Took me a while to get into this book, not sure why, but when I did and it all clicked I was enchanted. The chapter that did it was the one where Nenn...moreTook me a while to get into this book, not sure why, but when I did and it all clicked I was enchanted. The chapter that did it was the one where Nenna goes to see her estranged husband in north London, an unsuccessful tryst, and loses her way – and her shoes and money – on the way back. She has a near miss with a predatory man (or maybe he’s just lonely) before a cheery taxi driver gives her a lift back (for free) to the boat where she lives with her daughters, and there's an unexpected but pleasant end to the night. I was so lifted by the writing, its nuances, its comedy, its finely honed observations, that getting off the train and walking to surrounded-by-flyovers Perry Barr campus, streaming past One-Stop shopping Centre in the rain with the disgruntled commuters seemed a delight I never wanted to end by getting into work and having to put it all out of my mind.
All the characters here are real people with inadequacies, humour, resourcefulness, needs and desires, and all forge a kind of community as successful as any on land, perhaps more so due to the common problems of leaks, high tides and officials, and from their peculiar vulnerability – very difficult to secure a boat from the determined. There’s Richard, the ex-navy man who finds it hard to express himself, friendly Maurice, the male prostitute, Willis the painter, and Nenna’s two daughters, Martha and Tilda, perhaps my favourite characters (along with Stripey the cat). These latter are wise beyond their years having often to fend for themselves, selling salvaged tiles at an antique shop, or outmanoeuvring possible paedophiles. It’s all set in a recognisable early/mid-60s ‘swinging’ London (King’s Rd with its boutiques where sellers, dressed in brilliant colours, outshone the purchasers, and, instead of welcoming them, either ignored them or were so rude that they could only have hoped to drive then away. The customers in return sneered at the clothing offered to them, and flung it on the ground.). Lovely stuff (less)
taken me ages to get to this. Review coming, but meanwhile just want to boast. I realised as I opened this book that the story 'The Age of Lead' was i...moretaken me ages to get to this. Review coming, but meanwhile just want to boast. I realised as I opened this book that the story 'The Age of Lead' was in this collection with me!:
here's the table of contents:
sorry, but it's not often you get a contents page that reads Atwood, Barnes, Beard, Boyd... and also includes two of my other favourite authors Munro and Trevor. So, good excuse to display the evidence... ..oh, it hasn't displayed. Bollocks. I'll try again...has it now? (less)
3.7 stars: good - well written - stories of rich (on the whole) New Yorkers (often adopted NYers), mainly media types, writers, film people, but also...more3.7 stars: good - well written - stories of rich (on the whole) New Yorkers (often adopted NYers), mainly media types, writers, film people, but also magnates and politicians attending parties and having lovers secreted in hideaways. All characters are well drawn and there are many funny moments. In one a wife becomes so attached to her potbellied pig she takes it to bed, in another a mother shoots her son in the arse (should say 'ass' I suppose) claiming to mistake him for a burglar. McInerney also exposes the class system in apparently classless USA, eg the woman who proves snobbish about waiters. Everyone's looking to upgrade to better lovers, better lifestyles. I enjoyed them all but felt maybe that was my fill of this type of story for now. Bernard McLaverty recently said the the short story is like a shot of a spirit taken alone at night (as opposed to a novel which is like a pint at the bar). This book was like a long line of G&T's drunk one after the other. Invigorating, bubbly: will get you drunk.(less)
thought I might be damaged by this book, it being about the abduction (although he has 'groomed' the girl, so it isn't a forced abduction) of an 11 ye...morethought I might be damaged by this book, it being about the abduction (although he has 'groomed' the girl, so it isn't a forced abduction) of an 11 year old girl by a 52 year old man, but it was something other than harrowing, or even sexual in the way Lolita is. Yes the man is obsessed with Tommie's (the girl) physical presence, her feet, her freckles, her belly, but he proceeds so carefully step by step, you're not sure if there is consummation. This was more about two lonely souls trying to communicate, hiding out from the world, Lamb (the man) convincing himself that he is doing something special for Tommie, both protecting her from bullies and bad parenting, and giving her skills to cope with the hostile world. For several days they live in a bubble, he pointing out the beauty of nature, and teaching her practical skills like firelighting. His manipulation is both of the girl and others (his girlfriend from work; neighbours), and the reader (although it's not a first person narration). It's a clever, subtle book. I would say poetic (the colour yellow for example is mentioned or evoked on almost every page) but it's rather brisk too, much of it conversation. It settles deep in you, carried there by good characterisation, although you realise there's a lot more to both main characters, their histories making them who they are. Tommie of course is usually a male name, and strangely virtually all the men had female names - Jessie (although I got used to that being a male name from Breaking Bad), Alison(an elderly farmer), and Clare (a nod to Humbert Humbert's rival/enemy Clare Quilty?). Intriguing. Anyway Bonnie Nadzam is a terrific writer, deliberately provocative, but steering her own beautifully written course through dangerous territory. (less)
enjoyable two character thriller (classified by the library - it has a little gun on the spine: however there are no guns apart from ones used on a fa...moreenjoyable two character thriller (classified by the library - it has a little gun on the spine: however there are no guns apart from ones used on a farm). An Englishwoman works for a relation's real estate business in Australia and starts a sexual relationship with one of the clients she shows around a house. He turns out to be rich and seems to like paying her for her time. On a trip to his family mansion she begins to feel trapped there: he has an ulterior motive. Using the tropes of romantic fiction (he is rugged as well as rich) and locked-room thriller Hooper is able to explore male-female perceptions of each other, role playing, marriage. Desire and fantasy warp everything. She also does a neat line in ambiguity, the narrator is surely unreliable, but how unreliable? Tension builds, animals are slaughtered and gutted, what will happen?
Hooper writes well and keeps your interest. Along the way we get barbed commentary like this: The whole point of marriage was to cancel out the erotic. It was essentially a contract between two people so as not to have to sleep together… people usually tied the knot so they could get over desire, so they weren’t driven mad by it, and could eventually cease copulating altogether.
And on the titular ‘engagement’ – the word sounding clammy, claustrophobic: a room no one could enter, a number no one could call (less)