As I mentioned in May, my reading came to a standstill for three months while I read Wolf Hall. I think I read it twice, actually; I found it so difficult to extract her real meaning from any given paragraph and/or work out who was speaking because of this authorial tic of almost never saying, ‘Cromwell said’ but always ‘He said’ that as I say, I more or less read all six-hundred pages twice.
KOLMYSKY HEIGHTS [by Lionel Davidson]. Pretty much hated this and said so in a review on Amazon. Unfortunately, my links to Amazon don’t seem to work and I have noticed other bloggers have the same problem but what I said was that as a thriller, it didn’t work for me. Perhaps it’s a bloke’s book but I don’t think that is why it is hopeless. There are no bad guys in it; how can you have a thriller without any bad guys?
The famous Philip Pullman has a quote on the cover which says, ‘The best thriller I’ve ever read’. Try 50-Grand, Philip.
He goes on to say in the Introduction that he has read it four times and that, ‘It is classic in shape. It takes the form of the quest: the hero journeys to a far-off place, gains something valuable, and returns. King Solomon’s Mines and Lord of the Rings are modern examples of the same basic pattern’.
I don’t disagree with that but I read those books when I was twelve, and I’m not twelve now.
It came highly recommended and has five-star reviews all over Amazon but it is definitely far from my definition of a thriller.
DEJA DEAD [by Kathy Reichs]. Packed this in around page twenty-five. Again, five-star reviews all over the place. Do people read this gratuitous stuff? Women being murdered with screwdrivers in their vaginas, while they were ALIVE in capital letters. God, I can’t believe this is what Joe Public wants on a holiday beach.
LEFTOVERS [By Laura Weiss]. In theory, not a novel that I would gravitate toward: American, and I tend to make a conscious effort to avoid American fiction these days; they may speak English but they are not like us. YA, Young Adult or more accurately New Adult because there are real sex scenes in it. A bit dated: it was published in 2008 and therefore pre-twitter and pre-phones with cameras so pre-sexting. Every imaginable trope: poor little rich girl and boys from the other side of the tracks. The worst kind of empty American lives.
But it is terrific. Can’t praise it enough. She has completely and I mean completely, caught the argot of a fourteen-year old American girl. There is a character in the novel called Kimmer Ashton; I mean, where do you find a name like that?
She addresses the reader, something my own creative writing tutor always said was a complete no-no, but it works. Drags you in. I think this is the secret of good YA Fiction: talk to your audience. Writes in the second person, which is unbelievably difficult to do, ‘so you go home and you put your key in the lock; you open the front door . . . . ‘. Here she is talking about the realities of life [for her] in an American High School: ‘. . . .we all inhabit low rungs on the loser ladder . . .’ Lovely. She takes risks with her prose, never ducks what is really happening, what people are really thinking behind the smiles. She is a real writer; this isn’t thrown-together fast-buck teen fiction. Here she shows not tells more or less all there is to know about her mum, while being driven home from visiting her grandparents at Thanksgiving: ‘You wonder who’ll mend the antique tablecloth when your grand-mother dies and realise no-one will. It’ll be thrown out because it’s imperfect and a pain to take care of’.
BOYHOOD ISLAND [Karl Ove Knausgaard]. This is a fabulous book, which again I had to be dragged kicking and screaming to read; sometimes, in fact far too many times in my life I have just not appreciated when something would be good for me.
It is auto-biography. Contemporary, set in Norway in the early-late seventies and basically and perhaps boringly is a sometimes day-by-day, sometimes month-by-month account of growing up in Norway. He plays with his friends, flirts with girls, gets into trouble but all in a very matter-of-fact way. Don’t really want to give away too much beyond that. Sorry if it doesn’t appeal but you have to trust me and all the other five-star reviews on Amazon: it is a tour-de-force.