Mini Reviews [October 2018]

How the year has flown by. And how awful I’ve been at blogging. Well, not too bad, but I’m really bad at saying hi to people and reading other blogposts (the wordpress app isn’t great, I’ve got to say), which I realise is an essential part of blogging. As an introvert, I often find it difficult to approach people like that, but equally, I think saying “say hi!” is a bit too much to expect of others because I know there’s a lot of introverts out there. Anyway, let’s get to it. I’ve got to write better intros. I read a couple books. Here are some thoughts.

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1) Elmet (Fiona Mozley)
It’s practically impossible to tell what this book is about from the dustjacket, but essentially it’s a modern Robin Hood-esque kind of narrative about two children, Daniel and Cathy, and their father, living a life rooted to the land. This book has been praised for its linguistic lyricality and that’s definitely a huge factor in its favour; there’s a definite beauty to the way Mozley uses words. But there’s also (unexpectedly) a lot of sympathy to be found in these characters. And it’s been a while since I felt so emotionally invested in fiction (it doesn’t happen for me often) in a sense that I was touched and (naturally) totally helpless. I don’t think I went into this book expecting much (primarily because I had no idea what it was about), and I probably haven’t given you too many details. The plot isn’t very strong but I don’t think it was intended to be. But if you like thoughtful, strong prose and can handle a couple of tragic turns, I’d give this a go. I think a few people might find it slow; you can probably tell whether you’re up for it or not by the style of the writing, I suppose.

2) Eating Animals (Jonathan Safran Foer)
Non-fiction, and what it says on the tin. This is primarily a US-centric narrative, and I read it for some research I’m doing, but I found it to be helpful, compact and well-researched. As you can imagine, it’s basically about the factory-farming system and the question of its sustainability and the morality operating behind it. It really does take a good look at the issue from all angles. I found it to be a good introduction to the animal rights issue as someone who’s relatively new to the theory of it. Some of it (I’m thinking of the chapter breakup images, specifically) felt a little gimmicky, but apart from that, I think it’s been really useful to me. If you’re new to the whole concept of how factory-farming flies in the face of animal rights, I’d definitely recommend it (bearing in mind that it works primarily to discredit the system).

3) Flowers in the Attic (V.C. Andrews)
For some reason, I was under the (mistaken) impression that this was some kind of classic, you know, the way Poe and Jackson are. I was wrong. Or maybe I wasn’t wrong, I don’t know. Cathy (the narrator), her brother Chris, and their twin siblings are hidden away for what their mother promises will be a short time, for the greater good. Unsurprisingly, it’s not a short time at all. There’s only one thing to be learned from this highly disturbing mess: don’t let your mother lock you in the attic. Honestly, I’m not opposed to reading novels that come with their fair share of gruesomeness and horror, god knows my addiction to mysteries and thrillers means I’m always going to be reading this stuff, but this was just not my cup of tea. If it’s yours, I guess that’s cool. I’ve got nothing bad to say about it really, apart from that it’s extremely perverse for what I assume is sensational value, but a lot of books are. I wouldn’t recommend it, but I suspect it’s not really the kind of book anyone reads on recommendation anyway. On the advice of a friend I read up the summaries for the next couple books, because it’s a series. Then I felt exhausted. I drank some tea. This family is really messed up.

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4) The Party (Robyn Harding)
Advertised as a domestic drama, basically it’s another “everything’s perfect but everyone’s got secrets” story. Kim and Jeff think their kids are more or less perfect, so they’re more than shocked when a simple sleepover at their daughter Hannah’s sixteenth birthday party goes horribly wrong. This was really a very mediocre read, bit of a let down. I was disappointed a third in but was determined to finish it. The plot isn’t great, the writing is okay but nothing to write home about, and the characters (particularly the teens) seem a bit caricature-ish to me. No doubt it’s difficult for adults to write realistic teen characters, and kids are cruel, but I feel like this was a bit out there on the whole. Everything was explored at a very shallow level and the novel isn’t of much psychological interest despite the fact that several characters are driven by motivations that are more evil than good. I’d pass on this.

5) The Night Child (Anna Quinn)

This is a short, sensitively-handled piece of fiction about a high school English teacher, Nora Brown, married with a child (six year old Fiona whom she loves dearly) and haunted by something of a recurring hallucination. Reluctantly, driven to desperation and fearful that she’s losing her mind, she seeks therapy in order to understand the persistent image of a blue-eyed young girl whose face she keeps seeing. Maybe it’s because I’m a cynic, but there’s not much mystery to this novel – you can probably already tell what it’s about. That aside, I still think Quinn did a decent job with the difficult revelations held in this book, and she handled it with maturity. I think the strongest point in favour of the book is its exploration of emotional scarring, and although I thought the ending was a bit of a cop out, the book seems to have been written with a strong awareness of what she was dealing with on the author’s part. It’s not much of a mystery, but it’s short and I think, valuable for its insight.

I know I should be doing a full-length review at some point considering this is a book review blog, but nothing I’ve read recently has really warranted it. Time to start catching up on things, really.

2 Replies to “Mini Reviews [October 2018]”

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