Saturday, 21 September 2013

3 Book Reviews

Oooooh lucky you, not one but THREE book reviews.  
I've been reading at the speed of light recently, but I attribute that to the really interesting and diverse books I was given/lent.  
Me Before You, by Jojo Moyles
I was interested to read this, because it is vastly different in terms of subject matter from The Girl You Left Behind. Louisa Clark is a small-minded, simple character, whose life is upturned when she loses her job at a local cafe. She gets a job on a 6-month contract as a carer for cold, unlikeable, paraplegic Will Traynor. Inevitably, a strong bond forms, but there is a great twist, which calls into question a very controversial topic: euthanasia.
The characters themselves are divided, which I thought was a strength of the story; it certainly makes you question what you would do. While Louisa remains a simple character, her optimism and eventual desperation was affective, and I willed her plan (to convince Will to live) to work.
I felt that Camilla Traynor, Will’s mother, was written to be unlikeable, but I empathised with her brusqueness in such a bleak situation. Equally, I found the attitude and behaviour of Louisa’s sister Katrina incredibly irritating: she is celebrated as “the clever one”, but if she is so smart, why did she get pregnant and have to drop out of university, thus becoming a complete financial burden on her family?
I liked this book more for the ideas it provoked than its written quality or the characters. Worth a read if you have an interest in controversial topics. 
The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
I loved this book; it’s definitely one of my top 10, if not top 5. Set after the Civil War in Barcelona, it is a dark, violent merging of the past, present and future.
In The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, Daniel Sempere takes The Shadow of the Wind, by Julian Carax. He is soon followed by a haunting, deformed man, who wants possession of Carax’s novel. Daniel’s personal life is complicated by his obsession with the blind Clara Barcelo, but it is through his pursuit of knowledge about Carax that his troubles truly begin. A haunting, sometimes verging on the gothic, tale ensues, cleverly entwining all of the characters, including the repulsive and bloodthirsty Inspector Fumero.
Daniel’s life is both mirrored and eerily foreshadowed by Carax’s, but is the love affair between Carax and his sweetheart Penelope Aldaya which provides the biggest twist. I felt genuine sadness and horror, both through the revelation itself and the way in which Zafon builds the suspense before crashing the fictional world down around the reader.
This book is truly an enigma; a combination of romance, detective, horror and history, the aftermath of the Civil War, with all its unease and uncertainty, is the perfect setting for a story like this.
The Casual Vacancy, by J. K. Rowling
This is the best reflection on contemporary British society I’ve ever read; it’s depressing, gritty, enlightening and sad. Rowling manages to write about everyday life while retaining all its complexities, as well as the mundane activities associated with the small world that is Pagford, the setting of the story.
Barry Fairbrother's untimely death leaves a casual vacancy on Pagford parish council. From the abusive husbands to desperate wives, confused children to hopeful social workers, Pagford is a good example of most British towns; good area vs bad area, with a good deal of ignorance in-between. The adult characters’ lives all intertwine through their involvement in the parish council, but it is the children's activities which are the most compelling.
Andrew Price's disgust at his father's abusiveness is darkly comedic through his highly colourful language, whereas Sukhvinder Jawanda's self harm is a tragic revelation of parental pressure and bullying. Stuart "Fats" Wall, Sukhvinder's bully, is a typical example of arrogant, seemingly wise teenage concerned with being authentic. Each of them decide to hack the parish website, and some unpleasant home-truths are revealed under the guise "The Ghost of Barry Fairbrother".
However, it is Krystal Weedon’s narrative which is the most compelling, and ultimately reveals how the class divide is still very clear in British society.

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