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The book thread

Posted: Thu Aug 23, 2018 12:52 pm
by ransos
I'd like to kick off a thread for books you've enjoyed, or not. I'd suggest a bit of blurb followed by what you thought of it, and whether you'd recommend it to others.

Re: The book thread

Posted: Thu Aug 23, 2018 12:53 pm
by ransos
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

They say: Twenty-nine-year-old accounting clerk Eleanor Oliphant tends to stick to her routine: work all week, buy a supermarket pizza and two bottles of vodka on Friday, and spend the weekend alone in a drunken stupor waiting for Monday to arrive. Eccentric, awkward, and judgmental, Eleanor might sound like the very definition of an antiheroine, yet in debut author Gail Honeyman’s hands, she is refreshingly honest and utterly relatable. With a sharp, albeit unintentional sense of humor and a deeply flawed self-image that makes her all the more sympathetic, Eleanor Oliphant has become one of the most lovable characters in recent fiction—and her creator, Gail Honeyman, has become one of the most celebrated new authors on the international literary scene.

I say: an astonishingly assured debut novel, with plenty to say about what it is to be lonely in the 21st century, and the profound impact of simple acts of kindness. I note that reviews are near universal in their lavish praise, but I felt that the book was slightly less even than those reviews would suggest. The first part of the book seemed to relegate Eleanor to the status of a plot device so the author can deliver some (very funny) observational comedy, and near the end there is a major twist that could go one of two ways: either you spotted it early, in which case you will have been getting impatient, or you didn’t, in which case the conclusion feels a rather rushed attempt to tie loose ends together.

All that said, my criticisms are minor: this is an engaging, warm and deeply sad novel, with an uplifting ending. Recommended

Re: The book thread

Posted: Thu Aug 23, 2018 8:02 pm
by Hill Wimp
Good call for thread topic @Ransos. I have several books on the go so will do a review when i finish the fir@ransos

Re: The book thread

Posted: Fri Aug 24, 2018 1:04 pm
by JohnToo
The heart’s invisible furies. John Boyne.

A novel about being gay in Ireland and facing the resulting prejudice, especially religious prejudice.

It covers the narrator’s whole life from his unmarried pregnant mother being publically expelled from her rural Cork parish at the tail end of the war, through multiple episodes in his own life mainly in Dublin but also two spells away, up to approaching the end of his life in the present day.

The writing is intermingled savage indictment of church, state and society, incredibly funny retelling of particular episodes, and equally incredible sadness revealed almost tangentially.

Some reviews have seen the main theme as being the attack on the church, and that is indeed remarkable for its sustained unforgiving intensity. But I thought the real theme was the narrator’s growing self awareness of his own life and character - the compromises and choices that his younger self had thought were necessary to survive.

I was listening to it on audiobook while driving and twice had to stop because my tears made driving unsafe - once tears of laughter (spoiler alert, the scene where he gives a priest a heart attack by confessing his adolescent lust) and once tears of sadness (the final scene - no spoiler!)

Re: The book thread

Posted: Mon Nov 26, 2018 8:06 pm
by JohnToo
And another Irish book: Milkman, the Booker Prize winner. I listened to the audiobook so avoided what people say about the long paragraphs. At times it washed over me in a stream of consciousness sort of way and I didn’t necessarily take in the detail, but it progressively gripped me, and I was desperate at the end to know how it would resolve for the narrator‘s life. As many reviews have said, it’s not a book about (just) the troubles, it’s a book about closed, bigoted, controlling, stressed communities, and how the extreme abnormal becomes normalised.

Re: The book thread

Posted: Tue Nov 27, 2018 10:29 am
by Regulator
Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell.

I picked up another copy of this while we were in Barcelona last week...

In Homage to Catalonia Orwell chronicles his experiences as a militiaman fighting with the Partit Obrer d'Unificació Marxista (POUM) during the Spanish Civil War. It is a very raw account that graphically portrays the hopes, fears and betrayals of the times. It was somewhat poignant rereading it in Barcelona, a city which still bears the raw scars of the recent Catalan independence struggles.

Re: The book thread

Posted: Sun Dec 30, 2018 5:34 pm
by Lullabelle
I recently read The Outsider by Stephen King, he is my favourite author. It was spooky as should be but with no gore or violence just a really good story. I find his books tell 1 story but also have an underline story about society, maybe that is just my interpretation but that is what I get.

Re: The book thread

Posted: Sun Dec 30, 2018 9:27 pm
by Joan
I haven't read a novel for a while, but Steven King has reminded me of two stories.

  1. A London friend - a junior editor at the time - said to me "I had to talk to my most famous author. We are editing his latest book for the UK market, and he has to sign off on any changes." "Who is he?" I asked, bracing myself for my cavernous ignorance of modern authers to be exposed. "Stephen King." "He's not your most famous author", I replied "He's the most famous author."
  2. The only King novel I have read is Carrie (I think). It was passed around my year/grade 5 class, where every single girl read the same copy. It had more impact on my understanding the impending tsunami of puberty than the noxious, 1950s catholic church pamphlets for young girls my school provided.

Re: The book thread

Posted: Sat Sep 07, 2019 9:32 am
by Rutabaga
I used to really like John le Carre's books, until they got a bit formulaic. He's got a new one coming out, and the Grauniad has printed a clunking excerpt today - a page of dialogue between a father and daughter in which the father uses his daughter's name TEN times in direct speech. No one in real life does this. It was one of my pet hates when I was an editor, and I always struck them out. Unless the point being (heavy-handedly) made is that the father is a patronising old bore, which I doubt, I think le Carre is probably irretrievably past it, which is sad but inevitable (although knowing when to stop isn't).