Wow where did those last 6 months go I can't believe we are half way through the year already.
Coming up on this thread our world tour continues with the following line up:
July - Philipines
August - Brazil
September - Argentina
October -- Uganda
November - Slovenia
December - Russia
I will also continue reading and reviewing the Man Booker International 2018 Shortlist, once I have finished this list I will move on to the Golden Man Booker Shortlist and of course we can't forget that this year's Man Booker Longlist will soon be announced so it will be a busy few months of reading for me.
If anyone wants to join me in any of the above challenges feel free and of course everyone is welcome to discuss everything book related here
July 2018 Book Review
The World Goes On by Laszlo Krasznahorkai
Man Booker International Shortlist 2018 - Hungary
Brief Overview - Philosophical short story collection
Synopsis from Goodreads: A Hungarian interpreter obsessed with waterfalls, at the edge of the abyss in his own mind, wanders the chaotic streets of Shanghai. A traveller, reeling from the sights and sounds of Varanasi, encounters a giant of a man on the banks of the Ganges ranting on the nature of a single drop of water. A child labourer in a Portuguese marble quarry wanders off from work one day into a surreal realm utterly alien from his daily toils.
In The World Goes On, a narrator first speaks directly, tells twenty-one unforgettable stories, then bids farewell ('for here I would leave this earth and these stars, because I would take nothing with me'). As Laszlo Krasznahorkai himself explains: 'Each text is about drawing our attention away from this world, speeding our body toward annihilation, and immersing ourselves in a current of thought or a narrative...'
The World Goes On is another masterpiece by the winner of the 2015 Man Booker International Prize. 'The excitement of his writing,' Adam Thirlwell proclaimed in the New York Review of Books, 'is that he has come up with his own original forms-there is nothing else like it in contemporary literature.'
My Thoughts: Regular followers of this thread will know that I don't like short story collections so you won't be surprised to know that I didn't enjoy this book at all. In fact when I finished reading it my thought was What have I just read.
As this is a short story collection that mainly looks at issues from a philosophical point of view there was no character development and very little plot. Each story was more like a stream of consciousness rambling about whatever the narrator of that section thought was important.
In terms of progress throughout the novel the narrator at the beginning appears to be in some kind of prison while the narrator at the end is looking at escaping the confines of life itself. I was not particularly invested in what happened to either of them.
Here are my ratings:
Writing quality: 3/5
Character development: 1/4
Plot development: 1/4
Overall enjoyment: 0/2
Good afternoon all. Welcome to the new thread. Thank you @twoleftfeet for setting everything up and keeping everything running.
Currently reading (about three quarters through), 'The Shortest History of Europe' by John Hirst. Not the easiest of reads. I have to go back and re-read occasional paragraphs to ensure I understood the point. But a brilliant read.
After a really brief overview of Europe from Ancient Greece to the post industrial era (all of 40 pages), it then re-visits key times highlighting how different aspects shaped and influenced the development of the continent. Aspects such as invasions, language, forms of government and rulers are covered. It truly is illuminating and introduces theories about how certain things came about that had never occurred to me.
I believe the book is based on a series of lectures given to non-European students with the aim of introducing them to European history. The result is quite direct and contained chapters. Very easy to pick up and get back into even if interrupted for a time.
Can highly recommend if that's the sort of thing that interests you.
Man Booker International 2018 Winner
Flights by Olga Tokarczuk
Brief Overview - short story collection about travel and anatomy
I decided to leave the winner until last as I didn't want it to influence what I thought of the other books, so do I agree with the judges decision?
Synopsis from Goodreads: Flights, which was awarded Poland's biggest literary prize in 2008, is a novel about travel in the twenty-first century and human anatomy. From the seventeenth century, we have the story of the real Dutch anatomist Philip Verheyen, who dissected and drew pictures of his own amputated leg, discovering in so doing the Achilles tendon. From the eighteenth century, we have the story of a North African-born slave turned Austrian courtier stuffed and put on display after his death in spite of his daughter's ever more desperate protests, as well as the story of Chopin's heart as it makes the covert journey from Paris to Warsaw, stored in a tightly sealed jar beneath his sister's skirt supports. From the present we have the trials and tribulations of a wife accompanying her much older professor husband as he teaches a course on a cruise ship in the Greek islands, or the quest of a Polish woman who immigrated to New Zealand as a teen but must now return in order to poison her terminally ill high school sweetheart, or the slow descent into madness of a young husband whose wife and child mysteriously vanished on a vacation on a Croatian island and then appeared again with no explanation. These narratives are interspersed with short bursts of analysis that enrich and connect them, including digressions on relics, travel-sized cosmetics, belly dancing, maps, the Maori, Wikipedia, Cleopatra, Ataturk, the effects of airports on the psyche, and many more rich and varied topics. Perfectly intertwining travel narratives and reflections on travel with observations on the body and on life and death, Olga Tokarczuk guides the reader beyond the surface layer of modernity and deeper and deeper
My Thoughts: This is another short story collection and as such I didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I actually did. The points allocation knocks it down because like any short story collection there is not really any room for character and plot development although in this collection some of the character's stories pop up at different points in the overall narrative so you do get a kind of progression and the ideas of travel and anatomy are present throughout most of the stories so they are kind of loosely held together.
