Saturday, 30 November 2013

The Good House by Anne Leary

This is not the type of book I normally pick up. It looks too "woman's interest", and the endorsement by Jodi Piccoult didn't help either. However, there was something that drew me to it regardless of these obstacles. And I decided to give it a go. If I didn't like it after 10 pages, I could just abandon the effort and find another book to read. Well, those 10 first pages were literally devoured, and there was no way I was putting it down.

We enter the story two years after Hildy Good had to sit through the intervention staged by her two adult daughters claiming she's an alcoholic. After rehab, Hildy stayed off the booze for a while, until one night when she stumbled over some wine. Since then, Hildy's been drinking "two or three" glasses, or rather, finished the bottle, because wine doesn't taste as nice after being uncorked one night, in the evenings by herself. She has strict rules governing her drinking; she's not allowed to phone anyone or see anyone, or go anywhere, after drinking. And up until now, she's been following her rules.

Hildy lives in a smallish New England town, and her whole family has always lived there for generations. She claims to know everything that goes on in town, and the story starts when Hildy is becoming curious about one of the families that recently moved into a house she sold. It is clear that the wife, Rebecca, is not happy. Her husband spends the week in the city, and despite having two young sons, Rebecca seems restless. After her husband buys her a stunning new horse, Rebecca seems to bloom, and after seeing Peter, the therapist whose offices are above Hilyd's, Rebecca is hardly recognizable.

Rebecca doesn't seem to make friends with the other young mums in the area, and one night Hildy is sneaking wine from her garage, Rebecca drives past and stops upon seeing Hildy. Not knowing Hildy's rehab history, Rebecca joins Hildy for some wine, and a friendship starts to build between the two women.

A strong motif or doubleness in the story is that between female lunacy and reading/psychology. These two opposites become interchangeable at times in the story. Rebecca is depressed at the start of the story, then becomes happy, and then starts becoming very unstable (she might suffer from bipolar disorder). There's also a kind of magic attached to her. Her husband Brian claims that if Rebecca comes in touch with any kind of electric device such as clocks, remotes and so on, they just break. On the other hand, Rebecca performs a miracle when she first meets Hildy, where she saves the life of two horses. She will perform another "miracle" before the end of the story. On top of all this, Rebecca is very fascinated with the moon, which she loves painting. Historically, the moon is connected to "lunacy", madness, depression and bipolar disorder, which supposedly affected women more than men.

Hildy also have some strange traits. Her friends claims that she's a psychic, but Hildy herself admits it's nothing more than a scam. She "reads" people. Body language, eye movement, and so on. This allows her to deduce certain things about the people she meets. Despite how much she claims this is all a hoax, an art more than anything more supernatural, there is a moment in the book when she relies on her intuition, and makes conclusions beyond her "reading". Hildy's 8th great grandmother was accused of being a witch, whereas Hildy's own mother committed suicide when Hildy was only 11. Hildy's aunt, however, believed herself to be a clairvoyant, and made her living based on that.

The juxtaposition to these women is the psychologist Peter. Hildy's known him and his family since childhood and has nothing but respect for him. The feeling, however, is not mutual. Peter feels that Hildy's ability to "read" makes her a charlatan. This juxtaposition comes to a head when Hildy visits Peter in his office, sits in his chair while he sits in the patient's chair, and Hildy "reads" him, while challenging him that what he as a therapist is doing, is no more than a glorified "reading". At the end of the story, the doubleness between male "sense" and female "intuition" comes to a climax, and it seems that Peter is no better equipped to deal with his problems than the ladies are.

Hildy's alcoholism is a theme that runs throughout the story and challenges our perception of everything she tells us. Because Hildy is also the narrator of the story, we see everything through her eyes. She claims to handle everything well, to be a successful business woman, to have everything going for her, but as the story progresses, we see that this is not necessarily the case. There is a discrepancy between how Hildy sees herself and how the world sees her. Further, as the story progresses, Hildy's alcohol consumption is spinning gradually more and more out of control. It starts with her drinking with Rebecca, then moves on to her secretly spiking her own drink at a family dinner. Soon Hildy's experiencing blackouts, and it all comes to a head one morning when Hildy's lover Frank suggests that Hildy might be responsible for something terrible that might have happened the night before. Hungover with frayed nerves and a complete blackout, Hildy has no clue, and like her, we are dumbfounded that things could have come to this.

The Good House is quite a good title now that I've read the book. Hildy's last name is Good, so it could literally refer to her house. It could also refer to the sense of House as in a family or line, and we've already learned some of the dark history connected to the women of the Good line. Hildy is also a real estate agent, so it also works in terms of her job, which makes up an important part of the story. The first sentence in the book says "I can walk through a house once and know more about its occupants than a psychiatrist could after a year of sessions". This refers also to Hildy's ability to read people, and ironically to her inability to see herself and the secrets she's denying. Finally, a house also refers to our minds, and the rooms and secrets we keep hidden there. This is alluded to when Rebecca tells Hildy that dreaming of houses doesn't mean dreaming of work, but rather of what's going on in her psyche. 

From early on in the novel there's a sense that something bad is going to happen. It wasn't until the very end that it started becoming clear what that bad thing was. Anne Leary builds up the story and the tension slowly, but with great skill.

I am so happy and so surprised at how much I liked this book. It has a serious theme about alcoholism, but although Hildy is in denial, she is sympathetic, funny, strong, and I have to say I quite like her. A definite book to recommend as Christmas gifts, but make sure you read it yourself first!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

The Night Guest by Fiona McFarlane | I grow old, I grow old

Ruth is a widow living by herself in what used to be the family's holiday house by the beach somewhere in Australia. Her two adult sons live too far away to visit often, so their contact is limited to sporadic telephone calls. Her husband passed away about a year ago, and until the night when Ruth is sure she hears a tiger prancing around in her lounge, Ruth has coped quite well alone. The arrival of the tiger, however, changes everything.

In the tiger's wake comes Frida, a lady who claims she's been sent by the government to be Ruth's "right arm". Ruth quickly gets used to having Frida around, who she thinks is from Fiji, the place where she spent her childhood. She starts reminiscing about her adolescence, and her big crush on Richard, a young doctor who stayed with her and her missionary family on Fiji. Through Frida, Ruth sends Richard a letter, and he comes to spend a quiet weekend with her. While he is there, Ruth realizes that Frida has moved into one of her son's rooms, uninvited, but when she confronts her about it, Frida claims that Ruth asked her to stay.

