A round-up of the books that I've read this month. A bit of a mixed bag!
(1) The Way Of The Kings by Andre Malraux
Literature / Colonialism: "Claude and Perken meet on a liner heading for Indo-China, and throw in their lots together to form a dual expedition into the perilous Cambodian jungles of the 'Way of the Kings'.
The Way Of The Kings was recommended to me by a friend who cites his favourite book as being Heart Of Darkness by Joseph Conrad and this one is unashamedly similar in many ways, and is often referred to as a 'companion' book to Heart Of Darkness.
The story revolves around two men who meet on a journey to Cambodia and decide to hatch a plan to steal some of the ancient artifacts located in the ruins of old Khmer temples. Things however don't go according to plan when they happen to come across a group of natives who really don't like them attempting to pinch their stuff. Although the prose is quite moody and descriptive, I started to get a strong Indiana Jones style vibe from the book, as the two men experience what life is really like in the exotic jungle. Obviously with a book of this age and nature, there are strong colonialism themes and criticisms that you can draw out, but essentially this is a novel that attempts to delve into the human psyche and explores the thoughts that arise when one is facing almost certain death. Intriguing, if a little archaic now. [3/5]
(2) After Me Comes The Flood by Sarah PerryContemporary / Mystery: "One hot summer's day, John Cole decides to leave his life behind. This is his story."
I have mixed thoughts on this one but on the whole, I was mostly disappointed as the blurb was so promising. After Me Comes The Flood follows our protagonist, John Cole, out of the mayhem of London and straight into a strange, run-down house that's off the road in an isolated location. Although the house at first appears to be uninhabited due to its state of disrepair, John quickly meets its unusual tenants who seem to know everything about him already.
Given this premise, the story should have unfolded into a captivating and haunting mystery, but sadly it falls flat with badly stereotyped characters and a dull, one-dimensional portrayal of John who adds little interest to the situation that he finds himself in. There were some interesting parts here and there which kept me going, but ultimately it just wasn't the book that I imagined it to be. [2/5]
(3) The Particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
Magical Realism / Fantasy: "On the eve of her ninth birthday, Rose Edelstein bites into her mother's homemade lemon-chocolate cake and discovers she has a magical gift: she can taste her mother's emotions in the slice."
Attempted to read this for a book club but couldn't get past page 40 or so before I decided to put it down for good. Not my thing - just couldn't engage with it or the characters. [0/5]
(4) Little Hands Clapping by Dan Rhodes
Contemporary / Horror / Black Humour: "In a room above a bizarre German museum, and far from the prying eyes of strangers, lives the Old Man. Caretaker of the museum by day, by night he enjoys the sound of silence, broken by the occasional crunch of a spider between his blackened teeth."
I haven't had the pleasure of reading anything by Dan Rhodes before so I wasn't sure what to expect from his writing, but I absolutely loved Little Hands Clapping. Set in a German town, the Old Man works in a niche themed museum where he endures the daily grind and attempts to do as little work as possible until he is finally able to retire and be left happily alone away from society and those who annoy him. However, the very theme of the museum ensures that he has a lot of work to do after hours, but luckily an eager doctor called Ernst Frohlicer is more than happy to lend him a helping hand when a 'situation' arises.
Utterly hilarious in a black comedy kind of way, it'll be a book that people read and either love or hate. I was hooked all the way through and finished it over two nights! Definitely need to read more Dan Rhodes for when I need a chuckle. [4/5]