Tuesday, 13 October 2015
Quickie Reviews: Book Group Edition
The fact that I have spewed my thoughts out to a group of people in person means I rarely feel the urge to write proper reviews of book group reads, but I do have a few comments on what we’ve been reading over the last few months.
First up is Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith, the first thriller to be Booker longlisted. The historical element of this book is top notch and I was drawn into Soviet Russia; its hardships and its hypocrisy. For the first half I felt like I was reading a dystopian novel. I guess we often forget the driving influence behind the first dystopias was indeed the Soviet Union.
What let it down for me was the actual thriller part, which went on too long and involved one too many they got away, oh no they’ve been caught again, scenario. And the connection between it all was just ridiculous.
Then we read The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August which seemed much more up my street straight away. After Harry’s first death, he finds himself reborn with his memories intact. His second life drove him mad. The story jumps back and forth through Harry’s lives and the 20th century, following one man’s efforts to live his life again and again.
There have been a few similar books going around, most notably Life After Life, but overall I enjoyed this take. Rather than trying to change things, Harry meets an organisation that tries to preserve history. Passing messages back in time, Harry receives the warning that the end is coming.
Harry’s voice is excellent, a perfect, slightly tired with life, old man. His age comes through even when he is narrating the parts of his lives where he was younger.
Our latest group read was one I wasn’t looking forward to reading at all, and I must say my bookish spidey sense is spot on. The Girl on the Train just wasn’t my kind of book at all, loathsome characters and a confusing timeline. I had no sympathy for any of them and they included a few of my pet hates. There is more to being a woman than being a wife and mother. Megan is stuck at home bored out of her mind, I cannot fathom how someone cannot find anything to do with their time. If I was a kept woman, I’m pretty sure I could fill the time.
Rachel is driven to alcoholism by the fact she cannot have children and Anna seems to not care about anything other than her child. And the men! God, I can’t say much without spoilers, but this wasn’t a very pleasant reflection on society. Even the one character, Rachel’s housemate, who was “nice” had her niceness portrayed as something negative.
I did like the concept though, the repetition of the daily commute, the glimpses into someone else’s life, if only for a few seconds. I just don’t like this current trend to not only have an anti-hero but to also make everyone else unlikable.
You can find Bournemouth Book Club on Facebook and Goodreads. We're open to new members and meet in a public place once a month. Our next three books are All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, The Children Act by Ian McEwan and I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh.