Monthly Archives: June 2014

N-W

N-Wby Zadie Smith

I have heard of Zadie Smith and seen her referred to in several articles recently as part of the discussions about the content of the English Literature courses and exams. So, in an effort to understand the educational debates, I decided it was time to give it a go.

Did I enjoy the book? Not sure actually.

Certainly I can see what people will think she is worthy of reading and there is plenty of scope for debate and analysis. 

“N-W” is set in North West London (hence the title) and tells the stories of four old school friends. Through the book we get a glimps into the lives of people growing up on inner London estates and the challenges they face.

The reviews for the book said it was “brilliant” and “intensely funny”. Personally I found it interesting, challenging and at time difficult to follow. 

Zadie Smith tells each of the four tales in different styles, something which can work (see my previous review of “It’s a kind of Magic”), but in this case I just found confusing. The staccato phrasing, the way dialogue and narration often ran into each other with no punctuation I found irritating. 

Whilst I can see the literary merit, and how the story may be seen as “relevant” I don’t think I will be rushing out to buy another. 

Past Reason Hated (Inspector Banks #5)

Past Reason Hatedby Peter Robinson

I am one of the many millions who have enjoyed the television series based on the books so immediately snapped them up.

Being based in North Yorkshire, I guess that these books have limited appear, and probably don’t sell too well overseas, but I love Yorkshire and know the locations reasonably well, certainly better that many of the other books I read.

My first impression was that the detective I found in the book was a little different from the one I saw on TV. A little more sure of himself and his relationships. But to be honest that didn’t actually make any difference to the book itself.

As with all good detective novels, we start with a grisly murder, plenty of suspects, but no clear motive. And as Inspector Banks and his new DC Susan Grey begin to put together a picture of the victim’s life, the possibilities and list of suspects gets even longer. No one is ever exactly what they seem, and we all have secrets, even from those we love the most. In the case of the victim in this story, she has more than most.

I am beginning to get the hang of detective novels and find myself working through the clues as I go along, determined to get to the answer before the characters. And I will say that Peter Robinson does leave enough crumbs for you to follow. In this case I managed to figure out who did it just before it became obvious. That’s one point to me!

Not a particularly challenging book but I can see way he has become so popular. With excellent characterisation and a well constructed plot this is as good as detective fiction gets. 

It’s a Kind of Magic

It's a kind of magicby Carole Matthews

From the blurb and cover I took this to be just another chick-lit novel, and when I started reading it that is what I seemed to get. But there is much more to this book that that. For one thing, it follows the lives of two people, a couple – Leo Harper and Emma Chambers – with the story being told from each perspective. Leo we read of in the third person, but Emma tells her own story. The style switches between the two with each chapter, something I found disconcerting at first but it soon became very natural. 

Leo is a bit of a lazy slob, whilst Emma is exactly the opposite. Their on-off relationship has lasted several years, but it seems that by turning up late for Emma’s thirtieth birthday party then falling drunk into the cake, Leo may have just gone too far this time.

It is then that Leo meets the enigmatic and rather too-good-to-be-true Isobel. At this point the book became something very different from your ordinary rom-com, as the character of Isobel is not what she seems. 

Underneath the well observed humour and strange “magic” is a story of two very different people. They love each other, can’t live without each other, but who cannot seem to give each other what they think they need. Real relationships do not always come easily, they require a combination of love, hard work and compromise. And that is what Leo and Emma discover through this book.

I really enjoyed this book, although I wasn’t sure I was going to when I started it. The mix of first and third person suited the story perfectly, and the great humour helped to get the message about making relationship work across.

Please Don’t Eat The Dasies

Please Don't Eat The Dasies

by Jean Kerr

As a lifelong fan of Doris Day, I am familiar with the film version, but until recently I was not aware that it was based on a book. It seems to have been out of print for many years, my daughter managed to find me a second hand copy which I was delighted about.

Whilst the film tells the story of a somewhat exaggeratedly chaotic family settling into a new home, the book is more like a series of short essays. The characters remain the same, but otherwise they are very different.

The book is short, only 140 pages, but every one is a gem. Jean Kerr has a captivating wit and passes on her wisdom and tales of woe with great humour. Many of the references are dated and probably only ever meant anything to it’s American audience, but the humour is undeniable. Many of the books “chapters” read almost like blogs or newspaper columns.

The book was not what I was expecting but I was in no way disappointed by it. I loved her observations of everything from buying a new home, dieting, entertaining and even how to survive a stay in hospital.

All told with a gentle humour and insight.

An excellent Father’s Day gift – thanks Natasha!