Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Hawthorn & Child - Keith Ridgway

I am not sure why some people imagine that gratuitous sex and violence is gritty and modern.  Sex, as out ancestors will confirm, did not begin in the '60s, nor was it the brainchild of D.H.Lawrence.  Violence too is not that new; and it is not long since public executions - sudden or protracted - would have provided death for the pleasure of large, public gatherings.  Sex and violence, nonetheless - along with seemingly unnecessary obscurity - seem to be the hallmark of Keith Ridgway's Hawthorn & Child.  I don't object to either - sex and violence sometimes suit the plot; it felt, however, that Ridgway was 'grittying up' an otherwise pleasant novel when their spontaneous introduction arrived; I am moving on to Michael Ende's Momo.  Having said that accolades from Ian Rankin, the Observer, the Irish Examiner and Zadie Smith all attest to Hawthorn & Child's quality; so, if you have different tastes to me, you may well enjoy the book.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Fact 1: Library of Alexandria

Library of Alexandria ruins
"In ancient Egypt, any books found in ships coming into port, would be brought immediately to the Library of Alexandria and be copied. The original would be kept in the library and the copy given back to the owner."
Source: The Science World, via Books Rock My World

Sunday, January 26, 2014

It's Australia Day, so Good Day to Peter Carey

I have read many Carey novels, most recently Chemistry of Tears.  This novel managed to be brilliant and disappointing at the same time - suffering from lead characters that in the end I simply didn't like.  Of Carey's other books, apart from my favourite, Bliss, the Kelly Gang stands out.  This story read as a history, a realist piece, and did not fit with my image of the writer, Carey.  I will skip the rest - Peter Carey made his best impression with his first book; Bliss, apart from a page that made me give away my copy after many readings, is the best book I have ever read.  It combines the absurd with the sublime in a perfect match, telling a love/existential story that makes life worth living.  If I am fortunate/hard-working/inspired I might some day excel this book.  For now, however, this being Australia Day and Peter Carey my favourite writer, I offer my best puny imitation of an Australian accent, and wish Peter Carey a Good Day.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Today is the birthday of two great literary legends

"We are not the same persons this year as last; nor are those we love. It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person."
Novelist and playwright, William Somerset Maugham, born in Paris in 1874

"A fond kiss, and then we sever; A farewell, and then forever!"
Scottish poet, Robert Burns born in 1759

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Donna Tartt was a stolen recommendations and "The Secret History" was the first of her works that I found. The front cover is influenced with the strapline "International bestseller", something that usually I find to be a turn-off. Having said that, The Secret History is in many ways, the perfect read, a compelling, page-turning read with thinking that is impressive, and sometimes profound. It is Crime and Punishment on a remote US campus, our leads doing the wrong things for right(ish) reasons. It is frequently tempting to support what they choose to do.

In some places plot development, as with character changes are convenient, rather than convincing. Further as a man who likes wine, whisky, and cigarettes, the pathological consumption of these throughout the novel disturbed my usually pleasurable (mis)habits.

These failings aside, however, I no longer feel compelled to complete a book once I start it, and that I completed The Secret History means that overall it is a book that I, in my turn, would recommend.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

This was a big surprise which I had picked up on a whim, and I didn't expect it to turn out as it did. "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" by Stephen Chbosky is written from the point of a teenager in an American High School who, as a young child, experienced serious trauma, the accidental death of his favourite aunt, and spent some time in a mental hospital, and then later, his friend commits suicide.

He writes his story in a series of letters to a friend, who unless I missed something is never identified, but was introduced to him as someone who listens. The book covers a school year between 1991 and 1992, which means that there are no mobile phones, Internet, or Facebook, which is really refreshing. He is an awkward teenager, and his psychiatrist encourages him to participate, so he takes the plunge and speaks to someone, Patrick, from his shop class at a football match. There he also meets Patrick's stepsister and falls in love, but as she is older than him, and cares for him deeply, it is as a friend. And so, the wallflower is introduced in a very kind and caring way to the passages of youth; love, drugs, sex, and alcohol.

I found it really beautifully written, very realistic. The characters and their experiences a vividly described together with his confusion and his visible sadness, the real reason for which is unexpected and revealed at the end of the book. While it is a sad story, it is filled with love, promise, and home. It is a good story for teenagers, as an introduction to the real world, and for adults, to help them remember that adolescenthood is the same whatever the era.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Artist of Disappearance by Anita Desai

I love short story collections. They give you a taste of a writer without having to commit to an entire novel. Having said that I have read Anita Desai's work before, so I was delighted to see "The Artist of Disappearance", her collection of short stories. They are so beautiful and creatively written, not too sweet and not too sour, and just had everything I wanted in a book; wonder, sadness, beauty, surprise, compassion, creativity, believable characters; people you can relate to, wherever you hail from. It is a nice pocket-sized book to carry around with you, and each story of the three stories is charming in its own way.

The first is about a clerk who is invited to look at a collection of artifacts from around the world stored in a former spectacular household in a remote part of India. It is a beautiful story about a mother's love and the hope that her son would return to see what she has done with the treasures he has collected from his travels.

The second story was so thought-provoking, about a woman who took it upon herself to translate some works from a rarely-used Indian dialect, to a more widely accessible language. In doing so, she causes controversy, in a most thought-provoking manner, when all she wants to do is to do is to promote a writer she firmly believes in.

The final story has the sadness and compassion of a tragedy, with the excitement of youth and the modern world. It is about a group of film-makers who want to make a film about the desecration of the lands because of loggers and quarries, and a hermit who has lost everything. As the film-makers make their film, they make a beautiful discovery, and need the co-operation of the hermit, and so continues the tale.

I have not been to India yet, so I cannot confirm how realistic these stories are, but to me, they make me feel that it is a country full of rich characters, beauty, and strong belief. If I am wrong, please educate me by suggesting titles which give a more realistic viewpoint.

Needless to say, our bookshop will stock short stories and other titles by Anita Desai.

Pilchard Books

By Paul Wilmott
Pilchard Books is opening in Mevagissey, Cornwall in Spring 2014. This is a new venture for us. I am a librarian, and my husband is a writer. We met in 2000 over a pile of books, - an antique collection of the Oxford English Dictionary - and continue to share our love of books. We hope you will find this collection of book reviews useful and that you will share your own book experiences and reviews, and of course, we hope you will visit our shop, which is in a beautiful village by the sea. Our plan is to have good books at good prices, for all ages and tastes.