0540 | 2666 | Roberto Bolaño post image

Context: Found a cat tree by the side of the road while reading this. Nanika loves it!

Dear Lord, spare me. Another title from Latin/South America and yet another novel that I could have done without. What the heck is it with that continent that I just can’t abide?

The title either refers to the number of pages you have to wade through to finish this tome or the number of times you have second thoughts about picking this up in the first place. Thankfully, Audible read this to me on my daily commute. If I’d had to actually pick up and get through a physical copy, I don’t think I would have made it. The book is in five lengthy parts which are apparently related although some of the connections are tenuous at best.

Each part starts out reasonably enough but Bolaño is so verbose and the story so rambling that unless you let yourself go with the flow, you’ll be wondering what the heck is going on. Don’t fight it. There’s enough here to keep a reader entertained, but you never get [click to continue…]

0539 | Dangling Man | Saul Bellow post image

Context: Fought a winning battle with an infestation of black flies in our pot plants while reading this.

Dangling man? Dangling reader more like! Another Bellow under the belt and that’s a good metaphor as yet another protagonist spends most of the novel navel-gazing.

Bellow won the Nobel, so you know that he’s a heavyweight and not to expect too much in the way of plot or typical character development. The Nobel judges seem to look more for an exploration of the human condition and that’s right up Bellow’s street as this slim volume explores what it means to lack purpose in a driven world.

Joseph begins a diary for lack of anything better to do while awaiting orders after being drafted during WW2. We wait impatiently with him for any kind of action and the diary ends just as he is finally called up. I’ve a feeling the sequel would have been a better read!

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0538 | Les Miserables | Victor Hugo post image

Context: Signed up to Audible to have all 67+ hours of this read to me!

Another bookshelf breaker under the belt. Now, I’m a real Les Mis fan having seen the musical in London four times, but this did not actually meet my expectations in the way I thought it would. I wonder if my experience will be the same as others who are very familiar with the musical and then read the book for the first time.

All the familiar characters were there of course and I really enjoyed the way the book filled in so many details that inevitably had to be left out of the stage production. Fantene having her teeth pulled was a pretty memorable detail which, I am told, is included in the film which I can’t bring myself to watch.

But a couple of things let the book down for me. First a couple of the characters never really get going. Marius was one of them. I just found him really irritating. In the stage production, I find his friends irritating, but he stands out from them. In the book, he’s just flat [click to continue…]

0537 | Michael Kohlhaas | Heinrich von Kleist post image

Context: Listened to this while commuting between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

There’s a lot to glean from this tale of injustice because the issues that the story raises are just as relevant today as they were when this was written over 200 years ago.

Michael initially loses his horse which is taken hostage and mistreated by someone more powerful. His pursuit of a case against this individual reveals further inequalities and cause Michael even further loss.

The balance tips when Michael takes justice into his own hands, gathers a band of brigands and takes revenge not just on those directly responsible but also on anyone even vaguely related to them. Michael is successful in his revenge but the excessive measures he uses raise outcry from the likes of even Martin Luther.

Michael’s end is less successful than his pursuit of justice. Ironically, justice can be said to have been done all round by that point.

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0536 | The Cement Garden | Ian McEwan post image

Context: have absolutely no idea what I was doing when I was reading this!

Leaving aside any controversy about whether McEwan borrowed the plot for this novel from another source, for an author’s first effort, this isn’t half bad at all. Macabre, disturbing and laden with symbolism, this is as gripping a read as you’re likely to get out of something 127 pages long.

The plot centres around the two oldest children of a family bereft of parents and what happens when adults aren’t around to maintain the social status quo. If you’ve read Lord of the Flies, imagine that with a female.

McEwan has a reputation for starting his novels magnificently and then running out of inspiration about halfway through. There’s certainly no indication that this was to come from his debut. The prose fizzes along right until the end which, although somewhat predictable, is nevertheless surprising in its clarity. McEwan was [click to continue…]