Mini Reviews [June 2018]

So I missed the last month post and this is a make-up. Hence, labelled June when it’s now July. Just thought I’d explain the obvious. A lot of these are books I’ve mentioned before but not reviewed. Fair warning, a lot of it is Terry Pratchett.

1) Equal Rites (Terry Pratchett)
In this book (Discworld #3, Witches #1) we meet Granny Weatherwax and her protégé, Eskarina, a girl who is accidentally given the power of wizardry by a dying wizard who anticipates that he is passing on his powers to the eighth son of an eighth son. But Eskarina is the eighth daughter, and he didn’t really think about that. In the Discworld, women can’t be wizards, only witches, but Esk finds it hard to escape the fact that she has the gift of wizardry. This is one of the earliest Discworld novels so while the narrative was easy and humorous, I didn’t find it to be as interesting as I’d hoped. It’s funny, but not that funny, and not as well-crafted as some of the later novels. The ideas towards the end become more abstract than I’d like, particularly when it comes to the antagonists. And, of course, while Granny Weatherwax on her own is a solid character, I missed her companion witches (Nanny Ogg, Magrat, even Agnes). If you’re a beginner to Discworld and you want to read something involving the witches I’d start with Wyrd Sisters perhaps.

2) Witches Abroad (Terry Pratchett)
The plot in this one (Discworld #12, Witches #3) is slightly more complicated and involves three witches (mother, maiden, and in keeping with the text…the other one) who go ‘abroad’ to sort out the dilemma assigned to them by the recently-deceased fairy godmother Desiderata. Their aim is to journey to Genua to prevent a certain glass-slippered-legend’s predictable ‘happy ending’. As they meet dwarves, fairy tale characters and voodoo women, the witches (in their usual uproarious, clumsy and clever fashion) attempt to unravel the mysteries at work in the city of Genua. Nanny Ogg’s beloved cat Greebo comes along too. Although I think Pratchett’s novels sometimes lack narrative consistency, this was enjoyable and definitely recommended if you’re a Discworld fan. Sometimes all the details didn’t come together for me, but it was a fun read nonetheless.

3) Lords and Ladies (Terry Pratchett)
Warned you there’d be a lot of these; Discworld #14, Witches #4. While I expected this to be some courtly affair, the ‘lords and ladies’ in question are the fair folk, and they’re up against the witches while Magrat desperately tries to get used to the idea of being Lancre’s new queen. I think this is far more mature an attempt than say Equal Rites and it certainly features some good comedic scenes. (Also, I’m a big fan of the Orangutan librarian of the Unseen University.) Pratchett is rarely a disappointment on that front.

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4) Lincoln in the Bardo (George Saunders)
Narrated in a chorus of voices stuck in the ‘bardo’ (the limbo between death and reincarnation in the Tibetan tradition), Saunders delineates the post-mortem scenario which greets Willie Lincoln, dead of typhoid at eleven. Experimental in format and tone, the novel pulls and quotes directly from historical sources which focussed on Abraham Lincoln; some chapters are made up entirely of quotes. There’s no doubt that Saunders did a great deal of research to write this novel, but I feel Willie Lincoln could have been anybody, and had he been anybody, perhaps the greater significance of the novel would have remained unchanged. But perhaps this is part of the novel’s charm, that human grief is so universal. While I found this interesting to read, I won’t say I loved it, it was at times a little too perverse, at other times a little too quote-based and strange. There are some parts I found genuinely fascinating though. By and large I’m not tripping over myself to recommend it, it definitely isn’t for everyone, but I can understand, to some extent, why it’s been so well-received, but I can also understand why it might be polarising. I find myself caught in the middle.

5) Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy)
It would probably be highly disrespectful to give this a ‘mini review’ and I will not do so. I am glad I read it, and I think that anyone who wants to should give it a try, and be patient for at least a hundred pages before giving up. I look forward to reading War and Peace…maybe even sometime this year, you never know.

Have you read any of these?

2 Replies to “Mini Reviews [June 2018]”

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