Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín
Originally published: April 29, 2009 (my birthday)
I was at a train station, serious delays in every direction and I would not be leaving anytime soon. To top off my bad luck, my kindle had run out of battery. It was time to purchase a real, paper book.
I perused the bestsellers in WHSmiths and found Brooklyn. I had seen the film advertised and as always I prefer to read the book before watching the motion picture. The blurb on the back wasn’t exactly captivating, but it had won the Costa novel award in 2009 and had been short and long listed for a few other awards since. It seemed like an easy read that would help me pass the time.
It is set in 1950’s Ireland and is the story of a young girl, Ellis, who has grown up in a small rural town with her mum and sister (and a few brothers who have since moved away). She has no real prospects until an Irish priest from Brooklyn offers to sponsor her in New York where she will be able to live, work and study for a better future.
She travels to New York by ship, and has a bumpy ride. She finds a lodging with some other similar minded women, a job in a department store, an evening course and eventually love. But, as with all soppy stories there is also another man, this one all the way back in Ireland.
It is basically the story of Ellis growing up and having to choose between two boys. I would say it is half interesting and a very tame read. There was one dramatic plot twist which I didn’t see coming and actually upset me a little. But I soon go over it and realized I was back in the monotony of this read. This book is exactly the reason why I tend to avoid the WHSmiths bestsellers.
If you want an easy holiday read about young love, dances and courting then please…be my guest!
The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans
I have just finished watching the film. After finishing the book I wanted to see it brought to life, but I am filled with regret. Why do I continue to sabotage my wonderful book experiences with the film adaptation?
I was so enthralled by the book, it was centred around my most favourite of animals and successfully captured the grace and intelligence of these magnificent creatures. The humans worked well too, with action, love and more emotion than my watery eyes could bear.
It is the story of a young girl who was involved in a collision with a truck whilst she is out riding with her friend one early winter morning. Both her and her horse are left with physical and mental scars, needing the help of a horse whisperer and his ranch to heal them both.
It is wonderfully written, and I finished it in no time at all, the fastest I have read a book in a long time. Perhaps because I read it as a physical paperback. The author is a apparently a film producer of sorts and this was his first written work. I think he clearly has a gift, I particularly enjoyed the way each chapter, although remaining in the third person, was from a different characters’ perspective.
The film though, save your pennies.
Author: Ian McEwan
This book has been on my radar since the film release in 2007, but I never felt an overwhelming urge to read it so although I had it on my kindle it wasn’t until I bought the hard copy a few weeks ago that I decided now would be as good a time as any.
For those of you living under a rock, the story goes that a young girl commits a crime that allegedly has disastrous consequences for her sister and their long term family friend; it sees lovers torn apart and a family in turmoil. The film trailer and even the book synopsis created this illusion that I was about to read something terrible, awful. This young girl unwittingly commits a crime and the whole world turns upside down because of it. The problem I had with this book is that the crime wasn’t drastic enough for me; the lives after the said crime were not substantially decimated.
Setting the scene for this lie was the most interesting part of the book; it was most of the book in fact! Everything after just seemed to fall out of the authors mouth like word vomit. I didn’t think enough emphasis went on any character so how a reader can feel that lives have been turned upside down is beyond me. Example, the elder sister stops speaking to her family (apologies for a reveal), but how did this impact her or the family? It doesn’t say.
It might seem that I am being harsh and I suppose I have my own high expectations to contend with, I did enjoy the book. Maybe it is because I like period literature, or maybe it is because I have a black heart and wanted to read about the ruining of lives!
On that note, there was one poignant scene in the book, set on the beaches of Dunkirk in WWII after the retreat had been ordered; it saw a fight ensue between army soldiers and a weak member of the RAF. This spat tore at my heart strings, and I thought McEwan successfully captured the absolute carnage of human mentality and body on those beaches over 70 years ago.
Although my review has the pretence of snubbing the literary efforts of McEwan, I would recommend the book. I would always recommend the book over a film. The setting of the scene was beautifully done, and the descriptiveness of the war efforts were also very good.
It seems to me that the good lord in his infinate wisdom gave us three things to make life bearable- hope, jokes, and dogs. But the greatest of these was dogs.
― Robyn Davidson, Tracks: A Woman’s Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback
I continue to remain in complete awe of Robyn Davidson. She is such an inspiration, in act and words.
It’s important that we leave each other and the comfort of it, and circle away, even though it’s hard sometimes, so that we can come back and swap information about what we’ve learnt even if what we do changes us
― Robyn Davidson, Tracks
Philomena by Martin Sixsmith
I like to read a book before I see it, I should hope most people feel the same. This is the story of the lost child of Philomena Lee and it turned my water works on. I cried on the tube and it was embarrassing. I cried in bed and it gave me sore eyes. I thought about the story and it welled me up at my desk. It was a sob story, but a fantastic one. It was so thorough, from Philomena’s life to her son’s. Every person that interacted with them, every life turning event, every moment spent reading closed the gap between just words on a page and really knowing someone.
However, as great as Dame Judi is, the film was a little flaccid. It did not provide the same mental stimulation and emotional roller coaster as the book. W
which is a shame.
Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth
When you run, you aim to run negative times, always trying to beat your previous lap. So why can this concept not be applied to literature…we should all endeavour to be better the next time, shouldn’t we? There are so many book series that seem to get worse as you read; Twilight, Hunger Games, Divergent….
I enjoyed Divergent, the concept wasn’t unfamiliar with a very Hunger Games vibe; society sectioned off and conforming to set standards and expectations. It was also definitely a young adult read with the standard strong female lead, action, betrayal and secret love, so nothing new basically. Having said that, a great read which I finished quickly.
Insurgent was a little odd for me but I kept reading simply to know more, although I wasn’t addicted to it like I was the first. It was pretty much the same as Divergent but with an added twist of some killed off characters returning.
Allegiant, well, it is a means to an end I guess. It reminded me of the Hunger Games trilogy in that the first two books were strong, exciting and addictive and then along came the third which saw the protagonist as a quivering mess doing odd things to save everyone but themselves. Starting strong then gradually getting worse.
I sound like I am being too harsh, I did mention that it is aimed at young adults so maybe I am being too critical. I read all 3 after all. Actually, the books made me feel like I was watching some dystopian Barbie world come to life, dolls being controlled by humans……ooo that is a spoiler by the way!
There is a film, the reason for my reading the books in the first place. It doesn’t look that bad actually…
I recently re-read The Confession and I rarely read any book twice let alone within a year of finishing the book the first time. I am pleased to say the book was just as gripping the second time round and I think I even appreciated it more.
Then, a few weeks ago I watched Time to Kill by John Grisham. It was superb, one of the best films I have ever seen. Pure acting with plenty of famous faces to add even more credit.
The story of a black man shooting two white men dead as they rapped his daughter, a white lawyer defending in a racially segregated southern American town. A gripping watch that had me on the edge of my seat and in tears.
I highly recommend it!!
The Fault in our Stars by John Green
Bought this on a whim somewhat foolishly after seeing that it was doing well in the charts and although I read it to the conclusion, I was disappointed.
The book follows two pretentious teenagers that seem to take great pleasure in the fact that they are so intelligent. The way that the characters interact with each other and the world merely stands to make them thoroughly unbelievable as characters as they simply do not behave like real life people do. It makes it seem as if the author is trying to show off how intelligent and brilliant he is by throwing in these deep meaningful and analytical conversations between the two main characters.
The book also deliberately throws in these ‘heart breaking’ occurrences that merely irritate the reader as oppose to cause them to well up with sadness. It actually eventually made me dislike both parties by the end of the novel. What was the most ‘throw up in your mouth’ cringeworthy was the sex scene where the author appears to have neglected to acknowledge that a string of chemo and radiotherapy is likely to have rendered both characters infertile and mentions ‘awkward condomy moments’ which feels like he is trying to keep parents happy as he promotes safe sex. It again, completely detracted from any realism with this book. The fact that she attempts to use the word ‘condomy’ is completely at odds with her usual poetic self.
