Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Casino Royale - Ian Fleming

The first thing I have to say about this book is how blatantly sexist Ian Fleming is and how he projects that onto his central character. Bond is a shallow protagonist who believes himself to be God's gift, and is interested in woman only for their attractiveness and willingness to sleep with him. 
Casino RoyaleVesper, the female lead, is made out to be an empty-headed simpleton who turns out to be a double agent who has simply be stringing Bond along, although at some considerable cost to her own heart and health. When Bond finds out what she's done and why she did it, he completely compartmentalises her and removes all traces of her from his life. This being a woman who he was willing to marry.
My second comment has to be on how surprised I am that Bond isn't dead. On page 8 of the book, and I quote 'he lit his seventieth cigarette of the day', forget about dying of lung cancer or a bullet, how isn't he dead from smoke inhalation???
I also thought it came across well how different a time period the book was written during than the present day.
It was a good book, but having both read the book and watched the film I have to admit that the film was an excellent version of the story which brought it up to the present day brilliantly. If you're not one for shallow dialogue and would rather see the action played out than painstakingly reading about it it's probably more worth your while just watching the film, something I don't often say!

Monday, 23 April 2012

Disgrace - J.M.Coetzee

I don't know how to describe this book. I didn't enjoy it exactly, but I didn't not enjoy it either. It was a bizarre book of self-discovery in one who by rights should be too old to discover a lot about himself. He learns to hate himself and what he has become.

The book starts with an act by him towards a young woman. Not rape, she was willing. But it is then echoed in the rape of his own daughter. After this event he begins to reflect more upon his own actions. He realises an apology from himself. 

It is odd because where society would have accepted a false apology from him at the start of the novel they are unwilling to accept a true apology later on.

David Laurie is made to feel continually awkward and so becomes a recluse. The only people he is able to capably interact with are the dogs which he puts in the incinerator.


Clarissa's Review

The End of the Affair - Graham Greene

Not at all what I was expecting from this book it started out very bitter and ended very bitterly and had a joyous stage in the middle. I had been expecting a happy beginning and a bitter ending. The bitterness in the ending doesn't stem from the reasons you would expect either.
At the center this book is a tale of two lives gone wrong. Two people who are so much in love you could say they are destined to be together who never get that chance and deliberately estrange themselves from one another.

You get the chance to see what religious fanaticism can do. How it can spoil lives on a small scale. 

You observe jealousy and you empathise. It's easy to empathise, because at the center of yourself you know there is a part which would be exactly the same under those circumstances.

Observe in this novel the easiness with which multiple men, a string of them, fall in love with a beautiful, kind and caring woman. How they continue to love her, against their own reason, long after she has left them.

It was a very good book, I can understand why it has become a modern classic.


Clarissa's Review

Sunday, 22 April 2012

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon

This book was indescribably unique from the perspective to the composition. The style of writing compelled you to read more and the story was all there. It was a book I couldn’t face putting down.

There were so many things I loved about this book. Seeing as I’m studying maths all the mathematical content couldn’t help appealing to me. I loved the fact that the chapters were numbered using the Prime numbers rather than the Natural Numbers. I loved the fact that the Narrator broke things up a bit. I loved the way he took things to heart. I loved the fact that you could understand the perspective of someone with Asperger’s Syndrome during the telling of this novel.

It was brilliant.

It was possibly the best book I’ve read this year.

I would definitely recommend reading it. It’s almost definitely not inside your usual style of book. But it’s definitely worth taking the time to read.


Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day – Winifred Watson

This was a light-hearted novel about a downtrodden middle aged woman who has reached her absolute limit, if she doesn’t get work today she’s headed for the workhouse, as a result she has decided to grasp anything that comes her way.

The novel becomes a tale of her drastically changing herself to fit in with her new friends. As you read it you delight in the carefree attitude that embodies the specific class she has fallen into in the mid 1930’s.

It’s delightful watching a confirmed spinster lose her prudish attitude and fall in love herself. It’s miraculous being witness to her successful attempts at saving her hostess when she is constantly describing herself as a failure.

The novel seems to have little substance but is a delight to read none-the-less.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey

One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest was a strange experience. From it’s confines you could witness true madness, but it wasn’t madness which terrified, it was a madness which evoked pity and empathy.

The Narrator of the story, Chief Bromden, was someone who had spent much of his adult life isolated and looked through, continuing to the extent that he started to pretend to himself that he didn’t exist. He acted both deaf and dumb while he was perfectly capable of speaking and hearing. His madness was primarily a sense of Paranoia which was perhaps justified from one who suffered not just one or two, but hundreds of electric shock treatments.

