Buddy Read – Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

May 2017 – Janelle’s choice

 

Big Magic

by Elizabeth Gilbert

Published 2015

Genres: Non-Fiction / Self-help

 

“A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life.”

Elizabeth Gilbert is a champion of creative living, and in this book she shares tips on pushing past fear, giving yourself permission, and committing, to live out your most creative dreams.

 

Janelle says…

This is my second time reading this book, and while I can see why others have taken fault with it, I still love it. This is Liz Gilbert’s call to creativity, a kick-up-the-bum that we all sometimes need. Applicable to whatever your form of creative outlet is, this book quashes the usual excuses for not starting that project, or making time to do something you love, or taking that chance. Fear/time/embarrassment/lack of confidence….she covers it all. This book is your permission slip to allow yourself to do whatever it is that you truly yearn to do. In fact she says so herself in the book, she personally gives you permission!

Admittedly, at times this book does get a bit woo-woo. But while I don’t necessarily believe in Gilbert’s way of viewing how ideas are born and realised, I do think it’s a fun and motivating way of thinking about it. Meditating on the thought that if you don’t pick up a floating idea and do something about it, it will move on to someone else, does make me feel more inclined to take my ideas seriously lest I lose them.

I don’t really get why Gilbert cops such a lashing from critics and readers, I think she deserves to be cut some slack. I loved Eat Pray Love, and I love Big Magic. The first time I experienced Big Magic was on audio, and I felt so inspired I wanted to shout from the mountaintop about all the amazing things it made me want to do with my life. In the time between reading this the first time and reading it the second time, I have taken a big step in making one of my creative dreams come to fruition, and reading this again while knowing that I AM already allowing myself my creative freedom made me so happy and proud. And honestly, Big Magic did play a part in giving me the nudge that I needed to get going.

If you have ideas or hobbies or passions, or even if you don’t but you’d like to, let Elizabeth Gilbert inspire you to make your life full of beautiful creativity!

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

 

Mel says…

I’m going to start by stating that I am not a creative person, in that I don’t write (aside from this blog), paint, build, dance or play music. I wish I had a creative bone in my body, but sadly I have attempted all of the above and I just don’t have the talent or patience for such things.

With that said, I found it hard to connect with Big Magic. I would read several pages and get bored, put the book down and not touch it for days.

There was the occasional passage that I found intriguing, such as Liz Gilbert’s theory on Multiple Discovery. I like to think that ideas are out in the Universe, just waiting for their creator to grab them with both hands and mould them into something brilliant. That makes me feel warm and fuzzy, for some strange reason.

Aside from this, I have to admit I did a lot of skimming and then decided to give up after 3/4 of the way through. I apologise to my sister, who I know loves this book, but I just could not relate and so will forever more be a huge fan of creativity, but I was not created to be the creator…

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

 

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Buddy read – Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

February 2017 – Janelle’s choice

Our Souls at Night

by Kent Haruf

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Published 2015

Genres: Fiction / Literary

We’ve been by ourselves for too long. For years. I’m lonely. I think you might be too. I wonder if you would come and sleep in the night with me. And talk.”

And that’s how the story starts. One night in Holt County, Ohio, Addie Moore visits her neighbour Louis Waters, with this simple proposition. From there, an innocent and honest friendship blossoms, but some of the bystanders surrounding this couple aren’t too pleased.

 

Janelle says…

I chose this book because it was mentioned on an old episode of the ABC’s The Book Club and all the panellists doted over it, a rare occurence! And it sounded sweet. And it was sweet!

This is a quick, 180-page read but for such a little thing, it really does manage to cover a bit of ground. It explores growing old, how society sees people of a certain age bracket and expects them to behave, and whether we can claim any ownership over the actions of our loved ones, our elderly and frail loved ones especially. This exploration is made all the more poignant and beautiful by the fact that this novel was published posthumously, written by the author as he was dying. This post/review by The Guardian really does a good, honest job of paying homage to both the author and the book if you want to know more.

I fell in total love with the two protagonists, Addie and Louis. I was in their corner from the very first page, and I couldn’t understand why anyone would try to deny them the friendship they were creating with one another. But over and over again their meetings are judged as shameful by those around them, and I just wanted to jump inside the book and shake everybody by the shoulders!

