The Sense of an Ending- Julian Barnes

I read the other day that the Man Booker Prize  for 2011 had been awarded to The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. It occurred to me that I had the book in ‘My Tower of Shame’, I decided it was time to see what the fuss was about. The only thing that stopped me reading this in one sitting was that I had to go to sleep to get up for work the next morning. Unlike some books that win various prizes, that when read leave you wondering what the judges were thinking, this book is excellent.

It is in a sense a memoir, but not. It is about history, the personal kind, and the fallibility of memory for the reliable retelling of our stories. It is the story of Tony Webster, now in his sixties. He is remembering the key moments in his youth. His friendship with boys he met at school, and most notably that of Adrian, the boy who came to the group late, and whose high opinion the other sought. He remembers the first woman he loved, and the lasting effect that his own interpretation of the memories of that time have had on him. It is also about suicide, and divorce and being a father, and of life continuing on and on to its inevitable conclusion. He talks about how when we are young, we are ‘still waiting for life to start, not realising that it has in fact already begun’. Then in our middle age we realise that the opportunities to effect any real change in our lives has gone, and that this is probably ‘it’.

I just finished reading this morning, and I confess that a lot of it has probably gone over my head, and I won’t get it until after, when I’ve had a chance to ruminate and mull over it. But, that in itself is a measure of how superb this book is. So many books are fine, and a good way to pass the time and escape from reality for a while. There is nothing wrong with that, in fact it can be a pleasure in and of itself. But, great literature is the kind that stays with you for months, if not years later, while you try to figure out the enigma of it.

A great book and a worthy winner, and at no more than 150 pages a quick and satisfying read. Well worth picking up.

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner: An Eclipse Novella- Stephenie Meyer

Cover of "Short Second Life of Bree Tanne...

Cover via Amazon

Those of you who know me will be surprised that it has taken me this long to read this book. I am such an avid fan of all things Twilight that you would think I would have devoured it within hours of its release. But, I didn’t. I think that perhaps that I was worried that The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer wouldn’t live up to the high expectations of the series, and so ruin my overall love of the books. I am happy to say that I was pleasantly surprised.

Although not quite in the same league as the longer four books in the series, given that I did end up devouring this in a matter of hours is testament to the fact that I love how Meyer writes, and that its been too long since I last re-read the Twilight series.  However, I will say this, I doubt very much that anyone not already a fan of her work will read this and go “Ah! That’s what they’re all talking about”. In fact, the book does presuppose that the reader is familiar with at least the basic premise of the books.

Bree Tanner runs parallel with the last moments of Eclipse, the third book of the series. In characteristic Stephenie Meyer fashion, it is a first person perspective  of one the ‘newborn’ vampires that have been created by Victoria to kill Bella, thereby avenging her own mate James, who was killed by Edward in the first book.  However, Victoria (and subsequently her partner Riley) is not interested in the ‘newborns’ as anything other than pawns in her plan for revenge. The ‘newborns’ have been left ‘in the dark’ so to speak about the new life that they have been brought into, and so are unaware of exactly what the rules are, and what their abilities and limitations are. Through Bree’s eyes we see her, and her new-found paramour Diego (another vampire, a couple of months older than she) discover this world together.

As I said, I doubt that this will interest anyone not already into the Twlight phenomenon. But, if like me you have been hesitant because you were concerned it would be awful, I can tell you it is well worth getting hold of. Now, if we can just get her to finish Midnight Sun

I’ve been wanting to read a Steampunk book for a while now and I just don’t know where to start, It’s something I’ve always been interested in reading though. I have heard of a book called “The Difference Engine” by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, apparently this is one of the most defining Steampunk books around but I have also read some really bad reviews about the book so I was undecided whether I was willing to spend the money on a book in an unknown genre by and unknown author.

 

 

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Leeswammes' Blog


Literary Giveaway Blog Hop

Welcome!

Welcome to the Literary Giveaway Blog Hop!

The Literary Giveaway Blog Hop is hosted by me, Leeswammes. Between now and Wednesday, October 19th, you can hop to over 50 different book blogs, all offering one or more giveaways of books or bookish items. All books are literary (non)fiction or something close to that. Follow the links at the bottom of this post to find the other participating blogs.

My Giveaway

As part of the blog hop I will be giving away a paperback copy of this book: When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman. The book has been gently read. The giveaway is open worldwide.

When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah WinmanWhen God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman

Description (from the publisher): “Spanning four decades, from 1968 onwards, this is the story of a fabulous but flawed family and the slew of ordinary and extraordinary incidents that shape their everyday lives…

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The Hunger Games (Unabridged)- Suzanne Collins [Narrator: Carolyn McCormick]

Cover of "The Hunger Games"

Cover of The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, is the first of the Hunger Games Trilogy. It is a Young Adult, Sci-Fi thriller that keeps moving from beginning to end. I listened to this as an audio book, the first that I’ve listened to. I don’t think I could have found a better choice to try the medium. This book is awesome.

