Saturday, 31 July 2010

Man Booker; The Betrayal

Having thoroughly enjoyed The Siege, in which Helen Dunmore tells the story of the siege of Leningrad through the eyes of one family, I was really looking forward to The Betrayal.

Like A thousand Autumns..., honesty, doing the right thing and being able to look yourself in the eye feature large in this book. In fact, it is the core of the story. Ten years after the siege Anna and her husband, Andrei, have built a life together with her much younger brother, Kolya. But it's a life amidst The Terror a life of looking over one's shoulder, guarded words and never-ending unease. A life of wondering when Stalin's hand will be felt upon one's shoulder. It is into this atmosphere that Kolkov's son is admitted to Andrei's hospital. In the rush to avoid the inevitable persecution which will be a result of failure, the child becomes irrelevant. He is to the doctors in the hospital simply the son of a rightly-feared man, simply Kolkov's son. But not to Andrei and another of his colleagues, who despite having the case thrust upon them, do their best to care for the child at the centre of all of this turmoil.

I enjoyed this book. I felt that Dunmore once again conveyed something of the atmosphere of living through The Terror. (I say 'something', because I'm fairly sure that any fiction about such events is only a mere shadow, no matter how adept the author.) With The Siege I was left wanting to know more, but felt that the book was in itself complete. This time I am left with a sense of dissatisfaction. The end indicates to me that there may well be a third book, but even allowing for that it still doesn't leave me satisfied.

Scores on the door: 7 out of 10

ETA: New scoring system

Friday, 30 July 2010

The Man Booker- A thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet

Here we go, book one of the long list.

But first, a disclaimer. I am not a book critic and I will be fumbling my way around here- normally my critique of a book is summed up by 'Loved it/hated it'....

And....I am hoping to get through the books before the award is announced and I will be deciding which one I would give the prize to. That doesn't mean that the book that I award most points to will be my 'winner', as I'll be thinking of the books in terms of what I think of as 'prizeworthiness'.

Jacob de Zoet is on a mission; a turn-of-the-18th century Dutchman, his only chance of earning enough to marry the woman he loves is to work as a trading company's clerk to Japan. There is but one problem- Jacob is an honest man and the theme of 'doing the right/honourable thing' is a thread that runs through this novel, causing him no end of problems. Falling in love with a Japanese woman, Orito, doesn't help matters much.

There is a lot of historical detail in this book. As someone who knows nothing of Japanese culture and history, it seemed accurate enough to me ;0) I really enjoyed the narrative and for the first time in a long, long time I had a book in my hands that I just didn't want to put down. There was just one wrong note for me- the 'device' (getting all scholarly here!!) that he uses to separate Jacob and Orito had me staring at he pages in perplexity and, frankly, annoyance. To me it seemed a contrivance that really spoiled the flow and 'believability' of the book. To say that I couldn't suspend my disbelief* is putting it mildly.

However, the rest of the book was so good that in time I manage d to forgive MItchell for this bum note.

Scores on the door- 9 out of 10

ETA: New scoring system

* I know, I know- the convention is 'suspending your belief', but for me it's always my disbelief that I have trouble suspending, and this is my blog ;0)

ETA: I haven't really given enough detail about the book I think, but I don't want to spoil it. IF there isn't enough detail for you, check out reviews on Amazon:0)

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Man Booker

My blog has been deathly quiet because I am trying not to use the computer so much on account of sore hands. However, I have decided to read the Man Booker longlist and will post my thoughts on each of them here. Be warned: I am no literary critic and will not be attempting any 'high faluting' stuff, just my humble thoughts on each one.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010


The Out Campaign: Scarlet Letter of Atheism


No time at the moment for a lyrical post- if you want to give some aid to current disaster appeals, click on the big red square in my sidebar. Go on, you know you want to.