I really found the dialogue to be written in an interesting way. There was no “she whispered”, “he moaned”, “I gasped” etc., it was purely just the actual words spoken between characters. It was just a different style of approaching dialogue, and I noticed that difference straight away. I liked it, it kept the story flowing in a very realistic way, without the need for drama.

I think more than anything, this is a book about hope, and the message that it’s never too late to chase happiness. And I think it’s one I’ll come back to again, when I feel the need to hear that message.

 

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

Mel says…

This book was 180-pages of pure sweetness. I fell in love with Addie, Louis and their companionship. Their little adventures were adorable and all I wanted to do was pack my bags and join them on their picnics, lunches and camping trips. At one point I sighed and asked my husband if we can please go camping, it sounded so pleasant.

The picture that Kent Haruf paints of this world is written in such an unusual way, that at first I struggled with the dialogue, but once I was roughly 20-pages in, it became quite easy to read and was a definite page turner.

Over the course of the book, I grew very attached to Addie and Louis and became very defensive about their companionship. So much so in fact, that when the towns folk began questioning the relationship in the beginning, all I wanted to do was tell them to mind their own business.

If you are looking for a short and relaxing read, then this is the book for you. It is light and a breath of fresh air. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

 

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Outrageous – Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

Furiously Happy

by Jenny Lawson

 

furiously-happy

Published 2015

Genres: Non-fiction / Memoir / Humour

 

“Okay. This magazine says that you can tell what you should do with your life if you just take away all thoughts of risks. So what would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?”

“I’d be a Pegasus.”

“That’s not really how this works.”

“I’d be a brown Pegasus though, because if you were a white Pegasus you’d be hounded by Lisa Frank fans and nine-year-olds. And black Pegasuses are just as bad because they’re all badass and heavy metal bands would probably want to kidnap them. But no one wants a shabby brown Pegasus. I could just flap around the neighbourhood and no one would really care. And maybe I’d wish for back herpes so that people wouldn’t hassle me for rides.”

Victor looked back at his magazine. “I’m not going to talk to you if you’re not taking this seriously.”

“I am taking this seriously,” I said. “I’d be a rumpled, brown Pegasus with back herpes if I knew I couldn’t fail.”

“That’s not how it works,” Victor said. “It’s supposed to teach you what you really want in life.”

“That is what I want.”

“PICK SOMETHING REAL.”

Jenny Lawson, a.k.a. The Bloggess, recounts stories from her life that shine a light on the mental health issues she lives with. And in no way are they dark and miserable. She relates her stories with humour, humility, and honesty. Never thought you’d laugh at tales of someone else’s mental health problems? Think again. Somehow, in Furiously Happy, The Bloggess makes it ok to laugh.

 

Janelle says…

It’s been a long time since I laughed so hard that I cried. It’s also been a long time since I had to smother my face while reading at 3am so as not to wake up my family with my giggling. Both of those things happened while I was reading Furiously Happy.

Entering Jenny Lawson’s world was like entering another dimension while on a sugar high and surrounded by cuddly, jumpy puppies who are all holding balloons. I know, it makes no sense, but it sounds damn fun doesn’t it?!

In one way, it seems a bit off to be recommending that you go read this book because you will laugh yourself silly at this recounting of someone’s mental illness. But Jenny Lawson wants you to laugh. That’s at the core of her Furiously Happy movement. To not let her mental issues be an automatic pass into a melancholy state. She is determined to be not only happy, but FURIOUSLY happy. Just like her raccoon friend, Rory. Look at his delightful little face on the cover there. Does he not make you want to join in with whatever party is going on in his head?!

Speaking of Rory, the story she tells about purchasing him and then using him to pull pranks on her long-suffering husband is so funny that I’m laughing right now just thinking about it. As is the story about her going to an overnight sleep clinic to find out if she has sleep apnoea, which was so fantastic I read it twice. In fact, I’m having so much fun reminiscing in my head about this book, that it’s making me want to re-read it immediately!

I can’t do this book justice by speaking any more about it, it would be like doing a poor job of retelling an awesome joke. That “you had to be there” factor. But I’m telling you, you absolutely MUST go there. Please. And then come back here and tell me about it so we can laugh together.

