Monthly Archives: February 2012

Review: ‘Before I Go To Sleep’ by SJ Watson.

What would happen if every time you went to sleep, you forgot everything? Christine wakes up every morning wondering who the middle-aged woman in the mirror is. One morning, Christine receives a phone call from a doctor telling her to look in the bottom of her wardrobe as she has been keeping a journal. A note in the journal says “Don’t trust Ben.” Ben is Christine’s husband – so what’s going on?

SJ Watson knows how to pull you into the story. By having a non-linear narrative, Watson reveals just enough to hook you in. You really don’t know who to trust in this story, there are so many conflicting accounts being given to Christine that you know that something is not right. I found that the story was rather unbelievable but, the way in which this story was resolved was original if nothing else.

There are plenty of plus points about this debut, I was just disappointed with the ending.

Vic x

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Review: ‘Cutting for Stone’ by Abraham Verghese

I read this book as a book club choice. Having read the blurb on the back, it wasn’t necessarily one I’d choose to read otherwise. However, I am really pleased I took the time to read this. The first third of the story is setting-up and therefore seems to drag at times but the pay-off was enough that I didn’t feel too hard done by.

The simplest way to describe ‘Cutting for Stone’ is a family saga although it spans several families, continents and decades.

‘Cutting for Stone’ follows the journey of twins who, after being orphaned due to their mother’s death in childbirth and their father’s disappearance. Set initially in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the story follows Marion as he leaves his home after being implicated in a terrorist attack. Newly qualified as a doctor, Marion finds work in a hospital in an underfunded New York City hospital. He also finds a lot more, including forgiveness.

The medical terminology and description is very vivid although Verghese himself is also a surgeon and so knows what he’s talking about!

This is an intense, ambitious novel that considers a wealth of issues including the horror of revolution, medicine and sexual awakening. I think one word to describe this novel is: epic.

Vic x

Get your copy of ‘Cutting for Stone’ here:

Review: ‘The Thing Around Your Neck’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche is a critically acclaimed, award-winning writer. I read her ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ and found that her beautiful prose not only interested me but informed me about Nigeria and the short-lived Biafra.

I chose to read this collection in order to study the short story form through a writer I respect. These twelve stories not only educate about an unknown culture but give a new spin on American life: America through the eyes of immigrants. There are no taboos in this collection: there are tales of same-sex desire and adultery as well as war and sibling rivalry. The stories are searing, emotive and intelligent. Adiche’s understanding of how two cultures clash and how people attempt to reconcile cultural differences.

Vic x

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Review: ‘Possible Side Effects’ by Augusten Burroughs.

I’ve been a fan of Augusten Burroughs for a few years now, having read about his dysfunctional childhood in ‘Running with Scissors’ and then the memoir of his abusive father in ‘A Wolf at the Table’.

This, a collection of short anecdotes about Burroughs’ life, is a pleasant read. The tales are generally very short and are told with his usual acerbic wit. Although some may feel Burroughs is milking his childhood dry but this collection is perfect for people who want a laugh but are short on time. It also delves into his adulthood, which appears to be as full of Schadenfreude as his youth.

Some of the stories have stings in the tale though so be prepared to be shocked or saddened.

Vic x

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Review: ‘Moth Smoke’ by Mohsin Hamid.

As many of you who read this blog regularly will know, I was left speechless after reading Mohsin Hamid’s novel ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’ and this, his debut novel, didn’t disappoint.

This story features Daru, a banker in Lahore who loses his job and falls into a world of drugs and crime. Daru narrates the novel with a growing bitterness towards his former classmates and finds comfort in his best friend’s wife.

Hamid has the wonderful ability of describing places and people. His angry young man is becoming a staple of his novels, akin to JD Sallinger’s Holden Caulfield. This is a well-written, intelligent story. I like the fact that he frames this story of moral decay alongside the 1998 nuclear tests. Another asset is Hamid’s ability to describe Lahore – a place which is almost entirely neglected in literature.

Vic x

‘Moth Smoke’ is available in paperback here:

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Review: The Auschwitz Violin by Maria Angels Anglada.

This story begins in 1991 in Krakow when a male musician meets a woman with a perfectly pitched violin. He inquires into the origin of the violin but couldn’t possibly be prepared for the incredible story behind it.

Whilst imprisoned in Auschwitz, Daniel feels his life slipping away. He dreams about the love of his life and feels he is weakening every day. However, following a visit from a mysterious stranger, his former vocation as a violin maker is revealed. This information precedes a bet between the two most dangerous and influential men in the camp, one which could cost Daniel his life.

This short novel may sound depressing but Anglada conjures up such a believable character in Daniel that the reader feels can identify with the pressure he is under. The descriptions of Daniel’s hunger and nerves really give you a great sense of empathy, I rushed through this book trying to get to the end to see how it ended up.

Interspersed with actual Nazi documents from Auschwitz, this novel is chilling and believable. It is a must-read.

Vic x

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Silly Sign Monday: Week 2

Taken: Nakhl, Oman. January 2012.

Vic x