for January: All The Pretty Horses
/ read reviews
This book, the first of a
trilogy, tells the story of two young men who leave their Texan homes to seek
adventure in Mexico. They befriend another on the way and "enter a
country beyond their imagining: a barren and beautiful, ragged yet cruelly
civilized: But a place where dreams are paid for in blood..." Not an easy
book to read but worth the effort. Not many of the Bookworms read it so our
discussion was very limited. I found it quite a struggle at first but after
the initial hurdle of wondering where it was all going, was engrossed. It is
at times beautiful, at others savage and is not for the squeamish - some of
the description is very graphic. The relationship between the boys and the
horses is a fascinating one and some said reminiscent of The Horse Whisperer
(a book I haven't yet read). Recently filmed and starring Matt Damon, this
book deserves a bigger audience. However, having read the reviews, I am unsure
if the film will do much to help. Certainly the potential was there -
the book is immensely visual - but can film ever do justice to a book such as
this one? I doubt it.
for February: Headlong
Buy / read
of this book range from a single * to *****, the comments from "A
mish-mash of overlong, pseudo art history together with a not very well worked
farce" to "The
history, the humour, the tension, the suspense all add up to a book that is
impossible to put down."
Bookworms' reactions were very similar, with the majority view being that there
was a bit TOO much emphasis on historical fact. Very briefly, the plot involves
the discovery of a painting that the narrator feels is a lost Breughel and he
plots to outwit the owner. Some explanation of art history is necessary but
Frayn does seem to be making a point about exactly how knowledgeable he is. I
was more interested in the
narrator's battle with his conscience and the increasing tension between him
and his wife. The climax of the book is rather farcical and not particularly
believable. Although I enjoyed it very much to begin with, I don't felt it
really lived up to my expectations. An enjoyable read, but not one I feel I wish
to read again.
for March: The God of Small Things
Buy / read
This is one of
my favourite books and I very much enjoyed re-reading it for Bookworms. The
overwhelming impression I had of it as I read was one of richness and colour,
clearly demonstrated by the opening few lines: "May
in Ayemenem is a hot, brooding month. The days are long and humid. The river
shrinks and black crows gorge on bright mangoes in still, dustgreen trees. Red
bananas ripen. Jackfruits burst. Dissolute bluebottles hum vacuously in the
fruity air. Then they stun themselves against clear windowpanes and die, baffled
in the sun." Some reviewers have
criticised the language as being excessively flowery but I feel that it added to
the experience of reading the novel. Set in Kerala, this book explores the fate
of a family which "tampered with the laws that lay down who should be
loved, and how." It's both funny and tragic and I understand was in part
based on the writer's own life. I found a couple of very useful links about Roy
and her novel - click
for information about the writer and
for a study guide.
for April: A Game of Thrones
George R R Martin
Buy / read
is the first in a fantasy trilogy and gets rave reviews on the Amazon site. We
read little fantasy for Bookworms so it was with some trepidation that I started
this giant of a novel (over 800 pages) but I was pleasantly surprised. I do
concede that much of my enthusiasm was possibly because I was ill with flu when
I read it so it was a great distraction from feeling awful! As I was confined to
bed, I was able to read it in huge chunks which made it much easier to follow.
There are a number of storylines but all have well-drawn characters and lots of
excitement. Although a 'fantasy' novel, it didn't seem, for the most part,
any more unbelievable than most adventure stories. It tells the tales of Kings and knights, goodies and baddies,
castles and hovels, with a very medieval feel about it. Bookworms' reactions
were mixed but in general it got the "thumbs up".
The Sea, The Sea by
Buy / read
book tells the story of Charles Arrowby, an actor/director/playwright who
retires to a cottage on the edge of the sea to "abjure magic and become a
hermit". The novel consists of
Charles's entries into his diary/journal/autobiography, gradually piecing
together the details of his life intertwined with his musings on his cottage and
the sea - and the monster he sees in it. This is a wonderful book and the reader
is kept guessing what will happen. Past and present come together when Charles
meets up with the lost love of his life but not everything goes according to his
plans. There is so much in this book - love, hope, loss, death, mystery,
friendship, nature, kidnapping, obsession. All packaged in a beautifully written
and readable novel that manages to keep the reader enthralled throughout.
Unfortunately our attempts at discussing this book were thwarted several times
but everyone that read it, thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Highly recommended
- one of the best I have read recently and definitely worthy of repeated
Under the Skin by
I have just read this one and
must warn you that it's not for the squeamish! It tells the story of Isserley, a
young woman who has an obsession with picking up male hitchhikers, the more
muscled, the better. To say too much would be to spoil the plot - suffice to say
that it'll make anyone wary of hitching a lift again. It's a much shorter book
than those the Bookworms have read recently and is quite a quick read. Quite a
few of us did manage to read this one and the general view was very positive.
It's interesting and thought provoking and might even make you change one aspect
of your lifestyle - beyond that I shall say no more!
