30 April 2009

On Libraries

I used to be anti-libraries. It was something to do with the fact that I didn't know what previous readers before me had done with the books. I didn't know where they'd BEEN. I mean, for crying out loud, they could have been read in the bath, on the toilet or had coffee spilt on them by someone with a bad cough (all of which I am guilty of... so I KNOW).

HOWEVER, I moved to England, ran out of money and realised I couldn't keep buying books AND drink coffee. Trust me, it was a tough, tough decision. But I realised recycled reading matter was less icky than recycled coffee, sucked it up and joined the local library.

Whilst it has given me the chance to re-read gems such as Vernon God Little (and discover new and exciting titles like The Soldier's Seduction) it is woefully behind the times with new releases. I have been on the waiting list for three months to read a copy of Kate Grenville's latest- The Lieutenant. I am "somewhere near the top of the list." I enquired snarkily if there was only one copy doing the rounds in the borough where I live and where there are 23 libraries. "No," came the indignant reply, "there are three."

The library also has a MORONIC policy about permanent stock (the books that, most people agree, should be kept in circulation all the time.) I was with an 8 year old the other day, trying to get the second Harry Potter. The guy behind the desk (who was about 70 and bald, wearing a bandanna and an earring) yawned and shook his head. "I don't know if we have any copies anymore, I think everyone's read it."

I resisted the urge to snarl and make him walk the plank and took the kid down to Waterstones where we found a copy of the book. I complained to the guy behind the counter about the library stock and he shrugged. "I've never been up there. Not a reader."


29 April 2009

The Plague of Doves (Louise Erdrich)

I know I referenced this book in my post about Olive Kitteridge, saying that I was enjoying it greatly and that it was quite marvellous.
Maybe I can blame what happened next on the rather awful bug I've had... I got bored a few chapters past thinking it was "quite marvellous" and discarded The Plague of Doves, finalist for the Pulitzer this year, for this book:

I am ABSOLUTELY not proud of the fact that I devoured this in about two hours, intermittently sipping green tea, feeling sorry for myself, casting baleful glances at The Plague of Doves and ensuring the cover was face down in case anybody passing by my living room window happened to be close enough to see what the book was called.

I'm not going to lie... this was NOT GOOD. But I feel I do have to share this one little bit o' prose with you, when the hero (Wade) is hinting at his feelings towards the less attractive of a pair of twins (with both of whom he has had an affair): "I love red meat. It doesn't have to be fancy."


Seriously, why would you read anything else when you've got double entendres like that?

Although, truth be told, I feel I may have to give Erdrich's novel another chance, I think I may have been unfair in my quick judgement. Also, Philip Roth said it was a "dazzling masterpiece" and I ADORE Philip Roth. I mentioned him in an earlier post where I said that American Pastoral had definitely deserved to win the Pulitzer. I got to thinking and realised I hadn't actually read it. Oops. This is why I am such a good bookseller.

So, coming up, Philip Roth's American Pastoral!


The Plague of Doves: 8/10 (I'm going on my earlier gut feelings about this).
The Soldier's Seduction: 2/10 (I speak with the authority of having read the entire thing).

27 April 2009

Rant (Chuck Palahniuk)

Ah Chuck, where would I be without you? Who else can enthrall and repulse me with a single, perfectly crafted sentence?

If you only know Chuck as 'that guy who wrote Fight Club', then let me tell you my friend, you are missing out. If you've yet to delve into the messed up world that is Chuck Palahniuk's imagination, then Rant is an awesome place to start. A weird place, but an awesome one.

Meet Buster Casey, known as Rant, the worst Patient Zero in the history of disease. A 'superspreader'. A guy who is addicted to getting bitten by various animals, insects and spiders. A guy who infects hundreds of people with rabies. He turns a Halloween horror house into a real horror house. He single-handily manages to destroy the economy of his hometown. He is so cool.

Rant is written as an oral biography, and we learn about Rant reading anecdotes from various people who knew him - childhood friends, his parents, policemen, a used car sales man and various party crashers / nighttimers. (Just to clarify- a party crasher is someone who goes out driving and crashes into other party crashers for fun. Not an uninvited guest. A nighttimer is someone who is only allowed out at night. Nighttimers are the section of the population who are initially overcome by the rabies epidemic.)