My advice is to see that this book is aimed at a mainly female young teen audience and to avoid it if you do not fit into that category.
The feeling you get when you read a book that has completely consumed you and you then watch the trailer to the film.
Coupled with the knowledge that this profound story is true!!!
I am reading Tracks by Robyn Davidson and I cannot put it down, it has me gripped at the very core of everything emotional and I have just found out it is a true story which makes continuing to read it feel like a gift!
It recently mentioned in the book her relationship with National Geographic, I have found that first copy:
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Another young adult fiction that I thoroughly enjoyed. It is Suzanne Collins meets George Orwell with a hint of dystopia (a la Margaret Atwood).
Part of a trilogy, of which I am on the 2nd now (Insurgent). I began reading it as the film has recently been released and I always prefer reading before watching a book.
I think I will provide a fuller review upon finishing the whole series :-), so for now it is a 4 star.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Me: “I need a new book to read”
Him: “I’m reading the Perks of Being a Wallflower, it is really good”
Him: “Don’t know, just is, read it”
Not the best sales pitch I have to admit, and no matter how hard I tried to squeeze out information, he simply couldn’t articulate why he liked this book so much, which is saying something as he is naturally verbose! I didn’t have any other ideas as to what to pursue next so I downloaded and began reading then also became addicted.
The book is written in the first person, a teenager writing to a friend at regular intervals. We never find out who the friend is nor why he writes but he uses the letters as a way of externalising his thoughts and feelings, something he struggles to do in daily life.
What is fascinating about this book is that we are only privy to a segment of his life, and yet we learn so much about him and his life, embark on a journey together. Discovering things about him just as he discovers them himself, I am sure the friend he writes to is the reader and it made me feel almost special knowing that I understand him in a way his friends and family struggle to.
The letters finish when he realises and remembers everything, I won’t elaborate in case you want to read it, and I strongly suggest you do!
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
I began reading this book a few months ago, but a stream of good literature came along so I ditched it without hesitation. When it comes to books, I can be fickle like that.
When I think back to my first thoughts, there was no chemistry, hence why I found it so easy to just cast aside. But I was recently left high and dry after finishing A Respectable Trade as I didn’t have any new downloads to choose from and being on the tube I couldn’t even use my 3G! My heart started to pound, a little sweat formed above my brow and my face was I imagine quite panic stricken. Frantically tapping through my library to find anything I hadn’t read yet, Gone Girl saved the day. A little rusty at first but after a few days I got into a nice rhythm, it is a hefty book don’t you know?!
If you are a regular visitor to my blog you will know two things, the first my love of historical fiction and the second being my hatred for modern literature (juxtaposed I know!). So I didn’t have high expectations, I expected even less some form of actual writing skill. The story plods along and just when you feel like dropping off Gillian drops a bombshell. She uses this method frequently and after a few I realised just how much of a clever ploy this is. I won’t divulge said bombshells as you may not have read it yet, and there is a film coming out this October. But take it from me, they are big news!
The book is in 2 parts, the second half got really interesting! I almost couldn’t put it down. She turned the whole story on it’s head and aside from a few snore-y parts, which I admittedly skimmed, I was genuinely hooked.
This book could be a five star, for many it probably is considering the amount of people I saw reading this on my daily commute…and the awards;
- New York Times Janet Maslin’s 10 Favorite Books of 2012
- Entertainment Weekly’s Entertainer of the Year
- People Magazine Best books of the year
- Edgar Award nominee for Best Novel
- Amazon and Barnes & Noble Best of the Year
- Macavity Award nominee for Best Mystery Novel
- Anthony Award nominee for Best Novel
- The Women’s Prize nominee for Fiction
- Strand Critics Award nominee
But for now, it is a 4.
