Oct 01

Book review – J. M. Coetzee – Disgrace

Book review – J. M. Coetzee – Disgrace

Disgrace

Rating: 7/10

Written by: J. M. Coetzee

Review: Book review – J. M. Coetzee – Disgrace – Well to start with don’t imagine this book is going to be fun because it won’t be. It’s firmly placed in the conflict between black and white that defines modern South Africa. It also speaks on a personal level, mainly to middle aged men, but still.

The main character is an ageing professor who’s time has come and gone both physically and mentally. A womaniser who has one last fling too many and pays the price as his career is burned in front of him. Running from the inquisition that underlines the end of his career he sets out to stay a while with his daughter who lives in the countryside. Unaware he is entering the conflict zone between blacks and whites in modern South Africa. Before he knows it his daughter has been raped and he has been emasculated by an attack on their farm from three blacks.

The book follows him through the anguish and despair of trying to come to terms with his new position in the world. Unable to defend himself personally and unable to defend his daughter physically he transitions from middle aged man to old man in front of our very eyes. Meanwhile his daughter decides to have the child she carries as a result of the rape she endured. A kind of penance for the hurt endured by black South Africa during Apartheid.

There’s tough reading here and there’s tough writing here too. It’s worth the read, no doubt, but not much hope for middle aged men. As for South Africa? In so much darkness its hard to see the light.

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disgrace_%28novel%29

Amazon: Buy it

Youtube: Movie trailer

Dec 16

Book review – John Le Carre – The Mission Song

Book review – John Le Carre – The Mission Song

The Mission Song

Rating: 6/10

Written by: John Le Carre

Review: Book review – John Le Carre – The Mission Song – This is one of John Le Carre’s African books. That is to say Africa is the cause he is espousing. He’s done one or two of these now and to be honest I’m not a fan even though I am a fan of Le Carre. I’m not a fan because Africa is not his subject and although there’s always some spying involved these books are not the same as when he is writing his classic cold war spy novels. Although I’m sure he does his research impeccably I’m afraid he’s just not convincing when he is writing about this subject matter, as opposed to when he writes East versus West spy stuff when you feel he knows exactly what he is doing.

This book is about an interpreter who does a bit of work on the side for the government, listening in etc. He gets sent on a job and discovers a plot regarding parts of Africa that are precious to him because of his up bringing. The interpreter does his job and then decides to try and blow the whistle on the plot.

It’ll pass the time and if like me you’ve read them all then you’ll read this one but if you only selectively choose which Le Carre to read then its probably not this one you’re looking for.

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mission_Song

Amazon: Buy it

Youtube: Unavailable

Sep 08

Book review – John Le Carre – Absolute Friends

Book review – John Le Carre – Absolute Friends

Absolute Friends

Rating: 9/10

Written by: John Le Carre

Review: Book review – John Le Carre – Absolute Friends – To begin with I have to confess that at no point did I read this book without at least four pints of Guinness having been drunk. This is merely a quirk of fate and not a deliberate policy. As it turns out and with no deliberacy whatsoever I have drunk five pints of Guinness prior to this review.

I have read every Le Carre book prior to this book and so feel confident that I have some kind of understanding regarding his work. This book managed to capture my attention more than most. Le Carre has in my view regained his ground with this book, gone back to his roots you might say, and as such suddenly becomes the great writer who created Smiley all those years ago. He has looked into his past and used all the events that made him a spy of Her Majesties Government (however much he may resent it now) to tell a story that reaches into your bones.

This book is full of moments. I turned the corner of pages this way and that to show how significant it was to me. There is some beautiful observation of the world we live in and some wondrous understanding of the lives we lead that can’t be denied and should be heard.

My friend who drinks the Guinness with me argues peace while I argue war. John Le Carre is on his side not mine.

Peace.

“When a well-packaged web of lies has been sold gradually to the masses over generations, the truth will seem utterly pre-posterous and its speaker a raving lunatic”.

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Absolute_Friends

Amazon: Buy it

Youtube: Unavailable

Aug 22

Book review – Richard Brautigan – The abortion: An historical romance 1966

Book review – Richard Brautigan – The abortion: An historical romance 1966

The Abortion An Historical Romance 1966

Rating: 7/10

Written by: Richard Brautigan

Review:  Book review – Richard Brautigan – The abortion: An historical romance 1966 – As soon as I started reading this book Haruki Murakami came to mind. Partly this is because the first half of the book is set in a library and Haruki has a book like that. But the main reason he sprang to mind was because of the style of the book. The first half of this book has that gentle, stylish story telling feel that Haruki uses to such good affect. Combine that with a slightly strange plot and there’s the connection [Editors note: I’ve since discovered the connection may not be as odd as I thought it seemed at the time as Brautigan had a connection with Zen and Japanese culture]. This only lasts for half the book as Brautigan then departs from his initial location and takes the lead characters on the road in a more traditional style. 

The concept of a library where unread novelists can take their books to finally be read is a nice one and I’ll certainly be looking for something similar when I finish writing my book. Brautigan then decides to take the main characters to Mexico to get an abortion and the style of the book changes. He manages to give you the feel of what it must have been like for a young couple to have an abortion during the sixties and this is interesting. Clearly Jack Kerouac springs to mind at this point. 

For me this feels a little like two short stories patched together to make a novel. Two entirely separate and unrelated ideas blended together without any real purpose. Stylish, even artistic, but in the end style over substance. Enjoyable, but not essential reading.

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Abortion:_An_Historical_Romance_1966

Amazon: Buy it

Jul 08

Book review – Anne Frank – The diary of a young girl

Book review – Anne Frank – The diary of a young girl

The Diary Of A Young Girl

Rating: 10/10

Written by: Anne Frank

Review: Book review – Anne Frank – The diary of a young girl – It’s very daunting to write a review of Anne Frank’s diary, it’s a no win situation since it’s impossible to do it justice and unless you have far better writing skills than me the review will never meet Anne’s high standards. But I’m compelled to write it anyway so here goes.

Having written a list of books to read before I die I’m obliged to read them and this book was high on that list. I imagine I suffered from the same problem as most people who don’t get around to reading this book. The subject matter doesn’t bode well. Its not going to be easy reading you think and it certainly isn’t going to have a happy ending. I urge you to dismiss those reasons for not reading it, it’s too important a book for that.

Anne Frank was blessed with a beautiful frankness matched with great ability to express herself through writing. These two things alone would have meant she would have become a great writer one day as she always dreamed. However in the end her fate was tied up with her times and this book is her testament of those times and everyone who feels able to should read that testament.

Having now read this book I consider Anne Frank to be one of my friends, this may seem like a strange thing to say since I have never met her, but actually its impossible not to become her friend if you read this book. This is because Anne takes you into her confidence in such a way that only a friend would do, she writes the book/diary to her imaginary friend Kitty as she didn’t have a friend in the house who she could share her thoughts with. Little did she know that she was actually writing to the world.

This book is nowhere near as much hard work as I had imagined it would be, this is because you are sharing it with Anne and Anne is basicly a happy, optimistic young girl. If you’ve never really grasped the impact of World War II this book is a great way to make it real. Anne brings you into that world so vividly it’s like travelling through time.

Now I understand what it must have felt like to have a friend taken away by the nazis, never to be seen or heard from again.

Never to be forgotten.

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_diary_of_anne_frank

Amazon: Buy it

Mar 20

Book review – On the road (1957)

Book review – On the road (1957)

On The Road

Rating: 7/10

Written by: Jack Kerouac

Review: Book review – On the road (1957) – Recently I’ve been reading books I’ve always meant to read and not got around to for one reason or another. This was one of the first books I thought of in this category. When I was younger I almost read it several times but it just didn’t happen.

I have to confess I was a little disappointed, I don’t think the years since it was written have served it well. It now sounds dated and rooted in its time. At the time of course it was significant and thats why we read it today but I can’t help thinking I should have read it 25 years ago when time wouldn’t have been quite so cruel to it. Its a struggle not to laugh at some of the hip language and Kerouac’s writing style also gets in the way a little, it sometimes feels as though he wrote it in French and then translated it into English (Aha, I note on Wikipedia that he may indeed have done this to some extent). The book isn’t served by the process. I also felt an editor might have been a good thing, its a bit of a stream of consciousness.

On the positive side it does evoke the era and leaves you wondering what it would have been like to jump that freight train across country.

All that said it still rates 7/10 which says I liked it. I had just expected it to be 10/10.

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_road

Amazon: Buy it

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