The pace at which I am currently reading novels has become utterly lamentable, it's been the best part of a month since I last completed a novel and aThe pace at which I am currently reading novels has become utterly lamentable, it's been the best part of a month since I last completed a novel and although I have also read part of a large Stephen King novel during this time I'm still not reading anywhere near as much as I would like to.
Anyhow I did finally get a week of travelling into London and therefore had the chance to read a book on the tube and as this had been in my room for a while and was a travel friendly size i thought I would give it a go. Having not ever seen the film I really had absolutely no idea what this novel was going to be about but just recognised the name.
Having now finished it I still feel as though I am completely unable to categorise it, it does not seem to fit under any of the categories that I would normally associate with novels. It is not especially pact and certainly ins't a thrilling, although there are relationships in the novel it is far from a romance, really it is just a story about a bunch of people and their day to day lives. Each person is in their own way a bit messed up and completely different and through some bizarre amalgamation of events a group of people who would never normally even know each other end up all meeting and having to understand each other.
The book is well written and humorous where is needs to be in order not to become too serious, because although the novel does deal with a number of very serious topics the author has clearly tried to keep the overall tone of the novel as lighthearted. I enjoyed reading it, even if I probably didn't get as much out of it as you are meant to. ...more
Although written relatively recently Birdsong has quickly become one of the most recognisable and famous works of fiction set during World War One. IAlthough written relatively recently Birdsong has quickly become one of the most recognisable and famous works of fiction set during World War One. I have to admit that prior to reading this my knowledge of the great war was largely restricted to the little attention I paid during year nine history lessons. I have read All Quiet on the Western Front and A Farewell to Arms both of which are very good novels set during this time but come from totally different viewpoints. Although told from the other side Erich Maria Remarque and Sebastian Faulks both paint a similar picture of the horrors of the war and the phycological effects it had on those that were involved.
The way that Faulks has constructed this book really does help to get the reader to appreciate how terrible the life of the men in the trenches really was. If it was all just doom and gloom set solely in the trenches then the misery and depravity would have become the norm and would have failed to shock the reader. But what Sebastian Faulks has done in initially setting up a scene of peace and bliss before the war and interrupting the war scenes with the mundanity of modern life really means that the author is brought sharply back down every time the plot returns to the war. What is a tube strike or inability to make a cup of tea to having to live in constant fear of death in knee deep rat infested mud?
I not going to stand here and claim that the author managed to paint a picture of the full horrors of that war, I just don't think that either myself or the author have the imagination to bring up such images, they would just go far beyond what we could bring ourselves to believe to be possible. However what it has done is made me more aware of the war and improved my understanding of how the war was conducted and some of the conditions that the soldiers faced.
To say I really enjoyed this book is not strictly true, the story is so sad that it is hard to say that it's always enjoyable, but it is fascinating and completely unputdownable. If I could I would have sat and read this book from dawn to dusk and even having just finished it I could turn back and start again without a moments doubt. The quality of the writing really is first class, I know I often put too much emphasis on prose and writing style but this book really is one where the quality of the prose is what makes it so vivid and engrossing.
The most common complaint about this book is ironically it's writing style, people often say that the book is too long for the story it tells and is difficult to read due to it's lack of pace. I can see where these criticisms come from, the book is very slow going and is far from being easy to read. However I believe that the book is worth the effort and once you manage to get into it you'll stop noticing how long it's taking you read it.
It's not necessarily the best finale ever written the last scenes of the war are absolutely brilliant, I genuinely cannot remember the last time I felt some much tension over the plight of a fiction character for some many pages. My mind was screaming at me that surely Stephen has to survive the war after getting so far. But then we cut back to modern life and the story is effectively wrapped up with the conversation between the mother and daughter in which the final details are put together. The overly complex romance of Elizabeth actually detracted from the main story in my opinion and could have been simpler, I thought the involvement of the modern scenes was important (as discussed above) but didn't really feel like her romance was.
