Saturday, 27 July 2013

Book #45 When God Was A Rabbit by Sarah Winman

When God Was A Rabbit

Length Of Time In Possession : Roughly 8 months 

Two years ago, Amazon must have emailed me suggesting I buy When God Was A Rabbit more than ten times. I got annoyed, and decided never to read it on that basis. I also thought its title was incredibly twee and irritating.

If one should not judge a book by its cover one should also not judge a book by its title, a friend insisted on my lending it, promising it was good, and actually, though it almost embarrasses me to admit it, given how ill disposed I was to it, it is!

I've seen complaints around the internet that it was disappointing and didn't live up to the hype, but, as I entered it with incredibly low expectations, the novel had the opposite effect on me.

It is a coming of age story about Elly, a quirky off beat damaged little girl who feels she doesn't belong anywhere or to anyone except her brother Joe. Their father struggles with depression, believing he is cursed and their mother is openly in love with both their father and their aunt.   

Both Joe and Elly have one special friend in Joe's case Charlie and in Elly's, Jenny Penny and for them, that is enough. The novel moves through their childhood into adulthood, and, like Elly's later newspaper column is about 'Lost And Found' that which we lose and find again, in the best of ways.
It is about love too, and love in all the forms it exists within. I felt envious of what Elly and Joe had within each other, a relationship special and vital to each.

Throughout the prose there is this sad nostalgia, but a kind of beautiful sadness if that makes any sense? Thoroughly engaging, I'm not sorry I read it, and perhaps ought to have listened to Amazon's automated recommendations, damn you for knowing me too well!!!

Verdict : 9/10

Destination : Return to Owner

On My All Time Favourite Books (Part 2)

A follow up post to the one from last Saturday before I resume normal service, to include all the ones I didn't have time to do last week! I haven't nearly finished - which means there WILL be a Part 3!

So here are some more :

My Traitor's Heart by Rian Malan

Reading Cry, The Beloved engendered in me a deep fascination with Africa, particularly South Africa, a country/continent I still long to visit.
Rian Malan's autobiographical piece reflects upon the difficulties faced by the white man living in the Apartheid system and the guilt within.  Rian's guilt is amplified on this issue because one of his ancestors was Daniel Malan - one of the original architects of the Apartheid system. In this book Malan confronts both history and his own conscience - the struggle to break free of the racist thoughts that have been bred into him from childhood. Very, very, moving.

Tess Of The D'urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

I studied Thomas Hardy's poetry at A Level and this filled me with contempt for him - as a consequence, I had deliberately read none of his novels, convinced I would hate them. In a way, I only read Tess because "I had to" as I used to attend literature masterclasses for fun and this book happened to be chosen. Tess had a very profound effect on me in many ways, leaving me a total wreck at its conclusion. Aside from its plot, its general descriptive prose is utterly beautiful. It's heartbreaking though, devastating, in fact.

Middlemarch by George Eliot

I remember, in my final year of university, shutting myself away in the evenings for a week just to read Middlemarch.
A great many better people than I have called Middlemarch the greatest novel ever written in the English Language, although it is not, ultimately, my favourite novel - they are not wrong, it is.

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

Gregory David Roberts broke free of a maximum security prison in Australia and went on the run, spending a considerable amount of time in India. He writes how when he ultimately was recaptured, prison guards repeatedly destroyed his manuscript. The persistent redrafting of this tale honed it into an absolute gem of a novel, a beauty. I say novel and not autobiography as Roberts freely admitted taking a level of literary and dramatic licence. Unputdownable.

Fall On Your Knees by Anne Marie Macdonald

When Materia is 13 yrs old, she elopes with James Piper and is promptly disowned by her family. Following the birth of their first daughter Kathleen, James becomes an obsessed with her, an obsession which grows dark. Kathleen is followed by Mercedes, Frances and Lily and the story is of the four sisters, the damage inflicted upon them and the damage they inflict on each other. A relentlessly tragic, intense, novel, but one that is well worth the read.

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

David Copperfield is, of those I've read, my favourite Dickens, though I have still by no means read them all. Another 'bildungsroman' about a young boy growing into young man and the characters he encounters along the way; I cannot understand why Great Expectations, which I think is pretty over-rated, actually, often supercedes this in the general pecking order of Dickens novels in the nation's affections. I have a friend who was unable to take to Dickens at all, because she hated the two she had read, one being Great Expectations. I insistently pressed David Copperfield on her, and she loved it!

