books 2006

    Book Notes 6: Saturday by Ian McEwan

    This is an interesting one: another Booker nominee, if I’m not very much mistaken, and a strange and masterful work. It is a portrait of a single day in the life of its protagonist, one Henry Perowne, a successful neurosurgeon.

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    Book Notes 5: Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami

    I read a review of this book in The Guardian years ago (this one, I think). It sounded absolutely fantastic, and I’ve wanted to read it ever since. But I only got round to buying it recently.

    I was aware, of course, of the danger of approaching a work with unreasonably-raised expectations, so I tried not to. You can’t make yourself think “This won’t be very good,” when you actually think, “This should be pretty good.” The trick, therefore, is to convince yourself to have a slight seed of doubt. I’m not totally sure how well that can ever work, though.

    I did enjoy the book, however: it starts with a light, easy style, and has an endearing central character in Sumire.

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    Book Notes 4: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

    I’ve been reading Neil Gaiman’s blog since the time when he was writing this book — as, I’m sure, have most of us, what with his site being the number one hit on Google when you search for ‘neil’.

    But I hadn’t actually read the book until now. I had read the first chapter online, and I had an idea roughly what it was about: real gods (maybe all gods) walking the Earth in the present day.

    And it’s a stormer of a book. The pages just keep turning, the quotes are quotable (girl-Sam’s “I believe” speech is particularly fine) and myths are mashed up in glorious style.

    It’s shortcomings are, perhaps, that it slows down a bit too much in the middle section; and Wednesday and Shadow make perhaps too many visits to down-at-heel gods without anything very specific happening during them. It reads like a road movie in places (which is fine), and it would probably make a good one.

    There are surprises right up to the end, though, and I’m sure I’ll read it again in the future.

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    Book Notes 3: Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town by Cory Doctorow

    Cory Doctorow’s third novel is his best so far; and it’s strange. Really, really strange.

    It is the story of a man whose father is a mountain and whose mother is a washing machine. These are not metaphors.

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    Book Notes 2: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

    Yes, and only a day after the last one.  It took me a bit longer than that to read it, mind you.

    A science-fiction book that was nominated for the Booker: amazing. And have no doubt about it: this is a science-fiction book. Just as Nineteen Eighty Four is; and Orwell’s masterpiece is perhaps the best reference point for Cloud Atlas. The appearance of O’Brien’s Goldstein‘s book within Winston Smith’s story may well have been a model for Mitchell’s multiply-embedded stories.

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    Book Notes 1: A Dance to the Music of Time vol 1, by Anthony Powell

    This year I’m going to try to record all the books I read, and write mini-reviews of them. I’m not quite going for the "50 Book Challenge" thing, because I doubt that I can actually manage one a week, what with one thing and another. But I ought to be able to get through a few more than last year, since I’m not doing an OU course.  And in fact it’s nearly the end of January, and I have already read three books and started a fourth: so, not too bad, then.  I’m just a bit behind on posting about them.

    For Christmas I got volume 1 of A Dance to the Music of Time: A Question of Upbringing.  I started reading it on Christmas day, so we’ll have to allow the year to start and end there.

    I have been hearing quite a lot about Anthony Powell’s twelve-volume masterpiece recently: there was a whole Radio 4 programme about it, which I heard bits of twice. And I notice John Peel’s Desert Island Discs listing on Wikipedia, recently, and Dance was the book he chose.

    So I was keen to read it, despite having seen the TV adaptation a few years ago, and thought it seem very shallow and superficial.

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