Soon the net that is tightening Frida and Ruth together is becoming more and more tangled. Ruth is completely dependent upon Frida, and when the tiger returns, Frida swears to protect Ruth from it. Then one night Frida fights the tiger all night, and in the morning claims to have killed it. But Ruth, in her heart of hearts, refuses to believe it.

There is a strong tension between Ruth and Frida throughout the novel. We never know if we can trust Ruth, who is old and seems to grow more and more confused with every passing day. At times I don't even know if Frida is there, or a figment of her imagination, because Ruth's perception of Frida's physical appearance keeps changing. We also don't trust Frida, whose motives are unclear. One minute she is all bright and happy, the next she is menacing and dark.

This is a different tiger story to any other I have read. But once again, the tiger seems to be associated with death somehow. Ruth has an ambivalent relationship to the tiger. She both fears it, and admires it. She doesn't want it to die. I'm not sure if the tiger then represents Ruth herself, and her ability to make sense of the world, or if, perhaps, the tiger is death itself, coming for Ruth. The Lord's return comes like a thief in the night. The tiger comes like a thief in the night, but so does Frida. The question is, who is the biggest threat to Ruth; the tiger or Frida?

This is an interesting novel about aging and facing death. Through revisiting her adolescent years in her reveries, Ruth desperately clings to life by trying to relive the past. But in the present, Ruth is forced to choose if she should trust Frida or be helplessly by herself without her.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole | All is Fair in Love & War

This unassuming little book with the haunting cover really took me by surprise. As the title indicates, it is written in letter form, which is becoming more and more rare in today's world of emails and instant messaging. The letter form keeps the pace fairly quick, but it also leaves room for delays and for us as readers to have to fill in a lot of blanks ourselves.

On top of being written in letter form, we also follow two parallel stories, which happen to be between mother and daughter. The stories are set respectively in the 1st and 2nd world war.

Elspeth/Sue is a young poet living on Skye. The story kicks off the day she receives a letter from a fan from America. When Elspeth writes back, she sets things in motion that will drastically change her life, and she goes from living a sheltered life on Skye to braving the ferry that she's avoided her whole life and setting forth into London and Paris to get to know David, her fan. It would be the perfectly romantic love story had it not been for the fact that Elspeth is already married to her brother's best friend Iain. Elspeth's choices will tear her family apart and leave open wounds in her life for decades.

Twenty-something years later, the raging war bring ghosts to life for Elspeth, and she sets off to see if she can make sense of her past. Her daughter Margaret is left in the loop. Since Elspeth never told her the story, Margaret decides to try find out for herself what is haunting her mother. She tracks down Elspeth's estranged brother Finlay and her grandmother on Skye who she's never met. Meanwhile, her boyfriend is a pilot in the war, and Margaret has her own love worries.

Letter by letter, we read on as Elspeth and David's friendship grows ever closer before it emerges as something else entirely. As David enlists, and therefore finds himself in Europe, the war brings them closer, before ultimately separating them completely.

Letters from Skye really grew on me the more I read. The love on every page was so pure and real. The plot is down to earth, yet heart shattering. Several times towards the end of the book I had to wipe away a few tears and put the book aside to properly digest what was happening. When I read the last page I cried happy tears.

A literary pearl, Letters from Skye will make you fall in love, break your heart, then mend it again. It tells the story of everlasting love, and as the true romantic I am, it really spoke to me. 

Monday, 11 November 2013

TransAtlantic by Colum McCann

Colum McCann swept me away with Let the Great World Spin a few years ago. With his new novel TransAtlantic he manifests his positions as one of the greatest novelists alive. With a masterfully crafted plot structure, binding together major "transatlantic" public events before narrowing it down to the private, McCann truly manages to address issues of identity, heritage and history.

Three historical events make up Book 1 of the novel. The first one is set in 1919 and gives us an inside look into Brown and Alcock's minds before and during their flight from Newfoundland to Ireland. Their feat was the first non-stop transatlantic flight, and it was to change world travel. With them on the plane they carried a letter from Emily and Lottie Ehrlich, which was never to reach its destination.

The second story revolves around Frederick Douglass who came to Ireland in 1845 for whip up support for the abolitionist movement. The crowds generally love him, but on the sidelines, Douglass sees a starving people. The social gap is huge, and Douglass cannot fail to see the hypocrisy in his Irish supporters. Slavery, it seems, isn't only about being in chains. During his stay, Douglass inadvertently inspires his host's maid Lily to break free, and sail to America.

The last story almost echoes the first. The American senator George Mitchell is part of the Irish peace process in 1998, and makes the transatlantic flight on a weekly basis. Trying to reconcile Ireland's bloody history, where every word and turn of phrase is under scrutiny from all sides, is no easy task. To get some distance, Mitchell plays tennis, and this is where he meets Lottie Tuttle, nee Ehrlich, who ended up marrying an Irishman, and so finds herself in the middle of a life her grandmother escaped from.

Book 2 moves us away from these public figures, to the private ones. A move also from male voices to female voices. We finally get the story of Lily, the maid who sailed to America. We follow her as she makes a life for herself there, as she becomes a wife, a mother, a businesswoman. We follow her in her happiness and in her devastation.

Then Emily, the reader, who one day becomes a journalist. Emily who is happy to have no husband, but who spends every waking hour with her daughter Lottie. Emily and Lottie who watch as two pilots set forth on the very first transatlantic journey. Emily who years later, when visiting one of the pilots for a follow-up interview gets the letter back; it was never posted after they landed. Emily who must say goodbye to her daughter when they visit Ireland, as Lottie falls in love.

Lastly the story of Lottie and Hannah. Or rather, of Hannah's boy Thomas, who fell victim to the bloodshed before the peace. The lament of mother and grandmother for the end of a bloodline.

The last story. Hannah alone, with only her dog and the unopened letter her grandmother wrote all those years ago. At 72, Hannah is bankrupt and looks into selling the letter, which may or may refer to Frederick Douglass' visit to Ireland.

The letter begins and ends the novel. Unopened, it is pure potential, a story to be told. Once opened, however, the truth is irrevocable, and there is nothing left to hope for.

This is a big story. People and events crisscrossing the Atlantic. Ripples that cause currents. All in McCann's beautiful prose.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler

Shotgun Lovesongs, Nickolas Butler's debut novel is due for release early next year. It is full to the brim with love and nostalgia for smalltown life. At the core, however, is the endless story of friendships that can stand the test of time - and betrayal.

We follow the four 30-something childhood friends Henry, Lee, Ronny and Kip who all have taken very different roads in life. Henry is the traditionalist, who took over his father's farm and is living the farmlife with his wife Beth and their kids. Lee is now a successful musician who travels the world, but always returns to the town Little Wing. The former rodeo Ronny always wanted to leave, but after a drunken accident, his brain never fully healed, and he finds himself unable to leave the town where people now look at him funny and tell him what to do and not to do. And finally we have Kip, the Chicago "bigshot" who returned to town with his bride Felicia, and bought the run-down old mill in an attempt to make something happen in Little Wing.

If it sounds like this book has a very male focus, it's not the case. Henry's wife Beth has a very strong central role on the story. So do the other wives. In fact, the book might have been called 4 Weddings and a Shooting (as there is no funeral), because the action that drives the story forward all happen at the weddings of each of the men. The novel starts as Kip is getting hitched to Felicia. Lee returns to town for the wedding, and brings his Hollywood girlfriend with him. At Kip's bachelor party, Ronny meets his future wife to be. Kip manages to thoroughly alienate Lee at his wedding, and the consequence is that Kip and Felicia are ignored by everyone in town for a while. 

The story then skips forward in time to Lee's Hollywood wedding in New York. Lee's paid for Henry, Beth, Ronny and Lucy, Ronny's girlfriend, to come to the wedding. The point of view shifts between the different characters, and we learn from Beth that since Kip and Felicia's wedding, she and Felicia have become very close friends. We also learn of Beth and Lee's secret history.

Once again the storyline skips until the next wedding. This time it's Ronny and Lucy's time to walk down the aisle. But not all the other 3 couples are doing so well anymore. Lee's wife has left him, and Lee's determined to stay permanently in Little Wing. Kip and Felicia are having serious problems as well. Felicia is determined to have children, but Kip cannot imagine himself being a father. Even Henry and Beth, the perfect couple, are going through hard times. In a moment of utter despair, Lee confessed his and Beth's secret to Henry, and the consequences are devastating.

The final wedding is ten years back in time. Henry and Beth's wedding. Beth the most beautiful bride imaginable. Henry and Beth carrying on traditions, in more ways that one. And while Lee is thinking back on the day his best friend married the most beautiful woman he knew, he is trying to patch things up with Henry in maybe not the smartest way.

So why this obsession with weddings? It brings people together, it breaks people apart? It brings to the table strong emotion and leaves room for confrontations, both between people and inside a person? It carries on tradition and the hopes for the future? I really find it interesting how Butles makes it one of his strongest recurring motifs in the story. I guess it might be because a wedding is symbolically one of the most important events in an adult person's life. It is a catalyst for change in a life which can indicate who you are, what you are, where you are.

Love, friendship, family, tradition, home. Butler approaches these universal themes with great tenderness and care. I'm not from a small town like Little Wing, but I really understand the complicated relationships the characters have to the town that is home to them. The contradiction between the desire to stay and the will to leave. Hopes, dreams and disappointments. I am also getting close to that age when I will look back on my life and try to make sense of my status quo and question my choices.

I am asking myself if this novel is Butler's ode to his own hometown of Eau Clair, set close to Little Wing in the novel. And is this novel his "shotgun book", to prove to himself that he can do it? If so, he has me convinced. The characters are authentic and real. All flawed, all sympathetic, all with their own reasons, their own codes of conduct, their own internal battles and contradictions. They are just people like me and you, going about their lives trying to make the best of things. If you read it, they might just inspire you.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake

I originally bought the three books that make up the Gormenghast Trilogy a few years back on Exclusive Books' annual sale. Only now did I get around to reading the first book, Titus Groan. All I knew was that the books were supposedly fantasy. Even so, this book was completely different to anything I could have imagined. Truth be told, Titus Groan is like nothing else out there.

The book was first published in 1946, and is considered a fantasy classic. However, there is not much that puts us in mind of what I usually associate with fantasy. No magicians, no evil orks, no dragons... Yet the universe create, Gormenghast, is undeniably fantastic.

We enter this world as Titus, the new heir to the Earling of Gormenghast is born. Meticulously we follow servants around as they go about their daily duties while the happy news is spreading. One person isn't very happy, though. That is Titus' taciturn big sister Fuchsia. Nanny Slagg is now hard kept to keep the demanding Fuchsia happy, while beaming over the newborn.

Gormenghast literally stands on tradition, and Titus' father, Earl Sepulchrave, spends his days performing the daily rites expected of him, before retreating to his beloved library. His wife Gertrude is the classic cat lady, despite being married. Under their noses, drama is brewing in the castle. Titus' wetnurse has some personal issues to attend to. Swelter the chef has murderous fantasies. One of his former "minions", Steerpike, has managed to escape the kitchens, and is now making his steady way up towards power. Sepulchrave's sisters, the twins Cora and Clarice are cooped up in their rooms pondering the neglect and fall from fame. Meanwhile, an ignored Fuchsia is trying to find herself in a world of mostly old people.

The prose in this book is on another level. Stunningly and vividly written, Peake really puts us into the scenes and makes Gormenghast come to life for the reader. But this is also a surprisingly funny book. Some of the characters are downright hilarious and unforgettable for it. Nanny Slagg's constant moaning about being unloved and unappreciated. Cora and Clarice being manipulated by Steerpike. Doctor Prunesquallor and his spinster sister having a conversation. Not to mention the epic showdown between Swelter and Flay.

You kind of expect a book whose title is the name of one of the characters, to be mostly about that character. For Titus Groan this is very much not the case. The book spans in time to when Titus is just over one year old. The little we see of him is through ceremonies, and through the lives of the people around him. But towards the end we get to see that Titus is special. We just don't know how or why yet. I guess the next books in the trilogy, Gormenghast and Titus Alone will give us the answers.

This is a book to be savoured. Let Peake lead you by the hand into this oh so strange but so interesting universe. No need to rush - the words are there, and the plot will thicken soon enough. Just enjoy.

Monday, 21 October 2013

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith/ J. K. Rowling

The big reveal in the world of crime fiction this year, was that J. K. Rowling wrote the novel The Cuckoo's Calling under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. The book got brilliant reviews before anyone knew Rowling was behind it, and after the cat came out of the bag, the book has been flying off the shelves. A nice boost for Rowling, after her less successful The Casual Vacancy.

I finally got around to reading it after one of my coworkers recommended it. It's been applauded as a great classic crime, but to me it does have a nice amount of the hardboiled in it too.

We follow private investigator Cormoran Strike, a war veteran with one leg missing, who's just been left by his fiance. Business has not been going well either, but Strike's luck is changing all in one day. Firstly his new super-sub Robin just walked into his office and started making the business seem professional (all Batmans need their Robins, right?). Secondly, Strike just got a new client. John Bristow wants Strike to investigate the alleged suicide of his sister, supermodel Lula Landry. Apart from the fact that Strike cannot afford to reject the case, there's also a personal tie between Bristow and Strike.

As Strike starts honing in on the last movements of the troubled and haunted supermodel, it becomes more and more clear that Landry was indeed murdered. But the closer Strike gets to the truth, the higher the risk of more dead bodies turning up.

Strike is an interesting character, as he's such a nice blend between the classic and the hardboiled. At times his deductive powers are equal to that of Poirot or Holmes. However, there are also times where luck more than anything is what brings him to the truth. His troubled personal life, his rather colourful upbringing, all make Strike a difficult man to predict. Even after finishing the book I feel that I have a lot more to learn about Strike himself. His substitute secretary Robin is the perfect addition to Strike.

The rest of the novel is sprinkled with characters from all walks of life. From the glitz and glam of the fashion world, to the darker world of domestic violence. From the gutter to the penthouse. The characters feel authentic and reinforces the mystery surrounding Lula Landry's death.

The novel had me going from start to finish. As I read the last few pages I felt a little bit sad to leave Strike and Robin behind. But there's no reason to believe Rowling won't continue this new world of hers, so I'm excited to see what comes next. Not just a Potter face, hey Rowling?

Thursday, 17 October 2013

City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare | Another plunge into YA

I will shamelessly admit that I not only skipped reading book 1 in The Mortal Instruments because I saw the movie, but also that watching the movie was what finally made me want to read these books that my friends have recommended for years... And yes, I actually really enjoyed the movie! Truth be told I was expecting something very Twilight'y, but Jace and Clary kick so much more booty than Bella and Edward can ever dream of doing. It's so refreshing to have a female hero whose solution to everything isn't crying and navel-gazing. But I didn't merely like this universe simply because it isn't Twilight. City of Ashes is fast paced and action-packed. I love that there's a lot of humour and sarcasm. I almost wish I was 16 reading this book, I probably would have loved it more.

City of Ashes picks up right where City of Bones left off. There's awkwardness between Clary and her two "suitors" Simon and Jace. Seeing as the "Darth Vader" of this universe, Valentine, dropped the bomb on Jace and Clary that he's their father, the budding romance between Clary and Jace was abruptly canceled, and now Simon, Clary's lifelong bff has decided to move up to being her bf. In book 1 Valentine acquired the Mortal Cup, one of the mortal instruments of the Shadowhunters. Now, he's upping his game by going after the Mortal Sword, which will give him power to control demons. But rather than focusing on Valentine's plans, the Shadowhunters' Inquisitor goes after Jace, believing him to be one of Valentine's pawns.

Meanwhile, Clary's mom is still unconscious, some very hectic changes are affecting good old Simon, and Clary and Jace are trying to keep each other at arms length. Soon they'll all be thrown together to try throw off the hordes of demons coming to Valentines beck. There will be blood.

What I really enjoy about The Mortal Instruments is that it's so real. Fine, maybe not a lot of us have to cope with the dilemma of falling in love with someone who turns out to be your brother, but there's something real in the emotional drama. The characters feel authentic and keep expanding as we read.

In total there is going to be 6 books in this series. Book 6 is due for release in May 2014. Enough time for me to finish the other books in this series, as well as the prequel trilogy The Infernal Devices. Yay to YA!

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Finally... The news I've been waiting for since I finished the last pages of Fool's Fate, the third book in the Tawny Man Trilogy by Robin Hobb. The end of the world better not come before August 2014, when the first book in a new trilogy about Fitz and the Fool is set for release. I AM SO EXCITED! I get to return to the universe I love so much, in the company of my two oh so dear friends, FitzChivalry Farseer and his/my Beloved Fool.

I LOVE to say I told you so. In my reviews of Hobb's books on this blog I've mentioned more than once that I hope/predict a return to these characters in what will probably be a last showdown. The tearjerking ending of Fool's Fate did indeed leave room for a reunion between my best friends in literature, and I cannot wait to see what Hobb has in store for us.

The planned trilogy will be the third trilogy about Fitz and the Fool, preceded by The Farseer Trilogy and The Tawny Man Trilogy. These books will always have a special place in my heart, as Assassin's Apprentice, book 1 in The Farseer Trilogy was my initial introduction to fantasy literature. I've been in love ever since.

Hobb has written two other series set in the same world. The Lifeship Traders and The Rainwild Chronicles might not focus on the Six Duchies where Fitz lives, but the plots and stories are connected all the same. I'm excited to see if Kelsingra, featured strongly in Blood of Dragons, the last book of The Rain Wild Chronicles, will have a function in the new Fitz and Fool Trilogy.

Those that have read the books, know that a lot of the unanswered questions from the two trilogies about Fitz and the Fool are being answered in Blood of Dragons, so I'm now curious to see if there are still answers left, or if this new trilogy will pose new questions. Certainly the Fool has remained, to an extent, a mystery.

I am so grateful to Robin Hobb for continuing to tell these beautiful, vivid stories. One day, if I have any, I hope to read her books to my kids. If not, I'll just settle for being a weird old lady who reads books to her dogs;)

If you still haven't read Robin Hobb's books, please please PLEASE read Assassin's Apprentice. It will change your life (unless you're like, a sociopath, or something).

Sunday, 6 October 2013

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

I’ve been putting off reading this book for quite a while. As it is the first book in The Kingkiller Chronicles, I wanted to wait until all the books were out (I think it’s a trilogy), but when I stumbled over the book at a sale, I bought it, and once it was on my shelf it became harder to put off. We’ll see how long I can resist reading book 2, The Wise Man’s Fear now that I’ve entered this universe. Book 3 is due for release in 2014.
So I’d heard a lot of good things about The Name of the Wind, and naturally I had quite high expectations. What I tend to love about fantasy literature is browsing the fantasy section in a book shop, choosing one based on the cover, and discovering that it’s actually a gem. I think that when something comes highly recommended, the chance of disappointment is higher. Unfortunately this was partly the case for The Name of the Wind.
The beginning of the novel felt tedious and slow. The characters didn’t intrigue me, the plot felt vague, and I started to wonder if this was what the hype was all about. Once the “real” story kicks in, my enjoyment increased, but it still took me a long time to really get passionate about the story. The more the story progressed, the more involved I became, and towards the end of it, I was really quite hooked.
The beginning of the novel places us at the Wayside Inn, where innkeeper Kote and his apprentice Bast are going about their daily quiet lives. Business is slow, and we learn that there is a silence shadowing Kote. At the same time, dark forces are about, and Kote seems to know something about it. The entrance of Chronicler onto the scene changes the silence hovering over Kote. Chronicler has somehow managed to trace down Kote, whose real name is Kvothe, who we learn is legendary. After some initial resistance to the idea, Chronicler manages to persuade Kvothe to tell his story, to eliminate mere rumours from what really happened, once and for all. Chronicler only has three days to record Kvothe’s story, and The Name of the Wind covers what Kvothe told of his story on the first day.
Kvothe begins his story by stressing that his background as Edema Ruh – a travelling troupe – explains a lot about how his life has turned out. He started his life on the road, wandering from place to place and entertaining people. Kvothe’s first encounter with sympathy – the magic in this world – came through a man who travelled with them for a while and taught Kvothe a lot. A prodigy, Kvothe could pick up anything in record time.
Kvothe’s idyllic life cannot last. One night disaster strikes. As Kvothe returns to the campsite after a night stroll, he finds the whole troupe, including his parents murdered. “Someone’s parents have been singing entirely the wrong songs” one of the murderers tells Kvothe. Kvothe’s father was working on a song about the Chandrian, a mythical group of men known to leave death and blue flame in their wake. Can the childhood horror be true? Are the Chandrian real?
After the death of his parents, Kvothe’s life is thrown into turmoil. After spending months in the wild playing on his father’s lute, Kvothe makes his way to the big city nearby. Kvothe spends three hard years in Tarbean before he remembers his new mission in life, to find the Chandrian and avenge his parents.
Although he is still young, Kvothe decides to try to get admitted to the University. A miracle secures Kvothe’s admittance, but his arrogance and impatience quickly ensures Kvothe enemies among the masters of the University as well as the other students. After being denied access to the Archives, Kvothe realises that the way to find the Chandrian will be longer than anticipated.
The rest of the book focuses on Kvothe’s path from E’lir to Re’lar at the University, his challenges and successes, and Denna, the love of his life.
There is a lot of foreshadowing in this book. Before Kvothe starts his story, he gives a summary of some of the things he is known for, which makes sense considering that in this world, Kvothe’s name is legendary. Rothfuss also uses a lot of fairytale traits. Numbers like 3 and 7 are given significance. Myths and song verses come to have a deeper meaning within the context of the story.
In the middle of Kvothe’s telling, things are still happening at the Wayside Inn, reminding us that we are being told a story, while life goes on in the present time. This comes to a climax towards the end of the book when the regular customers come for their evening drinks and a stranger walks in.
The Name of the Wind is beautifully written and vividly told. Although Kvothe at times is an arrogant, impatient idiot, I come to care for him and in a sense understand him. The hunger to learn more about him is definitely there, so I’m gonna have to read The Wise Man’s Fear soon.

Catch-up vol 2: Jacob’s Folly, Lolito, Let the Games Begin, and Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookshop

Once again I’ve been too busy to blog on a regular basis, so it’s time I wrote a few lines about the books I’ve been reading lately. The books I'm briefly reviewing here are all funny and excellent reads. So don't let my very short reviews stop you from devouring them! 

Jacob’s Folly by Rebecca Miller
Who wouldn’t like to be a fly on someone’s wall? But is it as lucrative to be reincarnated 300 years after your death as a fly? Jacob is delighted to find that his reincarnation has wings, but he is less enthused when he realises he has come back to earth as a fly rather than an angel. Jacob can see into the lives of the people he “stalks”. Leslie is middleaged, married, and desperate to be everyone’s saviour. 21-year old Misha is in need of saving. Her family are conservative Jews, so Misha’s dreams of becoming an actress don’t exactly fit. Since Jacob is now a fly, he’s not feeling particularly happy about his maker, so he decides to play with Leslie and Misha’s lives, and give them a bit of a push in the right/wrong direction.
As Jacob nudges Misha and Leslie closer together, we also learn about Jacob’s life as a Jew in Paris in the 1700s. Jacob goes from being the miserable husband of his “touched” child wife, to the servant of one of the French nobility. After becoming involved with his master’s mistress, Jacob is thrown out, only to find his real path as an actor.
Jacob’s Folly is a delightful read. At times laugh-out-loud funny, at times tear-jerking sad, it gives insight into life for (Conservative) Jews then and now. Furthermore, it is an intriguing story where we’re constantly wondering where it’s all going and what the whole purpose really is. Kind of like in real life. 

  Lolito by Ben Brooks
Lolito is a modern reimagining of the Nabokov’s classis Lolita. The main character is a 15-year old boy who has just found out that his girlfriend cheated on him. In an attempt to deal with his pain and confusion, he enters an online adult chat where he becomes involved with a woman in her 40s. Pretending to be older than he is, their chat soon escalates to cyber sex and from there to them meeting in person in London.
The teenagers we meet in Lolito are highly sexualised and at the same time extremely desensitized. The drink and do drugs without it seeming in any way to be a big deal. Our protagonist watches videos of cats being killed on youtube without any emotional reaction. Facebook statuses and newsheadings just filter right through him. However, there is a strong sense that he is really not able to deal with his current emotional state. I strongly feel that the book is asking the question “in today’s digital world, where any image is accessible at the push of a button, are children really children anymore?”. I’m not sure if the book provides a lot of answers, but it sure makes me stop and think.
Lolito is funny and well-written, and brings up important topics about teenages in today’s world. 

  Let the Games Begin by Niccolo Ammaniti
Outrageous, crazy and hilarious, Let the Games Begin is truly something else. The party of the century is happening in Rome, and everybody is going. We follow a failed Satanist and a confident author as their make their separate ways to this party of parties. The Satanist has decided to make his final stand, and use the party to sacrifice a former Metal-singer who turned Pop. The author is convinced that someone is out to get him (possibly the Finnish Tree-Mafia!), so he spends his time at the party jumping from woman to woman to elope with. All is going well until the hunt begins. Who is hunting who?

  Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookshop by Robin Sloan
This novel successfully brings together the physical book and Google’s power and awesomeness, if I can put it that way. It’s very much a book for our generation of late-twenties who are “going nowhere” careerwise due to the recession. Our protagonist Clay is stuck working the night shift at Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookshop after being retrenched. But nobody seems to be buying books anymore, and our hero soon start suspecting that the shop is merely a front for a very strange bookclub. In an effort to understand what this “bookclub” is all about, Clay stumbles upon a much more complex mystery than he could ever have imagined. And as chance would have it, even the code breaking machines of Google are unable to decipher it.
A thoroughly enjoyable read with lots of humour and heart. Perfect for passionate lovers of books – and Google. Here is something for the fantasy lover as well, and if you have a nerdy bone, that’ll be tickled too! Loved it.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Review catch-up: The Tiger's Wife, 1Q84, The Garden of Burning Sand and Perfect

Ok, so I've been reading, but not blogging. Time to do a bit of a catch-up. So I'm not doing long drawn-out analysis, but rather short and sweet (?) impressions (to the extent I can still remember!).

I was on a girl's trip to Mozambique about a month ago when I started reading The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht. I'd been curious about it for a while, and it turned out to be a beautifully written story of loss, death and myths. Obreht skillfully blends together the present, the story of war-ridden Balkan, with the narrator's attempts to come to terms with her grandfather's death. Her notion of her grandfather is infused with two stories he told her about himself. The Undead Man (a kind of Dracula story, just without all the blood), and the Tiger's Wife. Both stories are in a sense mythical, and get to the bone of who we are, as human beings. And in the end, they are all somehow connected.

 At over 900 pages, 1Q84 took me a lot longer to finish than I had intended. This Murakami tome is divided in three parts. Admittedly an homage to Orwell's 1984, it comes with quite a bit of weight. I haven't actually ever read Orwell, though, but I think I know enough about it to get at least a few of the references Murakami makes.

I literally fell into this book and got consumed with the plot potential. We meet Aomame, a hardcore gym instructor who every now and then takes a side job to eliminate a bad man from the face of the earth. An expert in anatomy, she knows exactly how to strike to make the death look natural.

Simultaneously, the cram school teacher Tengo takes on a side project too. The young female writer Eriko Fukada has written a very promising debut novel Air Chrysalis, but it needs a lot of work before it can survive the scrutiny of readers. Against his better judgment, Tengo agrees to fix it up and make it publishable, but noone can know, other than himself, FukaEri, the publisher and Fuka-Eri's "protector".

Unbeknownst to both of them, Aomame and Tengo's actions take on a huge significance that will affect their lives forever. Suddenly they find themselves no longer in the year 1984, but in 1Q84, where the rules are somewhat different and there are two moons in the sky.

The set-up for this novel is just excellent. The plot drew me in and my imagination was going wild with all the possibilities 1Q84 was offering. However, about halfway into the story, the plot slowed down, and we were suddenly observing 3/4 different characters who were all in isolation and trying to stay hidden. Fuka-Eri had to go "underground" to stay hidden from the organisation Sakigake that she attacked (covertly) in her book. Tengo had to stay hidden because of his part in the writing of the book. Aomame comes to a point where she has swallowed more than she knows she can chew, and she has to disappear to avoid being caught, and in all likelyhood killed. And then there's Ushikawa, who is a kind of private eye who stays hidden, while he attempts to sniff out Aomame's whereabouts.

There are a lot of interesting passages in the book, and I enjoyed most of it. However, the end became a bit too dragged out for me. I can see that Murakami might have done this on purpose, he even equips Aomame with a novel he says only people in jail have time or energy to read due to its length. But when it came down to it, it wasn't really the dragged-outedness that was a problem. It was rather the anticlimactic ending. The book has such an awesome build-up, you expect a real show-down. But the big confrontation that I'm waiting for, and the gun which hasn't been triggered yet, remain frustratingly flat. Once again, this might be Murakami playing around with reader expectations etc, but I would have preferred a bit more action towards the end, rather than the novel fizzing out into a romantic sort of story.

Don't get me wrong, it's a great book, I loved the fantastical elements and the world he built, I just wanted Sakigake or the Little People to be a bit more hardcore than they turned out to be...

So I never read last year's huge bestseller A Walk Across the Sun by Corban Addison, but when a preview copy of The Garden of Burning Sand was available at work, I decided to check it out. Addison writes so fluidly, it's an unadulterated pleasure to read. 

We're in Zambia. American Zoe Fleming is a lawyer, and becomes involved in a case where a young girl with Down's Syndrome has been raped. Traumatized by the event, the girl cannot express properly what has happened to her, but Zoe, with the help of policeman Joseph, are quickly able to track down a suspect. Unfortunately he's the son of a powerful businessman and a high court judge.

So begins the work of piecing together the evidence connecting the suspect to the raped girl. However, Zoe and Joseph are not only struggling to find reliable witnesses, they also face violent threats and an outdated bureaucracy that relies on superstitions rather than sense.

What I love about this book is the realistic (in my eyes) depiction of a trial and the legal process. I thought South African had problems, but compared to Zambia, SA is the promised land.

What I wasn't so impressed with, was the, to me, unnecessary cliches. Zoe is not any other girl, she's the alienated daughter of a US presidential candidate, who herself has had a very personal rape experience. I didn't need her to be all those things. Furthermore, I also get the impression that you have to be wealthy to be able to help and make a difference. I'm sure this is not Addison's intention, but he didn't have to choose a main character that came from such a privileged background.

All the same, this is a fast paced legal crime book that cares. I hope and think that Addison might succeed in reaching some wealthy Americans with women to spend, and motivate them to try make a difference in Southern Africa. It's an excellent read, enjoyable and full of suspense. Only at the last page do we really know what'll happen.

I really loved The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce so I was excited to read her new novel Perfect. Once again Joyce tackles a middle aged male character who is having some problems fitting in. Jim has a severe case of OCD. He has recently had to try reintegrate into society, as the hospital he's been staying at has shut down. Now he cleans tables for a living, while counting to 1 and 2, greeting his inanimate household objects and duct taping his doors and windows to ensure nothing bad happens. When a woman named Eileen hits his foot with her car, this sets motions into action, forcing Jim to start building some relations with other people - whether he likes it or not.

