Wednesday, 10 November 2010

31. The Lord of the Flies

When I had heard that American had banned this book in many of its schools I was a little surprised. I remember several classes in school reading this, pupils who were 14/15. I knew the general plot of this book; a group of boys crash land on a desert island. What I was not aware of was just how dark this book would become, and how quickly; so it was not long before I had an idea as to why the US banned this book. Golding moves quickly from fun and games for a bunch of young boys to murder and savagery.

Golding tells the story through Ralph, the main protagonist of the book who takes it upon himself to lead the group. Ralph isn’t a smart boy but with the help of Piggy- a myopic fat youngster with a quick mind-, he is able to establish some order within the group. The reader however, soon finds out that things aren’t going quite the way that Ralph hoped and it all goes awry within the group quite quickly.

The title of the book refers to a pig’s head on a stick teeming with flies, which the boys have hunted. The ‘Lord of the Flies’ sends one of the boys into a manic episode and ultimately many of the other islanders complete uncivilized savagery.

While Ralph tries his best to keep order on the island with the help of Piggy, Jack, Ralph’s rival for chief quickly removes many of the other boys from Ralph’s civilized world including Roger whose transformation from choirboy to reckless savage is terrifying.

As Ralph and Piggy try their hardest not to fall, there is glimpses of them almost turning before guilt drives them back. The ending of the book finds Ralph remorseful of his actions on the island; will the others join him?

I must admit I didn’t enjoy this book at first, and it was only the story that gripped me until the end. I found Golding’s writing style a bit heavy and wordy at times. However, it did give me a lot to think about and I enjoyed thinking about a lot of the symbolic and allegoric nature of the book.


Wednesday, 3 November 2010

30. What A Carve Up!

I pick up a lot of my books at charity shops. Obviously I can’t recall all 1001 books off the top of my head-although sometimes I wish I could! - So I keep a short list of books that look interesting in my handbag. ‘What a Carve Up!’ was one of those random books that I picked up for about £1 and has sat in my bookcase for about 2 years…I wish I’d picked it up sooner.

Coe borrows the title and the structure of the book from a 1960’s camp horror film. I needn’t have worried about watching the movie; the book is more than accessible and stands alone from the film.

The book chronicles the life of the Winshaws, a bunch of philandering, insane, unscrupulous, greedy…the list could go on lets just say they’re a bunch of ‘rich ne’er do wells’!

Michael Owen- a writer with plenty of this own problems- is commissioned by elderly spinster and asylum resident Tabitha Winshaw to chronicle the life of her family. The book is wonderfully split between Michael and his depressing life, which crumbles as he becomes desperately obsessed with the life of the Winshaws, and that of the 6 Winshaw grandchildren. Michael discovers that each of the six is immersed in some shady dealings; there’s a banker, an arms dealer, a politician, a farmer, an art dealer and a journalist. Each one is more dastardly than the last, and each is willing to do anything to be Top Dog in an 80’s world of Thatcherite’s and yuppies.

As Michael delves deeper into the dynasty he discovers that his life is more than slightly intertwined with the Winshaws. The more he tries to move away from them the more they keep cropping up, ending with a bringing together of the Winshaw clan that ends on an oddly ironic note for each of the group.

Coe’s style of writing is wonderful. The satire so sharp you can feel it coming through the page; who cares if the Winshaws are such caricatures’ it doesn’t matter the whole story is so shocking and the Winshaws so blunt you don’t care. There’s comedy that makes you laugh out loud, sadness that tears at your heart, gore that makes you cringe, and mystery that really surprises you.

The writing is accessible, the genres distinct, and the 80’s made to look like a wasteland of ‘Thatcherite Wankers’- and I loved it!


Friday, 8 October 2010

29. On Beauty- Zadie Smith

It is difficult to right a proper synopsis of this book. Like White Teeth, Smith's first novel it is an explosion of characters whose lives intertwine. Where White Teeth was a more comedic effort, this is more of a traditional tale.

Howard Belsey is an academic working at the fictional Wellington College. He is a middle-aged white Englishman, with a Black wife. Kiki is a strong fiercely independent Liberal like her husband. Howard although a popular figure in the racially diverse town in which he lives is not without his prejudices. He has an inability to accept his eldest sons Christian beliefs.

Montague Kipps- Howard's arch-nemesis in the academic world is a Trinidadian born Brit living with his submissive wife in North London with their two grown up-children. He is arrogant, conservative and believes that handouts are for the weak, and people should strive to achieve. His large personality, and arrogance, squashes the character that we never get to see in Carlene his wife. Where Kiki Belsey is strong, Carlene Kipps is weak.

The story begins with the ill-fated romance between Jerome Belsey, and Victoria Kipps. This starts a number of affairs, crushes, and relationships between the families and the further cast of well-written characters. Although many of these affairs etc are short, their impact on the lives of the characters is immense.

It is a story of love, and lust as well as the dominant theme of beauty throughout the novel. There is fat vs. thin. Old vs. young. Black vs. white and strong vs. weak.

My only slight niggle with the book is the length, I found it a little on the long side and I found my attention drifting towards the end of the book.


Monday, 4 October 2010

Oh my

I'm not great at this blogging stuff clearly, I think the problem is that I'm too easily led astray by something else. I have too many hobbies. Reading went poorly this summer, too much to do but I will post the books I've read between No. 25 and now.

Middlesex- 8/10
A Clockwork Orange 8/10
Emma- 6/10

Currently reading: On Beauty by Zadie Smith

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

25. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

This is one of the books that I knew I had to read. Regardless of whether I fully complete this list, this is a book I knew was a must-read. And I'm glad I read it.