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

I've owned a signed copy of Birdsong which was a personal gift to me from Sebastian Faulks since I was 16.  The definitive Great War novel, there's also an amazingly smutty bit right at the start as our hero Stephen has an affair with his bosses wife Isabel before being conscripted into the military. I just couldn't watch the recent TV adaptation - I couldn't bear to see another person's imagining of it, because I loved the version in my head, as with Fall On Your Knees, I really need to reread this soon, it's been a long time.

Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis De Bernieres

I remember struggling to get into this : The first few opening chapters are quite random, including a chapter on Mussolini and on the daughter of a politician, neither of which are in any way relevant to the novel as a whole. When it gets going however it's a different story and so many of the different plots are wonderful and say so many important things about love not just the love between the two romantic leads, Antonio & Pelagia but also the love shown by Carlo Piero Guercio to others over the course of the novel. Like Birdsong, Cry The Beloved Country, The Poisonwood Bible and Fall On Your Knees, I read this novel as a teenager, and I'm wondering whether the novels you read at a highly impressionable age are ultimately the ones which leave the most lasting impression.

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

Vanity Fair, Thackeray's scathing attack on 19th Century high society as seen through the eyes of manipulative social climber Becky Sharpe whilst it has much social comment to make is also a thumping good read with fascinating characters.

Light A Penny Candle And The Glass Lake by Maeve Binchy

OK, soooo my literary guilty secret is Maeve Binchy, one of the reasons I was so incensed when Amanda Craig had the temerity to be scathing of her when she died. I read them as a teenage girl, and no, they aren't all good but these two, particularly, are:

In Light A Penny Candle, loner Violet sends her only child Elizabeth to Ireland as an evacuee in World War 2 to her only friend Eileen O'Connor. Eileen's daughter Aisling is the same age and the two bond for life. Growing up in Ireland changes Elizabeth's life as Irish culture and Catholic customs seep into her during her most formative years. I do love this book, but then, I love Ireland!

In The Glass Lake, Eleven year old Kit becomes aware that her parents marriage is not normal and her mother suffers from depression. When one night her mother vanishes it is believed she has committed suicide in the Lake. But Kit's mother had a secret, and it's not the end of her story quite yet... Another great coming of age family saga from Binchy- and perhaps a suggestion for those of my readership who arent always "up for" heavier tomes.


Friday, 26 July 2013

Poem - One Art by Elizabeth Bishop

I haven't posted a poem in a long time but this one wouldn't leave my head today, so here it is :

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster,

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

- Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

On My All Time Favourite Books (Part 1)

I've been running this blog since 2011 now and the books I review are all the books I read that month. I've never done a blogpost about my favourite novels. So, I thought I'd do one now! Though some of the books I've read over the course of the blog have earned a special place with me, like Genus, A Song Of Ice And Fire, The Crane Wife and Fingersmith, this post is just for the ones that have been with me some time.

Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton

This novel has been my favourite novel since I was 14 years old. Written in 1948, during Apartheid in South Africa, I have read it easily more than 10 times. In this novel humble Stephen Kumalo is a pastor in a declining village which has struggled to cope with the coming of modern more Westernised society and the erosion of tribal culture. His sister, his brother and his son have all left the village for Johannesburg in hopes of a better life. Their contact with Stephen initially frequent, became sporadic and then vanished entirely. One day another priest from the city writes to Stephen and tells him his sister is ill and he must come to Johannesburg, and so begins a beautiful tale of forgiveness and redemption, beautiful not only in what it says but how it says it. In 18 yrs, I have not read a book that I deem better than it. 

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte and The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte

I wrote my university dissertation on these two novels, which was rather apt as I was living in Yorkshire at the time. Though Emily never married and rarely left her home, she managed to write a tale of incredible, though often dark, passion, between foster siblings Cathy Earnshaw and Heathcliff that both Charlotte and Anne were said to be horrified by. It is Anne's reaction that makes it all the more interesting. Anne and Emily were very close and The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall can be seen as both a companion and a response to Wuthering Heights as evidenced by 'The Key Of H' used in both novels. Anne's reaction was to write a novel removing all romance from the nature of a man like Heathcliff and accurately portray what a marriage to a man like that would be like in real life via the marriage of Helen Graham to Arthur Huntingdon. The lasting impression given by The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall is sheer astonishment that something as realistic as this was written in 1848. It caused a scandal at the time with writer Charles Kingsley saying "Every man should read this and every man should prevent his wife from reading this"- if Charlotte felt deep unease at Wuthering Heights she hated The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall, sought to suppress it both before and after Anne's death, and admitted if she had her way it would be destroyed. The contemporary distaste for it has led to a situation whereby Tenant is almost a "forgotten classic" - whilst Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights often get celebratory editions, Tenant gets ignored. And it's the best of the three, a truly feminist novel, a long, long time before the concept of feminism even existed.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

 In the world today, many people worship a god, be it the Christian deity, Allah or the many gods Hinduism offers. Once upon a time people worshipped the Greek Gods, the Egyptian Gods, the Norse Gods and other mythical beings. The question Neil Gaiman poses is : What happened to the gods that people stopped worshipping? And what a brilliant answer he offers, as protagonist Shadow leaves prison and goes on a journey of mythical discovery.

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

In 1959, Nathan Price travels to the Congo with a single minded determination to convert as many people to Christianity as he can, but he is a petty, cruel, zealot ill suited to the nature of his mission. He drags his wife and their four daughters along in his wake and the novel is their story. There's Rachel : shallow, vain and spoilt; Leah, wise, honest and eager, her disabled twin Adah, deeply cynical and deeply intelligent, and sunny child Ruth May, the baby of the family. This novel follows the fates of the four girls through to adulthood and is engrossing and heartbreaking and wonderful.

Gilead  and Home by Marilynne Robinson

I was introduced to Gilead and Home by Marilynne Robinson in 2009. Gilead won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize and is a novel in which dying preacher John Ames writes a letter about his life to his 7 year old son, often theological in tone, those who are not religious should not be put off, as it has so much to say about the human condition in general. What elevates Gilead to greatness is the inclusion of Home which followed, a novel set at exactly the same time, from the perspective of Glory Boughton the daughter of John Ames best friend. Home is the story of her childhood and reflects upon prodigal son of the family Jack who has recently returned. Home made me cry at least 3 times, Gilead needs to be read first as once you have that in your head, the ending of Home packs a devastating punch.

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Marukami

"I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me" - Toru Watanabe is on a plane when he hears the famous Beatles song and is taken straight back to his youth, a time when he loved Naoko, the girlfriend of his best friend Kizuki. A modern day classic, Norwegian Wood is a story of teenage angst and depression set in Japan.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Richard is from California and comes from a very ordinary background, when he goes to a college in New England he finds himself an alien in an privileged world. He manages to force his way into an elitist group within an elitist place, becoming one of six students of Greek Language tutor Julian, and is drawn into a dark cerebral world.  It is hard to explain to those who haven't read it the sheer greatness of this novel, perhaps the best novel published during the 90s, the best novel about the transition between childhood to adulthood provided by university and the best novel about the struggles of intellectualism versus social opportunity. It remains a travesty that her second novel 'The Little Friend' was such a damn let down. Her third novel is due this year, I do wish she'd stop writing one novel per decade!


Sunday, 14 July 2013

Book #44 Weight by Jeanette Winterson


Length Of Time In Possession : 2 weeks

Weight by Jeanette Winterson belongs to "The Canongate Myths" series from whence also came Philip Pullman's The Good Man Jesus And The Scoundrel Christ and Margaret Atwood's The Penelopiad, both of which I had already read. Therefore I can say with utter certainty that this novel is far superior to both those works by a country mile.

I have seen Jeanette Winterson on television twice - once interviewed by Anne Robinson for 'My Life In Books' and then interviewed by Alan Yentob for Imagine. Her Imagine episode was one of the most heartbreaking and moving interviews of an author I have ever seen. I was fascinated by her and also, for a variety of reasons, saw her as a fellow survivor on the road who I deeply identified with.

Therefore, it was to my great shame, though I had wanted to and been prevented from reading 'Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit' as a 12 yr old, that I had not read a single one of her novels. I spied Weight in a charity shop and it was an instabuy not only because it was Jeanette Winterson but because I loved Greek Mythology when I did it first in primary school, then at university.

Weight takes the myth of Atlas and Heracles and retells it in a new and more literary way. At certain points Winterson interjects and speaks about how in many ways, the myth of Atlas is "her myth"- the one bearing most comparison to her own life, and that, too, I found I identified with.

