Tuesday, 18 December 2012

What I've been reading

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A Confederacy of Dunces
by John Kennedy Toole

"A monument to sloth, rant and contempt, a behemoth of fat, flatulence and furious suspicion of anything modern - this is Ignatius J. Reilly of New Orleans, noble crusader against a world of dunces. But his momma has a nasty surprise in store for him: Ignatius must get a job."
To start with, I just found this book odd. Then I was intrigued and repulsed in equal measure - but I carried on reading, wondering where on earth it was leading. About two-thirds of the way through, I laughed out loud at one scene, but still couldn't quite work out whether I could stand the main character for much longer. Supporting characters are drawn sympathetically, but Ignatius is an oaf, a liar, a degenerate, and yet I wanted to know what would happen to him. I still want to know. The author died before the book was published, and I get the feeling that if he had been successful within his lifetime, we would have seen a sequel, and I would have been compelled, almost against my will, to read it.

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Night Watch
by Terry Pratchett

"Commander Sam Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch had it all. But now he's back in his own rough, tough past without even the clothes he was standing up in when the lightning struck.  Living in the past is hard. Dying in the past is incredibly easy. But he must survive, because he has a job to do."
What a clever chap that Mr Pratchett is. Once you are a little bit familiar with his characters from one book to the next, things get very much easier, and it's possible to appreciate the wit and skill of the writer. In this book, while his wit and skill are very much in evidence, I wasn't so hooked on the plot, but enjoyed it nevertheless. Another book courtesy of Hugh - thank you very much.

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Beyond Black
by Hilary Mantel
"Alison Hart, a medium by trade, tours the dormitory towns of London’s orbital ring road with her flint-hearted sidekick, Colette, passing on messages from beloved dead ancestors. But behind her plump, smiling persona hides a desperate woman: she knows the terrors the next life holds but must conceal them from her wide-eyed clients."
I don't know what it is with modern novels. I can't seem to find much to like in any book written in the 21st century, and I find the latter part of the 20th century a bit of a struggle too. This is a book by an author who is 'acclaimed', who has won the Booker prize twice - the first time for Wolf Hall, which I didn't really get on with. Since this was supposed to be very different from Wolf Hall - a ghost story rather than historical fiction - I thought it might be worth a try, but I still didn't find much to like.

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