Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Darkmans - Nicola Barker


Ian's Review:
Read: October 2007
Rank: 90/100

Rach's Review:
Read: n/a
Rank: n/a

The Gathering - Anne Enright

Published: London, Johnathon Cape 2007
Pages: 260p
Shortlisted: The Man Booker Prize 2007

Ian's Review
Read: Late October 2007
Rank: 92/100

Rach's Review
Read: 18 October 2007
Rank: 93/100

This book is harder to read than most, it jumps from a time to generation and from feeling to emotion, it is ever changing as ones memory would be. We don't when we recall the past remember it as a sequence of time, but rather events or triggers, which may or may not be in line with time. One part of the memory is triggered by a current thought and then in turn it sends other messages and conveys other stories of our past.

The Gathering is full of these, you delve into her memories, her stories, her thoughts (whether they be true or perceived) and are totally immersed in a world which is not yours but you are able to clearly view and relate to through her amazing ability to convey.

The journey however is not a fluffy pretty tale, she is on the verge of divorce and her brother has just died. She seeks answers and this is essentially the story of her finding them, and the awakening of the concious which she has past forgotten, but holds the key and answers to the now.

It is a powerful story, and when I finished this book, it roared in my head, I couldn't quieten it. It engulfed all my senses and sent them spinning. It is a must read for everyone.

Why then doesn't it score higher? because although this story is amazing, powerful, full, it also sucks at your core, questions your values and makes you revisit your own thoughts and feelings. It drains your emotion and I felt literally tired when I finished, and as I write this 6 months after its completion I still think about this book and remember its complexity, and that for me, in a world where a soft story is easily forgotten against the harshness of our everyday lives, is something I cherish. The books that I have rated higher are both powerful but leave me in a better state of mind for facing my own realities! :)

Animal's People - Indra Sinha

Rach's Review:
Read: 12 October 2007

I felt so full after finishing this book. It is a gritty, beautiful and real story about a person, the people in his life, and in a way his personal self realization and, in his own eyes only maybe, redemption. There are major political events and tensions, but the story is not about these, to me anyway, but they are context to his personal journey. He narrates the story so it is through his eyes, however how he cares for others and how they care for him comes through strongly, slowly at first and then building, even though he does not know this himself. The way the book finishes, with a fever dream flavour, almost a rite of passage ritual full of visions (or were they) is so intense, such a ride. I cried, I dreamt of it the night after I finished it, and my mind is still full now – and I don’t want to make room for anything else.

On Chesil Beach - Ian McEwan

Published: London: Johnathon Cape, 2007
Pages: 166
Shortlisted: The Man Booker Prize 2007

Ian's Review
Read: 15 October 2007

From our conversations I was expecting to find it rich but only distantly engaging - like a beautiful old vase viewed through an antique store window. Actually I was very emotionally engaged by it, I really felt for the characters, and how their internal worlds were so different, unbeknownst to each of them. And how misinterpreted or unspoken actions or words, or choices made in one brief moment, can forever change the course of a life. Very poignant. It actually really did get to me, maybe coming hot on the heels of having been deeply wrenched by Mister Pip and having recently waded through an entertaining but non emotionally engaging Darkmans!

Rach's Review
Read: 7 Oct 2007
Rank: 87/100

This is a beautiful book, it is deep and powerful, full of emotion and pin pointing the importance of a single moment. It explores the journey to one choice, on which the whole future of the two main characters rests and how they choose to deal with their feelings, desires, wants, needs and the sense of duty they feel.

The story is wonderfully written, it is poignant and beautifully captures England in the sixties, the description of the beach, the hotel, the setting place you there, looking uncomfortably in on their world as they struggle with their first wedding night. I also admire the subject for this book, dealing so openly and honestly with the competing emotions of the two characters.

Mister Pip - Lloyd Jones

Published: Melbourne: Text, 2006
Pages: 220
Shortlisted: Man Booker Prize 2007
Read: 29 Sept 2007

Summary (from Cover)
Matilda is a 13 year old girl living in a remote village surrounded by civil unrest in the Pacific. With services shutting down, the only remaining white man, Mr Watts, takes over classes in the schoolroom, reading aloud to his class from Great Expectations, a book by his friend Mr Dickens.

Soon Dickens’ hero Pip starts to come alive for Matilda, becoming as real to her as her god fearing mother, and the greatest friendship of her life begins.

But on an island at war, the power of the imagination can be a dangerously provocative thing…


Mister Pip is brilliant, it is another, which deals about nationality, this time Black Islanders, but the book is firmly based around the characters and the personal journey they take. It is told innocently by the main character who is just a child, and you feel her, the joys, the beauty, the strength, the frailty through her telling. You slip comfortably inside the characters and the ease of the dialogue and writing just carries you along.

The key to the heart of this book is through its link to the literate world. It is one that connects any avid reader, as we already know and understand this relationship, it is indeed why we ourselves read, and is a great formula for success in a novel because there is no risk associated with it. So with one link formed, the rest are easy to get, it is a formula, but it never feels that way, it is really very clever.

