So much of this book thrilled me & yet, there is a portion that grated, and thus, I can't give it the full 5-stars.
This is a wonderful social comm...moreSo much of this book thrilled me & yet, there is a portion that grated, and thus, I can't give it the full 5-stars.
This is a wonderful social commentary of North London - seen from the viewpoints of non Caucasian Britons. It is a London, I don't know well, but it fits in with all the other great London novelists in the canon - Dickens, Ackroyd, Spark, Snow, Walters & so on, and is a worthy addition to English Literature. The characters are strong & jump out of the page at you; they are exceptionally believable. The tensions and assimilation of Southern Asians & West Indians with native Britons feels so right. This part, it is so obvious that Smith is a voyeur on her streets and knows her material well. I loved her use of language regarding her characters, and for me the book flowed beautifully.
And then something happened! If this book had been serialised I would have seriously thought the publisher had forced Smith to change her tack to encourage a flagging readership. It all happens when the Chalfens are introduced. The introduction and change of themes is clunky and I am going to blame this on it being a 1st book - we all make mistakes and learn our craft over time. It so felt like a novice driver had changed gears from 4th to 2nd & we all jerked to the sudden change The new theme of genetic modification completely dominated and swamped the previous themes of families and assimilating cultural aspirations and the outcomes this can produce.
And then there was the conclusion. Such a let down! I was so surprised to see i had 5 pages for the novel's denouement to act out. It was rushed and unsatisfactory. I feel the editor should have helped Smith here in improving. No - I didn't want waffle, but really, it needed a little more for the punch line to work. I certainly felt cheated.
Overall, I feel Zadie Smith has a lot to give to contemporary fiction and will try another. I really wanted to love this book, but in the end could only like it.(less)
I picked this copy up in one of those caravan swap libraries a few yrs ago & have been dragging it around with me.
Not a poor read, altho I didn't...moreI picked this copy up in one of those caravan swap libraries a few yrs ago & have been dragging it around with me.
Not a poor read, altho I didn't think it would ever become my Desert Island choice. I think this is one of the earliest in the court room, DA genre that has become so popular over the past 20 years. I'm not a fan, so my review is overly biased this time.
This narrative is full of intrigue and political drama that suck in the reader and is easily to become immersed in it. The court room drama is not long or drawn out, but tight paced enjoyable to read. There are some twists and turns, some I found very obvious, others that stunned me, altho I felt believable.
Will I read another Turow novel?? No. But I think he puts an effort to engage the reader and thus is probably one of the better writers of this genre.(less)
This is a difficult book to read as it is quite schizophrenic in its approach. But don't let it put you off, it is worth persevering.
Two storylines ru...moreThis is a difficult book to read as it is quite schizophrenic in its approach. But don't let it put you off, it is worth persevering.
Two storylines run concurrently: one set, so brief and fragmentary, they reminded me of a dinosaur dig of finding a fragmentary skeleton - say a tibia, a tooth and part of a hip - and from this reconstructing an entire skeleton from it.
The others are confusing as they always use the same character names (chiefly Martin, John, Henry, Bea/Beatrice and Sue/Susan) but they are different in situation and character traits. Through these fictions, one can piece together a little of the true John & Martin. It does take the 1st quarter of this book to work it out. These stories develop the "what if" scenarios or expanding on dreams and aspirations discussed between the "real John & Martin.
The stories are often full of pain and lack of fulfillment; the words that ran thru my head often were "bitter sweet becoming just bitter". The two young gay men throughout equate sex with love and once the passion peters out, so too does the "love". This makes so much sense. Both come from unhappy families: we know John had an abusive father, but not much about Martin except this wonderful line: my family gave me nothing but money. The tragedy is these men know of no other way to love, except through sex - and when you are a male prostitute, that love will be shallow & unrewarding.
One of the saddest images in the stories of a dreamed Utopia where thousands of men hold hands & kiss and are passionately in love and there is no stigma. In the 1980's, in the US, Greenwich Village in New York was perceived to be that Utopia - especially by teens outside of the city. Of course, the reality was far from this, as portrayed in such films as Midnight Cowboy.
In fact, the city sucked the men up, where they either dreamed & strived for the hedonism that thrived at that time, or were spat out, with broken bodies & minds from drug addiction and prostitution and violence. Then the AIDS epidemic swept through and this lifestyle died and changed into another one - still hedonistic, but in some ways slightly less insane.
During the 80s & 90s, the AIDS gay literature proliferated, describing a world that has virtually disappeared, or grossly changed. Some of this literature is truly pretentious and dull and only readable by those that survived this period: Rechy, Picano, Kramer are all part of this gay canon, and I disliked them all. I have completed the group by finally reading Martin & John (or Fucking Martin) and I have to say it certainly outshines those others of the Gay AIDS literature.(less)
What incredible memoir. It is full of passion & love of country & the struggle when the politics makes life difficult to express yourself.
The...moreWhat incredible memoir. It is full of passion & love of country & the struggle when the politics makes life difficult to express yourself.
The gaol and interrogation scenes are brutal. The mistrust and open surveillance from family & "friends" is Kafkaesque, and shows the ugly side of communistic dictatorships. I grew bored with the endless sexual encounters, but I also respect the 60s & 70s was a time very different from now in the post-AIDs gay world. All those erect penises can disconcert anyone after some pages.
The feelings of an exile & the vile behaviour of the publishers was also a revelation. It's hard to think that the aweful situation you find yourself in, is the one thing that makes you marketable & once released, you lose that specialness.
I think I will hunt out one of his books, altho, I suspect like Isherwood, they are going to be heavily autobiographical.(less)