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Tag: book review

the 100-year-old man who climbed out the window and disappeared

this book was not at all what i expected it to be, for which i am glad. it was extremely refreshing. i was expecting a sweet book about an old man who maybe went to the park for a day, fell in love and then died – nice but fairly normal. however this book did not pan out at all like that.

the writing style was unusual and humorous and the wonderful protagonist allan’s singular way of thinking and views on life made this book a complete joy to read. it was a big breath of scandinavian fresh air. the story unfolds in two parts alongside eachother; one part details what happens to allan after he climbs out the window, the other part charts his extraordinary life from birth until it catches up with the present day. the idea of climbing out the window and running away is one that i think appeals to lots of people, i feel slightly like that’s what i’m doing at the moment. having a 100-year-old protagonist who does exactly that and succeeds in having more adventures and finding happiness well past the age that people are ‘meant’ to makes this story a brilliant and wholly uplifting one.

the night circus

this is a great book. after slogging (enjoyable slogging) through all six of the game of thrones books i wanted something a bit different and the night circus by erin morgenstern was a book that i have been wanting to read for a long time. if you liked films like the prestige or the illusionist or the book jonathon strange and mr norrel then you will probably like this. it follows the magical le cirque des reves as it travels the world, fuelled by two duelling enchanters who are striving to create increasingly more fantastical attractions. this is maybe not the most complex or original book, but the night circus is perfect escapism, it’s extremely easy to get into and i found myself wishing that i could visit it myself.

cloud atlas

picture from a dijon opera house programme

watching all the adverts for cloud atlas made me really curious about the story. when it came out in 2004 i was confused and thought that it was a book just about clouds and the sound of it didn’t really interest me. in 2013 i realised that this wasn’t the case. so i read it a couple of weeks ago and loved it.

the story consists of six characters that are essentially the same soul in different bodies across the centuries – from the colonial past to a dystopian future. the broad time-frame spanned means that the book encompasses all kind of genres, making each section separate and interesting but still tied in to the novel as a whole through the central theme of human nature and its universality, individualism and freedom. the book is like a set of russian dolls, each one opening to reveal a new story inside, getting smaller and smaller until the central story when they begin to slot back together again.

the story is quite a complex one, but its not a difficult read because it is so intriguing and well written – i haven’t watched the film yet because i heard that it wasn’t very good… but whether you have seen it or not this book is definitely worth reading.

wilderness tips

i never used to like short stories because i always thought that they ended too soon and didn’t explain everything enough. now this is what i like about them – they are a short snippet that doesn’t have to go in depth into every detail. they are like eating a biscuit – sometimes you are happy just having one, usually its two or three, but sometimes you just eat the whole packet in one go. maybe i like them more now because i could easily read a story or two on my half-hour lunch which was really satisfying.

this collection of short stories by margaret atwood centres around the themes of loss and love and lost love and loneliness. we read one of the stories – hairball, in my women’s writing class and it stuck with me because it was quite grotesque, but also really bold and sad. after reading the whole collection this isn’t even in my top three of the stories because they are all so good. each one explores the female protagonist’s different feelings of loneliness and i think the title reflects this – wilderness tips, as if the stories are cathartic guides to how to deal with these emotions when you feel like you are alone in the wilderness of the world.

 

love in the time of cholera

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i read this book in a time when my sister and one of my best friends were (one still is) in colombia. inspired by their exploits and missing them both a little i decided to read love in the time of cholera by colombian author gabriel garcia marquez. yesterday i received a postcard from cartagena – the city that this book is meant to be set in – and it reminded me of how much i enjoyed this book. it is such a beautifully heartbreaking portrait of love, death and ageing and the heavily flawed characters completely dragged me in. i recommend it completely.

the flight from the enchanter

i recently finished reading the flight from the enchanter by iris murdoch. this is third book i have read by her; the first was under the net which i loved, the second was the sandcastle which i found a little boring. i’ve made an iris murdoch sandwich of like and dislike because i really enjoyed this book. her writing feels very british – i am not entirely sure what i mean by this but if you are british and read an iris murdoch book maybe you will get the same feeling… in all three of these books the plot is heavily character based and the descriptions of them so detailed you can imagine them hopping out of the book and going about their daily life without you having to read them into being. however, there always seems to be a gothic sense of foreboding hanging over these characters – murdoch seamlessly plops this on top of her realism to make her writing seem slightly supernatural…

i really, really liked this style of writing and this book and i liked under the net as well, my friend keeps recommending the sea, the sea so i think this is my next stop.

a single man

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i bought this book sometime last year and started reading it but fell asleep after the first page – not because it was boring, i was just tired. when i do that with a book it puts me off for some reason and i take a while to get back to it. but the other day i picked it up in the morning and didn’t put it down until i’d finished it in the afternoon. this book is great; it’s beautiful, moving and short.

i’d developed different ideas of what the story would be about from the trailer for the film version – which looks good but quite different to the book. in reality the book is a short snippet of one man’s life and the grief that is filling it. it is easy to warm to george (the protagonist) as his day unfolds and we can see his conflicted feelings on living, death and growing old. i like a shorter story as i feel like you can just dip in to a perfectly framed moment in time which definitely makes this such a good book for a quiet afternoon.

p.s. goodbye to berlin by the same author is also really really great.

the puppet boy of warsaw

just after christmas i received a mysterious package in the post. it turned out to be a book i’d applied to review through the waterstones facebook page – they do this cool thing where you can apply to review a new book for their website. all you do is sign up on facebook and then if you get through they send you a copy and you just have to write what you think on their website.

i was sent the puppet boy of warsaw by eva weaver, which tells the story of mika, a jewish boy (and his puppets) who survives his time spent in a polish ghetto and follows him into the modern day. i found this book to be both beautiful and thoughtful and although it deals with extremely difficult subject matter the story constantly highlights the strength of human kindness against the odds. every human emotion seems to be shown in this book and i found it really hard to put down once i started. i highly recommend it.

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i put off writing about this book for ages because i was trying to put my thoughts in order about trying to say how important writing about the holocaust is and then today (international holocaust remembrance day) i saw this post on one of my favourite blogs and she wrote it better than i could ever try to explain. another book focused around the holocaust is one that i think everyone should have to read. it is the graphic novel maus by art speigelman. i can’t explain how important i think this book is. it is things like these books that are so important in forcing people to remember so that an atrocity such as this will not happen again.

midnight’s children

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i finally finished this book on the train home from my christmas break and i was pretty relieved because i felt like it had been taking me forever and a day to read. i tend to find in rushdie’s books that i get lost in the sea of names and plots and i always expect to love his work completely. however, i’ve been thinking about this book more and more since i completed it; i’m gaining a more nostalgic view of it as i gain distance from it, and the more i think about elements of it i become more astounded by the genius of rushdie’s writing and his rich and complex storytelling. i think this is a book that i would definitely come back to in the future and i would definitely recommend it!

kafka on the shore

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this book was given to me by one of my close friends (thanks anna you are great). the only other book that i have read by haruki murakami (after dark) was given to me by another friend last year. i loved them both and i really want to read more by him now – the way he writes feels so clean and beautiful and intriguing all at once. i felt slightly confused all the way through (in a nice way) and from the two books that i have read by murakami i get the feeling that all of his writing is like this. with books i tend to like everything to be explained and for there to be a happy ending – this doesnt happen in kafka on the shore, the book seems to end quietly, like the moment has closed and you’ve been exposed to everything you are going to see, leaving you guessing. for some reason in this book it didn’t annoy me that it ended this way, in fact i really liked it.