Overall a very good book that is well worth reading. ...more
It is going to very difficult to decide what I am going to say about this book, on one hand I didn't find it a particularly enjoyable read and on theIt is going to very difficult to decide what I am going to say about this book, on one hand I didn't find it a particularly enjoyable read and on the other hand it was very interesting.
I will start off with why I didn't really enjoy reading it and (hopefully) I will come to the good bits by the end of this review.
The first thing to note is that this is a long book, at 612 pages it may not appear to be of the length of some of the other books I've called long but it is a slow read and will easily take as long to read as other books of 800 pages plus. To me not enough happened in the novel to satisfy the number of pages that it took to tell the story. I found it difficult to pick up the book unless I was going to be doing a substantial amount of reading because if I only read it for 20 minutes then I would leave dissatisfied that nothing had really happened.
It's probably a good book to take on holiday or a long train journey because it's the kind of book where you really need to read it in long sittings in order to fully appreciate it. Unfortunately I do not have this luxury at the moment and thus was not able to get the most out of this book.
It is very well written which I think may be the key driver towards reading this book, it is one of those books that is fawned by literary types and has won and been nominated for countless literary prizes. I'm not going to say I don't appreciate good writing style since I can get really annoyed by bad writing, but for me it is not the be all and end all of a novel, I read a book for the story and it being well written will heighten my enjoyment.
Having said a number of bad things about the plot of this book not being gripping or exciting enough, I feel I should now say some of the good things since it does have many. The plot is very clever in interweaving the lives of the characters and showing how they have adapted and changed over time and by the end each character has subtly changed into something unrecognisable from their first appearance. The cleverness is in changes particularly in the fringe characters who will reappear just at the point where you were starting to forget them. The story of no character is left incomplete or at least I cannot think of a character where we do not know what happened to them by the end.
In conclusion I won't say don't read this book as there is a lot to be gained from reading it, but be prepared that it is hard work and may leave you feeling as though it could have been better than it is.
A truly remarkable book giving a unique insight into a culture that prior to reading this I did not know anything about.
I'm not going to say that theA truly remarkable book giving a unique insight into a culture that prior to reading this I did not know anything about.
I'm not going to say that the brilliance of the book is it's plot line or story as there is nothing particularly special about the story itself. What makes the book so good is it's descriptions of the japanese culture. Although it is a work of fiction I probably learned more from reading this book that I would have done from many factual books I'm not now going to claim to understand traditional japanese culture but at least I do now know something about it.
The writing style also makes this book what it is, the story is not at a particularly quick pace and for parts of the book there isn't a lot happening but the author still managed to keep me captivated in the descriptions of day to day life and even the most mundane things.
Overall a very interesting read, not one I will read again but I am very glad that I have read it. ...more
As can often be the problem with Man Booker winning novels they can be more about the language and writing style that the actual plot.
This book is beAs can often be the problem with Man Booker winning novels they can be more about the language and writing style that the actual plot.
This book is beautifully written but this was it's most defining feature. The author was able to paint the scenes really vividly and really bring the memories of the characters to life. However no matter how well described they were, I just didn't find that enough was happening to make the novel all that interesting to read.
I really am having difficult putting into words what I thought about this novel and to be honest I don't really think I really have any thoughts on this novel. It's well written but thoroughly forgettable, if you asked me about it in 5 years time I probably wouldn't be able to remember a think about it. I need more action and suspense to get me interested in a novel and this just didn't have it. ...more
Difficult to decide whether to give this book a 3 or a 4 star rating. It is undeniably a book that I would recommend to just about anyone because it iDifficult to decide whether to give this book a 3 or a 4 star rating. It is undeniably a book that I would recommend to just about anyone because it is a unique story which is really interesting, I'm just not that sure that I really enjoyed it.
When I'm really into a book and enjoying it I usually end up reading it in next to no time, this is not a long book by any stretch and yet it still took me the best part of two weeks to read, which is unusual. I actually found myself found myself putting the book down or deliberately not reading it when normally I would be reading.
However I do not believe this was because it was a bad book, it isn't, it just paints such a depressing and demoralising picture of humanity that you really don't want to keep reading in the knowledge that things can only get worse. What is most depressing about the book is that it really makes you think what would happen if this situation were to rise tomorrow and the more I have pondered this the more I believe that the reaction wouldn't be far away from the picture of absolute depravity and squalor that come to life through the pages of this book.
So in all honesty my main reason for taking so long to read this book was that it genuinely scared me far more than any Stephen King horror novel could ever manage.
This is exactly what the novel is meant to do and it is a sign of how good it is that it makes you think like this and really allows you to imagine what is going on in and see far more than is actually printing in words. The book in itself deserves a four star rating however one of my old pet hates came out in this novel which demoted it down to three stars.
I do not like conversations that are written in paragraph form without quotation marks, I find them almost impossible to read and often miss the fact that someone was talking and have to go back and start the paragraph all over again. This really breaks the rhythm of the novel and is just not necessary, there are plenty of trees out there, just print the conversations properly and use a few extra sheets of paper. ...more
A really interesting novel as it is both a captivating story which covers a piece of history that I previously did not know anything about. To be honeA really interesting novel as it is both a captivating story which covers a piece of history that I previously did not know anything about. To be honest before reading this book I couldn't tell you a single fact about the history of Uganda and could only just have placed it on a map.
The book itself follows the story of a british doctor who moves to Uganda to work and gets caught up in the dictatorship of Idi Amin, the is the doctors history of the events he witnessed throughout Amin's reign and as the personal physician of Amin these were many and varied. In almost stereotypical fashion Amin was portrayed as a complete madman who's sanity declines rapidly during his time in power. Having read a little around the subject it seems like this was not an over exaggeration by the authors but the book may even be less extreme that the real dictator was.
Telling the story through the eyes of the doctor who is both a part and slightly detached from the proceedings of the book gives the story a great balance and the morality of the doctor is key to the telling of the story. You know throughout he is a good person who has just ended up in a terrible position but are constantly left wondering how long he can remain in association with such a brutal regime before he either cracks mentally or caves in and becomes a part of the atrocities that are occurring.
The book flows really well and I'm surprised that it does not have more ratings on goodreads than it does because it is a very good book. I know there is a big budget film based on it which I will watch a some time. I only hope it can properly portray that mental states of the two key characters and this was the single thing that made the book stand out from something average. ...more
This is the forth book in Stephen King's epic fantasy series, The Dark Tower.
This book manages an accomplishment that can only be achieved in the epiThis is the forth book in Stephen King's epic fantasy series, The Dark Tower.
This book manages an accomplishment that can only be achieved in the epic fiction and literary classic genres, which is to manage to go 700 pages without any change in the situation and story of the main characters. In actual fact in this book the main characters remained seated and do not move at all throughout the majority of the novel. This is because almost the entire novel is devoted to telling the backstory of Roland and how he got the position that we found him in at the start of the first book. In itself this story would make for an excellent novel and I believe could be read and enjoyed by someone who had not previously read any of the dark tower novels. I actually found this story a more interesting and enjoyable read than two of the main novels which does make me wonder whether that means that I'm not fully enjoying the main storyline of the series.
Throughout the novel King continues to pull ideas and concepts from many works, some obviously so and some subtly so. King has always been able to find ways to bring vague links between his various novel and The Stand features heavily in this novel both through the post apocalyptical setting and the presence of Randell Flagg. There is also obvious references to other works of fiction most notably The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, of the parts of this novel relating to 'current events' in the series most involved the characters skewed double of scenes from the wizard of oz. But as well as these obvious links there are some less obvious links to other great works of fantasy. Being an avid read of all things J.R.R. Tolkien I saw many links between concepts in this novel and some of the themes in The Lord of the Rings, I guess the most obvious of these was the resemblance of the wizards glass ball to the palantir of middle earth both of which look similar and perform the same functions. Just having mid-world as a setting is no doubt reference to tolkiens great work, and the introduction to the novels show that King is a great admirer of Tolkien.
