I'll be honest - the bulk of the fourth star is for the beautiful hardcover edition's design. The book design evokes images of old library books, compI'll be honest - the bulk of the fourth star is for the beautiful hardcover edition's design. The book design evokes images of old library books, complete with stamps and due date slips. There's a note at the back saying that most of the old illustrations, "including marbled papers and old pages", came from books sourced from the London Public Library. The page and chapter numbering seems to come from old library stamps, and there's even a card pocket attached to the front cover. I am a sucker for this stuff, as anyone who has read my partial review of S., or indeed anyone who has ever met me, will tell you.
Just look at these pictures..
As for the story itself, it's classic Murakami. It has that sense of quiet magic which you expect from a Murakami novel, but it's in the form of a short story, almost suitable for children. I say "almost", as it contains sections which are quite dark, but then so do many of the classic fairytales, and let's face it - what do I know about children?
Overall, it's a gorgeous little book with a magical feel. You can read it in one hit and spend a lifetime with this beautiful thing sitting on your bookshelf. Why would you not buy this?!...more
Review to come when I sort through my thoughts. I will say, I thought his handling of the Colonial Australian scenes, and reference to the Noongar peoReview to come when I sort through my thoughts. I will say, I thought his handling of the Colonial Australian scenes, and reference to the Noongar people were well handled, and that is a rare thing!...more
In the house upon the dirt between the lake and the woods, a young wife, (who incidentally has the power to sing objects into existence), miscarries hIn the house upon the dirt between the lake and the woods, a young wife, (who incidentally has the power to sing objects into existence), miscarries her first child. Her husband ingests the foetus, which is hell-bent on securing for itself both a body and a mother. Thus begins an all-out war between the elements of the couple's tiny private world: dirt, house, lake, woods, father, mother, ghost, moon(s), darkness. You can throw in fingerling (foetus), foundling (human/bar hybrid), rampaging-decaying-bear and squid-whale too. It's not your traditional fairytale.
And how to describe the writing? I searched literary reviews for appropriate descriptions: "Wholly unpredictable language." "Rough poetry". "Syntax that’s just twisted enough to push us off balance." "(the) poetic hum of the prose.". That's about as close as I can get to describing Bell's style of writing, but none of these phrases do the book justice.
My favourite part of the book is comprised of three very short chapters consisting almost entirely of short paragraphs beginning with, "And in this room:" followed by a description of a room's contents which represents one aspect of the couple's relationship. Room by room, Bell maps out the whole woeful tale of a marriage doomed to failure.
There are some flaws to the book - experiments that don't quite pay off, repetitive or unnecessary parts to the story, contradictions, sections that try just a little too hard to be cute, but you know what? I don't care. Because when I look back on this book, it'll be the beautiful, terrible imagery, the melancholic tone and the poetic style of prose that I'll remember. Plus maybe the rampaging decaying bear and enigmatic squid whale thing.
This story makes me so very happy. I love stories that offer up a fresh perspective on the world, a glimpse of the world through someone else's eyes.This story makes me so very happy. I love stories that offer up a fresh perspective on the world, a glimpse of the world through someone else's eyes. You don't normally envision slime-molds as having eyes, but apparently evolution takes care of that in the far-distant future.
In fact, evolution changes a great many things, including the position of humans in the food chain. Oh, and also the abolition of said food chain. [image error]
The animals, and other biological entities, have taken over the planet and are ruling with great wisdom and benevolence. They've removed sex from the equation of life in favour of a universal cloning program. Humans are kept as pets, their sexual instincts intact. You know how embarrassing it can be when your pet starts humping the neighbour's leg, or their favourite toy, or pretty much anything? We don't like to see our pets as sexual creatures, by and large. Well, I don't, but apparently some people invent sex toys for them..
Yeah..... so there's that. But there's also more than that. Morrissette's story has great heart and humour in addition to being seriously thought-provoking. The best part for me is that there are unique perspectives to be found in every paragraph, almost every sentence. I love it.
