donderdag 26 juni 2014

Andrew Miller: Pure


Andrew Miller's Pure was shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction. My copy has 376 pages and I bought it at the Fnac in Ghent.

“Deep in the heart of Paris, its oldest cemetery is, by 1785, overflowing, tainting the very breath of those who live nearby. Into their midst comes Jean-Baptiste Baratte, a young, provincial engineer charged by the king with demolishing it.
At first Baratte sees this as a chance to clear the burden of history, a fitting task for a modern man of reason. But before long, he begins to suspect that the destruction of the cemetery might be a prelude to his own.”

The novel is set four years before the French revolution and it is a constant but subtle element in the story. The story doesn’t revolve around the upcoming revolution but it’s frequently hinted at which makes the story not overly political and still enjoyable.
Baratte is a symbol of change, of science and an enlightened new time, of forgetting about the past and starting fresh. In the background Paris is still dark, stuck in its old way of living and apprehensive of change. I really enjoyed this stark difference.

The novel is very absorbing; it’s one of those books you have to finish because you can’t stop reading. Miller is able to make you feel like you are in Paris. It’s almost like you’re there to witness every detail he writes about; from the smells, to wrinkly faces and decaying fruit. It’s dark and suspenseful, it’s creepy and bleak, vibrant and earthy, wonderful and unexpected.
It’s a great and unusual novel unlike anything I've read before. Miller writes beautifully and lingers on details without losing the main focus of the novel.
I loved it.

One thing though, Miller uses a lot of metaphors, and this made the novel difficult to read at times.

4 stars

Happy reading!

maandag 23 juni 2014

Sarah Waters: The Little Stranger

Hi again

The Little Stranger is my first novel by Sarah Waters. It was published in 2009 and it is her sixth novel. I bought my book when I was in Glasgow last September in a Waterstones with the buy 1 get 1 half price offer. The Little Stranger was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2009.
My copy has 501 pages.

“One post-war summer in rural Warwickshire, Dr. Faraday is called to a patient at lonely Hundreds Hall. Home to the Ayres family for over two centuries, the Georgian house, once impressive and handsome, is now in decline. Its owners-mother, son, and daughter-are struggling to keep pace with a changing society, as well as with conflicts of their own. But are the Ayreses haunted by something more sinister than a dying way of life? Little does Dr. Faraday know how closely, and how terrifyingly, their story is about to become intimately entwined with his.”

As historical fiction, the novel is great. Waters writes about the final struggles of the class system and the death throes of those at the top especially.
Mrs. Ayres thinks the family is an example to every other person in the country. To her, losing the estate means the end of a way of life, setting the whole family adrift. The family tries to hold on to the estate even though most of the rooms are closed off, the wind blows freely through the house and they have to sell the land piece by piece.
This story of decay and the importance of social class is interesting to read. I really liked the novel on this level, reading about the time, about the family and their struggles, about the doctor who feels he doesn't belong in any class because of his parents.

As a ghost story, the novel is slow, too long and unconvincing. The ambiguous supernatural elements were a bit of a disappointment. I got the feeling Waters couldn’t keep up the tension, making the supernatural elements weak and unimpressive.

The book is beautifully written and I read the first 200 pages in a day, but after that the pace was slackening and I became less and less interested. I expected some kind of twist in the last part of the novel but that didn't happen.

I read good reviews about it and since it was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize I had high hopes. Unfortunately Waters couldn’t deliver in my opinion.

3.5 stars

Happy reading.

vrijdag 20 juni 2014

Alan Bennett: The Uncommon Reader


This is my review for a tiny red paperback by Alan Bennett.
I bought it from and it has 121 pages.

“When her corgis stray into a mobile library parked near Buckingham Palace, the Queen feels duty-bound to borrow a book. Discovering the joy of reading widely (from J. R. Ackerley, Jean Genet, and Ivy Compton-Burnett to the classics) and intelligently, she finds that her view of the world changes dramatically. Abetted in her newfound obsession by Norman, a young man from the royal kitchens, the Queen comes to question the prescribed order of the world and loses patience with the routines of her role as monarch. Her new passion for reading initially alarms the palace staff and soon leads to surprising and very funny consequences for the country at large.”

The Uncommon Reader left me feeling happy and relaxed.
It's a delightful, sweet, recognizable, funny and light read. The story makes you think about reading and people who don't read, how books can change a person and change someone's view of the world, how they make you understand the world, people and relationships.

Charming little book.

3.5 stars

Happy reading!

donderdag 19 juni 2014

Terry Pratchett: The Truth


I LOVE Terry Pratchett and his Discworld series, so for my second review I had to go with the next one in line. I've been reading a Discworld novel every other month for a few years now and when I finish the series, I'll start again. They're that good.

“There's been a murder. Allegedly. William de Worde is the Discworld's first investigative journalist. He didn't mean to be - it was just an accident. But, as William fills his pages with reports of local club meetings and pictures of humorously shaped vegetables, dark forces high up in Ankh-Morpork's society are plotting to overthrow the city's ruler, Lord Vetinari.”

The Truth is the 25th Discworld novel, but it’s one you can start with if you haven’t read the previous books. Some older characters make an appearance, but it’s mostly all new 'people'.

In The Truth, Pratchett mocks the media with so much humour I couldn’t help laughing out loud. The novel is brilliantly imaginative, funny, beautifully written, very entertaining, fast paced and it never bores.
It's a fantastic novel.

4.5 stars

Happy reading!

maandag 16 juni 2014

Neil Gaiman: Neverwhere


This is my review for Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere.
My copy has 379 pages and I got it at the Fnac in Antwerp.

"Under the streets of London... It's a place most people could never even dream of. A city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, knights in armour and pale girls in black velvet. This is the city of the people who have fallen between the cracks. Richard Mayhew, a young businessman, is going to find out more than enough about this other London. A single act of kindness catapults him out of his workday existence and into a world that is at once eerily familiar and utterly bizarre. And a strange destiny awaits him down here, beneath his native city: neverwhere. Richard is a normal man, thrown into the world of London Below. He can be stupid and has no backbone whatsoever. I really got irritated by him at some point, but I kept on reading because the book had a way of sucking me back in."

What I liked most about this book is the world-building; reading about London Below, the people and the dangers there.
I would have liked more depth to the characters and the plot. The premise is amazing and the characters are very interesting, but it's still a bit too superficial in my opinion.

The novel is weird, fast, funny, charming, imaginative, absurd, unique, bizarre and very, very entertaining.
Gaiman's writing is really beautiful and clever and he makes you visualize everything he describes. You can't help but seeing it in front of you.

4 stars

Happy reading!