Sunday, February 19, 2012

february books

The Accidental (Ali Smith): This is our Book Group’s latest book. It was nominated for the Mann Booker Prize in 2005, so I had reasonably high hopes. It’s about a family of four on holiday in Norfolk and the sudden appearance of a mystery woman (an angel? a charlatan?) and the effect she has on the lives of each of the family members. I liked the writing style (each character “tells” their story in the third person – although I found the children’s accounts more compelling). It’s frequently funny and inventive; it’s well-observed, well-written and somewhat haunting in nature. The conclusion could be seen as a new beginning perhaps? But ultimately, for me (and despite some apparent rave reviews), I found the book unsatisfying. Sorry.
As If (Blake Morrison): Morrison attended the infamous trial in 1993 when two 10 year-old boys were found guilty of murdering 2 year-old James Bulger. This is a book of his reflections – full of compassion, honesty and humanity. It deals with the brutal details of the case, but probes the state of childhood (and parenthood) today. It’s beautifully written (I DO like Morrison’s stuff!) and it’s brave and thought-provoking. If it’s possible to “enjoy” such a book, I certainly did.
Starting Over (Tony Parsons): I’ve read a couple of Parsons’s other books and enjoyed them in an entertaining, light, holiday-reading type of way. This one really isn’t any different - it deals with a 47 year-old man who is given the heart of a 19 year-old and the resulting effects on his life, his family, his aspirations and the way he sees the world – but probably tries to be a little too profound for its own good at times.
Bristol’s Floating Harbour (Peter Malpass+Andy King): This illustrated book tells the history (well, the first 200 years) of the city’s floating harbour. I had already gleaned or read up about it from a variety of other sources, but this fascinating book certainly highlighted the several large gaps in my knowledge! An excellent, informative book that I know I’ll keep referring to over the coming years.
If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things (Jon McGregor): This is a simply beautiful book. I absolutely loved McGregor’s intricately-observed, elegant writing style. The book recounts the hopes, fears and unspoken despairs of a diverse, but ordinary, community in the north of England – when a terrible event shatters the quiet of the summer evening. All the more remarkable is the fact that McGregor was just 26 when the book was a Booker Prize nomination in 2002. I frequently struggle with fiction but have been fortunate to have read three excellent novels (“Freedom”, “A Visit from the Goon Squad” and this one) already this year. I’m on a roll!


just Gai said...

If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things is one of my favourite books and not just because I read it while on holiday in St Ives. His second, So Many Ways to Begin, was good but not as compelling. I gave Alan his third, Even the Dogs, for Christmas in the hope that he will lend it to me when he's finished reading it!

I haven't got further than the first few pages of The Accidental. I wonder what I'll make of it.

Tracey Wheeler said...

Totally agree re: the accidental, onew of the few books I put down half-way through and forgot to go back to. Just....meh. Love love LOVE the Jon McGregor book - poetry as prose. Although wa defeated by his second book, not sure whether it was because I was in mourning that it wasn't more like his first.