Saturday, November 09, 2013

october-november 2013 books

More book stuff:
Cloud Atlas (David Mitchell): This is a truly remarkable book. It’s a work of exceptional imagination and insight which (in critic Justine Jordan’s words) “knits together science fiction, political thriller and historical pastiche with musical virtuosity and linguistic exuberance”. It encompasses six interlocking lives in a story that takes readers on a rollercoaster ride from the C19th to a post-apocalyptic future. The trip is exhausting (the book is 529 pages long!), exhilarating… but well worth it!
Suspicious Packages and Extendable Arms (Tim Dowling): Published in 2007 and consists of articles that have previously appeared in the Guardian. He’s certainly got a wonderful “way with words” and I do find him very funny (mostly) but, have to say, I prefer his more recent stuff (he has a weekly column the Guardian Weekend) – where he’s fast becoming a grumpy old man… just like me (except that he’s only 50)! 
The Village against the World (Dan Hancox): I’ve previously blogged about Hancox’s experiences of the village (Marinaleda) and village life, now I’ve read the book! It’s the story of this small, remote, Andalusian village’s fight against poverty, over the past 30 years or so, to create a communist/communitarian (is that a word?) utopia. Fascinating, inspiring, passionate, sad and thought-provoking.
The Story of Forgetting (Stefan Merrill Block): This is a fascinating novel about the very early onset of Alzheimer’s disease (the author’s grandmother had the condition). Somewhat amazingly, Block was only 26 when he wrote it. Despite the poignancy of the subject, Block’s story is also one of hope and optimism. It’s a wonderful informative, inventive and intelligent book which I enjoyed very much.
Jane and Prudence (Barbara Pym): This is our Book Group’s latest book and one the joys/challenges of belonging to such a group is that you get to read books you perhaps wouldn’t normally choose to read. Fortunately (for me), this year has provided some excellent book choices… unfortunately, this was definitely NOT one of them! Pym paints a picture of middle-class life in England in the early 1950s (far removed from my own working-class childhood experiences of that period!). It felt as if I was reading a Jane Austin novel that had been re-set to take place in a Miss Marple television film set. The focus seems to be all about women being able to find a suitable husband and concerns (in this time of food rationing) that men should be provided with enough meat! Having said that, it was interesting (and depressing) to be reminded of a time when women (even Oxford graduates) were largely discounted when it came to work and politics. It was a very easy book to read but, frankly, I found it pretty pointless and light-weight (and, dare I say it, not a “man’s book”!!). I think (out of respect for the person who chose the book) I’m just going to have to bite my tongue when it comes to our next book group meeting… or make my apologies!
PS: I’ve just looked up some “goodread” reviews and it seems that I’m clearly in a minority… everyone else seemed to LOVE it (and Jilly Cooper apparently reckons it was Pym’s finest work!)… give me strength!

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