This is my very first monthly reading round-up post. Eventually, I hope to start posting more in-depth book reviews but I really like monthly review posts on other peoples websites so I’m eager to get in on the action.
I’ll be posting a separate review of my writing activities for the month shortly, so stay tuned for that one. 🙂
Books I Read:
The Collector – John Fowles
The Long Song – Andrea Levy
The Twin – Gerbrand Bakker
The Luck of Ginger Coffey – Brian Moore
Falling Man – Don de Lillo
The Casual Vacancy – JK Rowling
Books I bought:
The Casual Vacancy – JK Rowling
The Cuckoo Calling – JK Rowling
Christine Falls – Benjamin Black
Netherland – Joseph O Neill
The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway
Winter in Madrid – CJ Sansom
Twitter Challenges I Completed:
Book of the Month: The Casual Vacancy
Those of you who follow me on twitter, and anyone who knows me in person, will have been bored to tears this month at my ravings over this novel. JK Rowling’s writing style has translated very well from the YA to the adult genre and I enjoyed every minute of it.
The book itself follows events in the small fictional town of Pagford where the death of a local councillor opens up a ‘casual vacancy’ on the local council. Much of the story revolves around what local residents want to do about the neighbouring council estate, “the Fields” and a local methadone clinic, but the real joy in this book comes not so much from the plot but from experiencing the prejudices, mental issues, societal problems and addictions that plague the families in the town.
To me, a major theme of the novel is ‘societal hypocrisy’. The large cast of characters in this book are all desperately trying to maintain a facade of dignity and cooperation but, scratching beneath the surface is a hotbed of sexual tension, latent racism, and infuriatingly small minded snobbery. It highlights how, for example, how addiction to a substance such as heroin is typically denigrated by the middle classes, who refuse to offer sympathy and understanding to those caught in it’s grip and also shows how these same groups of people refuse to see the parallels in their own, ‘acceptable’ addictions such as to wine and to food.
Few of the characters are outright likable, (Possibly only Krystal and Sukhvinder) but, oddly, this only adds to the books charm. Indeed, most of the townsfolk are at best pitiable and at worst loathsome. Some of the characters come across as slightly cartoonish (although saying this probably does them a disservice) but in a way that remind’s of how Dickens exaggerated character in order to serve the themes underlying the story. The use of this type of caricature gets the point across very effectively.
Honorable Mention: The Luck of Ginger Coffey
I have to make a brief mention about this novel. My Mam gave me a copy of this book a few years ago, saying that although the author had gone out of fashion in recent times it was well worth a read. Written in the 1960’s it is about a 30 something man who lives as an Irish ex-pat in Canada with his wife and teenage daughter. Coffey is the type of man who has big dreams and something of a Peter Pan complex. He feels destined for greatness and that all his jobs, lack of money, security and hard luck are just backwards steps on the road to greater glory.
I imagine that this book was quite scandalous when it was written (particularly having been written by an Irishman at a time of extreme censorship in the country) but the book resonates well for a 2014 audience. Coffey emigrates from Ireland because he perceives a lack of opportunity in a stagnating country but he finds that the streets are not paved with gold. This book oozes a kind of desperation to thrive under impossible circumstances.
Mr. Coffey I believe, is due a revival.