Thursday, 19 June 2014

Books - Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield

So I may have slightly lied. 

I did say I’d be reviewing Jonasson’s The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared this week, but as I’ve been slightly busier than I predicted and the novel is taking me longer to get through that I thought it might, I’ve decided to go for a book I read a few months back: Diane Setterfield’s Bellman & Black.

Bellman & Black, Setterfield’s second novel, was published last year. It follows the life and death of William Bellman, a work-obsessed man haunted by death and time – and the occasional rook. It is a ghost story, and a whole lot more.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Books - The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer

Disclaimer: I still know nothing about writing book reviews.

This problem of mine is made worse by my decision to pick, for my second review, so flawless a novel as this.

Published last year, Nathan Filer’s book The Shock of the Fall tells the story of a young man, Matthew Homes, coming to term with the death of his brother ten years earlier. It’s a book about mental illness, family and grief. It’s also a book about writing books. And I loved it.

I’ll give you three main reasons why, which handily separate into the three things I usually judge books by:

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Books - Grace McCleen's The Professor of Poetry

Disclaimer: I know nothing about writing book reviews.

Let me start off by saying that I did enjoy Grace McCleen’s The Professor of Poetry. Published last year, it follows the story of Elizabeth Stone, an English professor trying to write her academic masterpiece while recovering from cancer. This project takes her back to Oxford or Cambridge (I liked that the book never actually specified which) where she did her undergraduate degree, back to where Edward Hunt, her old English professor, lives and works. Internally, it takes her, and us, back to her nineteen-year-old self at university, and back to her childhood.

I liked this simultaneous unfolding of three plots. Elizabeth is an engaging, well-created, three-dimensional character, and her past story helps shape her characterisation in the present. I like that we remember the past as she does. Beyond that, the plot is very convincing. It’s entirely believable that someone might get to a certain age and decide that maybe they’d made the wrong decisions in life, prioritised the wrong things. Elizabeth’s reassessment of her life following her illness is a plausible and interesting premise for a book.

It’s the writing, and the ending, which to me let the novel down.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Things - An Introduction

Let’s start with a quote. I like quotes.

Heavenly: I said what are you thinking about.

Arthur: Oh – things.

Heavenly: Books and things?

Arthur: No.

Heavenly: Just books?

Arthur: No.

Heavenly: Oh! Just things. That’s nice. I wish I could think about things.

- Spring Storm, Tennessee Williams

Well Heavenly, perhaps so do I. As it is I just think about books.