The Man Booker Prize - 2007

On the 31st August 2007 in a search for better books to read (nothing was coming close to Raw Shark Texts), I did a Wikipedia search on the Man Booker Prize, and pulled off the complete list since it started. This print out, which has seen much better days and is now in quite a shabby state from living in my handbag for over a month and is complete with tears, scuffs, many pencil and pen markings and words has become the list to which I am now reading. But more than that I learnt at the time of printing this that the Long List (13 titles) had been announced but the short list had not, so my quest became to read them all. I would like to say that I hoped to achieve this before the announcement of the winner (which is the 16th October, so I still have a little time), but am realistic enough to know this is not possible, and so therefore I just aim to read as many of the short list (announced two weeks ago) as I can.

At this point it would seem appropriate to thank my local library in Boroondara for ordering in the 7 books on the long list that they did not have after I casually requested them. How brilliant is that?

Short List - 2007

Darkmans - Nicola Barker
The Reluctant Fundamentalist - Mohsin Hamid
Mister Pip - Lloyd Jones
On Chesil Beach - Ian McEwan
Animal's People - Indra Sinha
The Gathering - Anne Enright

(Image taken from www.themanbookerprize.com - Official website for The Man Booker Prize)

Titles from the Long List - 2007

Self Help - Edward Docx
The Gift of Rain - Tan Twan Eng
The Welsh Girl - Peter Ho Davies
Gifted - Nikita Lalwani
What Was Lost - Catherine O'Flynn
Consolation - Michael Redhill
Winnie & Wolf - A.N. Wilson

I am pleased to say that between Ian and I we will get through the whole short list by next Tuesday! I have read four of the short list and am halfway through The Gathering and Ian has read one and is halfway through Darkmans. We will both finish our current books in time, but I am not sure I'll get through the 800+ pages of Darkmans in time, and well Ian has quite a feat to achieve if he was to get through the remaining four, but I'm sure he'll knock one or two more off in time.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist - Moshin Hamid

Published: London: Penguin, 2007
Pages: 184
Shortlisted : The Man Booker Prize 2007

Ian's Review
Read: September 2007
Rank: 91/100

Great dynamics as you don't know who he is talking to, but slowly build up an image. And beautiful description of the protagist's experiences - even more intimate than first person as you are privy to his conversation with a stranger - almost vouyeristic and secret. The careful, solicitous and polite language is a big part of it as well!

Love your thoughts on The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Agree with its bravery given the subject matter - do you think that it could actually have a chance to win the Booker, an American prize? Guess it depends on the makeup of the judges - wonder if there would be an outcry! You certainly go through the protagonists journey as he relates it, and feel what he feels, which draws you in to understanding where he is at, which is a foreign place for a western reader! And as he addresses his conversational partner about his reaction to what he said about the WTC attacks, he is also of course addressing the reader. Very clever. His journey is political but also very personal. I really like this book. I am still thinking about it now.

Rach's Review:
Read: 24 Sept 2007
Rank: 92/100

I love the writing style of this book! It is totally not everyday that you come across a book that is written entirely as a one sided conversation and this must have been pretty hard to pull off, and he does it brilliantly! I also think the way that he handles the subjects is fantastic, the way he talks about the confusion and the mix of emotions that the lead character plays is majestic. It is a tough subject, even for the author to condone or seem to be supporting terrorism, but doing it in a way that you do not lose all respect.

That I think is one of the keys to this book, you support and feel for him all the way through. Yes I also felt repulsed, and disgusted at his feelings, but I still 'felt' for him, given that the way the book is constructed, you know the things he says about Western and American culture and attitude is also correct, and this balance allows you to, in some way understand his prediciment.

The other thing that I like about the book is that the day after I read it I thought about it again. This for me is why it went above The Welsh Girl, which was a beautiful book, which totally touched me, but it also answered all my questions, this book didn't, it leave the last question open, and also raises questions about yourself and what you feel about Global Corporatisation and how we see these things but the consequences of them to not directly affect our families and loved ones

Winterwood - Patrick McCabe

Printed: London: Bloomsbury, 2006
Pages: 242

Summary (from Cover):
On a return to his home place in the mountainy middle of Ireland, Redmond Hatch meets old Pappie Strange, a fiddler and teller of tales whose honeyed words and giddy reels have persuaded the local mothers and fathers, anxious at the loss of traditional values, to bring their little lambs to his Saturday morning ceilidhs." "Once, in Kilburn, married to the sugar-lipped Catherine, and sharing his daughter Immy's passion for My Little Pony, with its enchanted kingdom of winterwood, Redmond was happy. But then infidelity, betrayal and the 'scary things' from which he would protect his daughter steal into the magic kingdom, and the bad things begin to happen. Now Redmond - once little Red - prowls the barren outlands alone, haunted by the disgraced shade of Ned Strange." "A shape-shifter, Red reinvents himself as Dominic Tiernan, builds a new life in TV, finds a new wife and begins to know domestic happiness once more. Then one day, in Dublin, he spies Catherine again.