Weight may be rather short but there is utter beauty in its brevity. Some of the one line sentences in this novel are stunning. As prose it is gorgeous, lyrical, emotive, resonating.

There is little I feel I need to say further about this book except this :

It is wonderful. Please read it.

Verdict : 10/10

Destination : Keeping this, FOREVER 

Book #43 Notes On A Scandal by Zoe Heller

Notes On A Scandal

Length Of Time In Possession : 12-18 months

Like 1984 before it, the reason I came to Notes On A Scandal after a waiting period was because I had been significantly spoilered by media coverage of it, and already knew the ending. I'm not sure if this is because it featured in 'Faulks On Fiction' or if it's because I was accidentally spoilered during the time the film, starring Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench was around. I avoided the film, wanting to read the book first, as is the correct way to go about it!

Knowing the ending meant that I didn't want to pick it, but on my big List For 2013 it was nestled in between several books that had already been crossed out. Therefore it looked like it was lonely and had no friends so I picked it. (Yes, that's how my mind works....)

In Notes On A Scandal, respected but lonely teacher Barbara hopes that with the arrival of new art teacher Bathsheba she may have finally found a "Kindred Spirit" and hopes they will be "Bosom Friends" just this alone offers an insight into Barbara's psyche as it's all very 'Anne Of Green Gables' the difference being Anne is 11, and Barbara is in her Fifties.

Barbara eventually inveigles her way into Bathsheba's life and becomes her confidante, but the secret  Bathsheba entrusts to her leads to Barbara slowly wielding total power over her "friend". 

Like Ian McEwan's Enduring Love before it and recent offering Alys, Always from Harriet Lane - Notes From A Scandal offers an insight into the mind of the dangerous obsessive who fixates on one individual. I'm sure we've all had at least one friend in our time who proved to be just that bit "too" intense.

Barbara is just the right amount of sinister, without it becoming melodramatic, but there is a lot of pathos in her situation too. There is an excellent paragraph on how sometimes the perceived freedom of a single person can be it's own kind of jail. Able to spend money on going to theatre whenever you want, for example, yet always going alone.

There is no twist to this ending, it is quite open ended, yet the ending shows how completely Barbara's machinations have succeeded and in some ways the plain, unremarkable sentence upon which the novel closes is quite terrifying.

This book was massively easy to read whilst remaining intelligent and compelling, way better than a lot of books out there directly marketed as psychological thrillers and ultimately way more creepy.

I really enjoyed this novel.

Verdict : 10/10

Destination : Passing to a friend 

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Book #42 The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness

The Crane Wife

Length Of Time In Possession : 3 months

I have previously read 4 of Patrick Ness's "young adult" novels, the dystopian trilogy Chaos Walking and A Monster Calls, a book about grief from the perspective of an adolescent. All of these novels are brilliant and well worth a read. This is his first foray into the adult market.

I feel I must state that I met Patrick at World Book Night in April and he signed my copy of The Crane Wife then, he was extremely lovely to both me and my friends, but this review is a genuine reflection of how I felt about the book.

The Crane Wife is a Japanese folk tale of which there are several variants, this one is 'Tsuru Nyobo" - a story in which a man finds and rescues an injured crane only to then enter a relationship with a mysterious stranger.

In this modern retelling of the story, all round ordinary nice guy George, who runs a small printing business, rescues a crane he finds in his garden. In the coming days a mystery woman, an artist named Kumiko, enters his shop, and they begin to date.

Kumiko's artwork created in conjunction with George begins to cause a sensation, but Kumiko has a secret.....

The Crane Wife reminded me of its predecessor 'A Monster Calls' in that it weaves contemporary life together with fable. This is a strength of Ness, and something I hope he continues to pursue in the way Gregory Maguire has with his fairy tale novels. By far the best written sequences of The Crane Wife are the fable sequences related to the crane and the volcano.

Again, like A Monster Calls, a certain line of the prose in The Crane Wife caught me and felled me entirely, on a personal level.

When literature does this : when it can resonate with you in terms of things you have felt on a personal level or if as in this case it gives language to feelings you knew you had inside but had been unable to express, it is magical, it is the beauty of the written word.

This book, at least to me personally, is magical and transformative and has enabled me to look at a situation I have experienced from a fresh angle, and this new perspective has been key to the beginning process of healing an old wound, my own arrow in my wing.

Once again, many thanks Patrick Ness : a round of applause.

