Thursday, 13 June 2013

Book #37 No Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

No Country For Old Men

Length Of Time In Possession : 3 weeks

No Country For Old Men is the novel from which the fantastic Academy Award Winning Coen Brothers film starring Javier Bardem, Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin came. I urge you to watch the film.

Does the novel measure up? By and large, yes, the Coen Brothers did a faithful adaptation and though for me, the film has a slight edge, the book is a worthwhile read.

Llewellyn Moss stumbles upon a crime scene, everyone is dead but there is a substantial amount of money and seizes the opportunity unwittingly sealing his fate. Because recovering that money is tasked to Anton Chigurh, a man who doesn't forgive, doesn't forget and shows no mercy.

My favourite sections belonged to the musings of Sheriff Bell, an aging law man who has seen too much and sees what he believes as terrible social decay, the USA is No Country For Old Men. His philosophical outlooks and ultimate choices are the best written aspects of the book, several parts of which are eminently quotable, but I do not have the book to hand.

Fast moving but yet still at times with a sense of slow reflection, the novel is highly enjoyable and well worth reading.

Verdict : 8/10  

Destination : Charity Shop


Book #36 The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie

Length Of Time In Possession : 6 years

What an odd thing this book is. It is the story of one Jean Brodie who teaches 10 year old girls, she elects to turn a group of 6 of them : Sandy, Jenny, Rose, Mary, Monica and Eunice into her "set" a group of petted favourites to whom she extends her influence, and becomes involved with on a personal level turning them into friends and confidantes at an impressionable age, winning both their minds and their hearts. As they age into the Senior School, the headmistress, wary of Brodie attempts to break the girls bond and uncover a reason to dismiss the eccentric schoolteacher.

Certain stylistic approaches irritate, we are repetitively told that Jean Brodie was in her prime or at least considered herself to be, we are repetitively told that Rose became "famous for sex"  etc, and in what is quite a short book it proves annoying.

As far as the plot itself goes I found Jean Brodie to be an alarming even sociopathic character : I was thoroughly unsurprised that the Headmistress wanted to oust her. Whilst every parent hopes that their child will find a inspirational teacher who is willing to light up their child's mind and deviate from the "rules"; Brodie is more like a spider to whom the girls are flies, that she manipulates, controls, and puppeteers at her own whim. Mary, as an example, seems to have only been included in the "set" to serve as its whipping boy, an example for Brodie to criticise for the benefit of the other girls.

As the girls age, Brodie manipulates their burgeoning sexual blooming to her own ends and in one instance is indirectly responsible for a child's death. Finally seeing through her, one of her own set betrays her, but which one, and why?    

This is a really strong if very strange book about the alarming power to influence children adults hold because even in old age the girl who finally turned on her cites her as her greatest influence. Interesting and thought provoking if not always excellently written.

Verdict : 7.5/10

Destination : Charity Shop

Book #35 Bright Young Things by Scarlett Thomas

Bright Young Things

Length Of Time in Possession : 3 weeks

Ah, Bright Young Things, I don't know what I make of you. You are no "The End Of Mr Y" and you don't match up to "PopCo" (both by the same author) despite its flaws either; but yet there is something to say for you.

At the beginning of the novel we are introduced to the eponymous Bright Young Things : Anne, Thea, Emily, Jamie, Paul and Bryn all of whom have their own back story - most of whom are recent graduates, and what leads them all to apply for a small job advertisement in The Guardian about which little details are given. Just that it's an "exciting project" for "Bright Young Things"

After arriving to their interview, they all suddenly wake up on a remote island with no idea how they got there and no way off, and no clue as to the 'project' they are supposed to be involved in.

So they end up living a Big Brother/Castaway type hybrid in which they must entertain themselves and to read it is almost like reading a novelisation of one of those reality shows, like a Geordie Marcus voice over set to the page.

In some ways this proves quite dull, as it basically consists of popular culture discussions revolving around the late Eighties into the 90s, basically what people my age (31) were into as teens. I found myself thinking "Wow, had I read this at 42, it would have been an amazing nostalgia trip, but right now it just feels dated"

Certain parts did make me smile, the ZX Spectrum gets referenced and my family had one, on top of this Anne goes on a pretty lengthy diatribe about early Home And Away, something my sisters and I watched religiously, discussing at length a storyline about Bobby and her half brother Alan Fisher with whom she almost entered a relationship both entirely unaware they had the same father, Alan's death and the subsequent publication of his novel On The Crest Of A Wave, that, I did wax nostalgic about, one of my favourite all time storylines.  My Home And Away/Neighbours days are long over and I'm now more of a Breaking Bad girl but I do find it sweet and amusing that Alf Stewart of the catchphrase "flaming gallah" is still in it more than twenty years later.

There is a decent if rather preposterous twist at the midway point, yet the ending is a bit empty and feels unfinished. The ending of PopCo is similarly rushed and disappointing and though personally I loved the ending of "Mr Y", other readers have made the same complaint of it, giving rise to the accusation that Thomas gets off to good starts and has difficulty carrying them through to the novels conclusion.

I gave Mr Y a 10/10 and I believe I gave PopCo a 7, Bright Young Things for me is a 6/10 which means somewhat disappointingly Thomas's other novels have failed to live up to what I felt was utter genius in Mr Y, I still have two of her other novels : Our Tragic Universe and Going Out unread but from her output thus far, it is clear to me that there is genuine, if slightly flawed, talent at work and I will continue to keep her on my watchlist.

Destination : Charity Shop    

A Note

I have only one book listed as read in May but in fact read 4 - but was away from a computer at the time, about to review the other 3 now but in my final round up they will be classed as May not June. Painfully behind this year, pretty sure there is no way I'll make 100 this time, but it remains to be seen!