The parallel story is set in the 70s. We meet the the two teenage friends Byron and James. James tells Byron that two seconds will be added to the time this year, and Byron becomes consumed with worry about when this will happen. Then one day as Byron's mother is driving Byron and his sister to school, Byron can see the extra second being added, just as his mother runs into a little girl. Byron's mother doesn't notice and Byron is too scared to tell her. Finally he confides in James, and together they make the project "Perfect", a plan to save Byron's mother. But the boy's project to save her, might just be doing the opposite, and the seemingly perfect facade Byron's mother has kept up until now, is starting to crumble.

Perfect is a  truly tragic story with hope and redemption. Joyce once again treats her characters with tenderness and care. I love how the plot keeps thickening, but it is also straining to see the boys digging their own graves (and Byron's mother's!) without being able to stop them. Beautifully written and well worth the read.

Puh! So I remembered some things afterall! 4 good books, all very different though. And I would reread them all. :)

Monday, 5 August 2013

The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell | The Great Gatsby reimagined

I keep picking up books set in the 1920s. As in Z: a Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, The Other Typist, Suzanne Rindell's debut novel deals with the roles of women, and especially nervous woman, in the wake of Prohibition in America.

The novel is to a large extent an homage to The Great Gatsby, and we do not have to look further than to the unreliable narrator Rose Baker to see the similarities. Rose works as a typist at a police precinct in New York. The most exciting events in her life is minutely recording the confessions of the criminals that are arrested or interrogated at her precinct. But Rose's life will change drastically the day Odalie Lazare starts working as a typist as well. Similar to Jay Gatsby, Odalie is mystical and irresistibly attractive in our narrator Rose's eyes. At once both repelled and drawn in by Odalie's glamorous person, Rose keeps a keen eye on all of Odalie's moves, until the happy day that Odalie invites her into her confidence. But unbeknownst to Rose, Odalie has plans of her own, and being Rose's bosom friend might only be a step to a darker goal.

Similar to Nick Caraway, the narrator in The Great Gatsby, our narrator Rose suspects that Odalie's wealth has come to her through not entirely honest endeavours, and Odalie, similar to Jay Gatsby, has a habit of spinning fantastical tales about her past. As Rose and Odalie grow closer, the picture of Odalie, who she is and where she comes from, start taking shape. But Rose, however, as Nick Caraway, is also not a reliable narrator. She tells us she's keeping a diary, but we are only prone to selected entries, and Rose admits that in the writing, she was also selective as to what she put down. Later on, there is an incident where Rose oversteps in her position as typist, and fabricates a confession to ensure that a suspect is finally convicted. The further we get into the narrative, the more we realize to what extent Rose cannot be trusted.

Although not trustworthy as a narrator, Rose is naive and easily taken in by Odalie's charms. Abandoning all her previous reservations, Rose becomes involved in Odalie's flapper lifestyle and finds herself sharing Odalie's luxurious hotel apartment. Rose absorbs Odalie's looks and behaviour, striving for Odalie's approval and attention. And although Rose deep down knows that Odalie has ulterior motives for everything she does, and can point out when Odalie is manipulating someone to get her way, Rose is unable or unwilling to detach herself.

The Other Typist is a well-written, well plotted novel. I thoroughly enjoyed Rose as an unreliable narrator, and I love love loved the dark undertones running through the novel. The novel explores how fascination can turn to obsession, and obsession to madness. The ending is deeply ambiguous, which makes me love it even more.

And more to look forward to - Keira Knightly to star in the movie adaption of the book:)

Friday, 5 July 2013

This House is Haunted by John Boyne and Longbourn by Jo Baker | Writing Back

Doubleday brings us two novels that are "writing back" to 1800s literature. John Boyne's latest novel This House is Haunted is a horror in the gothic style. Boyne plays around with references to Victorian classics and must have had great fun writing this. For me, it was the perfect snuggle-under-the-blanket-for-winter read, but it won't stay with me for too long:)

The protagonist is the young newly "orphaned" governess Eliza Caine who leaves London for Norfolk after her father passes away. She quickly realises that all is not how it should be at Gaudlin Hall, where she is hired to take care of two strange siblings. It turns out that there has been quite a few governesses at Gaudlin Hall the past year, most of which all died, one after the other.

This could be a Gothic version of Jane Eyre. We have the traditional madwoman/ madman in the attic. As in Jane Eyre, the madwoman in question is a foreigner (is it impossible to imagine an Englishwoman as a madwoman?!). Unlike in Jane Eyre, however, Eliza does not end up marrying the husband.

Eliza is an interesting protagonist. She refuses to be scared and for the longest time lives in denial about what goes on around her. Regardless of the threats to her own person, she will not abandon the children, and she persists in getting to the bottom of the mysteries surrounding the Hall.

A great shivery read with fun (!) references to some of my favourite classical authors such as the Bronte sisters, Jane Austen and Charles Dickens.

And to stay with Jane Austen, Longbourn is a rewrite of Pride & Prejudice from the servants' perspective. I was a bit skeptical at first, but after a few pages I was completely engulfed in it.

Our protagonist is the young maid Sarah who spends her days cleaning for the Bennet family. The arrival of a new footman cause quite a change for Sarah. Not only does James' presence lighten her load, but it also stirs unknown feelings in Sarah's heart. At the same time, a dark and handsome footman in the neighbourgood (Mr Bingley's footman, as it happens!) is decisively flirtatious with Sarah whenever he has the chance, and seeing as James keeps avoiding her, Sarah is more than happy to flirt back.

But something is going on under the surface. Sarah overhears the housekeeper having a heated discussion with Mr Bennet, the master of the house. Why is Mrs Hill the only one who is allowed to disturb Mr Bennet in his library? And why is James determined to stay well away from the soldiers that keep visiting the daughters of the house?

In the background, we as readers are kept up to date about what the Bennet sisters are doing, but this is in no way a big focus of the story. What is more interesting, is that Baker brings to the forth the backdrop of slavery as a means to the riches that, say, Mr Bingley possesses.

Of the main characters from Pride & Prejudice Mr Wickham is the one who seems to have the strongest presence in Longbourn. As in Pride & Prejudice, Wickham's role is to charm the young girls whilst alienating and intimidating the men who are too weak (?) to stand up to him. But thankfully, as in P&P, Wickham doesn't win in his schemes.

I really enjoyed the little artistic liberties Baker took in writing this. Some of the plot sequences were such that I wish they were part of the original P&P. In the reading of this book, I truly came to care for Sarah, and her story is worth telling in it's own right - with or without the connection to P&P. In other words, this is a great read for fans of Jane Austen, but readers who haven't read Jane Austen will still enjoy this.

