READING UPDATE: ROBERT THOROGOOD, BIANCA BELLOVA AND GABRIEL MARCIA MARQUEZ
Hello dear readers and/or fellow bloggers! How's February treating you so far? I have had a pretty eventful weekend and I'm looking forward to a good night sleep before Monday kicks in. Before I get to bed though, there is another reading update I want to post. So it seems that I'm starting February with a reading update and a layered winter styling. I'll be reviewing three novels today. My outfit of the day deserves a few words as well. It is a neutral styling in terms of colour but I made it fun with the help of layering. In the photographs bellow you can see me sporting a grey sweater dress I swear by in the colder months, a white hand painted shirt (only the collar is visible though), a white faux leather jacket that is getting a bit too worn out for every day wear but that served me well in the past, a brown vintage leather belt and a pair of high heels paired with high socks and leggings.
MEDITATION ON MURDER (DEATH IN PARADISE #1), A NOVEL BY ROBER THOROGOOD 4/5
From time to time, I do enjoy a good crime novel. I like books that make me think so when it comes to thrillers and crime novels, I prefer those that are a bit more philosophical and psychological. Meditation on Murder is a crime novel by Robert Thorogood, an English screenwriter and novels. I got this copy from my mom and dad. In fact, a British lady that was staying with them gave it to my mom and dad when she heard I was an English language teacher. So, when I visited my mom and dad last weekend I picked up this copy.
Let me start by saying that I haven't seen nor do I know anything about the BBC series this book is based on. I just jumped into this novel without knowing anything about it or its writer. I don't see why you couldn't do the same and enjoy it just as much. One doesn't have to be a fan of the show to enjoy this book. One thing I did know is that is a crime novel. I mean the title (A Meditation on Murder) gives it away, doesn't it? I also assumed that it might take place on one of the Caribbean islands (because- Death in Paradise). I only figured out it was based on a TV show after I read it and saw the faces of the actors on the back of the novel (It didn't occurred to me to study the covers prior to reading it).
Our peculiar detective is a Brit who ends up being an inspector on a French Caribbean island. He has a phobia of sand and insists on wearing wool suits in the worst of heat- because that is what detective inspectors do. He is quite clumsy and withdrawn, but he also has a fine mind- and a great team. The murder crime he is called to solve is quite a mystery. Aslan, a spa hotel guru everyone seems to like is killed. It happens during a meditation in a paper room but the girl (fair Julie) who confessed to it couldn't have had done it.
Who is to blame then? Our detective will found it out but it will take him quite a long time- as it can be expected in a crime novel. During that time we get to know so much about the past and the background of the six people who were in that meditation chamber. Aslan, the victim guru has had some secrets but so did all of them (don't we all?) and finding out all those secrets takes quite a bit of time. Now, this is not something I normally mind, but I did feel that this novel was a tad bit overwritten and that's the only thing I didn't like about it. I think it would have been better if it was just a bit shorter. Nevertheless, it is a fine crime novel. Not the kind of book that will change your life, but it is a mighty fine crime novel. If you like crime novels written in the style of Agatha Christie, you will probably like this one. I do recommend it! Even the cats like it.
JEZERO (THE LAKE), A NOVEL BY BIANCA BELLOVA 3/5
I must admit to mixed feelings about this novel. The Lake by Bianca Bellova is a highly awarded book, it even won the EU award for literature. On one hand, I do understand why this novel won so many important prizes. It is in many ways a compelling story. On the other hand, I didn't particularly like the way this story was told. I also had issues with the story itself. It was too depressive and negative for my liking, but there is something in it. Nevertheless, I must admit that I struggled with this novel, especially in the start. The middle part dragged on for a bit too long as well. In addition, I had a few issues with the writing, one of them being the portrayal of the protagonist Nami. I did feel sorry for him, but because of the way he was written it was hard for me to deeply care about him. I understand that Nami has been traumatized and that obviously influenced his thinking and numbed his emotions, yet as a reader I needed to know more about him. What Nami does think and feel is often a mystery.
Nami is thrown from one horrible living situation into another, from one toxic environment to another, without much explanation and with many disturbing things were just left without a comment or conclusion of some sort. Now, the writing style didn't help either. I can get why the author choose to focus on bleak and dark things, such as lack of hygiene, pollution, poverty but there needs to be some balance. This book is incredibly grim, there isn't a single decent character in it. The society is all rotten, the individuals are all horrible abusers, nothing makes any sense. In fact, everything is so dark and terrible, that the book stopped making sense. It is only towards the end of the book that I really got into the story and started really wondering and caring about Nami.