Aside from his crazy crazy spectacular imagination, Chuck is amazing because of his super detailed, ridiculously graphic descriptions - no one else can describe a smell and actually make you feel queasy. Just like reading Fight Club is like getting punched in the face, reading Rant is like getting rabies in the back seat of a car that has just driven off an overpass. *Sigh*

Rating: 9/10

25 April 2009

Paolo Coelho: I Don't Get It

I was wandering down Oxford Street today and I passed by Borders. Wondering what the big bad chain was up to these days I popped in for a stickybeak.

Apparently still catering to the lowest common denominator.

The shelves which house the staff picks were astoundingly mediocre: Lisa Jewell... Maeve Binchy... Jeffrey Archer. There was of course the compulsory Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (there's always at least one staff member who dreams of an orgy of drugs and alcohol whilst driving across America in a convertible.)

However, what distressed me more than the staff picks was the large bay of shelves dedicated to Paolo Coelho's novels. In case you're not sure who that is, he wrote The Alchemist which was a memorable fable told in a beautiful way. It's often a good pick if you need an extra text for English during the HSC.

However, as beautiful as the story is, the writing is very simple. This works for the mystical fable and thoughtful message of The Alchemist, but doesn't translate well for the rest of his writing. The novels are so simply written that they are BORING. It's like listening to a three year old struggling to articulate a thought. You know where they're going but you don't want to jump in and finish the sentence for them because that would be mean and unproductive towards their mental health, so you let them struggle on whilst internally you're screaming in frustration. Then, when said three year old finally makes his point, he repeats it 18 times to make sure you get it.

That's what reading Coelho is like. Brida in particular (his latest) is painful. The New York Times commented that: "Coelho is a novelist who writes in a universal language."

Yah- the language of MEH.

24 April 2009

Olive Kitteridge (Elizabeth Strout)



I have just finished Olive Kitteridge, the novel which just won the Pulitzer. It is amazingly meh. Don't get me wrong, it's very well written. The character of Olive is nicely developed. She has enormous flaws and a grating voice that seems to jump off the page and gnaw at your eardrums yet the reader still feels a great liking and empathy for her.

But ye gods, where is the originality? Where is the x-factor? Where (at the risk of sounding like Billy Flynn) is the pizazz?

I also take issue with the plot, or lack thereof. NOTHING HAPPENS. Everything is alluded to, but no events really ever actually take place. As soon as something interesting is about to happen Strout skips ahead and has her characters looking back at the interesting event. Of course, said interesting event will have been traumatic so the characters don't allow themselves to remember it properly and instead we just get fragments that slip through their emotional defenses. I was sitting there mentally screaming at the book: "Have a meltdown. CRACK. PPLLLEEAASSEE. Emotionally purge yourself. Scream at a person passing by in the street. ANYTHING. I just need to know what's happening!"

There are so many characters as well that I got confused. I would read it again for clarification, but I can't be bothered. I think there may have been two Kevins. Either that or poor old Kevin had one hell of a time.

However, I am about a quarter of the way through The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich, which was one of the runners-up and it is MARVELLOUS. So a favourable review should follow shortly, unless Erdrich drops the ball halfway through.

Rating: 7/10.

22 April 2009

Astrid and Veronica (Linda Olsson)

As stated in an earlier post, I picked this book from the library purely for the cover. A handful of gorgeous, lush raspberries being offered to the reader... my favourite fruit! Deciding this was a sign I checked it out immediately.

It turns out, they weren't raspberries. They were wild strawberries.*
It all went downhill from there.

Veronica is a young woman who has suffered some sort of trauma (we're not clued in from the beginning). She has rented a house in a small village in Sweden to finish her novel and regroup as it were. Astrid is her very elderly neighbour and is the village recluse and/or (depending on who you listen to) witch. They become friends slowly over the summer, sharing their past experiences over good food and wine.

The main problem I had with the novel is that the two women are rather unrelatable, unlikeable even. I think it may have something to do with the way Olsson writes, but the two women appear to be totally unemotional at times and impassive in the extreme. One could argue this is a defence that has been raised to deal with their difficult experiences, but I think it's just a case of 2-D character-itis.

They are most annoying taking it in turns to recount the bad things that have happened to them. Most of the time they will not comfort and respond to the story they have just heard, rather they will just top it with one of their own:

"My father sexually molested me."
"Well, my lover was eaten by a shark."
"Well, my mother killed herself."


The writing is okay, although nothing unique. I found myself vaguely annoyed when the term 'organic' was used to describe two different things within the first chapter, but otherwise it was fine. If you want a novel that doesn't really go anywhere but is quite nice in a depressing, apathetic sort of way go ahead and source a copy.