Longbourn should be released in August this year to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the first publication of Pride & Prejudice. I'm also excited that the movie rights have been sold :) Perhaps some time in the future, BBC will even make a joint miniseries of both books, making it a sort of Downton Abbey-style Pride & Prejudice.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Z a Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler | Her story

So I'm not gonna pretend that I picked up this book for any other reason than nostalgia after watching the new movie version of The Great Gatsby. And it seemed like an interesting perspective - getting F. Scott Fitzgeralds' wife's story, especially considering how Fitzgerald has been accused of being a misogynist. This is Zelda's story - as a novel - but it is the story of Zelda's life with F. Scott, or Deo as she calls him.

 We follow Zelda from when she first meets Scott in 1918. Zelda is 18, beautiful, admired and impulsive. She loves to flirt and her evenings are preoccupied with entertaining soldiers waiting to be shipped off into the war. Among them is Scott, the aspiring author, the man who stands out and speaks to something deep inside Zelda. Although her parents oppose the match, Scott will win her, and soon they start their new married life in New York.

Zelda and Scott make up the perfect couple for the era. Glamorous and scandalous, Zelda quickly learns that she must publicly play a part to fit in with Scott's fiction of who they are. There's always a party, always booze, always an excuse to spend money. And as Scott's literary success increases, it seems that their lives are escalating more and more out of control.

In their quest for stability the couple travel from place to place, finally settling for a longer time in Paris. While Scott should be working on his new novel, he prefers pursuing his new bromance, Ernest Hemingway, a then aspiring author Zelda distrusts from day one. The more Zelda speaks up against Hemingway, the more Scott's esteem for her drops. Throughout their strife, Zelda keeps trying to find her own path. She wants to be more than wife and mother. She can write, she can paint, she can dance ballet, but Scott wants to keep these preoccupations in check.

The conflict between the couple becomes so strained that Zelda throws herself into an extreme ballet dancing routine. Ballet becomes her sole sense of achievement in life, as Scott seemingly cares less and less about her and her opinions. In her pursuit for perfection, however, Zelda throws herself head first into a mental breakdown.

Although this is a novel and not a biography, I feel that Fowler has succeeded extremely well in retaining a sense of truth. Zelda and Scott's relationship is complex and forever changing. There are infidelities, alcoholism and resentment, but also encouragement, compassion and loyalty, and a sense of belonging. Throughout the hardships they face, the love and the well wishes seem to survive. What is also beautiful is the humour between the two. And even though one might come away with the impression that Scott wronged Zelda, Zelda refuses to cast him off completely, and still sees a future for the two of them: "If I could fit myself into this mail slot, here, I'd follow my letter all the way to Hollywood, all the way to Scott, right up to the door of our next future. We have always had a next one, after all..." (p. 1-2, my italics).

I like the Zelda of this novel a lot. She might start out as a flapper, a glamorous party girl without a care in the world, but she grows to being an independent woman who thinks for herself and who is ready to fight for what she believes in. Z is both delightful and sad, and in the process of reading it, I find myself wanting to learn more about this woman and curse myself for not being more interested when I did American literary studies. What a woman, Zelda Fitzgerald! I am charmed and inspired. 

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Night Film by Marisha Pessl | Enter Darkness

So I wasn't a hundred percent sure I wanted to read this, because I read Special Topics in Calamity Physics and wasn't as awed as everyone else. Luckily I was in the mood for something horror-like. Winter has hit Joburg and all I want to do is snuggle under a blanket with a good scary book and a nice cup of tea (or a deliciously dark glass of red wine!). So after reading the blurb for Night Film I decided to give it a shot. It turned out to be just what the doctor ordered.

From the very first pages I knew that this book was going to be different. Newspaper clippings, photographs and online searches are part of the story, and I find this element to be one which resonates with the time we live in. Instead of constantly being told what's happening, we can make up our own minds, based on the information supplied from these "external" sources.

We follow investigating journalist Seth McGraw in his attempt to redeem himself to the public eye through unmasking his "enemy", cult horror director Stanislav Cordova. Cordova's character is immersed in mystery, as he hasn't been seen in public since the 70s. All his movies are shot on his private estate, and he sternly refuses to do interviews. All dealings with the public go through his seemingly bland assistant Inez Gallo. And strangely, actors that have worked with Cordova refuses to talk about their experience working with him, or worse, turn up missing or die under strange circumstances. When Cordova's 24-year old daughter Ashley is found dead after what looks like a suicide, Seth decides it is time he looked into Cordova again. Along the way he picks up some unlikely sidekicks. Nora the aspiring actress and the less stable Hopper who deals drugs when he's not dedicated to the cause.

Through tracing Ashley's final movements, Seth and his helpers manage to slowly hone in on Cordova's well-guarded universe. The closer he gets, the more Seth has to realise that not everything has a logical explanation. The occult seems to be hiding behind all the doors they open, as their search takes them through mental institutions, secret internet sites, "forgotten" clubs reminiscent of the secret club in Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut, magical shops and finally Cordova's estate. The truth about Ashley the pianist prodigy is turning out to be a lot more complex - or perhaps a lot simpler - than Seth could ever have imagined.

Throughout the reading of this novel I had the same uncanny feeling I get when watching a David Lynch-movie. There are all these characters that seem to appear out of the blue, but you never quite know if you can trust them, or why they are there.  Lynch also uses magical and occult elements in his movies and series. How awesome would it have been to see what kind of movie would come out of this in Lynch's hands?! (The book is being adapted into a movie - I'm really excited about that, but not by Lynch, sadly.)

I haven't read a book like this before, and I can only compare it to Chuck Palahniuk's Haunted in messed-up-ed-ness. Night Film keeps the suspension tense until the end, never quite letting us go. We learn that Cordova, in his movies, always have an open ending. His viewers are not given clear answers, they must themselves decide what to take from it. Pessl similarly also leaves us with an open ending in which we can draw our own conclusion. Do we believe in the existence of mermaids, or are they mere myth?

Night Film is an extremely successful thriller/horror/transgressional novel. I climbed right into Pessl's, and Cordova's world of smoke and black mirrors, and I got completely lost in Seth's dark odyssey. I don't care if it takes Pessl another 7 years to bring out another book. If this is what I  can expect from her, I'm a complete convert. Read it read it read it read it read it! Read it! (Due for release August this year).