It took me quiiite a while to finish this novel, and at some points I just wasn’t really sure what to make of it. A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka is… different. I sat there for a couple of minutes just thinking “what adjective can I use?”. I was going to say “sweet” but it’s not really sweet given some of the lewd references throughout the story. I also thought of “heartfelt” but then, I thought twice about that one too. So it’s different, but in a good way.
From the perspective of Nadia, the younger sister of two, it portrays her dealing with her elderly father and his nonsensical decisions. Her father is in his eighties, and decides to marry the Valentina, who is from Ukrainian and would like to live in the UK, please. Although Nadia and her big sister, Vera, both see that Valentina is playing their father for a fool, for his money, he is adamant that their love is real.
I found the characters really interesting in this novel. The fact that Nadia and Vera are both middle aged, yet they still treat each other like big sister and little sister was very quite entertaining. I also enjoyed the fact that quite flawlessly the narration dipped in and out of the family history so you gain a further understanding for each character through snippets of the past, and the events of the present. However, I think this novel was meant to be comedic, and although it wasn’t dark by any means, I didn’t find it particularly amusing. For me, this was one of those books that I kind of enjoyed; I liked it while I read it and then when I put it down it didn’t draw me back in again very easily.
‘The Fault in Our Stars’ by John Green is a novel that I was given for my 21st birthday from one of my best friends. At the time, I enjoyed the book but wasn’t overly affected by the characters or the content. For me then, it was one of those books that I enjoyed while reading but then didn’t think much about after I’d put it down.
This time, however, it was a completely different experience.
It follows the story of 16 year-old Hazel who has terminal lung cancer. At support group, she meets the handsome Augustus Waters who turns her world upside down. Often, in my experience anyway, reading a male author’s perspective of a teenage girl is usually a bit cringe (take Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder for instance – a book about philosophy, but because the protagonist is 14 year old, in the midst of all this intense philosophical ramblings, Gaarder feels the need to slip in the fact that Sophie’s on her period. Thank you Mr. Relevant). With The Fault in Our Stars though, John Green is able to realistically talk from the perspective of a teenage girl. The story is beautiful, heart breaking, educational, inspiring and magic, and it really reels you in. I loved the characters, they are so beautifully developed with such rich personalities. The way the characters banter with each other is so realistic of being a teenager, there are running jokes within the book, and so many important things to think about and consider. It opened my eyes to consider a person’s perspective that I hadn’t really considered before – that’s all you can ask of a book really, isn’t it?
I really REALLY enjoyed this book and I really want to read every other novel John Green has written. Please read this, it really is fantastic. The film comes out in March, I have watched the trailer approximately 1 million times.
So over the past week and half, I have been re-reading We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver, and it was quite an intense experience! However, I am so happy to be coming back to this blog and being able to tell you all about it.
So, the story is about Eva, an ambitious globe trotter with a series of successful travel guides behind her, decides to have a child. Well, she kind of decides, in a moment of panic about wanting her husband to be around forever. But when she has the child, she finds him hard to love and from the moment he was born she starts to feel resentful towards him. He does not immediately take to breast feeding – which she takes as a personal affront and shuns him in return.
The story was incredibly powerful and very disturbing. Eva talks of Kevin as though he is an intruder in her perfect life, ruining everything, when no child asks to be born. She describes him and his upbringing in a series of letters to her husband Franklin as a malicious child, hurting people’s feelings deliberately. The amazing thing about this book is the series of events that Eva describes as manipulative, malicious acts, can quite easily be thought of from another angle as just things a child might do who doesn’t know any better. There is an incredibly well defined uneasiness on the topic of who is unreasonable. The first time I read this, I took Eva’s word as gospel. The second time I read this, I came at it with a more critical view point. Kevin has problems, we know that. It is no secret that the whole book is centred around the fact that 16 year-old Kevin committed a mass murder at his high school. Eva tells the story as though it has all been Kevin’s fault right from the start – he was born evil and it was nothing to do with her. But then you are encouraged to take the perspective that it could be Eva’s “fault” (I don’t believe it’s anybody’s fault in this scenarios, but a consequence of a variety of factors) which explores the well trodden path of nature vs nurture. I found this an incredible read, even more powerful the second time through, and I felt so much more for the characters.