In a post-apocalyptic world, twelve districts are governed by The Capital. Some time ago the districts rose up in rebellion, against The Capital. The Capital ruthlessly crushed their rebellion, and ever since they have used every means at their disposal to keep the districts subjugated and cowered. (There were originally thirteen districts, but District 13 were completely annihilated.)Their most ingenious, and diabolical means of controlling the districts are through ‘The Hunger Games’.

Each year one boy and one girl, between the ages of twelve and eighteen, from each of the twelve districts are selected by way of a ballot to enter ‘The Games’ which is a Survivor style game, televised for the titillation of the people of the Capital. The winner of ‘The Games’, is the last competitor still alive.

The story is told by Katniss Everdeen, a sixteen year old girl, living with her mother and younger sister in ‘The Seem’, the most impoverished area of District 12. She has taken on the role of ‘bread-winner’ since her father died in the mines, doing all she can to keep her family fed. When her twelve-year-old  sister, Prim, is pulled out during ‘The Reaping’, Katniss volunteers to take her place.

As I said, this is fantastic. Apparently, the series is in the process of becoming the next big movie franchise, in the tradition of the Harry Potter and Twilight series. I can see that this (and I am assuming the two subsequent novels) will make terrific movies. I most definitely look forward to seeing them.

There is an enormous amount of hype around this book, and that is likely to increase prior to the film’s release. Sometime that can be off-putting, and suggestive of a less than satisfactory read. DO NOT be put off by the  hype. For once, the accolades and excitement around this book are thoroughly deserved.

Inga the Viking Girl- Jacqueline Grant Kent

Inga the Viking Girl by Jacqueline Grant Kent is about Inga Swensdotter, an eleven year old Viking girl, living with her family in Greenland. It is written with an intended audience of 8-12 year olds. It is split into two stories.

The first, Inga Goes A-Viking, tells of how young Inga has no time for the traditional tasks of the ‘women folk’ of her village, such as weaving, embroidery and cooking.  She is far more interested in the men’s activities of hunting, farming and A-Viking. After a particularly harsh winter, when it becomes clear that the merchant ships from Iceland aren’t likely to make an appearance, the village organises a party to go A-Viking to bring back the things they need. Inga contrives to defy  tradition and her parents to join the expedition.

Th second story, Inga Plans a Wedding, is about Inga’s sister Anna (14) who has had a marriage arranged to the worst boy in the village. Inga and her sister devised strategies and plans to prevent the marriage from taking place, and enabling Anne to marry the boy of her choosing.

These stories are reminiscent of the works of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Especially the relationship between Inga and her father. I should imagine that this would be enjoyed by girls, in particular, in the target audience, and their parents who read it to them. I recommend this book to anyone with kids, and if you don’t borrow someone else’s.

The Coffee Story- Peter Salmon

  The Coffee Story by Peter Salmon is a death-bed confessional of Teddy Everett, the last of a dynasty of coffee barons. It recounts his coffee story, or rather a number of significant moments in his life with and around coffee.  It is story about the bitterness of regret and the feeling of being a traitor. Over the course of the novel, we learn that Teddy has had two wives, was raised in Ethiopia, just before the Italians came and lived in Cuba, just before the revolution. Over the course of his life he has been an important man, linked with the likes of Howard Hughes and William Hearst.  But now, he is dying of lung cancer in a prison hospital, and making his final confession, to no one in particular. This is his coffee story.

I came across this book at the 2011 Melbourne Writers’ Festival when I attended a couple of sessions when the author read from his book. (He was good enough to sign my copy afterward too.) I was intrigued by the interesting writing style employed by Salmon. It is a rambling, conversational style of writing. During the Q & A, Salmon said that he quite deliberately set out to tell the story in the voice of someone who is not a writer, and so not conforming to ‘accepted’ narrative norms. The story is non-linear for a start. Moving from thought to thought in a haphazard way, often sliding off into tangents, regularly repeating some sections of the story (especially parts which turn out to be of vital importance to him), sometimes stopping abruptly to bring us back to the present and his current set of circumstances.

The book is also full of sex, but without any sentiment behind it. The frequent sex scene are very direct and use quite strong, yet dispassionate language to convey. Sex does not equal joy, or love, or affection to Teddy. In fact he is far more eloquent and sensual when in talks about coffee, and the pleasures that a good cup of coffee can bring.

I liked this book. Although to be honest, I didn’t loooove it like I wanted to. I think that on a certain level I liked the idea of the book and was excited by the attempt to try something new in terms of writing style, more than the actual book itself. I admit there are times when the chopping and changing of the story is a little annoying. But, it is worth persevering, because I think that the point of this book is that it is meant to be read/viewed as a whole, something that you can’t do until you actually finish it. It is good, and like a good strong cup of coffee, although bitter, and if you’re like me a drink it without sugar, it can be a little rough sometimes. But the feeling you have afterward is worth every word.