I can't remember the last time a book made me think about what reading, writing and researching means to me. This is billed as a love letter to the wr...moreI can't remember the last time a book made me think about what reading, writing and researching means to me. This is billed as a love letter to the written word and it is. The very act of reading S, with its tumbling inserts & trompe l'oeil scribbled on form drags you into the story, in a sense. While it takes more concentration to follow a multi stranded narrative told across footnotes and margin notes that at times threaten to swamp the text I enjoyed watching two characters teasing out the meaning of the text and hunting for clues to a deeper literary mystery. I don't think I could even begin to review the writing - the story moves at a lick you'd expect from something JJ Abrams is behind but I found it satisfying. It felt more like a game than a novel at times but one that I enjoyed from start to finish. Definitely worth a read - and a longer writeup when I get round to it.(less)
Unlike the author's previous works this isn't crime but instead a dark slice of rural gothic. Arlene Hunt gets under the skin of small town Ireland, u...moreUnlike the author's previous works this isn't crime but instead a dark slice of rural gothic. Arlene Hunt gets under the skin of small town Ireland, uncovering all the secrets and resentments of country life in a haunting page turner. I would definitely recommend.(less)
Enjoyable read with plenty of twists and turns but I couldn't help wishing (carefully without slipping in any spoilers) that this had finished about a...moreEnjoyable read with plenty of twists and turns but I couldn't help wishing (carefully without slipping in any spoilers) that this had finished about a hundred pages sooner. It’s a great premise & an uncomfortable dissection of a marriage but sorry, Gillian Flynn is no Patricia Highsmith. It’s a shame because I've happily flown through the book only to be left somewhat deflated by the end.(less)
A raw, honest account of mental illness. Personally I prefer my literary angst a little less neurotic but Esther's descent into depression is a poigna...moreA raw, honest account of mental illness. Personally I prefer my literary angst a little less neurotic but Esther's descent into depression is a poignant account of youth crumbling under expectations. I remember being 19 but it was never quite like that for me.(less)
John Wyndham's last novel, published 10 years after his death, is slight compared to better known works like Day of the Triffids or The Kraken Wakes....moreJohn Wyndham's last novel, published 10 years after his death, is slight compared to better known works like Day of the Triffids or The Kraken Wakes. It's the tale of an ill-fated utopian commune and spiders, an awful lot of spiders. This is a story told by a master story teller but sadly it's not a classic. Wyndham is at his best with tales of ordinary people dealing with other worldly threats and this follows that tried and tested format. There isn't enough in the story to allow for the slow build & vivid characterisation he does so well but this is a creepy little tale nonetheless. One to avoid perhaps if you're an arachnaphobe but if you're a fan of John Wyndham don't miss this last adventure.(less)
John Wyndham on sparkling form, this collection of stories leans more to wry humour than the darker, more cynical sci fi he's known for. If there's a...moreJohn Wyndham on sparkling form, this collection of stories leans more to wry humour than the darker, more cynical sci fi he's known for. If there's a theme to the collection it's one of rather predatory females but the femme fatales in these stories are more likely to be fleas, monkeys or amorous genetic experiments than real battle of the sexes stuff. These stories are told tongue firmly planted in cheek. They might not always be madly politically correct but they're damn good stories.(less)
The Monster of Florence was a serial killer who attacked young couples in the Tuscan hills throughout the 80s. He was never caught. Writing with Mario...moreThe Monster of Florence was a serial killer who attacked young couples in the Tuscan hills throughout the 80s. He was never caught. Writing with Mario Spezi, the Florentine journalist who has been following the case from the start, author and journalist Douglas Preston follows the story from the crime scenes to the labyrinthine twists of a bungling investigation by the Italian authorities. But this is more than simply the story of a faceless killer. Preston also paints a fascinating picture of the birthplace of the Renaissance, of Italy itself and of a dogged journalistic investigation that spanned decades and almost cost Mario Spezi a heavy price. When I was studying journalism I used to have a list of books and films that went into the journalism pile. Titles that made me proud of the profession that I hoped to enter and allowed a geeky obsession with the nuts and bolts of the job. If it had been out at the time The Monster of Florence would have had pride of place. It's a great behind the scenes view of the crime reporter's job and a strong argument for press freedom. This is the story of a particularly gruesome series of crimes but it's also the story of a terrifying abuse of power by some of the investigative team - particularly Perugian prosecutor Giuliano Magnini (who also prosecuted American student Amanda Knox and her Italian boyfriend Raffaele Solecito). I'd recommend this book if you've an interest in well written true crime, intrepid journalism and especially if you've an interest in the Amanda Knox case. A gripping read, absolutely fascinating.(less)
I read The Absentee as research so I'm not really in a position to comment on how the book ranks as entertainment. That said, I enjoyed this tale of a...moreI read The Absentee as research so I'm not really in a position to comment on how the book ranks as entertainment. That said, I enjoyed this tale of absentee landlords, unscrupulous agents, scurrilous businessmen, stained reputations and rather improbable coincidences. This is an honestly political book and Maria Edgeworth makes her views of absenteeism absolutely plain. It is a landlord's duty, she suggests, to guide their simple tenants to a virtuous and industrious existence and not to beggar their land by extravagant living away from home. It's a thesis that's hard to argue with and there's no doubt that Edgeworth herself practised what she preached but sometimes the broad strokes of her argument are a little hard to take. Her descriptions of the excesses of the Anglo Irish community read uncomfortably close to the similarly extravagant behaviour of the Celtic Tiger years. It's depressing to realise that in some ways not a lot has changed in two hundred years.
Edgeworth writes from within her class. She was one of the ascendancy class herself and stops far short of encouraging anything approaching a revolution. The best way forward in her opinion is for landlords to tend their estates responsibly and through example to inspire their faithful tenants. It's not an argument that sits well with modern independent Ireland but her portrait of Ireland and the Irish is undoubtedly affectionate and she has obviously observed her subject well. With her earlier book Castle Rackrent, she is credited with inventing the regional novel and is known to have influenced writers as diverse as Walter Scott, Ivan Turgenev and Jane Austen. She was certainly one of the earliest writers to employ social realism and for the most part writes an unsentimental account of life in early 19th century Ireland. The only sour note in the book is the character of Mordecai the coach maker. He's painted as a scheming, avaricious jew and this sparkling piece of anti-Semitism was rightly picked up soon after the book's publication. Edgeworth received a letter from an American Jewish woman Rachel Mordecai complaining about her depiction of a Jewish character. In fairness, Edgeworth was so struck by their correspondence that she wrote the novel Harrington as an apology to the Jewish community. But that knowledge doesn't help much when reading The Absentee.
All in all The Absentee is a good read but it's worth a look just for the historical perspective. Fascinating.(less)
By taking an unflinching look at an abusive marriage, Anne Bronte shocked not only her public but also her big sister. Certainly there's a lack of eup...moreBy taking an unflinching look at an abusive marriage, Anne Bronte shocked not only her public but also her big sister. Certainly there's a lack of euphemism in this account of alcoholism and infidelity which gives the book a decidedly modern feel. While the story might not be in the same league as Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre, The Tennant of Wildfell Hall is a fine book nonetheless and it's fascinating to read such an outspoken view of 19th century relationships and the darker side of marriage.(less)