The Main Character, McMurphy, probably was incredibly mad, but he was madness perfectly capable of acting within the confines of complete sanity. He was a leader of a revolution. While it was saddening to see him dead at the end of the book, you can understand why Chief Bromden killed him in the manner he did, to retain his pride and prevent him from further suffering.

The maddest Character of all is Nurse Ratchett. She dishes out medicines and treatments which she would probably benefit from some herself. Her overbearing nature is not helping any of the men who are supposedly under her care and from the very first page you come to despise her and her cronies.

The whole book can, in some ways, be summarised in the words of the nurse on the disturbed ward, who voices her wish to keep the two men away from Nurse Ratchett’s control, but bemoans the fact that it is out of her power.

This story is at it’s heart one of hope. How goodness and human nature and resilience can grow and flourish when nurtured even in the most difficult and trying of circumstances.


Saturday, 14 April 2012

Book Fifteen- Captain Corelli's Mandolin

Captain Corelli is one of my mum's favourite books, so I had high hopes when I read it.

Sadly I was disappointed.

The story is great and it is the love story that you want to see but there is to much going on that the story does not really get going until three hundred pages in.

Some would have given up by then, but I pushed through better than the first time I tried to read this book.

It's the fact you do not meet Corelli until some 200 pages in, this confused me, why are you building up Carlo, Pelagia, Iannis, Mandras when the title clearly suggests someone else. It may be character development but it was slow in my opinion.

The best bits are when Corelli and Pelagia are together, this is what I want to read, are they going to be able to be together? Or is the fact that he's Italian and she is Greek going to separate them? Pelagia's romance to Mandras was never going to happen not when Corelli came along, and I don't like Mandras anything, especially at the end. But I won't spoil it, because in my opinion it is probably the best scene in the book.

The end could be called predictable, but then what do you want from this book? Do you want the romance? Do you want the impact of war and how gruesome it is? Because you certainly get it and the book is also historical, this little Greek village is changed forever, as are all the characters, that is the best thing about this book. It has a story and makes it readable until the last of it's 420 odd pages.

Maybe I missed something and that's why I didn't enjoy it. However it is worth waiting until the end and it didn't need Penelope Cruz or Nicolas Cage to convince me.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency - Douglas Adams

A short but witty novel about the interconnectedness of all things and the somewhat mad Dirk Gently who uses this system to solve crime and con his way out of paying the bills.

This book is itself an example of the elemental concept upon which it is based. The first several chapters are seemingly unrelated but quickly resolve themselves into a single and cohesive whole.

The book is hilarious in the style which no-one but Douglas Adams would ever be able to replicate. The humour is unique but brimming and the sci-fi elements are subtle enough that most anyone could relate to them but definately present for the enthusiast.

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, like other of Adams' books that I've read was written purely for pleasure and I thoroughly enjoyed the process. It was so easy to read I managed in a day.


On a side note I promise I'll try and read more of these soon and get up to date, it's nearly the summer and then I'll have much more free time.

Tom Jones - Henry Fielding

I was anticipating that this book would take a while to read, it's both long and old. I wasn't expecting it would be so tedious and consequently take me four weeks to read, it steered me off target when i'd been so well on target to that point.

The basic plot line of Tom Jones is very simple and as such I feel the story could have been significantly shorter than it was. While I know that it's length is a result of the way it, and many other books from the period, was published, it didn't fail to irritate me.

The book contained a lot of waffle, with Fielding often repeating himself, or simply rambling aimlessly. The book was comprised of several shorter 'books' each of which started with a chapter devoted to fielding preaching about literary infidels and how he hoped he wouldn't be looked down upon. I've never come across this in any other book and it was a major sticking point for me as every time the story gained momentum i would hit one of these chapters and be stuck trying to force myself onwards. The book was full of purposeless details, such as four chapters describing the earlier life of a character whose only purpose was to let Tom sit in his living room overnight. Tom Jones also seemed somewhat cyclical to me. There was a seemingly enless series of Tom chasing Sophia, being caught in an act of moral failure and losing her only for it to once again resume.

The first 400 pages of this book bored me to the extent that I was using Chores to bribe myself through it. If asked I would say I have no idea how this tedium became a classic and would recommend you find a plot summary rather than read the book, you'd gain as much from it and waste much less time.


Clarissa's Review