Friday, 6 August 2010

Truman Capote: Breakfast at Tiffany's

Will anyone help me understand why this book is so popular? Why did they make a movie based on it? Why do you have to read this book in one seating? I simply can’t put my finger on it.

The story’s told by a nameless narrator and it centres on Holly Golightly – a young actress living in New York of early 40ties, constantly going out and charming rich men in order to find her place in the world, the place where she belongs. Until then she’s travelling. We don’t know much about the main characters, the narrator remains nameless, we only know he’s a writer still waiting to be discovered. We don’t know much about Holly’s past and future. Although the past is slowly revealed the main focus remains on the present – the unusual selection of people Holly attracts and their interests in staying close to her. All this in the light of the interesting and touching relationship between her and our narrator.

In a way it’s a sad story of a girl looking for her destiny not really knowing where it might be hiding. She compares herself to a wild animal or to a hawk whose nature doesn’t let him settle in one place, with one person.

And there’s the movie of course. With lovely Audrey Hepburn, with the beautiful Moon River song. I still don’t know why but both the book and the movie have charmed me so much that I think I’ll put the movie on this evening, just to hear the song again, just to live in that New York again. And would you believe that this whole story, all this charm, all this real and non-happy ending tale is covered on less than 100 pages? And I already miss it and I still don’t know why…

My rating: YYYYY

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Yann Martel: Life of Pi

This is the second time I read this book. Since I read it for the first time a few years ago I only remembered that it was about an Indian boy stranded on a boat in the middle of the ocean with a tiger as his only companion. Oh, and I also remembered I loved it.

It was a pleasure to go back to this book and read it again. The first part of it feels a little long at times, which is probably why I didn’t remember it at all but I guess in a way it gives you lots of insight into understanding what happened on that boat later on. The life of young Piscine, his experience as being the son of a zoo keeper, his religious interests and his life as an adult later on – in a way it is all linked to his time on the lifeboat.

Pi spent 227 days on that lifeboat after the ship that was taking him and his family to Canada sunk in the Pacific Ocean and he was the only one to survive. Well, not quite the only one. He had a company of a zebra, hyena, orangutan and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. Pi only survived as he respected the tiger and taught him to respect him back.

Even though this book is classified as fantasy in some reviews don’t expect anything fantasy-like to happen like Pi getting friendly with the tiger, them becoming best friends or the animals talking. No, it’s all a very real story and every day on the boat teaches us something about the human and animal nature. Especially when in the end Pi tells another version of the story to the Japanese maritime officers who are investigating reasons for the ship sinking and who find it hard to believe the story with the animals on the boat.

A really special book, again, unique and original in the story it tells (even though Martel was initially accused of plagiarism by a Brazilian writer who claimed to have published a similar story over 10 years before). A great book to reach for and enjoy!

My rating: YYYYY

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Vikas Swarup: Six Suspects

Given The White Tiger is one of few books that I gave 5 hearts to I eagerly reached for another book written by and Indian author. And it’s not any author, it’s the author of Q&A, the book which became the script base for the world’s famous Slumdog Millionaire movie. I didn’t read Q&A, I loved the movie though. The story was cleverly constructed, had a new and original idea behind it. Plus it was set in Indian reality which fascinates me a lot.

Six Suspects is Swarup’s second book and its story is equally surprising, fresh and original. It starts of with a murder of a film producer, a son of a minister who manages to get away with anything and everything that’s against the law. The story then goes back in time and looks at lives of six people who become suspects for this murder.

One is a tribal from Andaman Islands somewhere in the Bay of Bengal. One is a mobile phone thief who dreams of living a life of the rich. There is also a famous Bollywood actress, a state minister and father of the murdered Vicky Ray, a retired politician and womanizer and lastly, an American Wal-Mart forklift operator who travels to India to get married to his pen pal.

We follow the days in their lives leading up all of them being at Vicky Rai’s party where the crime was committed. It’s an interesting mixture of different parts of Indian life we get introduced to, from the poorest to the richest and most influential in the country. We get to see how money can buy everything and everyone. And when by the end, when you’re starting to think that justice will finally win we witness the process of finding the murderer and we wonder whether there is any hope left.

It’s a really enjoyable book, unique and refreshing. Sometimes slightly difficult to follow with the number of Indian names (especially the part about Vicky’s father) but nonetheless interesting and gripping. The ending is slightly surprising, feels a bit as if the author wanted to play a cheeky joke with the reader but it was a funny joke, definitely made me smile. I think it could follow the paths of Slumdog… if anyone made it into a movie.

My rating: YYYYY

Monday, 5 July 2010

Michael Cunningham: The Hours

I haven’t read anything by Virginia Woolf nor know much about her apart from what I saw in the movie version of this story. And even that was quite a long time ago.

