Saturday, 23 October 2010

Recent reading.

I've spent recent years guzzling short stories and as there are only so many hours in the day, I've missed out on a lot of novels. During the past two weeks I've spent every spare minute catching up on some of those novels.

I found 'We Need to Talk about Kevin' profoundly moving. I can't remember the last time I cried, or cried quite so much, when reading a book. There are some pretty ambivalent reviews of this book, but I'm with Zoe Green of The Observer who describes the novel as a 'compulsive' search for answers: I couldn't put it down.

'The Island' is our current Book Club read.
Hislop does an excellent job of creating a setting which is as important as the plot and the characters: I had a compulsion to buy vine tomatoes and feta cheese as I read.
'The Island' is reviewed favourably here.
Here is a less favourable and rather entertaining review.
I enjoyed 'The Island' but while the setting was beautifully depicted, I found some of the characters a little sketchy and occasional plot twists pretty unlikely.

I read Alderman's short story writing before I read 'Disobedience' and I was fascinated to see how she would approach a novel. I enjoyed 'Disobedience'. I confess that I was looking for pointers as I read it, wondering how a writer can explore the hidden, intricate world of a religious community that is simultaneously separate and conjoined to the wider community. I thought that Alderman made an excellent job of depicting the Orthodox Jewish community with both sharpness and sympathy.
Here is a review from the Independent. Here is another from the Guardian which is a bit of a hatchet job (and undeserved in my opinion). 'Disobedience' won the Orange Award for New Fiction in 2006.
Alderman blogs here.

A risky novel, reviewed well by Ali Smith here. I wanted Susie's loneliness to be more horrifying, more difficult to read about. The first 50 pages or so worked beautifully because of Susie's understated description of her death. As the book progressed though I found that I that wanted to be more involved than understatement allowed, but it was still a compelling read.

Recommended by my brother, it's a book I read in an effort to understand what my brother finds 'hilarious' as much as anything. The book is hilarious in an appalling, painful way - something my brother and I will no doubt discuss next time we see each other.

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