Book Review

Catch-up Book Reviews Part One

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One of the main reasons why I’ve set this up is in order to (intelligently) review what I read, get me practising writing about literature again before I return to University in the Autumn. (I have more free time as I’m no longer filling in endless MA applications…) The last few books I’ve read have been relatively low-brow, so I’m going to give a brief review of everything I’ve read in the last six months or so to give an overall idea of what I read and, more importantly, what I like to read.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

I read this recently, and enjoyed it more than I expected to. Ignoring that it is, perhaps, a little preachy (to my over-sensitive eyes encouraging religious devotion at the expense of all else) I thought it was well put together, poignant, and an enjoyable exploration of a period and culture I have little to no real interest in. 7/10

The House of Rumour by Jake Arnott

I read this because I saw a review that made it sound, to me, “so bad it was good”. It was not. It was just bad. Basically it was a less good rip-off of Cloud Atlas. (See later review.) Some enjoyable vignettes, but chopping and changing and making connections between disparate people. Research-heavy, perhaps, you could tell work had been done… But it took itself very seriously. And wasn’t very good. Avoid. 3/10

Essential Poems from the Staying Alive Trilogy, ed. Neil Astley

I panic-bought this in order to up my poetry knowledge before a University interview as it was the most promising-looking anthology in my local Waterstones. It was alright. 100 poems, a few I’d seen before. Particularly enjoyed some. Others, however, were “uplifting”, “life-affirming” and all that kind of vomit-inducing crap I believe is best ignored. But several sad poems I enjoyed. 5/10

Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth

Wish I’d seen it. Bloody hilarious. Great play. I laughed and laughed and felt very emotional at the end. I’ve already lost my copy of this as I slurringly pushed it onto someone at a party. Great. Highly recommend. And it’s a play, so’ll take – what? – an hour and a bit to read… Go for it. 9/10

London Belongs To Me by Norman Collins

Norman Collins was one of the people that set up ITV, which tells you everything you need to know about the popularist, dull, chin-up, 1940s-set piece this is. It’s really long, and starts quite strong, but not enough happens. And it’s dry. Like a less good, 20th-century Dickens. Low brow. Like ITV. Don’t bother. 4/10

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Short stories, easy read, fun. Not much to them, and the cases are usually easy to guess the answer to. Wouldn’t reread, but I wouldn’t be averse to wasting an afternoon with another Holmes book. 6/10

Ghost Writer: A Novel In Verse by Andy Croft

I like novels in verse. This one written in Pushkin sonnets. Modern. However, it’s mainly about a writer, which is not something I like. (This will be mentioned later). Fun, but nothing special. Don’t really remember it very well. Which says a lot. 5/10

Paris Trance by Geoff Dyer

I fucking love Geoff Dyer. No, correction, I fucking love Geoff Dyer’s non-fiction work. This is a highly romanticised trip through the lives of a quartet of hip, young, party types in Paris in the ’90s. So bits are great fun, bits are very sad, bits are rather beautiful. A wonderful, postmodern narrative choice in the middle thrilled me, impressed me, and I’d happily recommend this to anyone who likes Dyer’s other work, and probably ram it into the eyes of anyone I know who has the slightest idea of Paris as somewhere cool. 7/10

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

I was initially led to this due to my great affection for Max Roach’s seminal album We Insist!, but more generally through an interest in “black America” that has developed out of my enjoyment of hip-hop and jazz. This is a beautiful book, a heart-breaking, serious, intelligent, often brutal, book about the hypocrisy of politics, the reality of prejudice and the aftermath of decades and centuries of expected, ingrained and normalised social differentiation. I would highly recommend this to anyone with an interest in 20th-century literature – it is a difficult novel, too, clearly displaying its Modernist influences, but it remains engaging and thought-proviking throughout. It’s also quite sad. The conclusions it draws, the parallels it makes, the ideas it presents and criticises are, unfortunately, almost certainly still relevant today. Highly recommended. The only reason why I’m not giving it a ten is because, by its very nature, it’s rather depressing, and I reserve the perfect score for books that… Oh, you’ll see. 9/10

Lunchtime.

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