Monday, 28 March 2011

Mini Reviews

Last week my computer wasn't working, so surprise-surprise I got tons read! It's shocking how much of a time-suck the Internet is. I'm just posting mini-reviews about these books otherwise I'll never get around to them, and to be perfectly honest I'm not sure how I could write full length posts about some of them *War and Peace*.

Baltasar and Blimunda by Jose Saramago read for my around the world journey (the countries have to touch and I aim if possible to read at least 2 books from each country).
This book has a Gabriel Garcia Marquez feel to it, which was great for me as I love him. In the foreground of the story was the love between Baltasar and the seer Blimunda - she has the ability to see 'inside' people if she hasn't eaten in the morning. Their love exists through the Inquisition and the creation of a flying bird capable of transporting humans.
No matter what happens it is their love for each other which wins over the whole story, and it isn't a mushy type of love, although one which is all consuming.
I loved this and would happily recommend it to other readers of magical realism.

War and Peace by Tolstoy I've been reading this as part of a read-a-long on goodreads since new years day, and although I got lost in the middle when I went on holiday I finally managed to catch up and get it finished.
I was shocked at how much the 'Peace' sections read like a soap opera. I was expecting a huge cast of characters but these sections focused primarily on three families and their interwoven love lives, tangles and disputes. You saw families grow, change and develop with the war creeping up in the background.
The 'War' sections I found a little harder at the start, as their seemed to be tons of characters in these bits and I couldn't figure out who was who. These sections became more manageable and enjoyable as I got to know characters and as the war seemed to be more localised so I had a firmer idea of how things were progressing. The pace also picked up.
I gave this read 4 stars as I really enjoyed it, but thought that Tolstoy should lecture and make less direct social comments, and I was disappointed in the second epilogue. We read the Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation which I really liked, I had started with a different translation before and gave up after 5 pages! Next up for the group read-a-long is Les Mis, which I started yesterday.

Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids by Oe this book was sent to me as part of my reading through the 1001 list/s (in fact all 4 of these reads were 1001 list books) and I'm sad to say I really didn't enjoy it.
A group of delinquent children are evacuated out to Japanese villages to escape the impeding war. Once their rumour of a plague spreads and the villagers abandon them so they are left to fend for themselves - similar to Lord of the Flies.
This book got great reviews from other people but for me it didn't hold together, it seemed that the author tried to hard to write as a teenage boy - they were obsessed with genitalia, which I know teenage boys are, I teach enough of them, but not to this extent. And some of the language just seemed to modern and the pace plodding.

Last but by no means least The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Moshin Hamid my favourite read of the week. Most people have already read and raved about it so a very quick summary: the book is spoken as if it is part of a conversation, but you only hear from one speaker. He tells is from Pakistan but tells of his time in America and all that it offered to him. And all that changed after 9/11.
His voice and syntax perfectly create the voice in your head; his relationships, successes and views create him as a 3 dimensional character in a way that I haven't read in ages. And your uncertainity about a few areas of the text and style create a book you'll be thinking about long after.
This is one of those books I'll probably end up recommending to everyone and buying people as gifts.

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