The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet By David Mitchell
I wonder why David Mitchell took the decision to break the majority of dialogue mid sentence. Immediacy perhaps? Maybe he decided to do it because he can. If I meet him I’ll ask him. In any case, whereas it warranted an almost religious rereading of early passages with dialogue, once the characters were ingrained in the mind it actually worked quite well. Or maybe it’s just that I came to expect it and therefore made a sort of mental allowance to take it in.
What a motley collection of characters we have, and here I think is one of the book’s major strengths; Mitchell’s observant imagination. Though the cast is extensive, I never felt a character put a foot wrong, and the setting and machinations of the provincial Japanese court were finely drawn.
Speaking of drawing, some nice illustrations to boot (except maybe for the first one, which made me wonder, so early in the tale, what gruesome places we were like to visit thereafter).
A special mention to for the poetic prose sections, whose rhythm made me think of Night Train, but whose descriptions kept far far away from the cold, dark north.
A very imaginative tale, with twists and turns aplenty to keep you turning the pages.
The Last Hundred Days by Patrick McGuinness
Very interesting to read this directly after A D Miller’s Snowdrops; this one longlisted and Miller shortlisted for the 2011 Booker, and both similar stories, although very different books.
It’s quite an intense read, very in depth and not a little claustrophobic now and then. One for lovers of modern history as well as those who enjoy a captivating story well told. Some of the detail is actually quite horrific in a quiet way, which I think only adds to its power.
Snowdrops by A D Miller
This book is so grubby I felt like I needed to wash my hands afterwards. No, I don’t mean the cover. Maybe I should have washed my soul. It’s an excellent book. The characters are fiercely consistent, and the setting very evocative. If it were a more pleasant story, I’d happily say it was an enjoyable read, but it doesn’t seem to fit for this one. I suspect that, for those of us who’ve never been, it will serve to polarise those who are now dying to go, or those who would chew glass to ensure they were anywhere else.
I guess what we need AD Miller to do now is write a happy, summery Moscow love story to make us all feel better.
Read it. You wont regret it.
…At a Loss for Words by Diane Schoemperlen
The Mathematics Of Love by Emma Darwin
Some engaging imagery runs through this book, and to borrow a theme I’d say this book develops like a photograph as you read on. Most interesting for me was the idea of history as something distant and yet present, a place being like a palimpsest of all that’s occurred there. You could almost stretch out your hand and reach through the folds of time to touch it.
the title got me thinking too. Initially it chimes like an old joke: 1+1=3 and not 2. But when it’s 2-1 you end up with less than 1 don’t you.
One thing Emma Darwin seemed to do particularly well was know when to cut between one aspect of the story and another. I found myself undertaking the literary equivalent of shouting at the telly, so keen I was to know what would come next.
As with Byatt’s Possession, the characters from the past were keenly drawn, and I can well believe that lovers of Austen would find a friend in this book.
Fearless by Tim Lott
Okay, so I realised that I’d picked up a kid’s book (early teens up I’d guess). Don’t imagine I mean this in a derogatory sense. I think I’d find it harder to set out to write a book for younger readers, and when a book works it can work at any age upwards of the target audience.
So this was an enjoyable read, and as an adult reader it caught me out in my perceptions. The characters are clearly defined and consistent but will not be unfamiliar to (older) readers, and the gist of the plot follows a convention (though of course that is true of virtually everything you’re likely to pick up to some extent.) But I was reminded of what I was like as a young teenager when things took a decidedly less than disneyesque turn. It moves quickly and easily and could well prompt some interesting thoughts or discussions, even for those younger readers.