In a Land of Plenty by
loved this book which opens in 1952 and covers the next 40 years of the lives of
the family of Charles Freeman, successful postwar industrialist. It concentrates
mainly on the life of James, one of Charles's sons. The family have very diverse personalities and they are interwoven
with the other, equally interesting, characters of the novel. The historical
background is fascinating, especially as I write as someone who lived through
the strikes of the 70s and the breakdown of the manufacturing industry in the
80s. Recently serialised on BBC2, the book does hold a few surprises for those
that have seen the TV adaptation. I enjoyed both tremendously and was pleased to
hear that the author was very happy with the changes that were made. This is one
of my favourite books of the year so if you want a really good book to get your
teeth into, try this. It has over 650 pages though, so ensure you have time
to give it the attention it deserves. Oh - and make sure you have some tissues
handy ;-)) The Bookworms were rather divided over this one, much to my surprise.
One even abandoned it halfway through and several found it hard to empathise
with the characters. Indeed, they didn't feel that they were very well-drawn,
but luckily I wasn't the only fan!
The Way I Found Her by
is the second time Rose Tremain has been chosen for our book of the month - back
in 1999 we read Restoration, a book that I enjoyed immensely. This book tells
the story of a visit to Paris by 13 year old Lewis and his mother Alice. Alice
is there to translate a novel written by Russian emigrée Valentina, an
intriguing larger-than-life character with whom Lewis falls passionately in
love. The book is narrated by Lewis, who at times seems much older than his
years, particularly in his reading habits which include classics in French. It's
a lovely book, extremely evocative of Paris and one which I thoroughly enjoyed.
the latter part of the book didn't quite ring true however - maybe because I
just wasn't expecting it. We had mixed feelings about the climax of the novel -
but I can't really expand on that without spoiling it for those planning to read
The House of The Spirits by
This family saga spanning four generations has been translated
from Allende's Spanish and received rave reviews. From The
Times, 'A remarkable achievement...a big book that can comprehend the
history of a nation, and so many lives, with love.' From Die
Welt 'A truly great read: a novel thick and thrilling, full of
fantasy, terror and wit, elaborately crafted yet serious and accurate in its
historical and social observations'.
I did enjoy it but found it very long and circumstances
meant it took me a whole month to read, so at times I did lose track of some
of the characters. However, having said that, it was a lovely book with some
incredible characters. I liked the way the book jumped between an omniscient
narrator and Esteban Trueba, the rather unpleasant patriarch. It did allow the
reader a little sympathy with him which wouldn't have been present otherwise.
The jumping was perhaps a bit confusing as there wasn't any warning - it
didn't happen at the beginning of a chapter, just every now and again and
before you knew it we were back with the omniscient narrative again.
I liked the ending - it was honest and not a cop-out
like in some books. It brought the book round full circle. Not many bookworms
read it so our discussion was quite limited. If I get any further feedback,
I'll post it here.
White Teeth by
Dreadful. I don't think any of the
bookworms bothered to finish reading this although I did my best. It's a
massively long book filled with characters with whom none of us could raise much
enthusiasm or sustain much interest. I was very disappointed, having been taken
in by all the hype when the novel was first published. The actual writing, which
is quite innovative & experimental, is fine but the characters just didn't
live up to expectation. There are over 100 reviews on Amazon's UK
site so if you want to find out more, take a look at some of them!
is a short and deceptively simple little book and is quite unlike most of the
books I read. The language is unpretentious, almost child-like in its innocence.
Through the story of Sayeed and his new wife, Latifa, we are given a clear
insight into Muslim life in a desert community. We also learn how their way of
life is affected by westerners coming to work in the cities. The minutiae of
daily life is acutely observed and never bored me. I was brought up short by the
ending - totally unexpected. This novel is very accessible for most readers of
whatever age. It was disappointing that not enough bookworms managed to read
this for us to discuss it, so the views here are entirely my own!
Gertrude & Claudius by
In this novel John Updike has taken
Shakespeare's play Hamlet and written its prequel. It's a fascinating
insight into what could have happened prior to the events of Shakespeare's
Hamlet. John Updike has used historical references, hints in the play and his
own judgment and imagination to create this novel. We hear about Gertrude's
childhood and early marriage to Hamlet, the birth of her only son and her
subsequent relationship with Hamlet's brother, Claudius. I suppose you could
classify it very loosely as a historical romance but it's much more than that.
Claudius was a traveller and medieval Europe and Asia are depicted as
fascinatingly as Northern Europe.
You don't need to know the play Hamlet to appreciate this book although that
knowledge gives it an added frisson. Just a couple of further comments - the
book is divided into 3 parts and different versions of the characters' names are
used so it can be slightly confusing, although it is explained in the Forward.
And one gripe, pointed out by a bookworm during our discussion - in the last few
words, Updike uses the word 'gotten' as in 'he had gotten away with it'. That
sounds a bit too 20th century American!