The Lake is one of the most depressing books I have ever read and I do read a lot. I typically enjoy realism and naturalism, but I felt like this book tried too hard to be both. The author put together all kinds of horrible subjects and topics, from mass murders to revolutions, to all kinds of abuse and toxic life situations that it ended up feeling surreal. It just feels too much for one book. I got this feeling that the book wanted to be hyper realistic but ended up being too gory and disguising. I mean if I had a penny for every time Nami got sick. He was doing so much detailed and endless vomiting, I wonder he didn't die from it. Not to mentioned all the times he was beaten up, abused, survived the most horrible of things and so on. How statistically probable it is that your entire life will be a series of complete and utter abuse?
I did kind of like the ending, it made sense, but I didn't always enjoy getting there. Nevertheless, I have to admit that it is a powerful story. There is strength in this book, but it lacks balance to be able to tell a more layered story. That's my opinion anyway. I certainly don't regret reading it. I'm not sure I'd recommend it to everyone. There is this worm of a doubt in me that the reason why this novel won so many prizes and awards is because it speaks of so many issues: pollution, environmental problems, communism, dictatorship, genocide and abuse. Perhaps there are just too many problems in it for one book. Personally, I felt that there were far too many things that weren't really discussed or elaborated on. In conclusion, it is an interesting and potent but an extremely depressing and one sided read.
OF LOVE AND OTHER DEMONS, A NOVEL BY GABRIEL MARCIA MARQUEZ 4/5
I'm quite fond of magical realism, especially of Latin American version of it. If you are a long time reader of my blog in the past, you had the chance to read my reviews of several Latin American writers of magical realism (here, here and here). Marquez is a well known writer in this genre. I've read a number of his works so far. On overall, I'm quite fond of his writing. There were a few minor things bugging me in this novels, but generally speaking I quite like this writing. This is a novel I read some time ago, but as I updated my review on goodreads, I decided to do the same thing on my blog.
Of Love and Other Demons is a beautiful work of magic realism. With the lyrical descriptions, the wonderful recreating of times past and a captivating narrative, it is a really enjoyable read. The prose is very powerful and the story draws you in. There is something quite enchanting about this book. The narrative and the style of writing go so well together. There is something natural but also mystical about this novel, and this combination somehow really works. From one side you have a feeling you see things as they are, without embellishments, but you also have this feeling that nothing is certain, that things may not be what they seem. An absolutely fascinating book.
I read this novel quite a few years ago. I remember I had read it without pausing. It starts kind of slow but it does have a way of making you feel inside of the story. Once things do start happening, you'll probably find yourself completely immersed in the story. Was there anything I didn't like? Actually, there were a few things that bugged me. As much as I admired the beauty of its writing, some things about this book frustrated me a little.
The characterization is not perfect, I'd have to say. There are many memorable characters but somehow they are never in the focus, something like fairy-tale characters. Many characters didn't undergo any character development. Even with the protagonists of the novel, one doesn't get a detailed view of them. Maybe it is supposed to be like that, maybe that is what gives the novel its ambiguity and beauty. However, it stopped me from connecting with the characters. Still, I have to say that my favorite character was Abrenuncio.
One thing that troubled me was paradoxically the portrait of the character that is the center of the novel- Sirva Maria. I didn't think it was very credible. I mean cared for the story of her life, that is as the novel itself, sad, tragic and full of some delicate beauty. However, she as a character is just inscrutable. I know this is a work of magic realism, but still. Sirva Maria seemed more a symbol than a real characters. In the novel Sirva Maria is a neglected daughter of a nobleman and a drug depended mother. Sirva Maria is raised by slaves and hence has no noble manners. Still, at one point in the novel she turns into a Renaissance maiden. As she gets bitten by a dog, she is accused of demonic possession and the church moves in to investigate.
There is a part of the novel that doesn't make much sense. I understand that love can be a powerful sensational and a metaphor for possession but who would buy the idea of traumatized 12 year girl falling desperately in love with a 35 year old priest? Some connection between the two makes sense but the author perhaps pushed it too far. She is supposed to be raised by the slaves (that is why they suspect she is possessed- they don't understand that she has just identified with a culture they don't care to know or understand) but then suddenly she recites sonnets and behaves like a love crazed Renaissance maiden. It doesn't make sense for her to recite sonnets if she was raised with little or no education, does it. Again I repeat, she is twelve! She is a mere child so some things don't make sense there. I get that it is magic realism, but still....
Even for magical realism, some things were taken a bit too far. I wish the heroine of the novel was a bit older, the book would made much more sense that way. To conclude, this is a beautiful novel but it has its paradoxes and controversies. There is a bit of Lolita touch that might bother more sensible readers. Some aspects of it bothered me a little. Nevertheless, the writing is beautiful and poetic. On the whole, I really enjoyed. Marquez is a wonderful writer.