A woman named Amanda lies in a fever in a rural hospital clinic, A young boy, David sits beside her. She’s not his mother. He’s not her child. David is prompting Amanda to recount the events that led to her illness, constantly pushing her to fix on the 'important moment', the moment when the 'worms' got in. Yet for Amanda what is important is where her young daughter Nina is. She talks a lot about the 'rescue distance', something most parents are constantly measuring and recalibrating as their children grow. How far away from you are they? Are they close enough to rescue should danger befall them? As David continues to push her, the horror of the thing that has befallen them is exposed, is there any way back through it? Can Amanda get back to being within rescue distance of Nina? Samanta Schweblin is a fairly new voice on the Spanish literary scene, her short stories have won critical acclaim but this is her first novel. It was rightfully shortlisted for the Man Booker international prize as it is incredibly evocative. Reading it you feel like you are in a fever dream, nothing is quite where it should be and memories are more vivid than the world around you. This lends itself perfectly to the strange, creeping, psychological menace. I can't tell you more of the plot without ruining it for you, but I would definitely recommend you read it if you like books that are a bit weird and that don't necessarily tie up every loose end for you. This is like that, it's a melody in a minor key that will keep surfacing in your mind like a memory of illness and loss. It is a tale of maternal love and the power and desperation of family. Some praise must also go to the translator Megan McDowell. Five Bites NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews.
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Sometimes reviewing classic books like this that everybody knows seems like a bit silly. But then often the myth of a book veers away from the story inside and I think this is the case with this story. After meeting and losing Daisy during the war, Gatsby has made himself fabulously wealthy. Now, he believes that his only way to true happiness is to find his way back into Daisy’s life, he has bought a glamorous house just across the water from Daisy's and has been throwing fabulous parties in the hope that one day she will wonder in and their affair can resume. But this has yet to happen and when her cousin Nick Carraway rents the small house next door he determines to use Nick to try to reach her. I listened to the audiobook version of this, voiced by Oscar-nominated actor Jake Gyllenhaal. I was curious to see how well he'd do as I completely fell in love with his sister's voice when I listened to The Bell Jar. Once again, I fell in love. Gyllenhaal's performance is stunning. I know I'm going to listen to this version over and over again. But of course it isn't just Gyllenhaal's performance that makes this so special. F. Scott Fitzgerald's writing is as smooth as silk and twice as sensuous. That's not news though is it? F. Scott has always been hailed as the master of style. But style without substance does not a classic make. Gatsby is an immense character. Complex but utterly relatable, if Gatsby can be great, we can all be great - if only we have a love strong enough to motivate us and a chance to grab. The plot is full of the twists and conflicts that only human hearts can create. Unnecessary spite and jealousies are spat out and swallowed with humiliation that burns for redemption. This story is Shakespearean in scope. If you haven't read it in a while or it's one that passed you by previously, pick up a copy - or better still download this version from Audible. Five Bites
The blurb of this book promised a light-hearted, entertaining read, here it is in it's entirety: "When you are an inoffensive retired librarian with bitter personal experience of Evil Talking Cats, do you rescue a kitten from the cold on a December night? Do you follow up news items about cats digging in graveyards? Do you inquire into long-ago cats who voyaged around the world with Captain Cook? Well, yes. If you are Alec Charlesworth that is precisely what you do - with unexpected and terrifying consequences ..." Maybe if I was only 8 this book would have lived up to that expectation. But I do have some doubts about that, as regular readers of this blog will know we quite like reading children's books and although this might have been passable entertainment for a few evenings I doubt it could ever become a much-loved classic. In fact I did double check and it really is aimed at adults. But it's so badly written that I gave up on it before I was a quarter of the way through it. Ironic as it's written by the woman who recently wrote a best-selling book on grammar! To be fair it isn't grammatically incorrect, nor is it an over preponderance on correctness that mars it. I just found the characters too bizarre and shallow. Considering that I love a quirky character this is a damnation of about the highest order possible. I only nibbled it enough to give it one Bite before I gave up on it. NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews.
The town of Rotherweird was cast adrift from the rest of England by Elizabeth I. Now it stands alone - there are no guidebooks, and only a few from the outside are ever allowed in. Despite this it is not a town that has stood still, there are fascinating and diverse architectural styles cramming the narrow streets, avant garde science and offbeat customs. One such custom is that nobody is allowed to study the town or its history. But suddenly two outsiders arrive, they are quite unconnected - Jonah Oblong has been hired to replace the modern history teacher (who seemingly broke the rules about studying local history), and the sinister billionaire Sir Veronal Slickstone, who has somehow got permission to renovate the town's long-derelict Manor House. Both are keen to connect past and present, but this draws them into a race against time and each other with possibly apocalyptic consequences. I wanted to love this, I put off reading it for a while as an act of delayed gratification. And to begin with I did love it. The main character is likeable enough and Rotherweird is a wonderful world. But soon after we arrive there the cast of characters take over and sadly it becomes a confusing mess. As interesting as all the characters are, we are jumped into one head after another and far too quickly. I felt dizzy and confused and had no idea what was going on. Eventually I gave up on it before I was even half way through. Three Bites. NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews.
Jean-Michel Basquiat became an idol of modern art. His transition from the subways to the chic gallery spaces of Manhattan brought him into the company of many of New York's established and aspiring stars. He became friends with fellow artists Andy Warhol and Keith Haring, performed with Debbie Harry and Fab 5 Freddie and dated Madonna. But through all of this he had a relationship with Suzanne. Mmuse, lover, co-conspirator, fellow artist. But the demands that his new fame brought, coupled with the racism and injustice all around him, sickened Basquiat. He started using heroin far too often and in 1987, at the age of twenty-seven, the most successful black visual artist in history, died from a heroin overdose. This book, written by a friend of both Basquiat and Suzanne, is an exploration of the artist and the time they lived through as seen through the eyes of his muse, Suzanne. Though they parted before he died, it is a love story still. I was a teenager if the 80's. I loved Basquiat's work then and still love it now. It has an energy and an intelligence not found in much pop art. That energy is born of fury and injustice and the intelligence brings with it humour. It was an honour to read such an intimate, understanding and compassionate portrait of the artist. But it also made me feel ashamed of the racism that still destroys so many people's potential. We must do better. Art demands it. Five Bites NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews.
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