For once the sun may be shining on a bank holiday weekend, but I’m stuck indoors with the mother of all colds. Its not Swine Flu, this cold has been brewing for a couple of weeks, but of course I would start sneezing the moment that having a cold in public is the social equivalent of walking naked down your local high street. Despite my assurances that I don’t know anyone whose been to Mexico, or know anyone who knows anyone whose been to Mexico, I am being eschewed by everyone bar the cat and even she’s asleep in a different room.
Which leads onto the question of the day. If you feed a cat, but the cat doesn’t see you feed it, even though the cat eats the new food, does this mean that the cat has been fed?
I’ve been a recent lucky recipient of Library Thing Early Reviewers largess. Its been a good bunch on the whole and there are a couple of books that I really want to recommend to people.
This is a road-trip book and some reviewers have compared this to Little Miss Sunshine, I wouldn’t go as far as that. This is a deceptively simple but in reality a very complex book. Toews is both compassionate and detached in her exploration of the effects of Min’s, possibly terminal, depression on her children, Thebes and Logan, and her sister, Hattie. Hattie’s relationships with her sister and with her niece and nephew feel rooted in reality. In particular the dialogue between the characters is superb and feels very authentic, and Thebes and, especially Logan, are never sentimentalised, but are compelling oddballs in their determination. On the trip to find the children’s father the family encounter various quirky characters, who bring humour and insight to family’s predicament. This is a book I highly recommend and I will be be looking out for Miriam Toews’s other books.
Petina Gappah’s writing is so masterly that it is hard to believe that this is her debut. Her writing has an elegance which reminded this reader of Katherine Mansfield, which is especially true in the things that Gappah does not say. Gappah writes about the daily lives and struggles of the people of her native Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean leaders only appear in passing in these stories, as Gapph is writing about the ordinary people and how the increasing inflation and AIDS epidemic impacts on their daily lives. The characters in these stories are very real and whilst they seem very rooted to their geography and situation they are also universal, we all know people like ‘My Cousin-Sister Rambanai’ and the people who live ‘In the Heart of the Golden Triangle’ and people’s whose marriages are similar to the one in ‘The Negotiated Settlement’. ‘Midnight at the Hotel California’ made me laugh out loud, but Gappah never lets you forget that behind the laughter there are tears. Superb. Gappah is definitely a writer to watch.
I must read other books by Helen Garner as this is an absolutely amazing book. Garner, seemingly effortlessly, encapsulates in this tiny text, the fear, sadness, anger and frustration of watching someone you love in denial of their own death. I shared Helen’s anger at the doctors Nicola trusted and who charged her for expensive treatments and her frustration and anger with Nicola ‘The one thing I was sure of, as I lay pole-axed on my bed that afternoon … was that if I did not get Nicola out of my house tomorrow I would slide into a lime-pit of rage that would scorch the flesh off me, leaving nothing but a strew of pale bones on a landscape of sand.’ This is a brutally honest, gentle, compassionate, loving and, at times, funny novel which is beautifully written.
Sadly, last does mean least this time. I love a crime novel, and was really looking forward to this one, but having read it I am quite ambivalent this book. It has an interesting premise, a paedophile is brutally murdered in the City of London, and fearing that this will escalate the police question the families of other victims of paedophiles possibly connected with the murder, but somehow it just doesn’t work. The story is bleak and is overly complicated, but that isn’t the issue. The main problem is that Staffe feels too much of a written by numbers dysfunctional DI, almost as if in creating Staffe Adam Creed had taken elements of all the dysfunctional D.I.s ever written (Rebus, Dalziel, Morse, Dagliesh to name a few) and mixed them all up. Other readers may like this book, but it just felt too formulaic for me.