does gain entry, though not in the way she wanted to but ends up getting involved in a battle in another dimension.
I am glad I gave Pratchett another chance as I did enjoy this book. Its fun and easy to read, I was able to get through it in just a few sittings. I liked Esk and Granny, and the wizards in the University, and I appreciate that Pratchett is trying to highlight the inequality and male domination of the fantasy genre. I admit that I rather skim read the magical fighting with shadow things even though it is the climax of the plot as that was all a bit gobbledegook for me (in fact, it reminded me of the similar part of The Bone Clocks which was the worst bit of that otherwise excellent book.)
In short, I found Equal Rites a light and enjoyable read. I’m not going to go out of my way to read any more, my TBR list is long enough as it is, but if another crosses my path then I’d be happy to pick it up.
4 stars (probably more like 3.5 but I’ll be generous!)...more