Lincoln in the Bardo Review

I didn’t like this Man Booker Prize winning book at all but I admire it as a piece of experimental literature. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders was the strangest book I have ever read. It’s narrative structure irritated and distracted me. I started and stopped this book about ten times and reread a lot of books in between reading this. But finally I got to the end.

Lincoln in the Bardo
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, ISBN 9781408871775, 343pp, Pub by Bloomsbury

Lincoln in the Bardo tells the tale of the death of President Lincoln’s eleven-year-old son Willie and the imagined story of him lingering in a place between life and death. This bardo is inhabited by other spirits who wander restlessly through the graveyard where they were buried arguing with each other and recounting tales of their lives and disappointments.

President Lincoln greatly shakes up this world in between when he comes to the crypt at night to visit his dead son.

This is a highly imaginative book that is told via many different points-of-view. Sometimes it’s a sentence at a time so pages are filled with one line from a character and then a citation of who that character is. Sometimes one little observation about an event is told from ten different people’s perspectives and everyone has a different opinion. It was this manner of narration that drove me crazy because I felt it ruined the flow of writing. It took me three quarters of the book to get used to this style of writing. Continue reading

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins Review

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins was on my to be read list for quite a while. I picked it up a couple of times and then put it down as I found the first few chapters hard to get into. But eventually I ended up getting through it during a long car trip and it was a book that got better as it went along.

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
This follow-up book from the author of The Girl on the Train was probably never going to measure up to its predecessor’s success so I went into reading this without huge expectations.

Set in a small English town, it starts with the death of Nel Abbott, a single mother of a teenage daughter, Lena. Nel was obsessed with documenting the many drowning deaths of women in the local body of water called the Drowning Pool. Following Nel’s death, her sister Jules comes to town to take care of her niece and to try to reconcile her complicated feelings for Nel. They were not speaking when Nel died.

As the local police investigate Nel’s death, there is debate over whether this was a suicide or something more sinister. It’s the latest in a string of deaths that took place in the Drowning Pool stretching back many years and everyone in the small town has a theory or something to hide.

One thing I found overly complicated about this book was the amount of characters and viewpoints. Usually you will read a book from a few characters’ point-of-view but this had a huge amount of characters. I often got confused about which character’s point-of-view I was reading. Also, none of the characters are particularly likeable so I didn’t exactly care what happened to any of them.

But I am glad that I persevered with Into the Water because once I had sorted out all the characters and different strands of the plot it did start to get interesting. I think you need to be in the right frame of mind to read this book. If you are wanting your next read to be easy, light and a page turner then this isn’t the book for you.

Verdict: A book that is a hard slog at first but worth getting to the end of.

What’s a book you read that was hard to get into but was worth finishing?

Year One by Nora Roberts Review

When I first heard about Nora Robert’s new book Year One I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. Years ago I went through a Nora Roberts reading stage where I devoured all her romantic suspense novels but it’s been a while since I’ve read any of her books. When I heard that this book was a departure from her usual romance stories and was about a killer virus taking out billions of people and leaving a dystopian wasteland in its wake, I was even more intrigued.

Year One by Nora Roberts
Year One by Nora Roberts, ISBN 9780349414942, Pub Dec 2017, 419pp

I was then lucky enough to win a proof copy from Good Reading magazine and Hachette Australia but I would have bought this book otherwise.

Year One starts with a riveting opening:

“When Ross MacLeod pulled the trigger and brought down the pheasant, he had no way of knowing he’d killed himself. And billions of others…”

As the world’s population rapidly depletes, a new order rises. People who had previously had slight magical impulses now grow into their power, revealing all sorts of beings from witches to fairies to shapeshifters and elves. Some normal humans survive as well. But for every good Uncanny (as they call the magical people) and for every good human, there are plenty of bad people who want to kill and let chaos reign.

The story follows quite a lot of different characters as they leave New York in search of other people and safety. The cast of characters grows and was at times hard to keep up with. But the scenario is intriguing and a bit different from the normal zombie apocalypse dystopian route. There are no zombies in this book!

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Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng Review

I started 2018 reading Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. I had heard great things about this book so was very happy to get this as a Christmas gift from my husband. I am on a great reading roll at the moment and this makes the third book in a row that I have devoured.

Little Fires Everywhere
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, ISBN 9781408709719, 338pp, Pub Sep 2017

At first I thought this was going to be a hard book to get into, but I dived into this without any effort and was sustained by a cast of interesting characters and a riveting plot that delved into the lives of the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots,’ the conformers and the free spirits.

Set during the time of Clinton’s presidency in Shaker Heights, Cleveland, a meticulously planned town, it follows the lives of the golden Richardson family consisting of two parents and four teenagers. Into their lives comes Mia Warren and her teenager daughter, Pearl, who rent a house from the Richardsons. 

Mia is a struggling artist who moves from place to place and doesn’t like to be tied down. She has a mysterious past and I was pleasantly surprised when the story of her past was revealed. She is the opposite of Mrs Elena Richardson who was born and bred in Shaker Heights and likes everyone and everything to be in its place. 

Little Fires Everywhere is a story about teenagers, mothers, families, parenting, art, race, class, creativity and love, told from many perspectives. There’s also a court case woven into the story that will have you debating both sides as an affluent couple who can’t have a child of their own adopt an abandoned Chinese baby, only to have the birth mother come into their lives after a year and want her baby back. I couldn’t help but cheer at the outcome of this part of the plot, even though I felt for the other side.

I’ve never read any books by Celeste Ng before but I definitely will in the future. I can see why this book was the 2017 Winner of Best Fiction in the goodreads choice awards. If you haven’t already read it and you like quality fiction, give this a read.

Verdict: An absolutely compelling book worth a read.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine Review

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman is the second book in a row I’ve read with a protagonist named Eleanor (the other one was Eleanor & Park). And it was another book which I sped read over a couple of days.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, ISBN 9780008172114, 386pp, Pub May 2017

Set in Glasgow, the story is told from the point-of-view of Eleanor Oliphant. She is a 30 year old loner who lives by herself, works in a boring office job and sticks to a routine which sees her wear the same clothes every day and eat the same food. She thinks and behaves very differently from the social norm and is often perplexed by the people around her. A series of events happen which disrupts Eleanor’s ordered life and lets in other people, new experiences and dark memories from her childhood which she had been trying to suppress.

I haven’t encountered a character like Eleanor before. The way she thinks and acts throughout the book had me laughing, cringing and pitying her. I also cheered her on as she opened up more to people and life. People can be cruel to someone who marches to the beat of their own drum and at times this makes for squirmy reading. I wanted to pummel her bullies and at the same time shake her for being so clueless. That’s the measure of a good book when you get so invested in a character.

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