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Archive for February, 2018

cover127989-mediumThe Only Story by Julian Barnes
Publication date: 1st February 2018
Publisher: Random House UK

Synopsis: 

First love has lifelong consequences, but Paul doesn’t know anything about that at nineteen. At nineteen, he’s proud of the fact his relationship flies in the face of social convention.

As he grows older, the demands placed on Paul by love become far greater than he could possibly have foreseen.

Tender and wise, The Only Story is a deeply moving novel by one of fiction’s greatest mappers of the human heart.

My thoughts: 

1 star out of 5

I was very interested in the premise of the love story between the younger man and the older woman, as I thought it would be an interesting exploration of taboo, feeling and the transcending of social norms.

Sadly, the book was a dense ramble through the thoughts of a self-indulgent point of view character, with barely any action taking place on the page – much of the novel is description or second-hand relating of incidents through a thick veil of ‘I’m an unreliable narrator, don’t you know, and my memory is fallible’.

Every single page is a violation of the traditional ‘show, don’t tell’ rule of fiction. I understand that a well-written book and a talented author can break fictional traditions when done well, but this was not one of those times. It resulted in a boring novel which managed to render an entire character’s life dull and meaningless, when it was probably quite an eventful storyline underneath the thick stylising

I’m sure there are very intellectual undertones and meaningful reasons why Barnes made the stylistic decisions he did in writing this book, but if that’s the case I didn’t pick up on those reasons. For example, the narrative voice shifts from first person through second person and third person even through the point of view character is consistent throughout – and I couldn’t fathom why this was the case. It didn’t seem to have a meaningful reason except that Barnes wanted to show what a good writer he is.

On a sentence-by-sentence basis the book is well-written, but as a whole I didn’t enjoy it at all. At a certain point near the end, the narrator talks about someone being ‘bullied by reputation, truth should stand by itself, clear and unsupported’, and that’s how I feel about books, but not this one: a book should stand alone, aside from its author’s fame and renown as a good writer. Yet this one, sadly, does not.

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cover128941-mediumThe Queen of Bloody Everything, by  Joanna Nadin
Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Publication date: 8 February 2018

Synopsis: 

As Edie Jones lies in a bed on the fourteenth floor of a Cambridge hospital, her adult daughter Dido tells their story, starting with the day that changed everything.

That was the day when Dido – aged six years and twenty-seven days old – met the handsome Tom Trevelyan, his precocious sister, Harry, and their parents, Angela and David.

The day Dido fell in love with a family completely different from her own. Because the Trevelyans were exactly the kind of family Dido dreamed of.

Normal.

And Dido’s mother, Edie, doesn’t do normal. In fact, as Dido has learnt the hard way, normal is the one thing Edie can never be . . .

My thoughts: 

4 stars out of 5

‘The Queen of Bloody Everything’ is a riot to read. It’s the story of Dido and her teenage years with her unpredictable, wild mother. Growing up the chaotic household with her mum, Dido is enamoured with her middle-class, blessed neighbours: a family of four whose impeccable life is enviable and calm in equal measure, a direct contrast to Dido’s own. She quickly becomes best friends with their daughter and falls wildly in love with their son, and the novel follows Dido through childhood and her awkward teens and into the false starts and disasters of adulthood.

Dido is a likeable character and her escapades are thoroughly believable – it’s like reading a teenage diary in some scenes.

The novel was a little slow to start, but ultimately charming and very relate-able to anyone who’s been a teenager.

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