Monthly Archives: May 2014

The Good Luck of Right Now – Matthew Quick

The Good Luck of Right Now - Matthew Quick

The Good Luck of Right Now – Matthew Quick

I am not sure where I fist heard of this book – maybe here – but having loved The Silver Linings Playbook movie, I was quite keen to read this.

Call it fate. Call it synchronicity. Call it an act of God. Call it . . . The Good Luck of Right Now. From the New York Times bestselling author of The Silver Linings Playbook comes an entertaining and inspiring tale that will leave you pondering the rhythms of the universe and marveling at the power of kindness and love.

For thirty-eight years, Bartholomew Neil has lived with his mother. When she gets sick and dies, he has no idea how to be on his own. His redheaded grief counselor, Wendy, says he needs to find his flock and leave the nest. But how does a man whose whole life has been grounded in his mom, Saturday mass, and the library learn how to fly?
Bartholomew thinks he’s found a clue when he discovers a “Free Tibet” letter from Richard Gere hidden in his mother’s underwear drawer. In her final days, mom called him Richard—there must be a cosmic connection. Believing that the actor is meant to help him, Bartholomew awkwardly starts his new life, writing Richard Gere a series of highly intimate letters. Jung and the Dalai Lama, philosophy and faith, alien abduction and cat telepathy, the Catholic Church and the mystery of women are all explored in his soul-baring epistles. But mostly the letters reveal one man’s heartbreakingly earnest attempt to assemble a family of his own.
A struggling priest, a “Girlbrarian,” her feline-loving, foul-mouthed brother, and the spirit of Richard Gere join the quest to help Bartholomew. In a rented Ford Focus, they travel to Canada to see the cat Parliament and find his biological father . . . and discover so much more.

This novel is funny, quirky, serious and (dare I say it) heart-warming! It is written as a series of letters that Bartholomew is writing to Richard Gere. His mother was a huge Richard Gere fan and towards the end of her life (she had a brain tumour) she started to call Bartholomew Richard and he played along with it because it made her happy and it provided him with extra confidence to face the world. He writes to Richard about his life, how he is coping with his mother’s death, the people he meets – Wendy the grief councillor, Father McNamee, the girlbrarian, the girlbraian’s brother who he coincidentally meets at group therapy and finally the adventure they all go on together to visit cat parliament and St Joseph’s Oratory. This might not sound like much, but the writing is fabulous – Bartholomew’s voice is amazing, naive, but with the canny knack of revealing more than he knows.

I was reminded of The Rosie Project, but this is more edgy.

More reviews …

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/11/books/the-good-luck-of-right-now-by-matthew-quick.html?_r=0

http://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/books/2014/02/15/book-review-the-good-luck-right-now-matthew-quick/vosgg6l3EwwnvoCBZAsH7H/story.html

 

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Fiction, Recommended

Housekeeping – Marilynne Robinson

Housekeeping - Marilynne Robinson

Housekeeping – Marilynne Robinson

I have read Gilead and Home and loved them both, so when I saw this one I was keen to read it. I think this was her first novel published in 1980 (it won the PEN Award and was nominated for a Pultizer Prize).

Here is the blurb …

A modern classic, Housekeeping is the story of Ruth and her younger sister, Lucille, who grow up haphazardly, first under the care of their competent grandmother, then of two comically bumbling great-aunts, and finally of Sylvie, their eccentric and remote aunt. The family house is in the small Far West town of Fingerbone set on a glacial lake, the same lake where their grandfather died in a spectacular train wreck, and their mother drove off a cliff to her death. It is a town “chastened by an outsized landscape and extravagant weather, and chastened again by an awareness that the whole of human history had occurred elsewhere.” Ruth and Lucille’s struggle toward adulthood beautifully illuminates the price of loss and survival, and the dangerous and deep undertow of transience.

It was a short easy to read novel that none the less had a lot to say. Lucille and Ruth’s mother takes them to her mother’s house and leaves them on the porch and drives off (eventually killing herself by driving into a lake). The grand mother takes over raising the girls – she had three girls of her own her all seemed to have vanished. One is a missionary somewhere, the girls’ mother is dead and the youngest is transient. When the grand mother dies two great aunts  (sisters of their grand father) move in to take over, but it is not something they want to do they want to return to their old life and so they set about finding Sylvie (the transient). They advertise in the papers and eventually Sylvie responds and returns home to raise the girls. At first all goes well, but Sylvie hears the siren call of the road and struggles with all of the duties involved in raising children and keeping a house – she likes to eat in the dark, sleep with her shoes and coat on, never wash dishes, cook or clean. The girls stop going to school for a while and no one seems too bothered. Lucille knows something is not right and tries to better herself – returning to school, making her own clothes, finding friends and eventually leaving Ruth and Sylvie and moving in with one of her teachers. Ruth, however, seems lost and possibly what made Sylvie transient is also part of Ruth’s make up. They take to the road and to be fair both seem happy with this choice.

This novel is beautifully written. There is a feeling of light and water – water invades this story in many ways; the train wreck into the lake, the girls’ mother into the lake, the water level rising and flooding the lower levels of the lake. It is about what is normal acceptable behaviour – is it OK for Sylvie to sleep on the park bench (in full sight of the local community)?, do we all need to have a home?, does a home need to be maintained in a particular way? But the best part is the writing – it is poetic, evocative and simple – showing that good writing doesn’t have to be pretentious or difficult to read.

