Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro

I found Never Let Me Go in a basket full of paperbacks at Fretex in Ullevålsveien and thought “Surely that’s one of the 1001 books? Well, even if not it’s probably worth 10 kroner.” It was. Both.

Having seen the film Remains of the Day with Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins, based on Ishiguro’s novel by the same name, I guess I was expecting a similar sort of plot. You know, English realism or whatever one should call it. That is hardly how you’d describe Never Let Me Go, though. It’s another kettle of fish entirely. Very English, yes, and set in an England of sorts, but in a parallell universe (thanks be). It is going to be hard to say much about it, as if you are going to read it – and you really should – you should be allowed to unfold the premises of the setting with no spoilers from me (or anyone else). In fact, go read it now, then come back and read the rest of this post. I will try not to give too much away, but I cannot promise to succeed if I am to say anything at all meaningful.

Beautifully written, Never Let Me Go captured my attention in a way no contemporary novel has done for oh such a long time. Very, very hard to put down.

For me, Ishiguro’s greatest triumph is making Kathy, the narrator, so very loveable and human while also, somehow, subtly “other”. Whether nature or nurture is the cause, one can only guess. Very sneaky (Ishiguro’s achievement, that is) in a good way.

As it is, the novel is a chilling argument, one might almost say body of evidence, in the (still) current debate.

Still reading this post? Go read the novel. I will say no more.

April, May and much of June

I swear I meant to write proper posts on some of these. However:

Police at the Funeral – Margery Allingham
Showed up in my mailbox as a sort of birthday present – bookcrossing style. A quirky and charming read and definitely an author to look out for later. I still haven’t quite decided who next to “inflict” this on, I think it takes a certain kind of reader… Hm.

Portnoy’s Complaint – Philip Roth
A little dreary, but good in its way – I think its supposed to be a little dreary, to be honest. Recognisable and not so recognisable themes of guilt and shame, religion and upbringing.

The Chronicles of Prydain – Lloyd Alexander
A reread occasioned by finding the first three books in Norwegian second-hand by chance.

Sputnik Sweetheart – Haruki Murakami
Also a bookcrossing copy, my suspicions that I’d like Murakami in novel-form was confirmed. A perfectly beautiful – though quite sinister – book, and very hard to put down once you’ve started.

Under the Duvet, Angels and The Other Side of the Story – Marian Keyes 
A three for one sale on Marian Keyes paperbacks, and these are the ones I came away with. Under the Duvet was entertaining, but possibly a little too light-hearted for my taste (even the pieces dealing with serious issues such as alchoholism somehow felt light-hearted, something Rachel’s Holiday – the novel dealing with the same issue – doesn’t). I realised, shortly after having started it, that I’ve read Angels before. Nevermind, I didn’t remember how it would all end and it was worth a reread (even if I still don’t really like the ending. Bah). The Other Side of the Story was, uhm, not quite up to Keys’ usual standard, I don’t think. I think partly it was the narrative form I didn’t like, it was slightly too disjointed to suit the overall style of the novel (or me, possibly).

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox – Maggie O’Farrell
Received from Tonbel, who grabbed the chance to get rid of some books while I was there. Most of them ended up bookcrossed, but this one she suggested I read, and I’m glad she did. The main problem with this book was that it was at least 400 pages too short. I wanted to know more, much more, and it left me (internally, I was on the bus) shouting “But what happened next?” Not that the story is unfinished as such, just that the characters were compelling enough to make me want to read more. I think I will have to put the books O’Farrell mentions as helpful when researching on my tbr list.

I’ve probably forgotten something here, oh well.

In a Glass Darkly – Sheridan Le Fanu

In a Glass Darkly is on the 1001 books list, so I joined a bookring, and finally got around to reading it (sorry for hogging it so long, guys). Uhm. Yes. I suppose it helps if you like ghost stories. I don’t, and this really didn’t do it for me, and I ended up skimming about half before giving up completely. Besides not being a genre I enjoy at the best of times, I found the stories I did read somewhat lacking, leaving the reader too much in the dark (no pun intended). That a lot of the plot twists seem like cliches is hardly Le Fanu’s fault, however.