This is an entertaining read, but I really don't think it lives up to the hype. I loved Beukes' first two novels, so I was really looking forward to tThis is an entertaining read, but I really don't think it lives up to the hype. I loved Beukes' first two novels, so I was really looking forward to this before I even read the synopsis. I know a lot of people are excited by the idea of a time-travelling serial killer, but for some reason this doesn't strike me as being all that ground-breaking. It's not that I've read a lot of time-travelling-serial-killer books before or anything, but... just..... sure. Okay.
I got about 25% of the way in, and was still pretty underwhelmed. Then I heard an interview with Beukes on The Guardian's fiction podcast. She explained that she wanted to present a serial killer story from the perspective of the victims instead of the serial killer, giving the women back-stories and focussing on how these acts of horrific violence seem to them and how this impacts on everyone around them. Now THIS excited me. What a novel perspective! That aspect of the book ended up being quite good, but the victims' vignettes felt too brief to me, and at the end of the day didn't leave much of an impression.
Then there were the references to the time period of each event. This scene is set in 1992- insert grunge, zines, checked shirts, bomber jackets and a fascination with Jeffrey Dahmer. This scene is set in 1972 - so it's all about abortion, women's lib & scratchy cassettes taped from vinyl. People in the 50s are named Alice, Joey, Luella..... you get my point. It's all a bit whatever-the-opposite-of-anachronistic-is. "Achronistic" presumably. My point is that it comes off as very, very deliberate and not at all subtle.
Another disappointment was the attack on the main character, Kirby. The build up to the event was great, but when I got there I found that it just didn't shock me the way I was expecting it to. The description seemed a little awkward, so I found myself wondering, "How would that even work? What would that bit look like?" It took me out of the moment enough to dampen any horror I might have felt. There is one element to the attack which makes the scene really shocking (which I won't spoil for you), but it's flagged very early on in the book, so this also limits the shock factor.
What Beukes did do really well, I thought, was her portrayal of the serial killer. His character was much more nuanced, despite (or possibly as a result of) her intention not to glamourise him. He has this internal logic, a system for killing his victims, but he's disorganised and none too bright. So he's constantly revising his methodology to make everything seem more cosmic than it really is. He has to fix things, because "the stars must realign". This all struck me as a very realistic portrait, more subtly written and a nice change from the usual serial killer stories in which we see the killer carry out a consistent plan.
Overall this is a quick, entertaining read. As always, it is very well written. Like Beukes' other novels though, I think the brilliant ideas are there but they need fleshing out more fully. My theory is, from having heard her speak, that the ideas come to her more quickly than she can flesh them out. I suspect that by the time she writes up each element, her mind's already moved on to the next big thing. For me, it's always frustrating to see the potential of a great idea not fully realised. Much as I hate to say it, I think this needed to be a longer book to execute the writer's vision. The Shining Girls is a pretty decent light read though, and I imagine a lot of people will enjoy it.
This is really lovely, but I much prefer Valente's adult fiction. Fairyland was a little too formulaic for my tastes - a problem I always have with VaThis is really lovely, but I much prefer Valente's adult fiction. Fairyland was a little too formulaic for my tastes - a problem I always have with Valente's novels, but which I can usually grudgingly forgive. Once again, the book won me over in the end, but it really didn't have quite the richness of the other novels....more
Listened to this being read by Hisham Matar on The New Yorker's Fiction Podcast. Didn't love it, I have to say. I didn't like the style, the story orListened to this being read by Hisham Matar on The New Yorker's Fiction Podcast. Didn't love it, I have to say. I didn't like the style, the story or the way it was partially open to interpretation and yet very specific in parts. I didn't find anything inspiring, surprising or thought-provoking. Perhaps it had something to do with Matar's reading, or his interpretation of the story afterwards, but I just didn't enjoy it at all. Pfft....more