I have mixed feelings about Ernest Hemingway. I loved Farewell to Arms but struggled through To Have and Have Not. And Hemingway himself was the kind of man I despise: a shooting, hunting, fishing type who loved bull fighting and drank too much and equated all these nonsensical pursuits with masculinity. So, mixed feelings.
The Sun Also Rises was Hemingway’s first full length novel. Finished in 1926 and told in the first person, the book is loosely based on a trip that Hemingway made to Spain with a group of friends to see the bullfighting during the Pamplona Fiesta. Continue reading Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
This book was written the same year as I was born, 1956. A short book, it describes the interweaving lives of the first West Indian immigrants to England as seen through the eyes of an established immigrant, Moses Aloetta. The book is written in the third person and includes a number of characters, but the narrator is firmly established at the outset as Moses. Continue reading The Lonely Londoners, by Sam Selvon
This is the story of Okonkwo, a man of the Ibo tribe in Nigeria. It is also the story of his father, his various friends, his 3 wives and his collection of children. Okonkwo is an upright, uptight sort of man, with a firm sense of the proper way for a good Ibo man to behave. Ultimately, he finds himself at odds with the encroaching laws of the white colonialists.
What I liked about this book:
This book is on the reading list for one of my Birkbeck modules this year. The debut novel of a Chilean author, Isabel Allende, and originally written in Spanish, this is an English translation.
The style of writing is rich and dense. With a host of eccentric characters, a story line that spans many years and a meandering style that goes off on numerous digressions, it reminded me of Continue reading The House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende
This book is set in a mythical mid-European country. It opens with a 10 page travel guide to the imaginary city of Slaka and the first chapter follows with an account of a plane touching down on the tarmac. Aboard the plane is a Dr Petworth. He may or may not be an important character in the story to follow. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you whether he was, nor can I tell you what happened to him – as I read no further Continue reading Rates of Exchange, by Malcolm Bradbury
This book was published in 2000 but, the story is told in the first person and was ‘narrated’ during the 1930s. There is an authentic, old-fashioned feel to the writing. It is not a particularly easy read, being told in a non-linear fashion and with complexly constructed sentences. It took me some time to get into it.
The narrator – Christopher Banks – is brought to England as a small boy, after both his parents disappear. Initially, it is unclear whether he is, or isn’t, one of the orphans alluded to in the title. Continue reading When We Were Orphans, by Kazuo Ishiguro
This is a semi-autobiographical book, describing the experiences of a group of boys at an American boarding school at the start of World War 2.
The book begins with a first-person ‘Foreword’, describing how the author came to be enrolled in this particular school – the Dorset Academy, and ends with a first-person ‘Afterword’, describing what happened to the author and to some of his school-mates Continue reading A Good School, by Richard Yates
I am ashamed to confess: I have never read this story. I saw the film, of course. But I never read the book. It is universally regarded as a great story and, when I saw it in my local library, I had to take it out.
Yes. It is a wonderful story. Here are some things that surprised me and some things that delighted me, in no particular order: Continue reading Breakfast at Tiffany’s, by Truman Capote
I had read an extract of AL Kennedy’s work for a writing assignment and I have seen her on television. She has a great reputation and comes across as intelligent, articulate and funny. So I was really looking forward to reading one of her novels and I was pleased when I found this one, Everything you Need, in my local library.
You can’t fault the writing. This book is written in a high literary style. Every paragraph, every sentence, every phrase is perfectly crafted. Words are used in new and different combinations. The evoking of place and atmosphere is spot on. The author’s considerable abilities shine through. The writing is stylish. Elegant. Clever. Thought provoking.
But, after getting half way through, and having renewed my loan for the third time at my local library, I decided life is too short to read something that is a chore, rather than enjoyable.
Why did I find this book so difficult to read? Continue reading Everything You Need, by A.L. Kennedy
Love in the Time of Cholera was written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a Colombian author, and originally published in Spanish in 1985 and since translated into English.
The story is set on the Caribbean coast of South America and sprawls across a period of 50 years spanning the late 19th and early 20th Century. The language is dense and the tale is complex with a host of characters. On the surface, this is a story of a long running love affair – bordering on the obsessive – between a somewhat indifferent woman and her ardent suitor. Continue reading Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez