Revolutionary Road – Richard Yates 

As per usual, I had all sorts of preconcieved ideas about this book that proved to be completely wrong – if only there was a suitable book-related idiom about not judging things on appearances…

Frank and April are a married couple in 1950s America. He was meant to be ‘something’ but now works in a mundane office job he hates. She is beautiful, a trained actress and now playing the suburban wife and mother. No-one is happy. To begin with, I thought this was going to be well written but dry – from the first page I was writing down quotes in my little green book of nicely made phrases but I wasn’t really emotionally involved.

Things like:

The trouble was that from the very beginning they had been afraid they would end by making fools of themselves and they compounded that fear by being afraid to admit it.

Continue reading “Revolutionary Road – Richard Yates “

The Buddha of Suburbia: Hanif Kureishi

Processed with VSCO with a5 preset
Written in the style of a memoir, this is harsh and bleak and very honest in a way that softens it slightly. People are continually hateful to each other and yet seem to, almost inexplicably, still care deeply about each other. Karim, who introduces himself as ‘an Englishman born and bred, almost’, goes through the wretched business of growing up with all the awkwardness and unpleasantness laid out in graphic detail. The details make this the great read it is, despite a plot I’m not entirely enamoured by. All the little nods to life in Britain in the 1970s, the current events, the fashions and the music, all give this a feeling of authenticity and being a lived experience rather than a work of fiction. Although certain elements seem fantastical or outrageous, it is always kept just within the realm of possibility and makes for an intriguing read.
On the intensity of a first crush
I admired him more than anyone but I didn’t wish him well. It was that I preferred him to me and wanted to be him.

Continue reading “The Buddha of Suburbia: Hanif Kureishi”

Tender is the night – F. Scott Fitzgerald 

image

There is no doubt that Fitzgerald has a wonderful way of laying words on the page. The first few pages of this book are sheer eloquence. This excerpt perfectly captures that delightful happy wriggle of getting into cool water on a hot day:

Rosemary laid her face on the water and swam a choppy little four-beat crawl out to the raft. The water reached up for her, pulled her down tenderly out of the heat, seeped in her hair and ran into the corners of her body. She turned round and round in it, embracing it, wallowing in it.

It’s not that the rest of the book is any less eloquent, only that I find the poetic
summations a bit wearisome after a while. It takes me longer to work out what is actually going on and feels a bit like wading through mud and poking around with a big stick, trying to find the point. I, shockingly, felt the same about ‘The Great Gatsby’. Continue reading “Tender is the night – F. Scott Fitzgerald “

The Real Neat Blog Award 

A huge thank you to Brontë’s page turners for finding this blog interesting enough to nominate among so many great book blogs. Your blog is so beautifully written and the series of reviews for International Women’s Day was inspiring and left my TBR list bulging.

I love that these nominations allow us to let other bloggers know how enjoyable their posts are – there is something so exciting about stumbling across someone reading a book I adored or have only just put down – and the questions allow us to find out a little more about the person behind the screen; reading around, there have been some interesting questions and hilarious responses!

Book blogs seem to form the best bookclub in the world; one where you get to choose the books, read them at your own pace and discuss them with people whose opinions often resonate, reflect your own or encourage you to rethink – without the struggle of finding a mutually available Thursday or having to reread Middlemarch when you’d really rather not. The whole process of reading is much more enjoyable when it doesn’t end when the book is finished – so here’s cheers to everyone who has read and indulged me in my musings and to everyone who shares their love of books and their thoughts on them online.

Continue reading “The Real Neat Blog Award “

Vie Française  – Jean-Paul Dubois

A brief history of modern France as viewed and experienced by a fictional frenchman. Having bought this after falling for the cover, which is not just beautiful but soft enough to make the physical process of reading really enjoyable, it was nice to find it contained a punchy and engaging story. It was very frank and there were a lot of gritty or unpleasant moments (and characters) but it still managed to be charming. It reads like an autobiography rather than a work of fiction and includes a lot of reference to contempary events in France in each time period. It still worked in translation but probably has another layer of meaning to those with a better knowledge of the country and its history. It was interesting to see the ripples these political and national events  caused in the private lives of the characters. If you dont mind unlikable characters and a lot of talk of sex, Dubois has turned an apparently unremarkable life into an interesting and thought-provoking read.

The wonderful wry tone of the narrator allows him to laugh at himself and everyone he meets while still expressing a great fondness for life.

On his childhood behaviour

The child is father to the man

On his boss

Spiridon became giddy from his adorably effervescent little sin of pride

And finally, a great quote from the Marquise de Montespen – Mistress of Louis XIV

The grandeur of a destiny arises as much from what one refuses as from what one gains

From: The French Embassy in New York. Really. Walking along the side of central park, coming out of Café Sabarsky and heading for the Frick, I stumbled across a sign saying French and English books for sale. This felt the most magical place, hidden past a beautiful marble entrance hall. I ended up buying this book in both English and French (not as pretty but a compact little thing that seems to be a standard in French publishing), an even smaller book of Rudyard Kipling’s work in French and a canvas bag with Jules Verne quotations. The French bookseller’s enthusiasm for this particular book was encouraging too!

Read: Nov 2015 in Seville over breakfast on the roof terrace.

Felt: like I was listening to someone reminiscing on their life over a bottle of red wine.

Liked: The honesty and realism with just a touch of the bizarre. The tree photography concept was also mesmerising.

Would recommend: to anyone wanting to learn more about France or French life, or to those who like life stories and books that are more than fluffy niceties.

The reluctant fundamentalist – Mohsin Hamid

IMG_2813
This is an extremely well written book on a difficult topic. Challenging the stereotyping and scaremongering that always surface around cultural or religious rifts, Hamid manages to keep the story engaging and even pleasant to read. The unusual conversational styling is well constructed and avoids being clunky or distracting. The language was beautiful and pitched just right to create the warm tone of an educated man, from a land with a proud tradition of poetry and storytelling, recollecting a series of events ranging from perplexing to incomprehensible. The narrator was not lovable or good but very human and understandable, a real and relatable person refusing to be wholly defined by their labels or circumstances. A brilliantly observant book that can be read and read into as much as you wish. If only it were less, rather than far more, poignant today than when it was written.

For a more detailed plot review head to the wonderfully written post by Miss quickly at the blue bore which inspired me to dig these thoughts out the archive.

It is not always possible to restore one’s boundaries after they have been blurred and made permeable by a relationship: try as we might, we cannot reconstitute ourselves as the autonomous beings we previously imagined ourselves to be. Something of us is now outside, and something of the outside is now within us.

From: the depths of the TBR shelf, origin unknown.

Read: April 2015 as my ‘it’s ok, I’m early’ backup book. I have never been so punctual as the week I was reading this!

Felt: like I was sat with them in the cafe, and ashamed of how familiar and common all those acts of prejudice were.

Liked: the clever construct and seamless switching between the past and present.

Would recommend: to everyone. Would read again someday.