Sunrise on a run

Sunrise on a run

Friday, August 31, 2012

The Strangers Child - Alan Hollinghurst

I've just finished this. It was an impulse buy from the Amazon Kindle Store. Good but not great. One you want to continue to read to get it finished but like "In the Line of Beauty" no great affinity or sympathy with any of the characters.

It spans about a century and is divided into five parts. At first I thought it was going to be like Atonement but the first part is perhaps more akin to Maurice: gauche, upper middle class family, all of whom fall for the upper class boy. Set before the first world war.

Part two skips to the 1920s and the eve of the General Strike.
The next two parts are set in the late sixties and seventies respectively, topped off with a jump forwards to 2008ish.

It paints a picture of Britain during those times but the biographer's pursuit of the truth about his subject never quite takes off. It hints at the history of homosexuality and the law but doesn't quite get there. The speculation in later years over whether one of the characters had affairs with his male friends is of limited interest to the reader because we have already been told about them.

Somehow the book never quite takes off, I don't particularly warm to any of the characters and while I enjoy the gradually changing Britain he depicts, I don't take any great message away from the book.

Worth a read but not the best book I will read this year.

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Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Peculiar Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

This was a Christmas present (thanks R!) but it's taken a while to sit down and read it. Overall, I would say it was worth waiting for. A fairly easy read, it follows a family in California from the perspective of the younger child, who is just turning 9 when the book starts.

The book opens with the narrator's and her mum has made a lemon cake. When the narrator bites into the cake she tastes sorrow [what else] to the extent that she can not eat the cake her mother has prepared.

It soon transpires that the narrator can taste the emotions of whoever it is who has prepared the food.

Ultimately this is an account of an all-American family and how it tenuously hangs together through the Son's brilliance and benign madness, the mother's affair with a co-worker at the carpentry co-operative where she takes up work and the constant un-changing father. There is also a slightly senile grandmother living some distance away and who repeatedly sends furniture/ the contents of her house to them.

The narrator's peculiar gift wavers between being at the forefront of the story and sometimes more of sub-point. At one point, the story is more about the son but I don't recall that we ever see the narrator taste anything he has prepared.

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Fever of the Bone, Val McDermid

This is the first of Val McDermid's books which I have read. A few years ago we watched the Wire in the Blood series and grew to like it it. I prefer my crime dramas to be gripping/ edge of the seat thrillers rather than something which serves as wallpaper viewing - i.e. it's there but it doesn't really engage brain.

Having seen several episodes and therefore having an appreciation of the characters, it didn't matter that I was not starting with the first book. I won't give too much away but the book follows a series of murders, some in Bradfield and a couple in neighbouring constabularies. The victims meet their killer in Internet chatrooms and lured to their end.

The book hints at various characters' past and refers back to previous stories. Enough information is given that you don't need to have read the books in sequence but enough is kept back that you want to go and read the previous books.

My only criticism is that the killer's ability to track down the targeted individuals is not explained. The killer is able to identify the victims' parents and this is accounted for in the narrative but there seems to be a missing connection in how the killer then pin points the specific victims while in the chatrooms. There is a geographic explanation but no more.

Other than that, and if anyone can point to the time within the story when that particular conundrum is breached, please let me know!

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