Author Archives: BookerTalk
This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is The Last Ten Books That Gave Me a Book Hangover .
Though its many, many years since I experienced a hangover, I can still remember the symptoms. The disturbed sleep; the thudding headache and the feeling of nausea.
No-one really goes out drinking with the intention of getting a hangover do they? No more than I ever deliberately choose books that I think will give me a hangover feeling. But some of them do provoke those unwelcome reactions.
I’m thinking here of books that have complex plots or complicated structures or are written in a very dense style.
How Late it Was How Late by James Kelman
Appropriately this Booker Prize winner begins with the protagonist Sammy waking up in a lane after a two-day drinking binge. It would have been challenging enough to understand because everything that happens to this guy is told in stream of consciousness style. But its made even more challenging because the story is rendered in a working class Scottish dialect. (Imagine a drunken rant by Billy Connolly and you might get the picture). I struggled my way through just over 100 pages but then decided I’d had enough.
The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett
This was a clever novel of two characters and three versions of their lives. The chapters switch between the different versions of the couple but at the exact same point in time. It was a fascinating approach to narration but I did find it confusing initially and had to take notes to keep each couple and each version clear in my head.
Midnights Children by Salman Rushdie
Rushdie’s much-lauded novel falls into the category for me of “impressive rather than enjoyable.” It had such a dazzling array of allusion and digressions plus political references I didn’t understand that reading it felt like wading through mud. I could read only a couple of pages a night.
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
A beautifully contrived novel with two time zones and two settings that incorporates several themes. One of them considers the elusive nature of time:
In the time it takes to say now, now is already over. It’s already then. Then is the opposite of now. So saying now obliterates its meaning, turning it into exactly what it isn’t. It’s like the word is committing suicide or something.
Maybe not the best thing to read late at night when the brain wants to shut down. But worse was to come – a section that baffled me was an explanation of a thought experiment called Schrödinger’s Cat which tries to explain how a being may be simultaneously both alive and dead.
The books in this group are all books that were so engrossing I had to keep reading, even though it was far beyond lights out time.
Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel
Boy am I glad I’m not reading this right now. It’s premise of a flu virus that is so virulent it wipes out 99% of the world’s population would be rather too close for comfort to the current Coronovirus outbreak. It does make you worry about how you’d cope in a world where everything you know no longer exists.
The North Water by McGuire, Ian
Long listed for the Man Booker 2016, this is a fast-paced novel that pulls no punches about the brutal and bloody business of whaling in the 1840s. It leaves no doubt that this is a business in which only the most nimble, selfish and ruthless men will survive.
The Hours by Michael Cunningham
I imagine there are English lit students beavering away even now on comparative essays involving The Hours and Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway. That wasn’t what kept me awake however. The Hours is simply a brilliant novel of three generations of women who all, in different ways, suffer issues of mental health and alienation.
Horror stories or tales with graphic violence are absolutely not to my taste. Sometimes however you can’t avoid an element of violence or passages which are not for the faint-hearted.
The opening chapters of Alex are gruesome; definitely not for the squeamish. But just when you think you can’t bear to read any more, Lemaitre masterfully brings us some relief in the form of the police hunt for a girl who’s been abducted. If it hadn’t switched gear I couldn’t have continued reading.
Lullaby by Leïla Slimani
The beauty of Lullaby is that it contains the suspense of violence without forcing us to confront its reality. We know right from the beginning that a nanny kills two children in her care. The interest isn’t what she did but why.
Pure by Andrew Miller
The smell of stench and decay is impossible to avoid when you read this book. Set in Paris the book introduces us to an engineer charged with removing the graves from a cemetery in the city. But the stench of corruption and evil presages what happens a few years later when the Revolution is in full flood (or should that be full blood?)
I fell out of the habit of doing the Top Ten Tuesday posts but let’s see if this week’s topic re-ignites my enthusiasm.
In a week that includes St Valentine’s Day, it’s appropriate that the topic is is: a Love Freebie. I’ve chosen books with the word love in the title. or a word associated with that emotion. The first group are books I’ve read (links are to my reviews) and the rest are ones that are on my shelves waiting to be read.
Nina Bawden, A Little Love, a Little Learning
By far the best of the three books I’ve read by Nina Bawden. It’s about a family whose unremarkable life is disturbed by the arrival of an old friend with an insatiable appetite for gossip.
William Boyd, Love is Blind
Not one of Boyd’s best unfortunately. It’s a tale of the obsessive love of a Scottish piano tuner for a Russian singer. But it moves at a very slow pace and it quite repetitive. It was hard to get enthused about whether the piano tuner gets his girl in the end.
Nancy Mitford, Love in a Cold Climate
This is meant to be a very witty novel about the daughter of a wealthy family who wants to marry a very unsuitable man. Her mother wants her to marry someone wealthy. I’d say its more slightly amusing than sparkling with wit.
Since I have only three books that strictly speaking contain the word love, I’m going to exercise some creativity with my next two choices.
Andrew Taylor, Bleeding Heart Square
The heart is meant to be the organ of love isn’t it? This isn’t really a hearts and roses kind of tale however, it’s set in a grubby corner of London where Oswald Mosely blackshirts roam the streets.
Brian Moore, The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne
A terrific novel about a lonely down at heel spinster in Ireland who desperately wants to find love and a husband. Her lets her imagination run away with her with a desperately sad consequence.
Let’s see what I have on my TBR that fits the brief.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera
I know this is highly regarded. I know Marquez is a Nobel prize winning author. But I have tried three times to read this book and have failed every time. I’m going to give it one more go but if the experience is repeated, it’s going in the bag of donations to a charity second hand bookshop.
Nadeem Aslam, Maps for Lost lovers
I can’t even remember buying this book let alone recall anything about it. Goodreads came to my rescue and told me that ostensibly it’s about the murder of a pair of lovers. But in fact its a dissection of working-class Pakistani immigrant communities that have settled in the north of England over the last 40 years. Anyone read this? If so, is it worth reading?
Toni Morrison, Beloved
One that it seems ‘everyone’ has read. I’ll get to it – sometime…..
Thorne Moore, Mother Love
The second novel by this Welsh author. I bought it after enjoying her debut A Time For Silence. It’s a psychological thriller involving three women. One horrified to be pregnant again, one who is desperate to adopt and the third who is terrified her baby will be taken from her.
Hanne Ørstavik, Love
This is the shortest book I have on my shelves. It was chosen as part of my subscription to the Asymptote Book Club. I have high hopes for this based on my experience of another of Ørstavik’s books – The Blue Room – which was also a Asymptote Book Club choice. According to The Guardian, Love, is “an eerie, devastating little book about a mother and son in the far north of Norway.” Maybe not the kind of book associated with romance but then love doesn’t always turn out happily does it?
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. To join in, just visit her blog.