Category Archives: fiction

God Help the Child, Toni Morrison

download (1)Confession: Until I read this book, I had never read a Toni Morrison book before.  I’m not quite sure why. Sure, I know all about Beloved and I feel as though I know Morrison – I certainly felt as thought I had a intimate taste of her writing as I read this book – and I wasn’t disappointed. This is exactly what I thought Morrison would feel like… if that makes sense.

When I think Morrison, I think Maya Angelou but somehow without the gravely tone of her voice and the echo of her depths. I realise that this is a very sensory response to a piece of writing but I don’t see that there is any other way to response to such a work. I agree with Kara Walker who says, in the NY Times review: “Toni Morrison has always written for the ear, with a loving attention to the textures and sounds of words.”

I don’t think I can do a review of this book justice. Not sure it’s worth trying since The Guardian has done such a superb job! What I will say is that the premise of this book quite distubed me. I expected the colour issue and I expected a feminist angle and I wasn’t disappointed on either count. What I found confronting was the story itself – the way that the protagonist, Bride, physically regresses in response to the burden of a lie she told as a child. In her own mind, her body reverts back to her childhood self. It was this that disturbed me, perhaps because it was most unexpected.

I wasn’t bowled over by this book. I loved the majesty of Morrison’s prose – there’s no doubt that she has a symphony hidden in her pen, or her keyboard or quill. She is clearly a master of language and storytelling. I was captivated by the story and by Bride’s boyfriend, Booker – I found him fascinating. I think where I was left somewhat empty was in Bride herself. There was something in her voice that didn’t entirely resonate with me, something I can’t quite put my finger on… Perhaps it is just in comparison to the grandeur of the prose that I have been left with such a high expectations of perfection from this author.

As The Atlantic so succintly puts it: “Rather than craft big novels, Morrison has distilled her fictions with atomic elements.”

This novel was certainly worth the read and Morrison is truly one of the greats. Equally fascinating, are the various opinions of the different reviews which all provide such insight into this intriguing little book.

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The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt

download (2)This was one of those books that you both love and hate.

Let’s start with what’s to love:

1. The sweeping arc of this work – and by sweeping I mean hundreds upon hundreds of pages (over 700) which echo of Dickens and epic sagas set in the back streets of quaint towns of yesteryear. I really loved Tartt’s vision in creating the layers of this narrative. I loved the way she introduced us to her protagonist, Theo, and then stretched him out, exploring the nuances of his perplexing existence all through the lens of this painting and its drama.

2. The characters – Tartt is a wizard at building characters and this book is full of them – Theo, his mother, Boris, Pippa and the magnificent Hobbie brings Dickens to life in this modern text.

3. The premise of the plot – an art gallery, an explosion, a survival, a missing painting. What’s not to love?

4. The wonderful drug induced mania that Theo and Boris wade through and the trauma that this brings with it – this was so vivid and tragic that it echo consistently through this work.

5. The landscape – Tartt swiftly unfolds New York with its bustling streets and its hidden nooks and crannies and then throws us into the desert of Las Vegas, leaving us on the veritable edge of the wilderness, a barren housing estate symbolic of the failure of American prosperity and vaguely reminiscent, in my mind, of T.J. Eckleburg’s eyes and the stretching ash in The Great Gatsby.

And what’s to hate? It’s simple. The editors let Tartt down in this book – or she let herself down by insisting on such rambling prose. This novel seemed to never end. I read it for hours and hours and days upon days which flowed into weeks. I don’t think it’s taken me so long to plough through a tome since I read Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose at university. And it was infuriating because I loved the premise of the story and the characters but the book’s length plagued my reading experience and there was whole sections which I felt could have been left to my imagination.

So, I’m undecided about this book. So much to love but so indulgent in its length … Tartt has left me confused.

For a beautiful and intriguing review, don’t miss Vanity Fair’s take on this book!

 

 

This is Where I Leave You, Jonathan Tropper

imagesIt is a very rare thing for me to see the movie before I read the book. Very rare indeed. This is partially because the book is ALWAYS superior to the film and partially because, well, I just don’t watch many movies.

Not only did I watch this film first, without realising that it was actually a book, but I enjoyed it. Laugh out loud kind of enjoyment in an ironic, sort of macabre way.

So, of course, when I realised that it was a novel, I had to read it … even though I knew what was coming. And now I’m stuck because truthfully, the book was as good as the film and the film as good as the book and this is something that I’ve never really experienced, nor heard about … is it even possible? In fact, I’m not even sure if I can review this book without, in part, kind of reviewing the film … Dare I say it, having watched the film actually might have made the reading better … But I’ll leave you to ponder that quietly to yourselves.

Granted, I didn’t read the book straight after watching the film. Rather, months passed and it was only by accident and boredom that I picked up the ebook and started reading. Out of interest really, to see whether the book could be better than the film … And now I’m not quite sure whether I was disappointed or pleasantly surprised … So you’ll forgive the absurdity of this review. This has never really happened to me before!

Meet the most wonderfully dysfunctional family. So dysfuncational that your family, at its most absurd and painful, will seem quite wonderful and brilliant and even calm! The book is told from the perspective of Judd, one of a team of siblings, who, early on, when trying to surprise his wife for her birthday, walks in on her in an extremely intimate exchange with his boss. I won’t spoil it by telling you where the cake lands up, but I’m sure if you use your imagination you will create a reasonable image!

The story unfolds around the death of Judd’s father, Mort, in the wake of the death of his marriage and the loss of his job and his rapid decline into oblivion. Mort’s death brings the family together and leads to a whole gamit of entertaining revelations, none of which I can reveal without destroying the fun for those who intend to read this entertaining novel.

While nothing even vaguely like this ever happens in my family – or in the families of other, real, people that i know – it was nonetheless incredibly entertaining and sad and poignant and beautiful to read about it happening to someone fictitious. If people like this do indeed exist along with families like this, then I am forever grateful for my mundane existence and that of those close to me.

I’m still not sure which I prefered – the book or the film. I might just have to watch and read them both again!