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Inspiring – Wildflower by Drew Barrymore

Wildflower

by Drew Barrymore

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Published 2015

Genres: Non-fiction/Memoir

Out there in the world of chaos
All the concrete and fumes
People with determination behind the wheel
The soles of their feet wiser
Some faces with souls of routine
Others with high hope of their destination
Among all the human and industrial invention
My eyes find a tiny wildflower
With pretty yellow petals
And a brown button nose
Reminding me that there is beauty everywhere
A compass of nature
A second of stillness in my mind
As my heart races to the rhythms
Of it swaying in the wind
You are that Flower,
Reminding me of what is real

 

 

Mel says…

Before reading this book, I already admired and loved Drew for her movies. So when I saw she had released a collection of life stories, I was excited to learn more about her and her private life.

I should also note that at the start of the year, I set myself the simple New Year’s resolution of learning to appreciate and enjoy the smaller things in life. From the sound of rain, to the smell of freshly cut grass and the first moments I get to spend with my newborn daughter. This book spoke to me, through all of this wisdom.

Wildflower is written in a way that is typical of Drew’s character; free flowing. Each short story is about a different part of her life journey and that is exactly how I felt whilst reading this book, like I was on a journey. She is inspiring and truthful in all that she writes.

There is no dive into her dark childhood, like most would expect from a celebrity biography, nor is there any “dishing of the dirt” on other celebrities, so if you are looking for a juicy gossip read, this is not the book for you! Instead, this book is a journey through many of Drew’s life epiphany’s. From her young childhood years, through the teens and right up to her 40th birthday, she discusses her emancipation that forced her to grow up and fast, acting, charity work and her most important role, motherhood.

Once I closed this book, I couldn’t wait to go out and buy my own copy. I feel inspired to be creative, loving and appreciative of all the small things I have been gifted throughout my life. She has spoken to me on so many levels and I encourage all women to give this a read!

I thought I couldn’t love Drew Barrymore anymore than I already did, but I was wrong!

 

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Buddy Read – All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

February 2016 – Mel’s choice

All The Light We Cannot See

by Anthony Doerr

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Published 2015

Genres: Fiction / Literary Fiction / Historical Fiction

“..maybe the Germans are advancing as inexorably as lava, but Marie-Laure is slipping into something like a dream, or perhaps it’s the memory of one: she’s six or seven years old, newly blind, and her father is sitting in the chair beside her bed, whittling away at some tiny piece of wood, smoking a cigarette, and evening is settling over the hundred thousand rooftops and chimneys of Paris, and all the walls around her are dissolving, the ceilings too, the whole city is disintegrating into smoke, and at last sleep falls over her like a shadow.”

For Marie-Laure, blind since age six, the world is full of mazes. The miniature of a Paris neighbourhood, made by her father to teach her the way home. The microscopic layers within the priceless diamond that is guarded in the Museum of Natural History. The walled city by the sea, where father and daughter take refuge when the Nazis invade Paris. And a future which draws her ever closer to Werner, a German orphan, destined to labour in the mines until a broken radio fills his life with possibility and brings him to the notice of the Hitler Youth.

 

Mel says…

This book has received so many rave reviews, as well as being the 2015 Pulitzer Prize winner for Fiction, so naturally I was eager to read this book and see what all the fuss was about. Initially, I must admit, I dragged myself through the first hundred or so pages and thought ‘meh’. BUT, I did change my tune as I pushed on.

The first thing you must know is that this book is not a quick, easy read. It is very deep and emotionally driven, which you would expect as the story is based during WWII, and the Nazi invasion of France.

This is a beautiful story of two innocent children, Marie-Laure and Werner. Marie-Laure is a young, blind girl who relies heavily on her father to assist with daily life tasks, so once the invasion of Paris begins, her story and life become very different from many others.

Werner is a young, German orphan who grows up with his sister, Jutta, and who is led into a life of service by the Nazis. He is still a child when he is enlisted and I believe he is fairly unaware how much of an impact on the war his engineering skills actually make.

This story is generously flecked with beautiful metaphors, and the meaning behind the title just makes Anthony Doerr’s work that much more exciting. All The Light We Cannot See is a must read for anyone wanting to read something with a little more depth and meaning.

