In the last few months I have read a few months and published some reviews on Goodreads. It turns out the site is either bought or in close relationship with FaceBook so I will continue to support this blog site rather than some corporate conglomerate.
At the beginning I just commented on other reviews because I felt I could not do any better than them; for example The Circle, This book is not very good, but you should read it.
Then there are longer reviews of mine … These are of the books I enjoyed most:
Cloud Atlas The travel journal, the lover’s letters, the thriller, the comedy, the sci-fi, and the after-collapse; six novellas in as many different genres and voices. A historic and dystopic vision of human nature, reminding us how it doesn’t matter the century or the level of civilisation – humanity has always been about the strong crushing the weak. And yet, with some extraordinary human treats, how it is possible for the weak to succeed, even if posthumously, and with the help of sometimes a whole community.
There are a few gems for learning for those involved in struggles against the powerful nowadays.
Unlike other books … this book is excellent and every one should read it.
The best bits are when a ‘lowborn’ (a dispossessed) gets the change to point out to a ‘highborn’ (a privileged) ‘this is what happens to us when you lot play your game of thrones’. So universal and timeless.
Now, on with the merciless critique:
Endless lists and descriptions of things that seem to have no relevance for the scene in question, or anywhere else in the book for that matter. Then into the action, which has to be explained by flashback of events that happened in the past, some times interlaced so much with the ‘present’ that you don’t know if you are in the room described or in the fields years ago.
Then the chapter stops in the middle of the action, or in the middle of a conversation, to leave you in a ‘cliffhanger’.
The next chapter that will relate to that character will be a few chapters afterwards (or maybe a book later) and will invariably start again with a lengthy description of places, clothes and food, only to start off new action or dialogue months after that cliffhanger, about which you will find out (or not) in between paragraphs relating to current and past events.
However: an accurate depiction of how politics work in real life. Once you get used and over those shortcomings, I see it as a kind of 1984 only set in the past in order to explain how politics – and all human relations for that matter – work. From what I know of History, it is well applicable to nowadays politics and also all the way back to the time humankind settled down to plant food efficiently so that some privileged could spend time doing other, more fun, less useful things, while generally living a lot better.
Not precisely a book you ‘enjoy’, but so very enriching. A personal memoir as well as a good summary of the knowledge about mental illness and the system that treats them that any parent or sibling of a mentally ill person will gather.
If you discover a child or a sibling of yours has a mental illness and you live in Western Europe, you need to read this book.
Wolf Hall / Bring Up the Bodies I am currently reading the second book, after having read the first. It is not an easy read but still enjoying it. I don’t know what Mantel thought was wrong with Cromwell’s name that she had to substitute it with a ‘he’ every time she refers to him. It would have made sense if there had been no other men in the narration, but there were and too many times it was necessary to re-read whole paragraphs to find out which ‘he’ she was talking about.
In a few occasions there were entire pages of irrelevant non-action and seemingly intentionally confusing writing, like when ‘Liz Cromwell’ seems to be flying (years after she’s dead) and you’re left wondering if you’re reading some one’s dream until a page or two later of the flight’s description when it is finally explained that names of dead ladies have been given to birds.
A great novel and good historical fiction as the rest of the reviews show, but these unnecessary gimmicks that distract from the content of the novel make it a bit difficult to understand that it got so many awards.
In a few places it is a page-turner, but mostly it is not.
Good writing is that which is easy to read. This was not always.
There are even more reviews, of books I read longer ago, in my goodreads page