Rating: 6/10.

*(I think my contacts prescription needs strengthening again. Sigh. Pretty soon I'll be writing reviews of audio books.)

21 April 2009

April Classic: The Master and Margarita

There are those readers out there who don't like to give the classics a go. (There are also those readers out there who don't like to read. Go here.)

I present to you a book (a classic no less) that EVERYONE should find enjoyable, accessible, hilarious and downright moving... Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita.

This is hailed as one of the greatest Russian satires to have ever been written. It attacks, with increasingly dark humour, the Soviet Union and the lack of revolution and true, unfettered thought under a ferocious, authoritative state. One fine spring day, the devil arrives in Moscow, chatting up two prominent Russian thinkers of the time: the poet Berlioz and the journalist known as 'Homeless'. The novel then proceeds to switch back and forth between Jerusalem during the time of Jesus' trial and crucifixion and 1920s Russia, where widespread atheism is the accepted spiritual frame of mind to be in.

The devil's machinations send Homeless into a lunatic asylum where he meets the Master, an author who was driven by despair into the asylum when his manuscript for the alternate story of Pontius Pilate and Jesus Christ failed to get published. He has burned his manuscript and refuses to live in the real world, thus also turning his back on his mistress... Margarita. From this scene comes the most famous line in the book, uttered by the devil: "Manuscripts don't burn". This part of the story would appear to be autobiographical- Bulgakov began writing his first version of The Master and Margarita in 1928 and then burnt the original manuscript. He began writing it again a few years later with the help of his (I imagine long-suffering and incredibly patient) wife.

I don't know enough about Russian history to understand all the subtle nuances of satire and irony that Bulgakov employs (although Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky's excellent translation and notes help somewhat), but this doesn't matter, as Bulgakov writes with such simplicity yet force that the reader cannot help but be swept up into this tale.

The thing that surprised me most about this read was how funny it actually was, it seemed a bit indecent actually. Russian novels are supposed to be unrelenting in their depressing nature. You're supposed to feel as though you'll never be happy again after reading a russian classic. Thus, the devil mincing around in disguise, bickering over warm apricot soda and a cat who packs some serious heat are all welcome diversions. This is a visceral read, you'll feel enlivened, outraged... and seriously, seriously amused.

Rating: 10/10.

N.B. I HAVE read another of Bulgakov's works, thus justifying the Author Love tag. It was A Dog's Heart, wherein a stray dog takes on human form. He then proceeds to become head of cat control. Brilliant.

20 April 2009

Winner of Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2009

The winners have just been announced for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize and Elizabeth Strout has snapped up the prize for fiction for her collection of short stories entitled Olive Kitteridge. The other two finalists were The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich and All Souls by Christine Schutt. For the full list of winners and finalists in all categories, click on the link above to go to the official Pulitzer website.

TYPICALLY, none of the ones we have read won or were finalists, but we'll get reviews up ASAP.

Congratulations Ms. Strout (for the award and the prize money only, we'll reserve praise for the stories until we've actually read them. You never know...)

And our scientist friend is also to be congratulated- two of the three finalists (including the winner) were on his list of predictions. Check out the list again here.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth (Carrie Ryan)

I have wanted to read The Forest of Hands and Teeth ever since an author visiting the shop described it to me as 'the best YA-Adult crossover in a long time'. Was curious to know what could possibly top Twilight, the current (undisputed) reigning champion.

It turns out - not this.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth is the dark creepy forest which surrounds the village where the narrator Mary grew up. Her village is surrounded by a high chain link fence which cannot fall into disrepair - otherwise the zombies will get in.


The zombies (or the 'Unconsecrated' as they are called by the living) spend their days throwing themselves at the fence trying to break through. And one day they do. Our six heroes manage to escape from the village which is overrun by the Unconsecrated by following a fenced path through the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Thrilling stuff.

What annoyed me about this book is the fact that nothing gets resolved. Before the village wall is breached, there is a whole mystery involving the 'Sisterhood' who are in charge in the village. You are given the idea that they are hiding something, a couple of clues are revealed, and then before you figure anything out, everyone is eaten by zombies. No closure is possible once your brains have been eaten.

I will admit that plot inadequacies aside, this is one freaky zombie book. I finished it at two in the morning, after staying up late in the hope of reaching a happy ending. (I was disappointed there...try instead a bleak bleak bleak ending.) Was creeping downstairs to get a drink when my housemate popped her head out of her room and told me she couldn't sleep. I replied "Me neither! I'm scared of zombies!" Long pause... Housemate: "Oh...my room was just a bit stuffy..."

If you want a freaky zombie story and don't care that there is no plot resolution, and the romantic storyline is brought to an abrupt halt (a scythe is involved)...read this. Otherwise, I think you're stuck with Twilight for the time being.

I can't really thing of a rating for this book, nothing fits...if you are a zombie fan then you might enjoy it. I was relieved when I finished the book, and didn't enjoy reading it at all, but maybe I'm just a wuss.

19 April 2009

PUHLEASE-itzer 2009

Tomorrow, at 3pm EST, the Pulitzer will be announced and we are both very, very excited.

That... is a lie.

The Pulitzer is always a bit hit and miss. The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao was... NOT wow (I am HILARIOUS)... March was no more than glorified fan-fiction... I have tried to read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay so many times it is now my Everest... The Hours was soporific.

Which doesn't mean the judges cannot recognise brilliance. American Pastoral was superb, The Road was phenomenal and To Kill a Mockingbird... enough said.

The Pulitzer is a different award to most in that it does not announce a shortlist- on the day we are just presented with the winner and a runner-up. A very intelligent man (who obviously needs more to do) built a model last year predicting the 10 books most likely to win the Pulitzer. Considering he had both the winner and the runner-up on the list, that's pretty nifty regression analysis in my opinion. (Ahem, I have no idea what that means, I lifted it from the article.) If you want to read the rest of the article, including the list of books he predicts for 2009, click here.

I've only read four on the list: A Mercy by Toni Morrison, Indignation by Philip Roth, Netherland by Joseph O'Neil, and Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri. I didn't like the last, so I'm not pushing for that and on the others I'm undecided, but I reckon Netherland is in with a pretty good chance, at either winner or runner-up. (If only because it's about cricket.)

Undoubtedly it will go to one I haven't read... sigh. Starving children in Africa have NOTHING on me and my troubles.

Most punters seem to be backing Morrison's prequel to her Pulitzer-winning Beloved, but we'll all know tomorrow. Any further predictions are welcome, but they don't count after 3pm EST.

17 April 2009

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Stieg Larsson)

So- my Easter crime read.

I normally try to avoid those fad books which everyone in the world is reading, if only so that my experience of the book isn't coloured by all the hype. In this case, I was after a book which would have a gripping, amazing, unputdownable plot, so I delved into one of the books of the moment, Swedish crime *sensation* The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

Mikael Blomkvist is a journalist hired to write a family history of the Vanger family, one of the families of industry in Sweden. Whilst he is at it, Henrik Vanger would like Blomkvist to figure out who killed his niece (? I think it was his niece - it is a ridiculously large, extended family, I didn't really keep track of how everyone was related) Harriet forty years previously. We also meet a serial killer with a strange strange bible fetish and a computer hacker with anger management problems.

So far so good...

I don't really know how this measures up in terms of being a good thriller (except..I wasn't really 'thrilled' at any point). Interesting plot? Yes! That extra x-factor that makes you stay up until 4 in the morning reading? No. I trotted off to work this morning with ten pages to go, happy to leave it behind as there wasn't enough book left to sustain two train trips and a lunch break. But what does it say about an 'unputdownable' thriller that ten pages before the end I was able to walk out on it? I know I pretty much stand alone with this point of view, I was assured by colleagues, customers and friends that it would grab me and not let go. Unfortunately it did not do what it said on the label.

Interesting tidbit (maybe... it's quite a well-known tidbit so maybe not...) Stieg Larsson wrote three novels which make up the Millennium trilogy, of which Dragon Tattoo is the first. He delivered all three to his publisher and promptly died of a heart attack without living to see the insane popularity of his books. Most people say 'how sad' on learning this, I am inclined to be suspicious...just like Blomkvist, Larsson was an investigative reporter... maybe he was poking his nose in where it wasn't welcome... and someone felt the need to silence him for good...


15 April 2009

On Ratings

Earhart and I enjoy the freedom this blog gives us to express our distaste or great love (it rarely falls in the middle) for the books we cram into our heads on a relatively regular basis. We also particularly like our ratings table, as it is a fair reflection of what we find important in a novel (as well as what we could do without).

