Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Books – Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell

Published in 2004, Cloud Atlas is strange, clever and original novel. It is made up of six separate but connected narratives, spanning continents and centuries, from the early 1800s into the distance and dystopian future.

I’ve been meaning to read this novel for ages, and finally got round to it a couple of weeks ago. Having had it recommended to me by several people, and given vague hints as to what it was about, and having had the structure explained to me several times before I read it, I came to the novel with certain expectations. The structure certainly met those exactly. I’ve always been really interested in form (in both my writing and reading) and love novels with unusual structures. I also love multiple narrators, because I find voices and what you can do with different voices one of the most interesting things in literature. We get six narrators/main characters: Adam Erwing, Robert Frobisher, Luisa Rey, Timothy Cavendish, Somni, and Zachary. So as you can imagine the general set up of Cloud Atlas very much appeals to me.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Books – The Life of a Banana, by PP Wong

Published earlier this month, P. P. Wong’s The Life of a Banana tells the story of a twelve-year-old Chinese-British girl growing up in London. After the death of her mother, Xi Ling and her brother go to live with their controlling and somewhat terrifying grandmother, famous actress aunt, and struggling and mysterious uncle. Xi Ling is taken out of a school she was happy in to move to a private school. There she has only one friend, half-Chinese, half-Jamaican Jay, and is constantly the victim of harsh racial bullying. It’s a story about identity, especially nationality, and about growing up.

It’s a slightly odd book, and I was undecided for a lot of the novel whether or not I liked it. By the ending, I had fairly firmly come down on the side of like, but it took me a long time to warm to the novel.

Let me to explain why.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Books – Where Rainbows End (or Love Rosie) by Cecelia Ahern

Where Rainbows End was published in 2004 (I know, I know, I’ve gone back ten years; but as the film’s coming out this year I’m still feeling pretty relevant). It tells the story of Rosie and Alex, best friends from childhood. It goes through their lives from the age of seven to fifty, covering all the muddles, misunderstandings and unexpected babies in-between

This is a book about the intertwining lives of two people who somehow keep missing each other. It is definitely my sort of love story. The five or so people fortunate (I use the term loosely) enough to have read  lots of my writing may understand what I mean by that. I’m also in general a big fan of novels that span a large period of time. Admittedly, Where Rainbows End lacks the historicism that often appeals to me in books like that, being vaguely set in the late twentieth to early twenty-first century, in a world where the internet existed but mobile phones did not (which probably didn’t actually last for the forty years it does in the novel). Still, I did enjoy watching the characters age.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Books - Rites, by Sophie Coulombeau

Before I begin, let me tell you how I discovered this novel. I did some work experience last year at the literary agency who represents Coulombeau, and read part of the book there. I then promptly forgot what it was called and spent about a year scouring amazon for a novel called ‘Roots’, until I managed to find the novel under its actual title, Rites, about a month ago. I’ve started with this story because I want to make clear that this is the sort of book you remember for a year, even when you can’t remember what it’s called.

Published in 2012, Sophie Coulombeau’s Rites tells the story of four teenagers growing up in Manchester. Fourteen years old and bored, they make a pact to lose their virginity at the same time, and formulate a complex plan to hide their actions from their parents. Fifteen years on, we hear from over ten different narrators the story of how it all went wrong.

When you give a brief plot summary like that, it sounds a little messed up. Which is the point, of course. But I just want to make clear now that this isn’t really a novel about sex, although the crux of the plot revolves around it. It’s not a coming of age story, and it’s not a teenage romance. It’s a story about being young and messed up. Or, more accurately (because the adult characters in the novel are hardly more grown up than their kids), it’s a story about being human and messed up. It’s also a story about truth – or, more accurately, a story about the lack of it.