Still: Not my cup of tea (green or otherwise…)

November to January, so far

The Tea Rose – Jennifer Donnelly
The plot must consist of pretty much every cliché in the book except the classic evil twin. At the last two “twists in the tale” I actually laughed out loud – that’s how madly “buy one plot-device, get three free” infested it all was. However, despite this, Donnelly had me caught well and good and I had serious problems in putting the book away and not sneak a few pages in under the desk at work. Not a Nobel candidate, then, but very well worth reading.

Shaman’s Crossing, Forest Mage and Renegade’s Magic – Robin Hobb
Ok, so this deals partly with those lost months… I had to labour a bit through the first two volumes (I never thought I’d say this about a Robin Hobb book), and got completely stuck at the beginning of the third. I don’t know if I could put my finger on it, but this trilogy just didn’t do it for me. I kept reading because I was just interested enough to want to know what would happen in the end, but not interested enough to want to spend 2000-odd pages getting there. It doesn’t help, of course, that the volumes are really too big to read comfortably (I might need to consider weightlifting if I’m to keep reading this size of book in hardback), and certainly too big to be tempting for bringing on the bus etc. I suppose I felt that Hobb might have been better off writing this as one book rather than a trilogy. It seemed somewhat unnaturally extended to me. It may be that she was caught in the probable contract with her publisher to produce trilogies, or it may be that she really felt this story needed three times 700 pages. I didn’t. I will still look foreward to Hobb’s next, but not with such bated breath as before.

Special Topics in Calamity Physics – Marisha Pessl
Very gripping and full of intriguing twists. Found it hard to put it down towards the end, and wanted it to go on once it finished. Still, not the sort of book one rereads – the twist is not quite surprising enough to make me want to go back and reread to see what I’ve missed and knowing how it ends will ruin the rest of the story too much at a second perusal. Bookcrossing candidate if ever I saw one.

The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
A very engaging book, though I became mightily annoyed with the narrator. Partly the fact that “he” is death (which just didn’t work for me, don’t ask me why), partly the endless foreshadowing (or, rather, foretelling – “more of that later” hints – a bit of vague foreshadowing I can deal with) and partly the bulletin-style interruptions which, yeah, ok, I could make a convincing interpretation of if I had to write an essay on this book for an exam, but, hey, I finished school and I prefer to do my reading at my own pace, and, frankly, until I learned to “ignore” them I wanted to hurl the book across the room every time. Still, engaging. (Sent as a rabck.)

After the Quake – Haruki Murakami
A bookring on bookcrossing and one of those 1001 books. This reminded me why I don’t like short stories (just when I start getting interested, they end), but I like Mr. Murakami’s way with words, so I will try him in novel-form when I get the chance.

Frost on My Moustache – Tim Moore

The Careful Use of Compliments – Alexander McCall Smith
Isn’t it a lovely title? And isn’t it a lovely book?

Boksamlere forteller
An interesting anthology I found at an “antiques” fair. And by interesting I mean that the existence of such a collection intrigued me, especially printed in 1945. The book itself was unfortunately mostly dull. I normally love reading people’s descriptions of their collections, so I’m not sure why it should be so, but there it is.

American Pastoral – Philip Roth

When I was admitted to hospital for observation rather unexpectedly because of high blood pressure in the last week before my due date, Martin had to be sent in to the town centre to provide reading material, as we had both, inadvertently, left home without a book. Philip Roth’s American Pastoral was not a bad choice for an emergency read. The novel is engaging and touches on some profound issues around identity and image. However, I found it ended somewhat prematurely, I would have liked another few chapters to “round off” the narrative. I assume Roth has his reasons for ending the way he does, and I suppose, in retrospect, I can see that it makes sense on some levels. And it should not put you off reading the book.

I finished American Pastoral while waiting for the inducing of the kid’s birth to take effect, and the next book I picked up was Master & Commander. Jupp, I’ve started my – uhm- is it fourth or fifth? – reread of O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series, so if I do not update the bookblog for a month or two (what with a newborn baby in the house, there is limited time available for reading) you’ll know why.