Books of Late II

This post will come as a surprise to many.  Actually, only to me.  After long months of reading many books, I’ve finally decided to do another post on reviewing a few of them.  Here goes:
1. Most recent: Atonement – Ian McEwen

First and foremost, I wish I’d read this book before watching the movie.  I actually think that at the time of writing this piece, McEwen was a genius.  All the major plot twists and turns are mentioned in passing in a way that is shocking, but wildly captivating at the same time.  Damn, that it all should have been ruined by the movie starring Keira Knightley (I actually don’t think she’s that bad, could have been worse).  More than half of the book is spent setting the scene for the fateful day – therefore, more than half the book is spent detailing one day in the lives of the characters – but it’s beautiful, really, and sets the story in motion very well.  You receive a good amount of detail on each of the characters so that you know how they think, act and what their motivations are.  So nothing really comes as a shock to you.  It’s great.  I really enjoyed it, read it in less than a week (surprising, with uni) and was sad when it ended.

4/5 stars

Points of improvement: Perhaps the war scenes, that tend to go on and on and on, with trauma after trauma after trauma, so that the shock doesn’t quite register any more.  But, hey, it’s still great.

2. Before that: The Fault In Our Stars – John Green

Don’t know what I expected before diving into this book.  Something for teenagers solely perhaps (note the way I don’t even consider myself a teenager any more), another tragic cancer book, a black comedy?  But it surprised me, it really did.  And I think it shouldn’t have, because I feel I’ve read enough books to know when the plot twists are being set up.  I really should have expected, after a long stretch of happy, to come across complete disaster.  But, alas, it still surprised me.  Also, I never thought I’d come to really fall in love with a character called Augustus (it just reminds me of Augustus Gloop, you know, from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), but I did.  And also, I bawled in a way that hasn’t happened since Goodnight Mr. Tom and (I’m sorry to say) My Sister’s Keeper.  Looking back on this work (finished it in three days), I still find the scenes striking and memorable.  A fantastic book.  The jokes are funny, the characters lovely, the emotional scenes desperately emotional.  The sort of cancer book when even death, that you sort of expect, sets you off balance.  Anyway, literally, I could not put it down.

5/5 stars

Points of improvement: I wouldn’t even say the name Augustus, because even that grew on me.

3. Anne Frank’s Diary – Anne Frank

I wish I hadn’t read this with the ending in mind, but inevitably, I did.  I enjoyed Anne’s little commentaries about her classes at school and the various boys that chased after her (wish I was popular with the boys at like 13!) and then I watched sadly as the family went into their little cramped existence in the Secret Annexe.  It was interesting reading something, for once, that was  never meant to become a novel or even to be read by anyone, something without a plotline that’s been thought out by someone, characters that have been drafted and re-drafted, but then again, this was someone’s life, the source of all plotlines and the purest form of plotline in existence.  Existential pondering followed.  And, of course, it was sad.  Although the diary finishes before Anne even knows she will die, her constant musings about what she will do after the war is over is tragic.  Also tragic is the way she wants freedom more than anything, the way she falls for Peter van Dam and the way she matures so much in that tiny little hovel surrounded by the same people for years.  It’s quite incredible.  Sort of uplifting, the way the family tries to keep uplifted spirits, but disheartening in the same way.  It made me think about things.

You can’t rate a book like this out of 5 stars, because inevitably it will seem disrespectful to the author if you give a critique of it, you know.

Points of improvement: see above

4. The Getting of Wisdom – Henry Handel Richardson

Picked this one up because it was one of those books sitting in my bookcase with a bookmark eternally left halfway through, never to reach the end.  So I finally read it.  Yeah, not bad.  I wanted to read it mostly for a peek into boarding school life, which it gave me.  It was very whingy, however, going on and on about this girl’s trials.  Every time something good seemed to happy, the trials would come on the double.  It never seemed to get better!  Not even, really, at the end.  Interesting, though.  Characters were okay.  I didn’t fall completely in love with the main character.  She was a bit irritating.  Probably because of all the complaining, and a bit of a bratty attitude.  And the ability to get herself into a pickle very easily.  Probably a good book for kids to read, sort of like those morality ones that are supposed to teach you about life’s lessons without life experience per se.

3/5 stars

Points of improvement: less whinging, please, and more happiness.  I don’t usually say that.

5. Wolf Totem – Jiang Rong

Had to know this was a great book when I picked it up and it said it won the Man Asian Award.  Especially because it was about 700 pages long.  So I figured that if a judge of the Man Asian Award managed to get through all 700 pages and after that found themselves duty bound to give the author a significant monetary prize, it had to be good.  And it was!  I was sceptical at first because of all the description and seeming lack of a storyline, the difficult-to-pronounce names of the characters and the sheer amount of characters.  But, over the course of those 700 pages, I found myself hooked.  It suited me very much, as a bit of a nature lover, as it described the beautiful landscape of pre-development Mongolia.  Also, those 700 pages in itself, I found, was a literary device.  The story spanned for a long time, a couple of months to a year, and described just about everything that happened.  It plunged me into the world of inner Mongolia for about six weeks, I suppose, as I wandered through the hefty volume.  And by the end of it, I couldn’t believe I’d finished it, actually read the last page, put it down, been cut out of that world.  It was sad.  Also because the ending wasn’t exactly happy.  Not terribly tragic, just sort of long-term saddening.  Anyway, fantastic thing and the scenes remain in my mind today.  Read it.

5/5 stars

Points of improvement: oh, I don’t know.