Ian's Review:
Read - September 2007
Rank - 79/100

Thought I would follow our phone conversation with the rest of my thoughts now that I have finished Winterwood. Don't think we will compare notes though because I don't recommend the book! Brilliant structure, imagery and writing, but it is dark and reeks of madness and malevolence, coupled with sad vile deluded rationalising by the protagonist. I found it profoundly disturbing. Sorry, but strong words for a strong reaction!

Rach's Review:
Read - n/a
Rank - n/a

Given Ian's review and the world of amazing books out there that will entice me, I have decided to skip this one :)

The Journey So Far

Seeing I have discussed book covers, their magic and appeal, it is appropriate to tell you that this whole notion, this whole book club of two people started from one very such book cover in a Borders store in the middle of winter. Now a confession I have to make before I go too far is that I don't buy a lot of books, it is a question of storage, and practicality! My appetite would also leave me broke and as I feel I'm lured by the call of new books I rarely return to past loves. So bookstores are like travel brochures, full of exciting promised lands, and I browse and note them in my note book.

So in browsing the 'New' I found 'Raw Shark Texts' by Steven Hall. The edition of this book and therefore the cover of this book differs around the world, and the version in Australia is unique. It is also brilliant and having seen the English cover I have to say I favour ours. If you have a chance, definitely pick this book up, look at the front, the back, the spine, and read the text it contains. It is a book marketing masterpiece!

This book I had to borrow so placed it onto my reservation list ( I am in love with my local library ) and joined a dozen others waiting for this book. Even today the four copies of the book are on loan! But it was a worthwhile wait filled with other books, other books which while some were good and others not so, were in no comparison to this one, and on receiving my turn, I showed it to Ian who was completely taken by the cover and first page of this book in the same way I was, but he was a bit more brash and decided to hell with waiting and purchased it. So together we read this book and it was a brilliant journey, and a journey that was further enhanced by our many conversations since. And even today we can happily talk about this story.

From here (which was only two months ago) we have devoured a number of books, and the purpose of this blog is to give us a home for sharing them and recording our thoughts, our lists and whatever else!

I must also tell you from that point and several disappointing books later, the lure of the Man Booker Prize and the promise of books that are of a certain quality have given us our current reading list.

So below are our current rankings of books. I think the aim here will be to each have our top ten by Christmas! Each of these we will in turn discuss:

Rach's List:
1. Raw Shark Texts - Steven Hall 98/100 (Jul 07)
2. Animal's People - Indra Singh 97/100 (Oct 07)
3. Mister Pip - Lloyd Jones 94/100 (Sep 07)
4. The Reluctant Fundamentalist 92/100 (Sep 07)
5. The Welsh Girl - Peter Ho Davies 91/100 (Sep 07)
6. On Beauty - Zadie Smith 89/100 (Sep 07)
7. On Chesil Beach - Ian McEwan 87/100 (Oct 07)

Ian's List:
1. Raw Shark Texts - Steven Hall 99/100 (Jul 07)
2. Gifted - Nikita Lalwani 92/100 (Sep 07)
3. On Beauty - Zadie Smith 91/100 (Sep 07)
3. The Reluctant Fundametalist 91/100 (Sep 07)
5. The Welsh Girl - Peter Ho Davies 87/100 (Sep 07)
6. Winterwood - Patric McCabe 79/100 (Sep 07)

Light The Shade

A name for your blog is like a journey in itself.. it is a search for the exact combination of a few words which will provide an executive summary, a conveyed emotion and witty inspiration for the many passages and tales that you will reveal. To me it can be compared to the cover of a book. Do you judge it? I will not be ashamed to say that I do.

In the heart of a bookstore, the light dimmed by the towers around you, millions of words are woven around where you stand, they tangle and travel, they jump and spin, they call and shout, but their meaning and tales are all contained, restrained by their cover. In this spot however why do you reach out for the 8th rigid spine on the third shelf? It is a message contained in graphic, colour, font and again a word combination strong enough to lure us with its promise to flip it and digest its carefully selected messages on the back. And then you arrive at the decision, replace it on its shelf, thumb some pages in an effort to make a more informed judgement or get it.

I love book shops and books, they are places of make believe, millions of worlds live between their walls and protective covers.

So with the need to provide the same theory to this blog which will review the lines of text my co-author and I devour, I needed to insert some time and thought into its name, not to mention battle with the dreaded word 'availablity' in choosing something that would not only represent our discussions but also reflect our personalities, and as dawn approaches and the morning moves from its third hour into its fourth, I selected 'Light the Shade'. It beautiful song that I adore by Xavier Rudd with the following words:

When you're feeling lonely
And you heart is hungry
I'll light the shade
When the moon escapes you
And the sun denies you
I'll light the shade

Books light my shade..