Verdict : 10/10

Destination : Keeping this book  


Book #41 Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Life After Life

Length Of Time In Possession : 4 months

Prior to reading Life After Life the only Kate Atkinson novels I had read were her Jackson Brodie private detective series beginning with Case Histories, a literary spin on the crime genre. I really liked those books, but had not managed to get "into" Behind The Scenes At The Museum when I tried it many, many years ago.

The premise of Life After Life (what if we could do it again and again until we got it right?) proved too enticing to me to resist. Instead of the Buddhist principle of moving from one life to another, this novel has more in common with parallel universe ideas and quantum theory : "Everything that can happen does happen" - the idea that you can go back and change your destiny from the point at which two paths were open to you.

Ursula is born on a snowy night in 1910, the midwife is unable to reach her mother, and Ursula does not survive. The novel rewinds, Ursula is born on a snowy night in 1910, she survives and goes on to grow up with her siblings Maurice and Pamela. At age 5 she drowns. Ursula is born on a snowy night in 1910.....and so on and so forth.

This novel is tremendously interesting : the impact of multiple lives begins to affect Ursula in her "next time around". She does things such as tell the maid Bridget her boyfriend is unfaithful or pushes her down the stairs. She does not know why she does this at the time, but in previous cycles, Bridget's relationship had dire consequences which Ursula instinctively knows she must prevent, but she is not psychic, and only has a vague idea, a deja vu.

Why do we, as people, experience deja vu? What is our mind REALLY trying to tell us? That vague sense of knowledge that we cannot quite grasp.....

There is also the idea that though destinies can change, certain things are set in stone. Elder brother Maurice is never anything more than despised, Auntie Izzy is always "a free spirit", Ursula always has a close bond with younger brother Teddy.

It reminded me about certain comments made in Doctor Who that some events are unalterable, but why them and not all? It's an intriguing question.

Who hasn't thought things like - what if I'd gone to a different university? What if that relationship had succeeded? What if I had been hit by that car that night? What would have changed? Who would I be, and would I still be the same me that I am now?

As a piece of prose the novel I thought this bore most comparison to was The Children's Book by AS Byatt, set within a similar era, a similar family and against the backdrop of history. There the likeness ends as they are very different novels, but I make the reference because I adored The Children's Book and equally loved Life After Life.

I thought this book was beautiful, eloquent and intelligent, both in terms of what it was saying and how it said it. I read this book in two sittings, and in a year when I've struggled to find things I've loved think this may be my book of 2013 thus far. I even wrote a poem inspired by it. Go buy it!

Verdict : 10/10 

Destination : Ebook storage

Monday, 1 July 2013

Book #40 The Kingmaker's Daughter by Philippa Gregory

The Kingmaker's Daughter

Length Of Time In Possession : 1 week

I am a huge fan of the royal dynasty historical novels by Philippa Gregory. I have read all her Tudor Court novels except The Other Queen and in 2010, prior to the advent of this blog, read the the first two of her 'Cousins War' novels The White Queen and The Red Queen.

I adored The White Queen and though I liked The Red Queen slightly less largely due to a dislike of Margaret Beaufort as a character, was still really 'into' Gregory's novels. I saw Gregory speak at World Book Night, we had to leave as the next session was starting, and she was surrounded but I whispered 'I love her' as I went by!

I hadn't yet got round to either the prequel 'The Lady Of The Rivers' or the next in sequence 'The Kingmaker's Daughter'. The BBC is currently showing an exceptionally high quality adaptation combining the 3 novels in sequence (excluding the prequel) and I felt I HAD to get the third book read before I saw the series in full. I am glad I did because I read it in between watching episodes 1 and 2 and episode 2 contains a lot of content directly from The Kingmaker's Daughter.

What I particularly like about these novels from Gregory is that though history marks the achievement of the men, in all of these historical novels events are seen through the eyes of women, and generally in the case of the Cousins War women whose fates and destinies were largely decided by their fathers, husbands and sons.  

Though Elizabeth Woodville 'The White Queen' makes her own destiny, Margaret Beaufort is regularly left trapped by decisions taken out of her hands. This novel brings us Anne Neville, daughter of the Earl Of Warwick. Warwick becomes a mortal enemy of the Queen when following their marriage he loses the ability to puppeteer his cousin King Edward IV and rule through him.
As he plots against kings, earning the title "Kingmaker" Anne and her elder sister Isobel become merely pawns in his general masterminding, if unable to take the throne in his own right, to take it through his blood, his descendants. Their fortunes change like the weather, as their decisions are made for them and they are forced into hard and unpleasant situations beyond their control.

