Thursday, 21 November 2019

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

"Having no friends, I must make do with enemies."

So I was super reticent to launch into this one after the torture porn that is the tv adaptation of The Handmaid's Tale. Yet She persisted, dear reader and she was damn glad that she did.
Atwood is at her genius best and the words fairly drip off the page. I devoured them eagerly and can only confirm that it was totally worth it. I loved the different narratives, it made for a really interesting reading experience.

Next stop for me is reading the shared winner of the Booker prize and comparing and contrasting. Nevertheless this is a really interesting addition to the original canonical text. I was worried that it might detract and yet it is its own beast. 

So, grab a copy and get back to me to share your thoughts - I'm eager to compare notes. Right now  I don't wish to pollute your experience.

5 out of 5 borders were made for crossing.

Monday, 18 November 2019

The Devil in the Flesh by Raymond Radiguet


“The flavour of that first kiss disappointed me, like fruit you taste for the first time. It's not in new things that we experience the greatest pleasure, but in habit.”


This is a tale of around 200 pages that took me a year to finish. Why? Well may you ask. 
Having studied French at University many years ago, I thought it might be interesting to read this in its native language. My first mistake was trying to do so on my mobile phone. While I began reading in January and had only slightly progressed, it seemed sensible in November to abort my original idea and just read the story in English.

Interesting things that I noticed were the original language seemed so much more dense, funnier and interesting. Somethings got lost in translation. Admittedly my translation skills were somewhat below par so I had quite a few questions that the English version ironed out for me, and yet I really noticed how the colour dissipated somewhat in switching from French to English. Like watching a colour movie on a black and white television.

A teenager falls for this older girl who is engaged to someone else. Her fiancee goes off to war and he moves on in. Their passion is all consuming and while they initially try to keep things hidden, a pregnancy is just one reason to up the stakes. I love this guardian review that describes the narrator as “a very self -aware little shit”, his behaviour was so irritating. He claimed to be all consumed with love for a women he continually puts at risk. The humour can be found in his florid protestations of passion and moral dilemmas which don’t really ring true based upon his actions.

In any case, this had some entertaining moments but I’m not sure that justified almost a year’s worth of angst in trying to read it in the original language.


 4 out of 5 

Friday, 8 November 2019

Heartburn by Nora Ephron


"We should have known my mother was crazy years before we did just because of the maniacal passion she brought to her lox and onions and eggs, but we didn't."

Sometimes a book just seems so personal that it just touches you. Here is a novel that encapsulates the hurt and disbelief that marital infidelity brings and yet, just like real life, it is mixed with humour, food and all the other minutiae of life.
Of course the writer behind hits like Sleepless in Seattle  and When Harry Met Sally is going to deliver. I guess the thing that I found so interesting about this was how timeless it seemed. This was originally published in 1983 and sadly Ephron prematurely departed this world in 2012. Yet her voice seems so young and fresh and relatable.

At the same time it completely transported me back to similar circumstances and reminded me how all consuming the break up of a marriage can be. The true horror of awakening to the fact that your ideal of coupledom is a lie. I really related to the way we're conditioned to portray the ideal of a couple, whether or not we truly feel that's where we are at. When we turn that interior voice of dissent off and give in to expectations, it makes the betrayal seem so gut wrenching and what better way to deal with it than multiple recipes for potatoes.
Despite the subject matter, I absolutely loved this and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys great writing.

 5 out of 5 - roast potatoes are life.

Saturday, 2 November 2019

The Body Artist by Don Delillo

"It was who he was in the dark, cigarettes and mumbled sleep and a hundred other things nameable and not."

For a particularly slim novel there is a denseness in the text that required me to re-read this immediately after I had finished it. There are beautiful sentences, like the one that I've quoted above, which are almost poetic in how much they convey. You get a real sense of intimacy and the void created when a partner is no longer there.

My enjoyment of the novel was hampered a little by the fact that I had to read it twice, it isn't a quick, easy read as you might suspect should you see it on a shelf. Who is the mystery figure that appears - is he a ghost, is he imagined?  or is he a performance piece? I have so many questions.I could read it any of those ways and yet it still works.

4 out of 5 misery loves mysterious company.




Tuesday, 29 October 2019

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby, Jeremy Leggatt (Translator)


“I would like to be a part of all this hilarity, but as soon as I direct my one eye towards them, the young man, the grandmother and the homeless man turn away, feeling the sudden need to study the ceiling smoke-detector”


Quite possibly the best novel to read when feeling sorry for yourself. I guarantee after reading it you will feel better about your circumstances and possibly have nightmares about being shut-in. The lengths that this man went to in order to write this are nothing short of miraculous and yet it is the beautiful, evocative prose that really resonates.

This is one of those rare occasions where I had watched the movie adaption previously and I think that possibly impaired my appreciation of the source novel. Not really sure how to say much more on this one to be honest.
5 out of 5

Why Kill the Innocent (Sebastian St. Cyr #13) by C.S. Harris

“Now in his fifties, he was monstrously overweight, endlessly self-indulgent, notoriously dishonest, and reviled by the same populace that had loved him so long ago.”


This should have been a home run. I was unable to bear weight and had nothing to do but read. Heaven I hear you say. Doubly so because I had the latest Sebastien St, Cyr novel to hand. Alas my foggy brain would have none of it! In what I can only describe as a wickedly cruel fog, my brain resisted the urge to read.

Then, one fine day, the fog lifted and I was able to launch back into the mystery of the murdered piano teacher. Royalist plot? Dodgy husband? What is behind the murder of Jane Ambrose?

Naturally there will be drama with Sebastien's inlaws and who knows who else. Death, drama, intrigue all lay ahead. Did I mention there's a frost fair - perfect for those Doctor Who fans who know what really lies under the ice.

 5 out of 5 - like Britney says ... gimme more.



5 out of 5 piano teachers should not tinkle away prematurely.

The Devil's Candy by Julia Salamon

"Perhaps there would never be a perfect Maria — outside the realm of Tom Wolfe's imagination."

There is nothing more interesting in a non-fiction story than the contributing factors of a colossal disaster. Sometimes all the drama culminates in critical success a la Apocalypse Now, and then there's Bonfire of the Vanities.

Translating a massively successful, enormous novel to the big screen makes for an entertaining read. The laboured casting sessions, the quest for the perfect vision of the Concorde and drawing in the very people the original novel satirised. This is fun because as the reader, we are removed from the pressure cooker.

For anyone who has ever had to deliver something impressive to time and budgetary constraints, you will appreciate the struggle of De Palma and co.

I read this on the recommendation of the fabulous chat10looks3 podcast and as always those ladies know how to pick em!

If you are a cinephile with a penchant for schadenfreude then grab yourself a copy and settle back.

 5 out of 5 , get my good side.