People have asked why we review books that we KNOW are probably going to be a load of rubbish (e.g. books with sparkly covers... books with the endorsement 'jaunty' splashed across the cover... books with overly aggressive marketing schemes... etceterrahhh, etcetterrahhh). The answer is this: it is not possible to fully scorn a book unless you have actually read it. I respect those who read a novel and disliked it, I pity and loathe those who didn't read it yet still feel confident in loudly expressing their dislike of said novel.

Also, there is much to be said for ensuring your reading tastes occasionally include those novels catering to the lowest common denominator. Too much Dostoevsky, Ibsen and Proust and you'll find yourself struggling to conduct a normal conversation, totally unable to embrace the usual spectrum of human emotion and instead employing the desperate reaches of your literary paladins. You will increasingly find yourself the only person worth talking to at a cocktail party and discreet bodyguards will have you removed from the premises after you are found talking forcefully to yourself in the bathroom whilst setting off the smoke alarm with your roll-up and writing a Dear John letter to your intellectually challenged yet insipidly beautiful beloved on the wallpaper with a fountain pen that once belonged to Sir Walter Scott that you bought for 18000 quid.

A dire situation to find yourself in, I'm sure you'd agree.

All this is apropos of our stand that we can rate and review books dependent on our mood, fancy or size of pay-off we are getting from the publisher. (Sigh, this last one hasn't happened but we can only hope, one day, some day, our literary ethics will be compromised and we will find ourselves swimming through the Venetian canals. We will be so rich we will have had them cleaned.)

AND, this goes to say that other websites should also be able to rate books as they see fit. Like Amazon. TECHNICALLY, they can organise their ratings any way they see fit.

HOWEVER, if it is true that they have removed the sales rankings from literature it classifies as 'adult' (which includes themes of homosexuality) then I am horrified and demand the fascists attend a seminar on 'Getting By in the 21st Century When You Have the Emotional Intelligence of a Medieval Frog'.

How We Are Hungry (Dave Eggers)

I don't often enjoy the concept of the short story in it's singular form. I recently read the short story written in 1973 by James Tiptree Jr.: The Women Men Don't See. Well-written, insightful and semi-plausible... until the aliens turn up. And I KNOW it's sci-fi and therefore I shouldn't be complaining, but in the form of a short story there is little scope already for development of plot and character; throwing aliens in at the end seems like a last ditch attempt to go out on a bang, with no regard for the fact that the rest of the story, whilst on a deserted island, is supernatural-free.

HOWEVER, the short story COLLECTION is another thing altogether. Reading an excellent collection of short stories (by the SAME AUTHOR, none of these awful compilations please) is much like listening to an album that has obviously been constructed with each song part of a larger story, everything flowing and melding perfectly.

This is what Dave Eggers offers us with his 2004 collection How We Are Hungry. Often the short story author will attempt to create synergy be setting all stories in the same town, or having the characters weave in and out of each story, or have an overly obvious theme like several people all dealing with the shock of an apocalypse-free reality after the year 2000. Eggers bypasses any such clumsy amalgamations and instead presents us with 15 stories which appear to share little at the outset. However, at least to me, reading the book it seemed obvious that Eggers had finished each story and moved with ease onto the next one... his thoughts flow with purpose throughout and I didn't feel in the least disjointed or unsatisfied, which is how I often feel when reading the short story.

Hope you all had a good Easter... I had a marvellous time away, made even more so by this exciting tidbit I picked up: WH Smith now apparently have a 'Misery Literature' section. I kid you not. I am SUPER excited to check it out and feel as though, considering our tastes run in that direction a lot of the time anyway, we should think about having a Mislit Feature. GLORIOUS!!
Rating: 8/10.

08 April 2009

Easter Hiatus

So, what are you all going to read for Easter?

The pile by my bed looks quite unappetising at the moment. I have Astrid and Veronika... a novel I chose simply for the cover. I am now having second thoughts since I discovered the author wrote the book in New Zealand. Dave Eggers' How We Are Hungry should be brilliant, but considering it's a collection of short stories I doubt I'll get that emotionally involved. For the Easter Weekend, the most solemn occasion on the chocolate calendar, I think some emotional involvement is called for.

Which just leaves The Master and the Margarita. I've read it before, but it's going to be the April Classic and a re-reading is justified I feel.

Away I am to spring festivities in the west, so I will be on hiatus until Tuesday.

EDIT: I, Earhart, will also be hiatusing this Easter, I am not going to 'the west' (?) but I am however having a party, and then I am delving into a crime read. Very not me I know, but we'll see how it goes...stay tuned.