Elizabeth Woodville is the heroine of The White Queen, but in this the alternate perspective of her enemies, she is the antagonist, which is really interesting. Anne and Isobel, are terrified of Elizabeth, believing her (rightly) to be a witch, and more than that, a witch who has directly cursed them both.

Anne Neville is beautifully realised and the novel is a full on pageturner, which genuinely makes you feel and root for Anne despite your prior loyalty to Elizabeth, which is a genuine skill from any writer to be able to present two sides of argument really well. Anne just desperately wants to fulfill her beloved father's dream, and pays a heavy price.

Despite not 'loving' The Red Queen' Philippa Gregory has me fully back on board with this one and I can't wait for The White Princess due out this year, and to catch up with 'Lady Of The Rivers' and 'The Other Queen'

  Verdict : Awesome 10/10

Destination : Pass to my friend

Book #39 1984 by George Orwell


Length Of Time In Possession : 6 yrs minimum

1984 is the incredibly famous final work from George Orwell. Despite not having read it, I came to it feeling like I knew "too much" about it, simply because it has seeped into popular culture so much. Particularly for me, I'd had the novel completely spoilered by the BBC series done by Sebastian Faulks 'On Fiction' so I always knew the end and several aspects of the storyline which in a way was frustrating.

Somehow knowing what was coming added pathos to the novel for me in many areas. Winston Smith lives in a totalitarian regime which constantly reminded me of what is known of modern day North Korea, in many ways the novel, published in 1949, proves prophetic not just for societies like North Korea but also for our own.

In particular I wondered what Orwell would have made of the TV series that bears the name of omniscient overseer 'Big Brother' - basically a series which regularly exhibits the worst of society.
Again the series 'Room 101' a jocular take on a place which was, truly, the stuff of nightmares.

Winston Smith is a subversive living in Oceania : a conglomerate of the English speaking Western States perpetually at war with the others. Winston Smith seeks to be part of the revolution, and join 'The Brotherhood' those working against 'Big Brother'

There were parts of 1984 in terms of the prose that I really enjoyed. I particularly liked these quotes :

 "Why should it be intolerable unless one had some kind of ancestral memory that things had once been different?"

"Perhaps a lunatic was simply a minority of one. At one time it had been a sign of madness to believe that the Earth goes round the sun : today that the past is unalterable. He might be alone in holding that belief, and if alone, then a lunatic. But the thought of being a lunatic did not greatly trouble him : the horror was that he might also be wrong"

That last quote particularly I thought was sheer brilliance.

Where the experience of the novel faltered for me was the lengthy 25 page inclusion of the treatise of Emmanuel Goldstein which struck me as a polemic and a sociology lesson. At this point, I felt not that I was reading a novel for enjoyment but that I was back in Sixth Form studying for my A Levels.

All in all for me, this book is a permanent must read for the human race as a whole, not just for its content but for the prose of itself. Though I did know many of the things that came to pass, it did not stop me marvelling at how good this book is and how pertinent it remains today.

Verdict : 9/10

Destination : Pass on or charity shop 

Book #38 The Vesuvius Club by Mark Gatiss

The Vesuvius Club

Length Of Time In Possession : 6 yrs minimum

The Vesuvius Club begins a trilogy of tales about one Lucifer Box, he lives in Downing Street (someone has to) and works for King and Country behind the scenes in the earliest form of national espionage.

Devilish Lucifer becomes embroiled in a mystery surrounding a group of connected men and their mysterious references to the "V.C" as well as helping out friends in trouble and courting a very attractive lady.

Written in 19th Century style but with the ability to include things unmentionable in that era, The Vesuvius Club from the celebrated contributor to both Sherlock and Doctor Who is very witty and incredibly good fun, some of the turns of phrase he uses really made me laugh, and I instantly thought of certain friends who would definitely enjoy this.

Amazon reviews (an average of 3.5 stars) seem to rate this quite low, which confuses me. It's a really great old fashioned romp, and detective story, with original characters. Yes the ending is rather over the top and silly, but it's a fun piece not taking itself seriously. I could clearly see this as a successful TV series and will definitely read its sequels.

Verdict : 9/10

Destination : Passing on to friends