Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Books – Goodbye Tsugumi, by Banana Yoshimoto

I have decided that Banana Yoshimoto is my new favourite living author. And no, not just because she writes under the name ‘Banana’, although that is pretty cool. It is because her books are absolutely and incredibly amazing. Fear not, Kazou Ishiguro and Diane Setterfield; I still love you both, but Banana Yoshimoto is simply soaring up into the heights of my absolute favourite authors ever, joining Jane Austen, Anthony Powell and good old Charles Dickens.

I read and reviewed her two novellas, ‘Kitchen’ and ‘Moonlight Shadow’ back in February, and read her short story collection Asleep last month. I’ve now just finished her novel Goodbye Tsugumi, and it so, so good. It tells the story of Maria, a nineteen-year-old student, and her relationship with her cousin, the vicious, self-centred and constantly ill Tsugumi. Maria returns from university in Tokyo to the seaside inn where she grew up, to spend one last summer with Tusugmi and her sister Yōko. Tsugumi’s frail and constantly fluctuating state of health casts a shadow over the story, but it’s more a novel about growing up and about friendship.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Books – Aberystwyth Mon Amour, by Malcolm Pryce

Published in 2001, Malcolm Pryce’s Aberystwyth Mon Amour is the first book in the Louie Knight Mysteries, a comic detective series. It’s set in an alternate 1980s, where Wales is an independent country. The town of Aberystwyth is controlled by the Druids, a sort of magical mafia. They are led by Grand Wizard Lovespoon, the sinister Welsh teacher from the local school, and his other teacher friends. In this strange and original setting, schoolboys start to go missing – and it’s up to Louie Knight, the town’s private investigator, to try and work out just what’s going on.

This is quite a strange book. Pryce launches you straight into the world, with very little explanation. I’ll admit that I did get confused here and there with who everyone was and just what was going on, but very quickly you get immersed in the plot and world. I really enjoy the sheer randomness of this book. You never know quite what’s coming next, in either the world or the plot, and this alone makes you keen to read on. 

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Books – All I Know Now, by Carrie Hope Fletcher

I’m feeling distinctly out of my comfort zone here. I appear to have stepped out from beneath my usual warm duvet of fiction in order to review a non-fiction book. This is frightening. However, I’ve been following Carrie Hope Fletcher’s career for a while now with great interest, and so I couldn’t resist the opportunity to talk about her first book. Fletcher has made a name for herself in the last two or three years through her Youtube videos, which range from music covers to strange advice to general musings on books, tea Disney and cake. She’s also a singer and actor and is currently playing Eponine in Les Miserables on the West End. And now she has written a book. All I Know Now was published last month and, as somewhat of a fan of hers, I’ve been incredibly excited for its release. It certainly did not disappoint.

I hardly know how to describe All I Know Now. I suppose Fletcher’s own subtitle – ‘wonderings and reflections on growing up gracefully’ – describes it fairly well. It is almost a self-help book, a guide to the twists and turns and difficulty of being a teenager. It is, in Fletcher’s words, a manual to ‘the Teen Age’. It certainly is directed at teenagers, and especially the first two chapters (or ‘acts’, because the book is full of delightful theatrical references) seem very much aimed at those between the ages of eleven and sixteen. Yet the rest of the book goes beyond this. It’s been two years and a few days since I could legitimately call myself a teenager, but I still loved and learnt from this book. Fletcher has stories, tips and musings, some of which boarder on philosophical, on everything from the internet to depression, from romance to lying, from bullying to ambition. As I was reading this book, I kept thinking: Carrie Hope Fletcher, you are only six months older than me – how on earth can you be so thoroughly wise?

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Things – My Favourite Book to Screen Adaptations

Note: I have now given up on attempting to do lists of ten favourites. Fifteen (or seventeen) is a far more reasonable number. Yes I do have problems making decisions.

So, last week a new film adaptation came out of Thomas Hardys brilliant novel, Far From the Madding Crowd. Before I go and see it in the cinema, I do I thought I’d take a look back at some of my all time favourite book to screen adaptations. This is obviously not a comprehensive list in any way. The oldest one is from 1998 and the majority are adaptations of nineteenth century novels. But they’re a handful of adaptations that I really love.

Apologies for the quantity of Austen and Dickens. I’m sorry. I can’t help myself.

17. Elementary (2012-)

I’ve put this first as I feel it’s a slight cheat. Obviously it’s a very loose adaptation, and has been more inspired by the original Sherlock Holmes stories than adapted from then. I should also admit that I’m not very well versed on the original stories; I’ve only actually listened to a couple on audiobook. However, this is such a great program I wanted to mention it. Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu are brilliant, and I’ve been so impressed by how Elementary manages to be different from BBCs Sherlock, although they both bring Sherlock Holmes into the present day. They manage to sustain episode upon episode with these brilliant mysteries, and the relationship between Sherlock Holmes and (Dr. Joan) Watson is really engaging. I’m half way through the first series and it is just so thoroughly well done.

16. Cloud Atlas (2012)

I saw this film quite recently after having read (and reviewed) the novel last year. I love the film. It looks wonderful, and is such a clever feat of cinema, making the stories intersect and slot together in a very clever way. The acting is great and each world well created. The reason why it’s not higher on this list is that I think the film is telling a telling a slightly different story to the novel. The film is more obviously moralistic in its ending, and if the book tells the story of one soul moving through time, the film seems to tell the story of multiple souls. However, I acknowledge that the book’s structure wouldn’t quite work in film, and what they do here instead does work, and works excellently.