The book is absurd beyond belief. It's far-fetched, over the top, and downright silly but it's also an awful lot of fun. I've heard that you either love Douglas Adams, or hate him and after this book I fall into the first category.

Sci-Fi is not a genre I'm a fan of, but this is such a cliche that it comes full circle and you really enjoy it.

If British humour is your thing, and you find Python hilarious then pick it up. I want to keep reading the 'trilogy'.


Monday, 12 April 2010

24. The Maltese Falcon

One of the great things about the list is reading books from genres that I wouldn't usually go near. Crime is one of those areas that I've never really had an interest in. I've read a few of the more modern crime books but not anything in the noir style.

My book promised that is was "one of the best crime novels ever written". Sadly I probably don't agree. I wasn't a fan of Hammett's style, and the book suffered from being overly confusing. So much double-crossing that I found it hard to follow at times. The characters-other than Sam Spade the chain-smoking, tough-talking detective- are pretty one-dimensional and I didn't feel like the story built up to as good a climax as I was expecting.

However, Hammett does have a way with words. His descriptions are great, and the dialogue is wonderfully authentic.

I wouldn't be in a rush to read another Hammett, but I'm glad I came across it.


Thursday, 1 April 2010

Tess of the D'urbervilles

My goodness this book was depressing. Although I was familiar with the general story of Tess, I wasn't aware of just how tragic her life was.

It is an interesting book, and it covers some important and sensitive topics, but at times it is just too bleak for it's own good. Hardy has such a wordy flowery style that at times just seemed rather repetitive. The book is quite choppy and didn't flow in a way that made me want to continue reading it. It wasn't a difficult book to read but I did find it far too long.

I never found myself rooting for Tess, she's so passive that it isn't until the end that I really find myself feeling anything toward her that isn't apathy.

I think it'll be a while before I read another Hardy. I have The Mayor of Casterbridge at home but I think I'll leave it for a bit.


Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Typically British Reading Challenge 2010

To keep up my interest in the list, I thought it would be fun to partake in a challenge. I've picked the 'Typically British Reading Challenge 2010' that is hosted by Book Chick City: Typically British Reading Challenge 2010

I'm going to go for the 'Cream Crackered' level which is 8 books that are written by British writers. I haven't decided what books I'm going to pick yet but I will try and make the next 8 books that I read from the list British ones. I won't start until after I've finished Tess, and will start with the next book I read.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

The Yellow Wallpaper- Charlotte Perkins Gilman

I have started Tess, but this short read came towards me and I finished it off over a lunchtime. At 6000 words it's one of the shortest stories on the list.

The book is narrated by an unamed wife. Her and her husband have taken a house whilst the narrator recovers from nervousness after giving birth (more than likely attributed to Post-natal depression). Their room, once an old nursery is decorated with the yellow wallpaper of the title.

The narrator feels bound to her husband wishes-he is a doctor-and follows his wishes of isolation from her baby, her family, and the outside world. She disagrees with this and makes her own wishes known in her journal which she secretly writes in.

Unfulfilled she sits and stares at the wallpaper which she takes an immediate dislike to. The wallpaper is faded yellow, with patches and rips.

As time goes on the narrator starts to see female human shapes, chaotically strewn throughout the paper. She wants to help them escape, a symbol of her own wanting to escape from the mundanity of married life. From first wanting to leave the room, she soon becomes attactched to it and devotes her days to trying to escape the women she sees from the paper. In her mind she knows that the shapes represent her own desire to escape and this is shown in the way that the wallpaper starts to take on a new life of its own.

Her husband sees her physical state better as her mental state worsens. Her husbands best wishes are actually worsening her condition and she appears as normal as she can to her husband so as not to appear ungrateful.

After reaching the end of her stay in the house, the narrator locks herself in the room and starts to peel off the paper intent on releasing the women from within. Her husband faints on seeing his wife in a room stripped of the paper, and stripped of him.

This is the only book of Gilman's I've read and I'm surprised that it was written so long ago. Gilman has a quite a modern take on feminism and PND which was not a condition that had been discussed at the time. An almost autobiographical tale, Gilman was visiting the real-life Weir Mitchell at the time of writing who was curing her of her own depression.


Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Poor Bloggie

I feel that I've let the blog down, I've been ever so busy with other stuffs that the blog has fallen to the way side. For nearly a year and a half. Ooops.

Also, I've been trying hard not buy books. Not at least until I finish the growing case of books I had.

I downloaded the brilliant 1001 spreadsheet and have now filled it out so it looks nice and shiny. Since I haven't done an update in a while I'll do a new list. And an old list. See, back in 2008 a second edition of the book was done and a whole host of books were removed to make way for new ones so here we go:

The current list:

The Sea- John Banville
Cloud Atlas- David Mitchell
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time- Mark Haddon
Atonement- Ian McEwan
White Teeth- Zadie Smith
The Virgin Suicides- Jeffrey Eugenides
The Wasp Factory- Iain Banks
The Color Purple- Alice Walker
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie- Muriel Sparks
To Kill a Mockingbird- Harper Lee
The Catcher in the Rye- J.D. Salinger
Brideshead Revisited- Evelyn Waugh
Animal Farm- George Orwell
Rebecca- Daphne du Maurier
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn- Mark Twain
Great Expectations- Charles Dickens
Pride and Prejudice- Jane Austen

The Removed Books:

Never Let Me Go- Kazuo Ishiguro
Amsterdam- Ian McEwan
Memoirs of a Geisha- Arthur Golden
Persuasion- Jane Austen

21 in total so we're going along at a snails pace, but I see the weather picking up which is when my reading picks up again. It's nice to be able to walk to work whilst reading a book, something I can't do in the wind, rain, or snow.

I've got Tess of the d'Urbervilles in my bag so that's next up. Hopefully, I can post again soon with a review.