Dyslit: Oryx and Crake

So don't blame me for the huge gap between announcing cool new segment and it actually being posted. Alcott was all 'I'll start with Never Let Me Go' and then just didn't so I held off posting so as not to step on anyone's toes. And then I gave up waiting because I was rawther excited about this new segment. As Alcott mentioned, I love dyslit, and what better way to start the segment off than with the book that turned me into a dyslit girl- Oryx and Crake. Ahhhh.....Where can I begin?

How about this sentence, lifted from the back cover, which perfectly summarises the opening scene: 'A man, once called Jimmy, now calls himself Snowman and lives in a tree, wrapped in old bed sheets, eating mangoes'. Awesome. Jimmy lives in some kind of post-apocalyptic world, although the exact nature of the apocalypse is revealed tantalisingly slowly throughout the story. Really, in Oryx and Crake you get a double dyslit: you get Jimmy now as Snowman, in the wastelands of earth, and you get Jimmy as Jimmy, growing up in a strange, strange society. Genetic modification not only takes place, but it essentially rules society. Get a job working for OrganInc or HelthWyzer and you are set for life. (OrganInc - the guys that brought you the pigoon - kind of like a pig, but fatter to allow space for the 4 or 5 human kidneys they've got growing inside them). Hungry? Try a bucket of chickie-nubs - kind of like chicken nuggets, except the thing they came from looks nothing like a chicken as we know it.

The great thing about this dyslit is that none of the technology is really out-there fantastic. Instead, what has changed (and messed up society a lot) is genetic modification. This is the first book I ever read and thought 'That was a ten out of ten.' While opinions about Margaret Atwood can be polarising, I think everyone who want a fascinating book to start (or just develop) a dyslit obsession needs to read this one. And just to tantalize you a little bit more - I think Oryx and Crake has THE best ending of a book I have ever read.


06 April 2009

The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)

I read this on my second week in London. I was living in a hostel, the new Best Friends Forever I'd met the night before had moved on to Libya and I was sitting in the common room being chatted to by a very intense young German man who spoke very little English and talked for fifteen minutes straight about the washing tokens the hostel offered and the different options available to us. He left to go check on his delicates and I pounced on the nearest book at hand, planning to be fully engrossed by the time he came back.

First chapter in I was slightly panicked. How was I going to feign excitement and engrossment in a thick as a brick tome on cathedral building in the middle ages? The Pillars of the Earth... for CRYING OUT LOUD... I might as well have grabbed the dictionary.

Second chapter in I went up to bed early, book in hand.
Half way through and the next morning at breakfast I barely gave the SPANISH GOD in the corner a perfunctory once-over.

Admittedly the writing is a little pedestrian, the relationships tedious and predictable and the character of Tom Builder hard to take at times.

But really, if it's a book about cathedral building and I couldn't wait to get back to it in between sight-seeing, I'm thinking there's something good about it. Fully recommended holiday reading for those who don't mind paying extra for excess baggage weight.

Rating: 7/10.

01 April 2009

Love in the Time of Cholera (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)

I have come across a new way to get into a book. I started reading Love in the Time of Cholera two weeks ago and kept putting it down, happy to read anything else if it would save me from the trudging toil of reading this. But then I said sternly to myself "Marquez is a genius. You LOVED Memories of My Melancholy Whores. You SALIVATED over One Hundred Years of Solitude. GET IT TOGETHER."

So I read the last page. And then the second last page. And then the third last page. And then I skipped to the beginning of the last chapter. THEN I was having so much fun I read the entire book like that... chapter by chapter.

Admittedly I remain a little confused. I believe I missed some vital moments doing this, and I sort of destroyed the flow of Marquez's words. But I quite enjoyed the novel regardless!! It's a very sad tale of an unrequited love that rights itself in the end, with beautiful writing and gorgeous descriptions.

Just... a little TOO much on the descriptions Marquez. I mean, listen, you're a Nobel Prize winning novelist and if you want to put them in then I guess it's your call, but I didn't really need all the anecdotes on the pureed eggplant and the boots and the godfather's chronic constipation.

ALSO, I don't want to read about love that takes half a century to find fulfillment, only to have Florentino (the guy) complain that his lady love (Fermina) smells old: "...she had the sour smell of old age... It was the smell of human fermentation."


Otherwise, thumbs up Marqy Marq.

Rating: 8/10.
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