Another review …

http://www.nytimes.com/1981/01/07/books/books-of-the-times-books-of-the-times.html

Leave a Comment

Filed under Fiction, Recommended

The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseni

The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

A few years ago I read A Thousand Splendid Sunswhich I found quite confronting and I wasn’t sure that I wanted to read this one, but I was having coffee with a friend when her copy was returned, so I thought it was time to give it a go.

Here is the blurb …

The Kite Runner of Khaled Hosseini’s deeply moving fiction debut is an illiterate Afghan boy with an uncanny instinct for predicting exactly where a downed kite will land. Growing up in the city of Kabul in the early 1970s, Hassan was narrator Amir’s closest friend even though the loyal 11-year-old with “a face like a Chinese doll” was the son of Amir’s father’s servant and a member of Afghanistan’s despised Hazara minority. But in 1975, on the day of Kabul’s annual kite-fighting tournament, something unspeakable happened between the two boys.

I found it compelling – there was always a feeling of ‘and then what happened?’. I enjoyed the stories of an Afghanistan before all of the conflict, escaping over the border and eventually to the US, their new life in the US and then finally returning to Afghanistan searching for redemption. This novel provides insight into another time and place and (maybe) helps us understand Afghanistan today.

This story felt like an oral tale – someone telling their story in bits and pieces. Terrible things do happen, so it is not for the faint-hearted.

More reviews …

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2003/sep/07/fiction.features1

http://www.timeout.com/london/film/the-kite-runner

Leave a Comment

Filed under Fiction

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children -

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Ransom Riggs

At the store where I bought The Night Circuswhich I loved, they recommended this novel as being something I would also like.  I didn’t enjoy it as much as The Night Circus, but none the less it is an interesting novel – consisting of strange vintage photos.

Here is the blurb …

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photographs.

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.

This might sound negative, but I don’t intend it as a criticism. This novel made me think of a creative writing exercise – here are a pile of strange photographs make a story out of them. Despite the fantastical elements this novel felt very realistic – the sign of a good fantasy novel if the world created by the author is believable. The sections on the Island were particularly well written. Although I found the romance between Jacob and Emma a bit icky (she had been in love with his grand father after all). The evil creatures that hunt down the peculiars are the stuff that nightmares are made off. I can picture this novel being made into a suspenseful movie or TV series (after a quick search on IMDB I find it is being made into a movie)

I think it will appeal to lovers of fantasy and quirky fiction.

More reviews …

http://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/2014/jan/16/review-ransom-riggs-miss-peregrine-s-home-peculiar-children

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/31/books/ransom-riggs-is-inspired-by-vintage-snapshots.html?_r=0

 

Leave a Comment

Filed under Fiction

The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus

The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern

I had eyed this off at the book store several times, but it was only while on holiday that I finally decided to get a copy (from here – this is a lovely book store).

Here is the blurb …

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night. 

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.

I enjoyed reading this novel – it was quirky, enchanting, mysterious, interesting and romantic. The descriptions were fabulous – I wanted to see the costumes and the various circus tents. It is wonderfully evocative – you feel that you have been dropped into this world with the characters.

If you liked Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell,then you will enjoy this novel.

This might turn out to be my favourite book of 2014!

More reviews …

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/09/books/review/the-night-circus-by-erin-morgenstern-book-review.html?_r=0

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/sep/23/night-circus-erin-morgenstern-review

http://dovegreyreader.typepad.com/dovegreyreader_scribbles/2011/10/the-night-circus-erin-morgenstern.html

1 Comment

Filed under Fiction, Recommended

How to be a Heroine – Samantha Ellis

How to be a Heroine - Samantha Ellis

How to be a Heroine – Samantha Ellis

This is a reading memoir – what various different novels meant to Ms Ellis.

Here is the blurb …

Cathy Earnshaw or Jane Eyre? Petrova or Posy? Scarlett or Melanie? Lace or Valley of the Dolls?

On a pilgrimage to Wuthering Heights, Samantha Ellis found herself arguing with her best friend about which heroine was best: Jane Eyre or Cathy Earnshaw. She was all for wild, passionate Cathy; but her friend found Cathy silly, a snob, while courageous Jane makes her own way. And that’s when Samantha realised that all her life she’d been trying to be Cathy when she should have been trying to be Jane.

So she decided to look again at her heroines – the girls, women, books that had shaped her ideas of the world and how to live. Some of them stood up to the scrutiny (she will always love Lizzy Bennet); some of them most decidedly did not (turns out Katy Carr from What Katy Did isn’t a carefree rebel, she’s a drip). There were revelations (the real heroine of Gone with the Wind? Clearly Melanie), joyous reunions (Anne of Green Gables), nostalgia trips (Sylvia Plath) and tearful goodbyes (Lucy Honeychurch). And then there was Jilly Cooper…

How To Be A Heroine is Samantha’s funny, touching, inspiring exploration of the role of heroines, and our favourite books, in all our lives – and how they change over time, just as we do.

I have read quite a few of the novels in this book (not all although maybe I will try to track down a Jilly Cooper!). There are chapters on various different heroines from Elizabeth Bennet to Anne Shirley and Lucy Honeychurch. It was interesting to read about what these heroines meant to the author and how her opinions changed as her age, experience and circumstances changed. I read a similar type of book My Life in Middlemarch and it worked better for me. I suspect that is a personal preference.

If you like reading and talking about books, then this book is a fun, light read that might motivate you to re-read some old favourites.

More reviews…

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jan/08/how-be-heroine-samatha-ellis-review

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/bookreviews/10592923/How-to-Be-a-Heroine-by-Samantha-Ellis-review.html

Leave a Comment

Filed under Non-Fiction