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

Janelle says…

Like Mel, I was keen to read this based on the positive reviews I’d heard, and the fact that it had won the Pulitzer. And my reading experience was actually the opposite of hers – starting out of the gate, I was really engaged with the characters but I became less motivated as the book went on. I really did like the format of very short chapters all throughout this book, it meant that I could read small snippets if I only had a short amount of time to spare, and it was always possible to simply read to the end of a chapter before putting the book down, rather than stopping mid-chapter. However, it felt like it took me FOREVER to read this (it took me two weeks), and I started to feel twitchy to finish it and move on. I’m beginning to think that perhaps I just lose interest with long books!

War stories are not a genre I’m that interested in reading (surprising, given that I worked in a war museum for many years. Perhaps I’ve just had my fill of them). But I did appreciate that this story was delivered from an angle a little different to most. Our protagonists are two children – one a German orphan boy, the other a blind French girl. And it’s in the development of these two characters where this story really shines. I was taken with both of them immediately, especially Marie-Laure. I had never wondered before about what it might be like to experience something as life-altering as living through a war, if you had a sensory impairment like blindness.

I can see why this book won the Pulitzer. Doerr’s writing is beautiful, he sets the scenes so vividly and delivers his characters with tenderness. If you enjoy fiction surrounding WWII then you should definitely give this a read. Personally, I did like this book, but I had trouble maintaining enthusiasm and focus from about mid-way onwards, and unfortunately it just didn’t “wow” me.

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Unfulfilling – Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

Fates and Furies

by Lauren Groff

fates and furies

Published 2015

Genres: Fiction / Literary

 

“Up there rose the ghosts of parties, of themselves when they were younger, too dumb to understand that they were ecstatic.

Whatever happened to all of those friends of ours? Lotto wondered. The ones who had seemed so essential had faded away. Nerd princes with their twins in strollers, Park Slope and craft beers. Arnie, who owned a bar empire, still doing girls with plates in their ears and jailhouse tattoos. Natalie now a CFO of some Internet start-up in San Francisco, a hundred others faded off. The friends had been whittled down. The ones who remained were heartwood, marrow.”

Lotto and Mathilde meet in college and marry soon after, seemingly star-crossed infatuated lovers. And despite the trials of adulthood – financial stress, lack of job stability etc. – their love for each other seems steadfast. Lotto is the star, an actor-turned-playwright, beloved by all, centre of many a crush. Mathilde meanwhile plays the supportive spouse – happy to linger humbly out of the spotlight, taking care of household matters. But out of the spotlight, is that how they see it?

 

Janelle says…

So far, I’m the only person I know who was underwhelmed by this book which has otherwise been raved about. Maybe it was just a case of “wrong book, wrong time”, but I couldn’t wait to reach the end of it.

Fates and Furies was released in late 2015 to much acclaim – it was a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award, a finalist as a fiction nominee for the 2015 Kirkus Prize, and a nominee for the 2015 Goodreads Readers Choice Award for Fiction. All this in the 5 months since it was published.

In case you haven’t heard about it, to quote the beginning of just about every review of this book so far – “It’s a book about marriage”. Although I believe that’s subjective. Maybe it would be more accurate to say it’s a book about the cliched heterosexual marriage. The husband is the shining star, the proud breadwinner, the very obvious head of the partnership. The wife – his admiring supporter, discreetly managing the many little details of life behind-the-scenes so that the surface displays a tidy, perfect, well-managed operation. Although how they each see themselves and each other are not necessarily aligned.

The book is split in two – the “Fates” half told by the husband, Lotto, with “Furies” told from Mathilde’s viewpoint. To be honest, I was bored about halfway through “Fates”, but I forced myself to stick with it in the hope that “Furies” would bring grand revelations and plenty of shocked gasping. It did not. For me anyway, I’ve heard other people have had this reaction to it though.

 

“Somehow, despite her politics and smarts, she had become a wife, and wives, as we all know, are invisible. The midnight elves of marriage. The house in the country, the apartment in the city, the taxes, the dog, all were her concern: he had no idea what she did with her time.”

 

I certainly understand that the author is trying to make a feminist point, and that it’s a commentary on the union of a traditional marriage – the purpose of a man in a relationship, and the purpose of a woman. The man in this book doesn’t live up to what he believes his purpose as a husband is supposed to be (for some of the book anyway), and the woman does believe she is living up to her supposed purpose as a wife but doesn’t necessarily agree with it. That’s how I interpreted it anyway.

But try as I might, I just couldn’t gel with the author’s abstract way of writing. I had to read over many paragraphs at least twice, my mind just couldn’t latch on to the words a lot of the time and it was too easy to be distracted by other things. And I think this could be an issue with me and this particular author in general. I started listening to another of her novels on audiobook at the same time that I was reading this in print, and I couldn’t stand to listen to it for more than about half an hour before I was completely lost and frustrated.

Also, the characters. I couldn’t have cared less for them and just wanted them out of my life. Total narcissists, although one was worse than the other. I know it goes against the moral of the story, but at times I just wanted to yell at them – “Hey guys? #firstworldproblems, ok?”

Maybe I just completely missed the point because the writing style wasn’t for me. Anyway, I truly am very disappointed to be the only person in the world who didn’t love this book, but hey – that’s what’s wonderful about the reading experience. You don’t have to love what everyone else does!

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Unique – Dear Mr. You by Mary-Louise Parker

Dear Mr. You

by Mary-Louise Parker

dear-mr-you-9781501107832_hr

Published 2015

Genres: Non-Fiction / Memoir

“Perhaps there are no answers for us poor humans, but we know a handful of things. We know that there exists a planet with four thousand versions of songbirds. Because that is possible and because on that same planet can exist sentient beings made up almost entirely of stardust, and because actual poetry erupts mightily from some of those beings, and there is music, sex, and babies; because we are all roaming a universe that may in fact be a hologram, with another dimension consecutively projecting itself outside the definition of relativity and gravity; because of all that, there is no reason why my prayers shouldn’t be able to reach your mother whose name I didn’t even know.”

 

Janelle says…

This is not your standard autobiography. And thank goodness, because more than anything, I really liked the unique format of this book. Writing letters to people (in the case of this book – men) who have influenced your life in some way – sometimes through a close relationship, sometimes with only an obscure or fleeting impact – is such an intriguing method of self-exploration and sharing your story.

Parker writes in a way that is almost stream-of-consciousness, with really insightful thoughts about the world and the important moments in our lives. It wasn’t until I was about a third of the way through the book that I was really taken by her writing though. The more I read, the more I understood her way of thinking and writing and her letters grew on me, and by the end I felt a real affection for her.

The mystery of the book is that we don’t know for sure who all of the letters are to. Some are obvious or have been deciphered and discussed online – her grandfather, her ex. But for most of them, we might never know. Which I think actually adds to the lure of this book. The idea that seemingly anonymous people who may have only touched your life for a day or an hour or less, can still make you ponder life’s questions deeply and embed themselves in your memory in the long-term.

I wouldn’t say this was one of my favourite books of this year, but it’s clear that Mary-Louise Parker has real writing talent. She’s funny, and honest, and has a way of describing things that make me feel like maybe I have had the same thoughts once, but would never have been able to figure out how to get them down on paper. If you have been a fan of Mary-Louise until now, or are just in the mood for reading something a little out-of-the-square and thoughtful, then give Dear Mr. You a read.

 

“He won’t be able to jump until he is almost eight, will not be capable of pronouncing the letter r, and will pass through a period, as his mother did, where he will stutter so badly that it makes him cry. There will be plenty that he won’t be the best at, but it is within all the medium and below that I will find relief, knowing he can enjoy the enviable position of normal, and the thrill of improving from floundering to adequate.”

 

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

*I was provided with an ARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review*

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Engaging – The Girl Who Slept With God by Val Brelinski

The Girl Who Slept With God

by Val Brelinski

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Published August 2015

Genres: Fiction / Literary

“Jory took a shaky breath. She suddenly saw that this moment weighed as much as all the previous ones combined. That all the other mental skirmishes had been small change, child’s play. Here, now, was her very own unexpected expected. For one small suspended second in time, she still had the ability to do or not do something, that once done she would then never be able to undo.”

Our story centres around Jory, the middle daughter of the Quanbecks, a family of devoted Christians with strict boundaries and strange routines. Jory is not as devout as her older sister Grace, and not as innocent as her younger sister Frances. Her life is turned on its head when her father sends Jory and Grace to live alone on an isolated farm, after Grace returns pregnant from a Christian mission to Mexico. Grace claims that the baby is God’s, but no one believes her. This upheaval leads to Jory and Grace welcoming some new characters into their lives – the kindly old Mrs Kleinfelter who shares the farm property with the girls, the mysterious, scruffy yet friendly Grip who drives an ice-cream van but doesn’t seem to sell much ice-cream, the brash kids at Jory’s new rough school. All of these people will leave their impressions on the sisters – some for better and some for worse. But how will they cope with living apart from their family, without the familiar people and places that they know, while staying true to their faith? And is Grace’s baby really God’s?

Janelle says…

I loved this book SO MUCH. There’s a lot to say about it, I don’t know where to begin and I don’t think I’m going to do it justice.

Val Brelinski has managed to cram so many emotions and issues into this one book, it kept me intrigued and wanting to keep reading. I adored most of the characters and felt genuinely invested in them, her character development is great. There were many relationship strands between characters but not so many that it felt overwhelming, just believable.

The main character, Jory, is exposed to things that are new to her because of her sheltered, religious upbringing, and because of her pubescent age, some things of which she has never even heard of before. She’s naive, but she’s curious, and she lets her heart lead the way (which gets her into trouble a lot). Growing up, or maybe self-development, is a major theme of this book.

There is also loads of family drama, including one scene of an all-in family fight which felt so real that I could found myself tensing up.

The question of religion and faith is a running theme throughout the book, and this would especially appeal to people with religious upbringings who could relate to this exploration.

There were times when I gasped, times when I laughed, and times when I was on the verge of tears. I really felt like this book had something for everyone, and for every mood. It didn’t lean too far in any one direction, it felt completely balanced, and natural, and beautiful.

As suspected, my review effort has been pretty lame in communicating just how wonderful this book is, so all that’s left to say is – read this book. It will be a great investment of your time, I know you’ll love it.

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Read by Janelle: September 2015 – The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips

The Beautiful Bureaucrat

by Helen Phillips

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Published 2015

Genres: Fiction / Literary / Suspense / Mystery

“Back in 9997, Josephine stood beside her desk, eyeing the accumulated files, dizzy. A bead of sweat rolled from her armpit down her torso. She did not dare touch them. Like snakes. Handle with a stick, avoid skin contact at all costs.”

Married couple Josephine and Joseph have moved to “the big city” to make a new life for themselves. They both score mediocre jobs, frankly just to make ends meet, and spend a lot of time moving from one questionable basement apartment to the next. Josephine’s job is unusual, her one and only role is to input specific lines of data into The Database, ensuring that she works through the mountain of files that magically appear on her desk every morning. Her boss, who we know only as The Person With Bad Breath, gives no hints as to the purpose of The Database or the logic behind the data that is being added to it. Their workplace is a windowless cube, with no obvious corporation name or other way to identify it, other than the entry doors on the outside of the building, marked “A” to “Z”. Before too long, this sterile environment begins to take its toll on Josephine’s mind and body. She becomes suspicious of those around her, both at work and outside of work. And then Joseph starts to disappear for periods at a time with no explanation. What have they got themselves into?

Janelle says…

think I liked this book? I’m still not completely sure, it was such a whirlwind fast read (less than 200 pages) with a whole lot of mystery and weirdness thrown in, I’m still making my mind up. One minute I was totally absorbed in what was happening, the next minute I was frustrated and thrown by how completely bizarre the writing was.

The mystery at the core of the book is The Database, and trying to figure out what it’s for and what the data in it means. Josephine slowly works this out as the story progresses, and all is explained. But in the meantime, get ready to scratch your head in bewilderment a lot. I present to you – Exhibit A:

“She didn’t know whether pomegranates should be selected based on firmness or fragrance or hue.

Poor me granite.

Pagan remote.

Page tame no.

This starts happening more and more as we move through the book, because Josephine’s strange occupation is slowly sending her bonkers. Every couple of paragraphs or so, she will pull apart a word that is mentioned and rearrange the letters to form new words, as above. At first it’s kind of funny and intriguing, then it just becomes annoying, even though it is proving a point about our protagonist’s state of mind. And then, we have this:

“A laundromat, washers and dryers all filled with bright clothing, but the machines static, not spinning. A gorilla in the driver’s seat of a parked car. A transparent bird, a snagged plastic bag, a woman’s arm vanishing into a brick wall. Three luminous Coca-Cola trucks pulled up to a factory.”

It goes on. For a whole page. I have no idea what’s going on here. She is drunk at this point in the story, or at least a little tipsy, but is it possible she is also high on ‘shrooms or something and I didn’t know? What the actual?!

I enjoy books that are slightly off-centre, I do, but to a point. “The Beautiful Bureaucrat” ebbed and flowed in its weirdness, and its saving grace was that it wasn’t completely ridiculous the whole way through.

I really enjoyed the whole mystery around The Database, and whenever I was reading Josephine outside of the office, I was thinking “hurry up and get back to work!”. I love a good puzzle story. The conclusion was satisfying, and it left just enough unturned to let the reader continue to wonder a little more. I loved the whole concept of this story, and ultimately this is what has just tipped me over on to the “liked this book” side of the scales.

This book is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea that’s for sure, but if you enjoy your mystery/suspense novels with a good side dose of crazy, then this short read might just be up your alley.

 

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Read by Janelle: September 2015 – Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee

Go Set A Watchman

by Harper Lee

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Published 2015

Genres: Fiction / Literary

“He began dating her on her annual two-week visits home, and although she still moved like a thirteen-year-old boy and abjured most feminine adornment, he found something so intensely feminine about her that he fell in love. She was easy to look at and easy to be with most of the time, but she was in no sense of the word an easy person. She was afflicted with a restlessness of spirit he could not guess at, but he knew she was the one for him.”

Janelle says…

So, I have read it. Well actually, that’s not entirely true.

I couldn’t ignore the hype, the controversy, or the significance of this book. The story of its discovery through to its publishing, with all the conjecture and divided opinion in between, was completely fascinating. Personally, I don’t believe this manuscript was published with the blessing of Harper Lee. If she was in fact of sound enough mind to consent to its publishing, and the words that announced the publishing did in fact come from her own hand, then why would she sit idly by while the motives of her spokesperson and friend, Tonja Carter, were repeatedly questioned by readers and the media? Wouldn’t she have spoken out to defend her? And why would she have waited so long to publish it? I can’t believe she merely “forgot it existed” once To Kill A Mockingbird once released.

Then again, who am I to comment on how Harper Lee’s mind works?

You might have heard that in Watchman, we learn that Atticus Finch has become somewhat racist, whereas in Mockingbird he was an advocate for racial equality. And there was a definite turning point in this book where that change of heart became apparent, but in my opinion, the discovery of it wasn’t quite shocking or raw enough to warrant the chapters and chapters of Jean Louise’s (Scout’s) grief and outrage that followed. I was expecting something else I guess, maybe some kind of explosive verbal diarrhoea on his part and then gasps and tears all around…….and it was mellow compared to that expectation. I felt like yelling at Jean Louise to just confront him about it already so we could all move on!

There also seemed to be a lot of nothing much happening. I found that I was sitting down to read, and after about a page or so, I would turn to my phone or the TV instead – I was looking for something to distract me from the boredom of continuing to read.

Considering this book was published in the form of the unedited manuscript that was found, I was surprised at how few errors it contained. There were definitely a few, but I was expecting more. However, it was clear to me that a number of areas would ideally have been cut back, had they been edited.

While I was reading, I kept asking myself whether it should be a prerequisite to read Mockingbird before reading Watchman. I think the answer is yes, because if you read Watchman first without any context as to the time or the place or the people or the cultural and social agenda at the heart of the story, you would probably dump this book by page 50. If you’ve read Mockingbird already, there’s a chance you might just finish Watchman. As it turns out, I didn’t finish it. I gave it a good 190 pages before I bailed. I’m not usually a book-quitter, and I really did want to see this one through. But in the end, my interest just couldn’t be revived, and I couldn’t be bothered sticking with it for the remaining 90 pages.

I would absolutely recommend that you Kill A Mockingbird, but I wouldn’t endorse Setting A Watchman.

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

DNF (Did Not Finish)

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