I enjoyed the book as a story in its own right but am still not convinced about the series, its certainly not the best epic fantasy series I have read but is still captivating enough to make me want to finish the story and find out how it all ends.
So having read the first two books I have swiftly moved on and read the third novel in this series, and I doubt that it will be long before I move ontSo having read the first two books I have swiftly moved on and read the third novel in this series, and I doubt that it will be long before I move onto Wizard and Glass. In this book we continue to follow the quest of Roland and his companions through mid world towards the city of lud as they move ever closer to the Dark Tower. This book also saw the return of Jake (the boy from the first book), the series has precious few key characters and having a forth main character means that it is now feasible that something could happen to one of them, with only three characters I was always of the opinion that they were always going to survive as the story couldn't survive with just two characters. The book also has very few chapters, in fact there are only 6 in a book that is 600 pages long, being a regular reader of Stephen King I am used to the way in which his uses many mini-subchapters to break up very long chapters but still would prefer "normal" chapters. However this aside the story is continuing to develop well and I'm looking forward to reading the forth book. ...more
This book is really a three and a half star book, I really struggled with the first part of the book but then started to enjoy it and really got intoThis book is really a three and a half star book, I really struggled with the first part of the book but then started to enjoy it and really got into the novel by the end. Since it is the latter parts of the novel that I remember most vividly and these were the best bits I have decided to give this book four stars.
I found the book really hard work initially due to the authors choice of language, during the first few chapters there were dozens of words that I had never come across before and did not no the meaning of. Having to look words up in a dictionary every couple of pages does not make for enjoyable reading and if you are planning on reading this book then I would advise having a dictionary close to hand.
After the first few chapters the story really starts to get going and I taught myself to ignore the problems I was having with the wording and concentrate on the story that was being told. The story itself is absolutely first class, a brilliant plot with wonderful characters all moving towards a seemingly predetermined destiny. The best character in the book is certainly the title character of Captain Corelli who is a constant source of lightheartedness and humour through even the darkest parts of the nazi occupation of Greece.
If you can battle through the first few chapters then the story will unfold and is well worth a read. ...more
Needful Things is classic Stephen King, a gripping and exciting horror story that also makes one ask questions and think about deeper moral issues. ThNeedful Things is classic Stephen King, a gripping and exciting horror story that also makes one ask questions and think about deeper moral issues. This is something that Stephen King does very well, the most obvious example is The Stand where he asks questions about how people would react am come together during times of trouble and how citizenship would re-establish itself in the wake of disaster. Needful things is nothing like these moral issues but faces up to the issue of "what would we be willing to give to get the thing we have always wished for?" In the case of this novel Mr Leland Gaunt will take everything you have and more in return for what you desire, through this the town of Castle Rock is thrown into disarray with citizens of Caste Rock doing anything to get (and keep hold of) the things that Mr Gaunt sells.
Although the book is very long (at nearly 700 pages it was very difficult to read on the tube), King builds up the levels of suspense brilliantly as everything leads to what is sure to be a spectacular finish to the story. Even though there is no mystery to the book, the reader is always knows how has done what and why, there is always a sense of anticipation as to how the chain of events is going to be stopped as they continue to accelerate towards the grand finale at the end of the novel.
All in all this was a very enjoyable read and is one of the better Stephen King book I have read. ...more
There were parts of this book when I genuinely did not have a clue what was going on, but other than that I was a thoroughly enjoyable read. Not reallThere were parts of this book when I genuinely did not have a clue what was going on, but other than that I was a thoroughly enjoyable read. Not really the sort of book I usually read but I think I might buy a few more of Neil Gaiman's books in the future. ...more
I wouldn't say that this is a bad book but it is certainly not up to the very high standards the previous books have set. Also it has the most disappoI wouldn't say that this is a bad book but it is certainly not up to the very high standards the previous books have set. Also it has the most disappointing ending I have ever read....more