12 years a slave by Solomon Northup
The whole world is talking about 12 years a slave, the film not the book. Pestered to go and see the film I thought I would read the book beforehand, so as to appreciate the full narrative in my own time before being subject to someone else’s vision. I thought the book was compelling, there were moments when I couldn’t put the kindle down. It was the type of story that resounded in my thoughts all day long after having read during my morning commute.
I had heard that there are scenes in the film that are perhaps a little too brutally honest. Although the story was hard to digest, it wasn’t because of the graphic scenes the narrator depicts. I have read a few historical fictions, autobiographies and memories on the ‘slave trade’ and no matter what scene unfolds within the words what disgusts me most is that I don’t believe I see guilt in the American population today. I completely understand that Britain had a part but we did not follow in their inhumane footsteps and we realised far sooner the wrong.
How many slavery films have been made? Wikipedia says 29, yet how many films on war? Hundreds. And now Hollywood have made a multi million dollar production with a no doubt more conservative approach to the story and all of sudden the world remembers? But, if a visual representation is what is needed to bring this level of inflicted suffering to the forefront of history…..
What a rant! I just hate it when truth gets glossed over in nice rose tinted glasses.
Third book done and dusted. I only enjoyed the last quarter of this book, the book begins almost immediately with a card game. It was interesting and very thorough, Fleming clearly knows his card games, and his champagne, even the popular delicacies of a rich bachelor in the 1950’s. However, none of the fancy talk could distract from the fact that most of this book is a dragged out card game.
When he finally moved onto the mission at hand, I spent a wee while almost in a daze whilst reading about a rocket being built, because it was not very interesting. Something about metal and the extraordinary melting point, being built by Germans blah blah…really couldn’t tell you much more.
Just when I thought I would have to drag myself through the rest of the book, it got thrilling and kept me on the edge of my tube seat on a few journeys. This seems to be the norm for the Bond series, they begin rather technical and then get really good at the last minute.
What I enjoyed most about this book, is that the reality question I mentioned in my previous Bond review, is actually more realistic than in his first two books. The book is set post WW2 and is focused around a big nuclear weapon being built by a German in collaboration with some Russians, a story that was published mid Soviet Union nuclear capabilities scare. Obviously Bond succeeds in stopping the attack and is the unsung hero of the day, a very clever way Fleming alleviates some nuclear stress from the Great British public, Kudos to you good sir!
Where does one begin to review The Great Gatsby? Some of you ardent readers will remember my dislike of the book (re-read here if you please), and the same qualities that unsettled my about the book have been transferred to the film. But if I can just take off my ‘the book annoyed me’ hat, I enjoyed the film. It was dazzling with the most imaginative and beautiful filmography I have seen in a long time. The costumes were exquisite, haut couture and on point to the era. The make-up was an achievable perfection, that highlighted the features of the characters, and the soundtrack is thoroughly addictive. I have been listening to the soundtrack on repeat since last night, my fave being 100$ bill by Jay-Z…oh and there is a fantastic rendition of Beyonce‘s crazy in love by Emilie Sande.
Ok, now the hat is back on. The story is pants. Unless I am missing the irony, or I don’t find the irony particularly clever, in the Gatsby isn’t great. Nothing remarkable about him.
On the subject of Gatsby, when I found out that the gorgeous Leo would be playing the character I thought YES!!!! This is a perfect casting, he will be amazing! Because Leo (well in his previous films) has a romantic, charming-ness about him yet he played Gatsby really stern…..I guess it is just out for interpretation. The other characters were spot on with how I imagined them to be…. particularly Jordan Baker, excellent character.
Yeah, go see the film. Or wait for the DVD? Must see anyways, for the film rather than story.
- Movie Review: The Great Gatsby (frangipaniprincess.com)
- The Great Gatsby (flickadvisor.net)
- The Great Gatsby Review ; ‘I hope she’ll be a fool – that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world.’ (thebeautyofcinema.wordpress.com)
- A positive review of The Great Gatsby. (nothollywoodbutjollygood.wordpress.com)
- Gatsby director Luhrmann: Criticism is like your child being smashed on the head with a lump of wood (mumbrella.com.au)