Monthly Archives: February 2014

Isobel on the Way to the Corner Store – Amy Witting

Isobel on the Way to the Corner Store - Amy Witting

Isobel on the Way to the Corner Store – Amy Witting

I have been reading if not writing much!

The weekend just gone was the Perth Writers Festival, so I have been busy attending sessions (Lionel Shriver, Jo Baker – the host of her session was dreadful tried to make it about her and not the author, Margaret Drabble, Game Changers – narrative and story telling in computer games and Richard Flanagan).

Hannah Kent (one of the authors attending the event) has been writing a journal for the Guardian.

Back to Isobel …

 I for Isobel is being re-published (by Text I think) and I was intrigued by a review I read, but couldn’t find a copy in any of my local book stores and the library only had Isobel on the Way to the Corner Store. The back implied it could be read independently, so I thought I would give it a go – and I will say now that it can be read on it’s own.

Here is the blurb …

Isobel Callaghan fears she is going mad. She has resigned from her job, and is trying to survive as a writer. With no food left in her rooming-house attic, she sets out to buy provisions from the corner shop. On the way she collapses, and to her surprise wakes up in hospital…

From there it’s a bumpy ride to the tuberculosis sanatorium, where Isobel becomes a member of a self-contained society. The god-like doctors and an assorted, less than compatible, cast of patients help Isobel to gain hard insights about herself, and about human nature, on the slow path to recuperation. While many of the experiences recounted in this memorable novel are grim, Amy Witting manages at the same time to be continually and compassionately funny. From her humour emerges the profound, ironic wisdom by which all her writing is distiguished.

This is a novel where not much happens – Isobel gets sick, she goes to hospital, she gets better and she leaves, but Isobel changes significantly. She realises she has value as a person and that she has a role to play in the wider world. It is about the impact (both good and bad) that others have on us and how we have to find/make space to live our lives well. It is beautifully written – with some hilarious moments Val’s (Isobel’s room mate) anger that Isobel won’t wake up in the morning, is knitting lace with 8 ply yarn! – and I found the treatment of tuberculosis fascinating – I wonder how it is treated now days?

If you like well-written novels with character development, then you will enjoy this novel.

 

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The Emperor’s Children – Claire Messud

The Emperor's Children - Claire Messud

The Emperor’s Children – Claire Messud

As I read The Women Upstairs and really enjoyed it, I was keen to get hold of anything else by Messud. I booked this one from my local library – I do like being able to book things online. It was a large print edition, which might have affected my opinion, the pages were thin and tended to stick together and it wasn’t a particularly enjoyable reading experience.

Here is the blurb …

From a writer “of near-miraculous perfection” (The New York Times Book Review) and “a literary intelligence far surpassing most other writers of her generation” (San Francisco Chronicle), The Emperor’s Children is a dazzling, masterful novel about the intersections in the lives of three friends, now on the cusp of their thirties, making their way—and not—in New York City. There is beautiful, sophisticated Marina Thwaite—an “It” girl finishing her first book; the daughter of Murray Thwaite, celebrated intellectual and journalist—and her two closest friends from Brown, Danielle, a quietly appealing television producer, and Julius, a cash-strapped freelance critic. The delicious complications that arise among them become dangerous when Murray’s nephew, Frederick “Bootie” Tubb, an idealistic college dropout determined to make his mark, comes to town. As the skies darken, it is Bootie’s unexpected decisions—and their stunning, heartbreaking outcome—that will change each of their lives forever.  A richly drawn, brilliantly observed novel of fate and fortune—of innocence and experience, seduction and self-invention; of ambition, including literary ambition; of glamour, disaster, and promise—The Emperor’s Children is a tour de force that brings to life a city, a generation, and the way we live in this moment.

As you can tell from above, I wasn’t as taken with this novel as The Women Upstairs. This was much longer plus it wasn’t as universal – three sophisticated New Yorkers pre and post 9/11 who spent way too much time thinking about themselves. So I didn’t like the characters and the plot was slow moving, but the writing was fabulous. I never once felt like I was reading a novel – the characters, the action and the setting were all plausible. I did struggle to get to the end because, frankly, I didn’t really care what happened to anyone (except Danielle).

More reviews …

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2006/sep/09/featuresreviews.guardianreview18

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/07/AR2006090701164.html

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London – Edward Rutherfurd

London - Edward Rutherford

London – Edward Rutherford

I read Paris while in Paris and really enjoyed it. I kept looking things up on Google maps to see where the locations were in relation to my location.

Here is the blurb for London

In the tradition of his phenomenal bestseller “Sarum”, Edward Rutherford now gives readers a sweeping novel of London, a glorious pageant spanning 2,000 years. He brings this vibrant city’s long and noble history alive through the ever-shifting fortunes, fates, and intrigues of half-a-dozen families, from the age of Julius Caesar to the 20th century. Generation after generation, these families embody the passion, struggle, wealth, and verve of the greatest city in the world.

I didn’t enjoy this one as much as Paris I struggled to get to the end. I couldn’t keep track of the characters and just when I started to get interested the story moved to a new generation. However, I do feel that I have learnt something about London’s history and from that point of view it was an easy read.

More reviews …

http://mistlake.wordpress.com/2013/06/21/book-review-edward-rutherfurd-london/

http://www.nytimes.com/books/97/08/03/daily/london-book-review.html

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