Friday, June 06, 2014

may-june 2014 books

More book stuff:
One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez): I’m rather ashamed to admit that I’d not read any Marquez books before now, so it’s good that it was chosen as our book group’s next book. It’s a long and complicated story of six generations of Buendia family in the mythical town of Macondo. It describes (at times, very amusingly) the outrageous, complex, fantastic life of Macondo going through laborious alternate cycles of prosperity, war and decay before finally being swept back into the swamp by a cyclone. Although I did enjoy the book, there were times when I found it rather too unrelenting in its detail and I certainly had great difficulty in trying to remember the names of the key characters (particularly as many of the names were repeated!).
Dear Life (Alice Munro): A collection of beautifully-written, melancholic, dignified, short stories (ending with four “not quite stories” that verge upon autobiographical reflections) set in post-war Canada. Unshowy, and yet, each one quite haunting and memorable. 
The Railway Detective (Edward Marston): Set in London at the time of 1851 Great Exhibition. As the name suggests, it’s crime novel (about a mail train robbery) and the blurb on the cover describes it as a “grand romp very much in the tradition of Holmes and Watson”. If only. Whilst it’s extremely readable (I read it in a day), I found the plot rather banal and the characters all appallingly stilted (the highlight of the book was a reference to Bradshaw’s railway guide!). If it’s as easy as this, I think I’m going to be a crime writer when I grow up…
The Quarry (Iain Banks): This is a book about a father dying of cancer. You’ll probably be aware that, tragically, Banks had almost finished the first draft of the book when he received news that he too was dying of the disease. I loved this book. It’s filled with the author’s gift for humour and, certainly for me, his rather left-of-centre political stance on life. As the book’s cover says: it’s about “a dying man and his only son, six old friends, a missing videotape and a reunion in a crumbling house on the edge of a quarry”. It might be about death (and at times I found it quite heartbreakingly sad) but, for me, I also found it incredibly hopeful and life-enhancing. I’m going to miss Iain Banks’ books a great deal.   
The Great Galloon: Voyage To The Volcano (Tom Banks): Another Banks’ book (Tom and Ian aren’t related!). As I noted in post about his first book, I wouldn’t normally include children books in my “reading diary”, but this one was written by our good friend Tom Banks… and is another excellent children’s book. It’s full of clever invention and is VERY funny (I’d love to hear an audio version with all Tom’s voices!)… my ONLY reservation is that I’m not a great lover of the illustrations. But hey!

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