Tuesday, 11 January 2011

2011 Books Read pt 2

1. Symposium, Muriel Spark
Another excellent Muriel Spark novel.  It's about a dinner party, but thankfully most of it consists of the back stories of the participants rather than the actual dinner party itself.  It's pretty funny, and very well done.  Spark's books aren't heavy, but they have a lot going on beneath the surface.  I think it's a shame that the first I read of hers was The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, which I found annoying.

2. Yellow, Janni Visman
I can't remember where I read this raved about -- my mother gave me Amazon vouchers for Christmas and I went on a book-blog-recommendations splurge.  It's well written and I'm quite glad I've read it, though it's not quite my sort of thing.  A lot of books from the point of view of someone with mental illness (in this case agoraphobia) are somewhat heavy handed, but this one has an impressive lightness of touch and doesn't bore you with "difficult childhood yada yada yada" back story.  Even Humbert Humbert had to have his flashback where he told you how he got stuck on fancying youths after an intense non-consummated teenage crush.  (Surely everyone had intense unconsummated teenage crushes?)  So well done for that, Janni Visman.  I will consider reading other books you write.

3.  Leviathan, Scott Westerfeld
I think it's fine for books just to be story, and measured by that criterion this is very very good.  It's about an alternative early twentieth century where Darwin didn't just work out evolution but also got the whole DNA and genetic splicing thing down, which was just too much for some people.  Europe is split between countries which have made huge advances in growing custom animals for particular uses, and countries which eschew that as revolting and instead make sophisticated mechanical devices, taking their inspiration from animals.  When an Archduke is killed in Sarajevo it triggers a continent-wide war between the Darwinists and the Clankers.  The story switches between a British girl who is hoping to become a midshipman on an airship made of a bizarrely-genetically modified flying whale, and the Archduke's son from a morganatic marriage who tries to escape his enemies in a huge two-legged fighting robot.  This is story pure and simple, well-crafted but unlikely to make you think.  I read it when I couldn't get to sleep.

4. The Time of the Ghost, Diana Wynne Jones
Another entertaining non-challenging book for insomniacs.  A girl suddenly finds herself drifting down the road as a ghost.  She can't remember who she is or how she got there but she knows there's something she needs to do.  I think once my god-daughter is old enough quite a few of her presents will be by Diana Wynne Jones.

5.  Moo, Jane Smiley
A brilliant book set in a mid-western university.  It has a huge university-wide cast and short chapters, and is shrewd and funny.  A lot of it has to do with grant applications and research funding, but it is far more interesting than that sounds.  It's one of those rare books which I enjoyed so much I found myself stopping reading just to feel good that I had so much of it left.  (I felt the same about Wolf Hall and The Children's Book.)

No comments:

Post a Comment