It’s so true, as my mum always said that books speak different things to you at different times of your life.
The only thing I have a little problem with is the fact that Lionel Shriver (female) has never been a mother. Not that I think that’s massively important, but a little part of me wonders about the evolutionary factors involved when we have a child that gives us a cocktail of hormones making us perceive our children to be wondrous little angels. Is it possible to have a child and simply not love it? I don’t know, in all honesty, but I hope not! From an evolutionary perspective, it seems pretty illogical for that to happen.
Well after a pretty excellent year I’ve come to the end of my 52 books project successfully! I’m so pleased that I managed to do this, and it just goes to show that there’s always time in the day to pick up a book and start reading more. There were so many books in my list that I had been intending to read for ages and I feel so great to have finally read them, and to be safe in the knowledge that I could pick up any book now and complete it, even if I like to tell myself I’m too busy. I’ve proved to myself now that I can do this and this year in particular I’ve had a lot going on – I’ve moved house twice, lived in three places, had about a million different jobs and have faced a lot of change and uncertainty, and having that escape in reading and an activity to fill an idle hour has been so awesome!
Although I’ve completely loved this project, I am really looking forward to picking up some old favourites, and re-reading a few books that I’ve seen this year and told myself not to. I’m definitely going to keep up this blog though and continue to review/document the books I’ve been reading. I’ve really loved keeping up this blog and it’s been a fantastic source of inspiration to keep going so thank you so much for reading/commenting – I really appreciate it!
So without further ado, here is my completed list of the 52 books I have read this year. I have put a little star next to the ones I particularly enjoyed (that’s not to say I didn’t like the others but the stars are for the ones I particularly loved) :)
1) Salmon Fishing in the Yemen – Paul Torday
2) Life of Pi – Yann Martel*
3) How to Be a Woman – Caitlin Moran
4) The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared – Jonas Jonasson*
5) The Metamorphosis – Franz Kafka*
6) Before I Go To Sleep – S. J. Watson
7) A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Hosseini
8) The Five People You Meet in Heaven – Mitch Alborn*
9) Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
10) Room – Emma Donoghue*
11) I Capture the Castle – Dodie Smith
12) Into the Darkest Corner – Elizabeth Haynes*
13) Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden*
14) The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
15) The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year – Sue Townsend
16) The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry – Rachel Joyce*
17) Wonder – R. J. Palacio
18) Mister Pip – Lloyd Jones
19) Misery – Stephen King*
20) A Room with a View – E.M. Forster
21) The Silver Linings Playbook – Matthew Quick
22) Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
23) Animal Liberation – Peter Singer
24) Fifty Shades of Grey – E. L. James
25) The Language Instinct – Steven Pinker
26) The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky*
27) The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini*
28) Shutter Island – Dennis Lehane*
29) The Yellow Wallpaper – Charlotte Perkins Gilman
30) Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
31) A Spot of Bother – Mark Haddon
32) Love in the Time of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
33) A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess*
34) The Road – Cormac McCarthy*
35) One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey
36) Water for Elephants – Sara Gruen
37) The Glass Castle – Jeannette Walls*
38) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson
39) The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
40) The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks*
41) Helping Hands – Tim Watkins
42) Fight Club – Chuck Palahniuk
43) Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen*
44) Billy and Me – Giovanna Fletcher*
45) Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks*
46) The Hobbit – J. R. R. Tolkien
47) The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupery*
48) Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins*
49) Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins
50) The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
51) Holes – Louis Sachar
52) Mrs Dalloway – Virginia Woolf*
And there we have it! A year well spent I think!
Hooray! Here we are finally at book number 52 – Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf.
I’ve got to say, I did really enjoy this book despite the time limitations I had to read it in – but I’m very happy to say I finished it at 11:30pm on the 10th January 2014 – with 30 minutes to spare!!
This novel was lovable, sort of in a Jane Austen kind of way, with a lot of intelligent social commentary, but then it had a bit of a quirky edge to it too. The most exciting part was when Mrs Dalloway was recalling how fond she was of sharing a kiss with a certain Sally Seton… lesbians in the early 1900s!! How risqué.
For those of you who may not know, Mrs Dalloway is a novel following a 51-year-old protagonist, set in just one day as we follow Clarissa Dalloway around London, rifling through her memories as she explores her beloved city of London. I really enjoyed this segment of the book, her descriptions of London intertwined with her memories as she fondly recalls some events, and not so fondly recalls others. The main story is in her preparations for a party she is holding at her house that evening, and most of the characters recalled in her memories are present at the party. As I said, the book is pretty out there for the time it was written, which I think gives it a certain charm and mischievousness. I very much enjoyed Woolf’s style of writing; a lot of commas I noticed, broken up sentences, and added thought, here and there, wherever she deemed them appropriate, followed by the occasional; unnecessary semi-colon.
My one qualm with it that I would like to say though – before reading it I learned that this novel was sort of a product of two seperate stories spliced together; one of Mrs Dalloway and one of the Prime Minister – and you can totally tell!! It would have been better off getting this ridiculous prime minister sub-plot out the way and hearing more about Clarissa – I can’t tell you how much I wasn’t even vaguely interested in the prime minsters story. Other than that though it was fantastic and a very nice introduction into Woolf’s writing style and a fantastic note to end on for my successful 52 books project!!
‘Holes’ by Louis Sachar is a book for young adults about a boy who is wrongly convicted of a crime and sent to to a brutal desert detention camp where the boys are required to dig holes the width and height of their shovels each day. Although the story is a good and interesting one, with a sort of Roald Dahl-feel in that the children are forced to dig these holes with very little food or water, and the grown ups stand and watch – for some reason it reminded me of that Bruce Bogtrotter scene in Matilda where he has to eat the cake – torture for the sake of “your own good” in only a way that wicked grown ups can do.
However, may have come at this story from slightly the wrong angle as I thought the premise was kind of silly – who digs holes all day? what kind of punishment for juvenile delinquents is that? But maybe if I had read it when I was younger I would not have approached it in such a way. I also want to add that the whole thing is made much worse by the fact that protagonist, Stanley Yelnats isn’t even guilty of his supposed crime yet nobody believes him – not even his parents!
However, it wouldn’t be a young adult’s book without a moral message, and this book’s message is that true friendship can overcome anything. It’s also got a few sub-plots and the author switches back and forth between generations, an aspect of the story that I did enjoy. The characters were well developed and believable, in all generations actually. I read another book written by Louis Sachar called ‘There’s a boy in the girl’s bathroom’ probably when I was about twelve, which I think if memory serves me correctly, I did enjoy it but found it all a bit weird. That story was about a boy with tells lies and picks fights who’s counsellor tries to persuade him to change his behaviour because she believes he is generous and sensitive beneath all the conduct disorder. Holes had a very similar effect on me – I guess Louis Sachar must be an acquired taste – again, I found Holes enjoyable but generally all a bit weird! I think it’s more to do with his style of writing, which is very distinctive; simple phrasing, short sentences – it makes me feel a bit unsettled! I think it’s because it fees like disjointed thought even if the ideas do flow.
I probably wouldn’t recommend this one, but still I have been meaning to read it for years so that’s another one out the way! One more to go! Xx
I’ll admit, a beautifully written book hosting a world for a rather empty and shallow set of characters. I enjoyed the social commentary and the well-written prose, but I never felt one inkling bit of empathy or even fondness towards the characters. Despite it being a short novel, it still took me quite a long time to understand the relationship between the characters, eventually turning to Wikipedia to help – it seems like they’ve all dated each other at one point or another.
In all honesty, I know that F. Scott Fitzgerald is supposed to be an incredible writer but I never really got into the book. I made my way through it but I’m not going to lie, I was quite bored and considering whether I should just watch the film instead. I didn’t, I hasten to add, but still. I don’t know why – the story itself seems quite compelling when you think about it but for some reason, perhaps it was the over-complication of the simplest concepts, but I just didn’t really get into it, or enjoy it that much.
I think I would have appreciated this book a lot more if I had read it with someone else, and not trying to rush to finish to complete my 52 books project. But to me it didn’t seem like the kind of book you’d immediately go and tell your friends about. It was more like “thank god that’s over”. On that note apologies for a very short review but I have one and a quarter books to read before tomorrow! Xxx