Sunday, 30 March 2008

Book Reviews

Here's what I've been reading recently:
Snow by Orhan Pamuk. I've discovered he is a Nobel Prizewinning Turkish writer who has been outspoken in his criticism of his country at times. The bk was given to me by Son 2 because it had a puff from Margaret Atwood (a favourite writer) on the cover. A long, slow novel but interesting in parts for those interested in foreign politics and religious conflict. Set in Kars, a mountainous town on the eastern edge of Turkey near Armenia, it is about the tug of war that goes on in Turkey between the West and the East. Though it’s described as a political thriller, I found it heavy going at times, and it does read like a translation. There is a romance, but I didn't find it that convincing, not sure it was even meant to be. The hero Ka talks about serious themes in a playful manner that's disconcerting at times.

Well-researched but somewhat plodding Winter in Madrid by C.J. Sansom. It was interesting to read more about the Spanish Civil War, and to learn something about the viewpoints of the different sides. I wasn't convinced by the characters, though the plot gripped me at times. It might get you through a long train journey but, for me, not a must-read. Other friends loved it, I should add.

We must all read A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini and never complain about husbands again.

A short but lovely book, if harrowing in parts - Mr Pip by a New Zealander, Lloyd Jones. It won the Commonwealth Writers Prize, was shortlisted for the Booker, and chosen by Richard & Judy. An easy read, it's told from the viewpoint of a bright naive 13-year-old girl living on an island near Bougainville, east of Papua New Guinea (north of Australia, in case you didn't know. I'd only heard of the area because we used to live in Australia at one stage) Because of civil war, the children have no teacher but then the only white person on the island, elderly Mr Watts, takes over and reads them Great Expectations, a book which makes a big impression on the heroine. Inevitably the fighting reaches their paradise island and their charming idyll is shattered.

I enjoyed the House at Riverton, long and absorbing, but not a page-turner so it didn't keep me awake. It's an upstairs/ downstairs kind of slow-moving atmospheric semi-romantic murder mystery mostly set in the 1920s in a country house, and told from the point of view of Grace, former lady's maid, now 92. The Australian first-time author from Queensland has done her research well, though some may have the odd quibble. I had one or two of my own but soon forgot them. I thought I’d foreseen the dénouement, but hadn't quite. The ending was good. Apparently Kate Morton the author (young and beautiful according to pic) said her English friends were quite excited to hear she had been chosen by Richard and Judy – now she's a best-seller she’ll understand why.

I thought The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell was terrific. Do read it. Also has a good ending.


Ms Mac said...

I have The House at Riverton in my bookshelf. I had no idea what it was about (someone passed it on to me) but I knew about it from Richard & Judy. I'll get around to reading it soon. I also read My Best Friend's Girl from their bookclub selection which I loved even though I spent the entire time reading it in tears. I was dehydrated by the end of it!

What I want to know is how Judy manages to persuade Richard to read these books? If I suggested those kinds of titles to my Tom Clancy & Lee Child loving husband, he'd think I'd finally tipped over the edge! Oh, the rolling eyes when I suggested he should read Angela's Ashes back in the 90s("But it's got a girl's name in the titles!") but I was toally vindicated when he told me it was one of the best books he'd read in years!

Blah, blah, I do go on! I'll look forward to your book recommedations and to reading about your travels!

Susie Vereker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susie Vereker said...

I believe the R&J books are selected by Amanda Ross, the producer of the show. Maybe R & J share them out, half each, I don't know.
Yep, in his latter years dh read only non-fiction - he never even read my great works!
A while ago he was going on a visit to Romania, so I said 'do read Olivia Manning'. But he dismissed that as women's fiction. Then he attended an official briefing where the delegates were given suggestions for background reading. Olivia Manning was top of the list. Hah!

Autolycus said...

Did you spot the little literary joke in Winter in Madrid - where the heroine finds herself in Burgos talking to an English relief worker on the Nationalist side called Cordelia? It seemed a bit out of place for the story, but I quite like that sort of thing. I'm just reading Julian Rathbone's historical novels, and he seems to do that sort of thing all the time.

Susie Vereker said...

No, alas, I missed the joke. I can't even check it out because I have returned Winter in Madrid to its owner. Oh dear. But thanks for reminding me about Julian Rathbone. I read The Mutiny about three months ago and thought it excellent. I find I am now looking at much of the history I learnt at school from a different viewpoint.