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…]

0535 | The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul | Douglas Adams post image

Context: Was reading this when I first sold my photography in Bahrain.

This is not one of Adams’ best. I sincerely hope it’s his worst because if there is a worse novel by him out there, it must be atrocious.

An explosion at an airport leads to the involvement of the world’s unfunniest detective on a barely coherent case that consists, as usual with Dirk Gently, of him doing absolutely nothing. I was going to write “and the inevitable solution of the case” but I can’t even remember there being a solution. I didn’t even care by the end.

By this point in the author’s life, it seems Adams had used up all his humour. Much of what passes as humorous is fairly banal. I think I saw something funny once but I’ve now forgotten which page it was on so you’ll just have to dig for it yourself.

I think this is such a shame. Adams was a comic genius and one of [click to continue…]

0534 | Loving | Henry Green

0534 | Loving | Henry Green post image

Context: Read this at the hotel pool in Dubai when I attended the Inter-Gulf Netball Championships.

Really didn’t get into this. It’s not helped by the unorthodox dialogue which I had a hard time following at times. There are some half-memorable characters in here but the whole thing seemed a bit pointless to me. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what Henry Green was attempting here.

The book opens with the death of the butler in some decaying out of the way house occupied by a wealthy English couple in Ireland at the start of the second World War. His second in command hastily assumes his role and sets about controlling the house and staff his own way which most of them don’t take very kindly too.

There are about fourteen million women who work in the house who are either very young or very old and I couldn’t keep track of the family members partly because there’s no real consistent naming conventions for them. Different characters call them different things and I got well-confused most of the time.

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0533 | The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby | Charles Dickens post image

Context: Listened to this off librivox as I commuted between Saudi and Bahrain.

A very, very long time ago, when he was just a wee lad, Arukiyomi attempted to read this and didn’t get too far. This time, I listened to this via librivox.org and can easily say that Mil Nicholson does one of the best narrations there that I’ve heard in many years of enduring librivox recordings.

Now that I have finished it, I can easily forgive myself for bailing halfway through. This is not Dickens’ best and the story and characters aren’t sustained in any memorable way as the novel gets into its latter half.

For a start, the novel isn’t about the life and adventures of Nicholas Nickelby and not least because it ends when, presumably, Nicholas has many decades yet to live. Dickens starts out well enough with Nicholas featuring prominently as the novel opens with him accepting a job at the, now infamous, Dotheboys Hall boarding school as a result of having to support his family his father’s death. [click to continue…]