The writing is beautiful and I really appreciated the descriptions included, there were also sections that really amused me and sections that made me think. The author clearly loves travel and specifically the countries of Europe and that made this an interesting read.
Here are my ratings:
Writing quality: 4/5
Character development: 2/4
Plot development: 2/4
Overall enjoyment: 1/2
So do I agree with the choice of winner? The short answer is No. In terms of merit I would have chosen Frankenstein in Baghdad but in terms of overall enjoyment I would have chosen Vernon Subutex. That said I have found something to enjoy in most of the shortlist books and I think the Man Booker team did a good job in choosing them, roll on 2019.
July Book Review
The Survival Game by Nicky Singer
Brief Overview - YA dystopian fiction about what it means to be a child refugee.
This ARC was provided by Hodder Children's Books (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis from Goodreads: In a world full of checkpoints and controls, can love and hope defy the borders? A searing, timely story, as arresting as it is beautiful.
Mhairi Anne Bain owns only two things: a gun with no bullets and her identity papers.
The world is a shell of what it once was. Now, you must prove yourself worthy of existence at every turn, at every border checkpoint. And if you are going to survive, your instincts will become your most valuable weapon.
Mhairi has learnt the importance of living her own story, of speaking to no one. But then she meets a young boy with no voice at all, and finds herself risking everything to take him to safety.
And so Mhairi and the silent boy travel the road north. But there are rumours that things in Scotland have changed since she has been away. What Mhairi finds there is shocking and heart-breaking, but might finally re-connect her to her sense of self and to the possibility of love.
An extraordinary story about survival and what it costs, about the power of small kindnesses to change everything.
My Thoughts: I loved everything about this book and it earned a rare 5 star rating from me. While this is classed as a YA book it tackles very adult themes including attempted rape and murder, consider yourself warned.
Some people may say do we need yet another YA dystopian story and I would say yes we definitely need this one, in fact I think all young people in privileged countries like the UK should read this to get an understanding of what it means to be a refugee, to have nothing or to have lost everything you ever had including your sense of self.
The dystopia in this book comes from a lack of resources left on earth and the fact that "Global Citizens" have signed up to an agreement (think Logan's Run) to control population. The usual refugee story is turned on its head because the main character Mhairi is a 14 year old Scottish expat trying to return to the Scottish Isle of Arran and finding that being from somewhere doesn't mean you are automatically welcomed back.
I loved the central characters Mhairi and Mo. Mhairi has done questionable things but as the book progresses we get to see how her character changes and how events lead her to act as she does. Mo never speaks a word and yet he has a major impact on the story, Mo will break your heart with his silence.
I like the fact that this book is not black and white it allows room for shades of grey. It asks the question in a world where resources are scarce how do you decide who gets what and should compassion for one person be put ahead of the needs of society as a whole? The fact is I can easily imagine the world of this novel becoming reality given the right circumstances.
Here are some quotes I just have to share
"Because this is what hope does, what the heart does. It refuses to know what the head knows."
"I used to think time was simple. And also numerical, that it ticked by at a certain rate. I have discovered that this is not true."
"But what about the no-real. the fictions? The things we make up ourselves and then give names to as if they were as real as rocks? Things like:
And also borders.
Borders. Borders. Borders."
Who would like this book? I would recommend this to those who enjoy dystopian fiction with a deeper message that makes you think. This book will do that, it will break your heart and if you are anything like me you will want everyone to read it to learn about compassion. Seriously read it already and if you don't enjoy it you can always blame me.
Man Booker Longlist 2018
Book 1 read
Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
Brief Overview - a story about how a slave boy from Barbados finds his own place in a white mans world.
ARC provided by Serpent's Tail via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis (from Amazon): When two English brothers take the helm of a Barbados sugar plantation, Washington Black - an eleven year-old field slave - finds himself selected as personal servant to one of these men. The eccentric Christopher 'Titch' Wilde is a naturalist, explorer, scientist, inventor and abolitionist, whose single-minded pursuit of the perfect aerial machine mystifies all around him.
Titch's idealistic plans are soon shattered and Washington finds himself in mortal danger. They escape the island together, but then then Titch disappears and Washington must make his way alone, following the promise of freedom further than he ever dreamed possible.
From the blistering cane fields of Barbados to the icy wastes of the Canadian Arctic, from the mud-drowned streets of London to the eerie deserts of Morocco, Washington Black teems with all the strangeness and mystery of life. Inspired by a true story, Washington Black is the extraordinary tale of a world destroyed and made whole again.
My Thoughts: The opening chapters of this book are sufficiently horrific that to say I enjoyed the novel seems wrong. What I appreciate about this story is the way the writing bought the places to life, while reading this I could feel the heat of Barbados and the fear of the slaves as one horror is replaced by another.
In terms of originality I like the steampunk elements and the adventure side of things and I would say the situations Washington Black finds himself in are unique. My one issue with this was that some of it felt just too unbelievable, although this does claim to be based on real events.
For me the plot started out slowly and then moved at a fast pace as we watch Washington Black grow in character from scared slave boy to a man of industry and worth. I like the way the idea of freedom was explored and the way that Wash is viewed by some as a person, by some as property and by others as a cause. This book has a lot to say about the horrors of slavery and the way humans treat each other.
Writing quality: 4/5
Character Development: 3/4
Plot Development: 3/4
Overall enjoyment: 1/2