Wow, summer is here!

Hi everyone

This recent turn around in the British weather (just in time for the Olympics) has matched the recent turn around in the books I am currently reading.  After months of forcing myself to read a book I hated, I am now reading two books simultaneously that I am really enjoying.  The first is The God of Small Things which I was reluctant to pick up at first as after not getting on with the writing style of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children I had hastily decided to tar all Indian authors with the same brush.  There are some slight similarities in the writing style of the two books, but these are very small similarities and while The God of Small Things still has a certain charm to it, the story flows in a way that Midnight’s Children failed to do.  The subject matter is quite heavy but the events of the book are given in a more matter-of-fact way that makes the atrocities easier to digest.  I am just over halfway through so I’ll hopefully review this book before the end of the month.

The second book is I Capture the Castle which I’m only a few chapters into but I am already enjoying.  It has a similar feel to it as Cold Comfort Farm but a bit less melodramatic and a bit more philosophical.  I need to make a bit more headway into this book as it is due back at the library soon.

I think an afternoon reading in the sunshine is required!

Jennie

Book Review: Double Act by Jacqueline Wilson

Book 80

Double actIdentical twins Ruby and Garnet are inseparable. They do everything together and go everywhere together. They love being twins, and since the death of their mother they have been closer than ever, safe in their little world. But when Dad finds a new girlfriend everything in the twins’ lives is turned upside down–new home, new school, new everything. And gradually, being twins isn’t quite the same any more.

This is the third Jacqueline Wilson book I have now read in my challenge and I will admit they are starting to become a guilty pleasure of mine.  Double Act is a diary written by two twins, Ruby and Garnet, about their lives at age 10.  It is a tale of what happens to close friends when you start to leave childhood behind and move towards your teenage years.  Considering both twins take it in turns to write entries, it is extremely well written and as always the illustrations compliment the story perfectly.  I enjoyed the storyline despite the predictability of it and I did not find the story to be at all condescending or patronising unlike other children’s books.

What I liked about this book:  I liked having the two sides to the story, both Ruby and Garnet sharing their thoughts and opinions on the different events in the book.  The storyline was, as I said, predictable, but I am not a pre-teen and so in that context the predictability doesn’t matter.  It was a believable storyline that addresses many different subject matters through the twin’s diary entries.  My favourite bit was how the book touched on an issue that would affect a lot of 10-11 year olds: how it feels when your best friend, who you have spent all your childhood years with, goes to a different senior school to you.  The book showed the pain, rejection and jealously Ruby was feeling as well as the fear of the unknown both the twins were feeling due to Garnet being sent to a different school to Ruby.  I imagine it is something that to an 11 year old probably feels like one of the biggest things that has happened to them and this book covered that subject in a realistic way.

What I didn’t like about this book:  I felt that there was maybe too many issues being addressed in this book: the death of their mother at a young age, leaving their grandmother, their friends and school to move somewhere new and their Dad meeting someone new and moving in with her.  Parts of the storyline felt very similar to Vicky Angel; Ruby bossing Garnet about and Garnet living in Ruby’s constant shadow.  Because of that comparison in my head I didn’t feel this book shone as much as it could have; if I hadn’t already read Vicky Angel I may have enjoyed this more.

This book again showcases Jacqueline Wilson’s talent for writing children’s books that address serious subject matter in a way that a child would connect with.  The illustrations add another layer to the story and this book, as with the others I have read, really captured my imagination even though I am no longer 11 years old.  It was very enjoyable and one that I would recommend for any girl who likes a good book, no matter what her real age is.

Book Review: On The Road by Jack Kerouac

Book 90

On the roadOn the Road swings to the rhythms of 1950s underground America, jazz, sex, generosity, chill dawns and drugs, with Sal Paradise and his hero Dean Moriarty, traveller and mystic, the living epitome of Beat. Now recognized as a modern classic, its American Dream is nearer that of Walt Whitman than Scott Fitzgerald, and it goes racing towards the sunset with unforgettable exuberance, poignancy and autobiographical passion.

The premise of On The Road sounds exciting: set just after the second world war, an ex-soldier come disillusioned youth sets off to find himself by travelling from coast to coast across the USA.  However not once did I find this book exciting.  It is written in an autobiographical style with Sal Paradise as the protagonist of the tale.  Sal lives with his aunt in New Jersey and as a budding writer dreams of following his friends across America to the west coast and he has decided to go for it: Sal is the  epitome of “you’re only young once”.  As Sal hitch-hikes and buses his way from place to place he takes every misfortune in his stride and never seems to be concerned with anything past the next few hours.  Throughout the story he runs into various acquaintances along his travels and with very little difficulty as well: On The Road gives the impression that the USA must be very sparsely populated indeed if everyone is so easy to track down.  After all , this was before most working class families would have a telephone in their homes and a world away from the modern-day world of mobile phones and social networking.  Yet everyone is always where they should be even though no one seems to stay in one place for very long.  As Sal moves from place to place he never looks back, never wonders what became of the people he met or the places he’s seen.  He is always moving forward; avoiding all responsibility for his life and the lives around him.

What I liked about this book:  I have tried to think of something positive to say but have come up blank.  I can’t even say that the fact that it is only 300 pages is a good thing as it felt much, much longer.

What I didn’t like about this book:  There is no point listing everything I disliked, it would take too long and I’ve already wasted too much of my life on this book.  I think my biggest complaint is that in theory this could have been an intriguing story yet on paper it failed to spark the imagination.  There was also no personality in the telling of the tale, it was more as if a child had written it: And then we did this and then that and then this happened etc, etc.  I never felt I was given Sal’s take on what was happening: there was no reflection on the events and no insight as to how it made him feel.  Any descriptions that were given were unimaginative and did not transport me to 1940’s San Francisco or 1950’s Denver.  Also the pace of the book would chop and change at a moment’s notice: sometimes there was just too much happening, too much information on one page to take in yet at other times it was too slow with nothing of interest happening at all.  Sal would travel to a new town and there would only be a small paragraph dedicated to it, yet at other times the smallest occurrences would be described in minute detail to the point of boredom.

I can imagine a book about a 20-30 year old male refusing to grow up, drinking too much, taking drugs, sleeping around and travelling the country as if he were homeless would cause controversy when it was first published in 1957.  I can also imagine that at the time many young people would empathise with this book.  However I did not find it controversial and I certainly did not find myself empathising with any of the main characters.  I understand that this book is more fact than fiction; it is supposedly Jack Kerouac’s autobiography of his life travelling the country with his friends and all he did was just change some names.  This probably explains why the book doesn’t really make any sense as a piece of fiction as it’s not supposed to be.

I do feel that the main events of the book would have been more interesting if they had been written by someone with more talent for telling a good story; someone who could have injected a bit more personality into it.  There is a film adaptation due out in the UK in September 2012 and I would be interested to see if this proves my theory right: if the film is good then the failure of the book is not the content but the way it is presented.  I will never, ever read this book again and I urge anyone out there considering it not to put yourself through it.  Watch the film instead; for once I can guarantee it will be better than the book!