A round up of the books I read last month:-
Contemporary Science Fiction / Dystopia - "Narrated by Kathy, now aged 31, she hauntingly dramatises her attempts to come to terms with her childhood at the seemingly idyllic Hailsham School, and with the fate that has always awaited her and her closest friends in the wider world."
A bleak and truly disturbing dystopia with an almost weary slow pace to it, but one which seems to deliberately have been crafted that way to add to the sense of oppression. From the outset, you get a sense that something is not quite right, as the protagonist Kathy recalls memories from her childhood at the initially normal sounding Hailsham boarding school. The penny finally drops as you realise what's going to happen to the children, and then you begin to see everything in a completely different manner, and it's creepy to say the least! The concept and subject matter is based around what it means to be human and what rights humans have which leaves you with some serious food for thought at the end. [4/5]
(2) London Fields by Martin Amis
Mystery & Satire - "Nicola Six is searching for something and someone else: her murderer. She knows the time, she knows the place, she knows the motive, she knows the means. She just doesn't know the man."
London Fields is a murder mystery with a special Amis spin. By that, I mean it bears his classic story telling hallmarks of stereotyped characters that you simply love to hate, witty prose tinged with cynicism and despair, and a dark, satirical outlook on London's grim streets. The story centers around a woman called Nicola Six who forsees her own murder and sets out to find the murderer, encountering some vile, yobbish characters in the process. It's certainly not a book that everyone will warm too, in fact most will likely view it as completely offensive dross and lose faith in humanity after reading a couple of pages. But if you like and understand the many layers of satire in it, then you'll find it rather entertaining and a darkly humourous take on the mainstream mystery genre. [4/5]
(3) The War Of The End Of The World by Mario Vargas Llosa
Modern Historical Literature - "Inspired by a real episode in Brazilian history, Mario Vargas Llosa tells the story of an apocalyptic movement, led by a mysterious prophet, in which prostitutes, beggars and bandits establish Canudos, a new republic, a libertarian paradise."
So many people have recommended The War of the End of the World to me, but I kept putting it off due to its length. Seriously, don't do that. If this book is sitting on your shelf waiting to be read, pick it up and read it. It's an epic historical fiction novel based on the War of Canudos in 19th Century Brazil, the 'deadliest civil war' in Brazilian history. Although it's all fiction, the vivid prose and characters of this conflict almost feel like they're taking you back in time with them. There are lots of different points of views along the way which help to keep your attention focused on what's going on at both macro, and micro levels. It will no doubt intrigue anyone interested in inequality, the politics of human interaction, economics, religion and its influences upon people, and republic pride. A fascinating book, and one I'm grateful I've finally read. [4/5]
(4) The Five People You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Albom
Contemporary Fantasy/Spiritual Fiction - "Eddie is a wounded war veteran, an old man who has lived, in his mind, an uninspired life. On his 83rd birthday, a tragic accident kills him as he tries to save a little girl. He awakes in the afterlife, where he learns that heaven is not a destination, but an answer."
This is usually one of those typical marmite books that seems to divide people. It will either tug at your heart strings and have you in a puddle of tears, or you'll find yourself wanting to throw it out of the window for being so soppy. Me? It didn't really elicit any strong emotions from either side to be honest. I thought the story was short and sweet; an elderly war veteran by the name of Eddie spends his twilight years happily working at an amusement park. On his birthday, an accident occurs with one of the rides which results in Eddie losing his life as he saves a little girl from being crushed to death. The story then focuses on (you've guessed it) the five people he meets in heaven, and he comes to realise how important he was to those around him, even if he doesn't immediately recognise some of the people he sees. The tale of course deals with the meaning of life and we all have our own interpretations of that eternal question, "Why Am I Here?". Perhaps I've become too desensitized or cynical in my old age, but I didn't feel a lot for this book in a spiritual sense or anything like that, I just thought it was a nice story. [3/5]
(5) Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Mystery Thriller - "Marriage can be a real killer. Nick's has been particularly troublesome, but one day his beautiful wife Amy goes missing and Nick suddenly finds himself as the number one suspect. But there are two sides to every story..."
This book was massively hyped up last year so I had some pretty big expectations for it. For the most part it lived up to them; the two point POVs throughout by Nick & Amy were interesting and added to the whole two sides of the story thriller concept. The book starts off relatively slow, but builds the tension and suspense well, so I was immediately hooked into finding out what had happened to Amy. The last part of the book was a little disappointing though, as it sort of peters out and runs out of steam with an ending which is a bit wishy washy to be honest. That said, the vast majority of Gone Girl is an interesting and exciting thriller which explores some of the tensions that marriage can bring to a relationship. [4/5]
What have you been reading recently?
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