Category Archives: literary

Breakfast at Tiffany’s, by Truman Capote

Breakfast at Tiffany -cover of paperbackI 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

Everything You Need, by A.L. Kennedy

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, Gabriel Garcia Marquez

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

Ernest Hemingway; A Farewell to Arms

A Farewell to ArmsI never got on with Hemingway. Slow. Boring. About war and themes that didn’t interest me.

But I re-read this book – A Farewell to Arms – and decided it was truly brilliant. Maybe I am older, maybe I have time to savour the nuances, maybe I have stopped speed reading. I don’t know why, but this time the book read like poetry.

I didn’t really like the main character – the narrator. But that doesn’t matter. In the end, you get caught up with the story, with the relentless progress of the war and with the unfolding of the doomed love affair. Continue reading Ernest Hemingway; A Farewell to Arms

Black Dogs, by Ian McEwan

This is a book about two obstinate old people with a failed marriage – and how dangerous challenges can shape our lives.

I had previously read Ian McEwan’s more recent book, On Chesil Beach, and had not particularly enjoyed it. Since Ian McEwan is one of our most respected British authors, I was determined to have another go.

What I liked about this book:

  • The sympathetic portrayal of the main female character, who we first meet as an old woman. Later we learn of her experiences when young and how these shaped her life. (To start with, I thought the narrator was going to favour the analytical, but cold, husband.)
  • The underlying tension created by the vague menace of the episode of the ‘black dogs’, introduced early into the narrative, but not revealed in full until near the end.
  • The linking of the fall of the Berlin wall into the narrative – as this was such a powerful news story and had such tremendous resonance for those of us who lived through the age of the Wall and saw its fall.
  • The fact that walking plays an important role in the story. (As I am a keen walker and involved in my own epic walk around the coast).

What I didn’t like about this book: The book starts with an interesting preface. I would have liked to know more about the narrator, his family and, particularly, what happened to his neice, Sally. The main story opens at a languid pace and, being told through the eyes of a third person, I felt somewhat distanced from the main characters and the events that slowly enfolded, until the pace picked up and the story came alive in the second half of the book. Widgets

Farewell Summer, by Ray Bradbury

Farewell summerRay Bradbury is one of my favourite science fiction authors. And his non-science fiction books are pretty good too.

I have to confess, I found Farewell Summer hard going. But, in the final few chapters, the book finally came alive for me – so alive, I started it again and read it through from the beginning. (This is the first time I have ever read a book through, twice, all in one sitting). Continue reading Farewell Summer, by Ray Bradbury