This book is a uniquely written story, almost difficult to believe it was written by a man. It’s a story of three women each living in a different city and at different times – London of the 1920s, Los Angeles of the 40s and New York at the end of twentieth century. Even though they live in such different times they share similar dilemmas about lives they are living – kind of “is this really it?” feeling.

“There's just this for consolation: an hour here or there when our lives seem, against all odds and expectations, to burst open and give us everything we've ever imagined ... Still, we cherish the city, the morning; we hope, more than anything, for more.“

We meet Virginia Woolf as she’s living in Richmond writing her book and trying to recover her health. Clarissa is the new Mrs Dalloway from Woolf’s book, only living in New York and in new times, watching her friend slowly die of AIDS. And Laura Brown is a pregnant mother of one who’s trying hard to be a good housewife. Though that isn’t exactly who she feels she’d like to be.

I’ve read a few reviews around before reading the book and seen comments that crying over a cake which is not perfect or throwing a party to a dying friend is just pathetic but how true it is! I think it is a perfect picture of how weird and messed up woman’s nature can be sometimes. And that’s one of the reasons I find it hard to believe that it was written by a man.

Full of interesting characters, especially in the New York episodes, The Hours it interesting to read, it does makes you think about things you appreciate in your life. I truly enjoyed reading this book although I don’t think I would like to read it if I was feeling a bit down as I don’t think it would pick up the mood in any way!

My rating: YYYYY

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Ian McEwan: Enduring Love

Despite a few critical reviews of this book I’ve seen and the bad reviews of the movie which I fortunately haven’t seen I approached this book with an open mind and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s a novel based on a true story of a mentally ill told nicely by McEwan in an engaging and gripping way.

Saying anything about the plot of the book would most likely spoil the pleasure of reading it as it surprises you from the very first chapter. There were a few moments throughout the book where I thought “well this is a bit weird turn of events, why would he come up with this, it doesn’t make sense, it’s not realistic” but that was before I knew that it all was a true story and the fact that it all happened is even more shocking.

This will be a short review then as I won’t tell you much about the book. Suffice to say it shows how weird the human nature can be at times and how other people can make us screw our lives without our consent or consciousness. A great example of that it is life that writes the most shocking and surprising stories.

I really enjoyed reading this book and uncovering the story, I waited to find out what the next chapter will bring. There was one point where I thought “come on, move on, get on with the story” but that happened soon after so overall a good experience. Although, after reading a few reviews of the movie I wouldn’t recommend you watch it before reading the book. And if you watched the movie and didn’t like it I think it’s still worth reaching for the book. There seems to be a few crucial scenes missing in the movie which I think can make or break how you perceive the story McEwan tells us about here.

My rating: YYYYY

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Edyta Szalek: A Dream of the Green Eyelids (Sen Zielonych Powiek)

Isn’t it a guilty pleasure to tuck yourself in a blanket on a sofa with a cup of nice tea on a pleasant evening with a good book. It is my guilty pleasure at least. And some books make you just re-fill that cup of tea until the sunrise the next morning. This is one of them.

The story is nice and engaging – it’s a story of a woman in her mid-thirties I’d say who is reasonably successful in her job in a clothes production company. A story that could probably describe the lives of most of us. But the story isn’t what’s the most important here. It’s the feelings and emotions that accompany it in every step of the way. That different point of view, the honesty of opinions and the strength to talk about things that are not always considered “normal” in public terms make it a distinctively nice read when compared to other books of that type (I mean women literature – though this term sounds a bit demeaning for this book).

I love books that you just can’t put away and that you reach for with a great sense of pleasure and excitement and this is definitely one of them. The only downside of it is that it ends and I am now worried the next book I read won’t be as exciting…

My rating:

Friday, 14 May 2010

Fyodor Dostoyevsky: Crime and Punishment

I am a bit disappointed I didn’t read this book earlier. Why didn’t anyone recommend it to me? Or did they and I just ignored them as it seems like one of those books that you have to read at school. I was never a big fan of “have-to’s” so maybe that’s why.

It was a really enjoyable experience to get this old edition of the book from my mom’s shelf (from 1974) with its brownish pages and the smell of dust adding to the experience of the times it describes. You can’t not like Raskolnikov as a character, despite the brutal crime he committed. Though I have to admit, killing two women with an axe seemed a bit comical to me. I suppose that could simply be due to all the more brutal crimes we’re used to seeing in movies and on TV nowadays.

The journey Raskolnikov goes on to after the crime is a brilliant description of human’s mind, an amazing journey through thoughts, emotions and feelings of one person put brilliantly and eloquently on paper. Dostoyevsky treats us to not only a great study of human nature but does it with a great dose of humour by bringing a whole variety of characters into play.

Raskolnikov’s punishment is long and exhausting. And you, as a reader, feel that exhaustion yourself and want to end it by giving yourself in, the sooner the better. Though there were many moments when I thought – why not just let it go and get away with it if no one has any evidence against me? Does that mean I have a murderer inside me?

My rating: YYYYY