Wednesday, 11 November 2015

The Chimes - Anna Smaill // Man Booker 2015

Unfortunately, I think I wanted to like this book more than I did; the premise excited me, but the actual reading experience didn't quite match up to my hopes for it.

In particular, I think that the characters weren't as well developed for me as I would like; I wanted a stronger impression of them, a stronger sense of who they were and what their personalities were like. This is mostly just my tastes but I think there could easily have been a little bit more information on the characters – I can understand that a lot of the absence of this characterisation was because of the memory loss aspect of the novel, but I still felt like there could have been a little bit more on other characters even if the memories were then going to be lost.

The ending was another catching point;  I felt like I'd been deprived of a chapter or two that would tell me more about why the Chimes had started and to illuminate what would come next following the events of the ending. I can understand why the Chimes happened, but the how is still mostly a mystery to me, and there's not a lot of detail into it either; I'd have liked some more of an insight into what led to the world being as it is in the book. It's also unclear what the reach of the Chimes and the dystopian society it causes is – does it only affect England, or Britain? What's going on in the rest of the world if the Chimes aren't strong enough to affect the entire planet? It's also unclear what era they're in – a lot of the descriptive parts of the novel led me to picture something more Victorian, yet some of the characters are wearing jeans. There's no evidence of there having been any technology that one would expect when the Chimes have to have happened in a society that had jeans – there are no signs or hints at there being cars or telephones or anything else, which you would expect given that jeans weren't worn outside of the West of the United States before the mid twentieth century. 

Ultimately, I just felt that there could have been more clues and details from the author. Even if it wasn't from Simon... there could have been chapters that weren't his PoV and that tell you more about the history of the world and the era they lived in. I was also a little bit alienated by the musical terms that were peppered throughout the text; I kept having to Google what they meant so I would have appreciate a kind of glossary or something for these!

I wanted to like it; it just felt a bit unfinished. 

Saturday, 7 November 2015

The Heart Goes Last - Margaret Atwood // Book Review

As much as I'm a fan of Margaret Atwood, I haven't actually read much of her work; aside from this text, I've only read The Handmaid's Tale and The Blind Assassin.

There were a couple of obvious comparisons that I could make between this text and The Handmaid's Tale on a surface level - there's a few common themes between the two, such as the impact of sex on the society and the people in the text, and the kind of insular section of society that has been cut off from the problems of the reality of the world they live in.

The similarities end there though; this text is set in an uncomfortably familiar world much like our own. The novel follows Stan and Charmaine, a married couple of unclear age who are living out of a Honda. An economic depression has hit hard, leaving many people like them with no money and little hope. Charmaine works in a bar in an attempt to make ends meet and to pay for fuel – hope then comes along in the form of a television advert, promoting the town of Consilience, which is partnered with the Positron prison. The premise is that once people are accepted to the project, they will live in a nice house for one month; the second month they will be in the prison, while their "Alternate" lives in their house. The two couples will then alternate between monthly, between the house and the prison, with a job inside the prison and a job inside the suburban town.

So it goes, when Stan and Charmaine are accepted; they are assigned jobs and live their lives, one month in the house and one month in the prison. Yet nothing is ever that easy - Stan and Charmaines relationship is affected by their new lifestyle, while the town of Consilience and the Positron prison might not be as honest and simple as it first seemed. To say anything more would be to give away too much of the novel's plot!

I did enjoy this book for the most part, but I don't think it stands up in comparison to The Handmaid's Tale.  There was something about Stan and Charmaine that was incredibly difficult to like and I found myself struggling to feel that much sympathy or concern about them. At points I did care somewhat about Charmaine, but I could tell that I wasn't as invested as I maybe could or should have been. I don't think the characters are necessarily meant to be particularly likeable, but without an engagement with them or their fates I didn't feel particularly impressed with the novel when I finished it, especially compared to the impact if Handmaid

Monday, 2 November 2015

November TBR

Unfinished from October's TBR
 To the Lighthouse - Virginia Woolf

This month I'll also be aiming to read the following:

YA of the Month
Trouble - Non Pratt

(Modern) Classic of the Month
Nightwood - Djuna Barnes

Non-fiction of the Month
Men Explain Things to Me - Rebecca Solnit

I've got a slightly less time consuming TBR this month for two reasons; firstly, I don't expect to be able to read as much for the next however long because I'm a lot busier than I used to be, and secondly (which is also included in that 'busier'), I'm doing NaNoWriMo this month! I'm fairly optimistic about it, because usually when I actually know what I want to write I'm successful (and I'm still working on the project I did last year, only it's sort of a major rewrite, plus last year I didn't actually finish the novel in the 50,000 words). I might do some blog posts about NaNo throughout the month if I have the time, so watch this space.