by Julian Barnes
A masterpiece – mesmerising – poignant – skilfully plotted: words taken from the cover; descriptions that prompted me to buy the book. And it all goes to show that you can’t judge a book by its cover!
I actually began to think that the comments were for another book (this does happen sometimes), but no, it seems that these critics actually said these things about “The Sense of an Ending”.
I spent all 150 pages wondering when the story would begin. Although I wouldn’t say it was a bad book, it lacks plot and sense of direction.
It didn’t help that I could feel nothing positive for the main character, Tony Webster. As he telsl the story he is retired, divorced and very much alone. Even his nostalgic reflections on his school days in the 1960s portray a bumbling innocence and lack of ambition. He drifts through life seemingly unable, or unwilling, to take any risks or make any decisions.
I found myself frustrated by the lack of plot, and a little betrayed by the critics who had misled me into buying it in the first place.
This is not to say “The Sense of an Ending” doesn’t have any good points. Despite its lack of dramatic content, there is a quality in the writing that kept me reading, even if it does read more like a philosophy thesis than a novel.
For me, a very disappointing choice, and I don’t feel inclined at the moment to try another of Mr Barnes’ books.
by Mohammed Hanif
“Our Lady of Alice Bhatti” is the second novel by Pakistani writer Mohammed Hanif. All Alice wants is to make a better life for herself, but for a Catholic in Karachi, life can be challenging.
Fresh from a spell in borstal, new nurse Alice Bhatti makes her mark on the staff and patients of the Sacred Heart Hospital for All Ailments. She also makes a big impression on part-time body builder and police enforcer, Teddy Butt.
Alice is a compassionate young woman, and that is at the heart of the book. She remains positive despite the inadequacies of the hospital a d the resigned negativity of some of the other members of staff. But in Teddy she finds someone who, like her, wants to be something more than birth and circumstances will allow.
But can there be any future for a young couple of mixed faiths and little hope for advancement?
I enjoyed this book, with its wonderful characters and incisive commentary on modern day Pakistan. “Our Lady” is a warm and thought provoking novel with an ending I did not anticipate, but on reflection was inevitable. There is plenty of humour and compassion, but there is also the underlying critique of Pakistani society that was so evident in Hanif’s debut novel “A Case of Exploding Mangoes”
by Rob Boffard
Rob Boffard’s debut novel is a fast, action packed thriller set on a space station orbiting the Earth. With a population of over a million it is mankind’s home, as the Earth itself lies ravaged from nuclear war.
Riley Hale is a tracer – a kind of courier people hire to get goods from one part of the huge space station to another. She makes her living from being able to out run the opposition, but one day all that changes and she must now outrun everyone just to stay alive.
And just like its main character, the story moves at a great pace. There is a real intensity to the story and plenty of unexpected twists and turns as our hero becomes embroiled in a plot to destroy humanities last home.
Told with a mix of their and first person with Riley telling her story whilst allowing the reader a glimpse of events she herself doesn’t see. It gives you a greater understanding of the whole plot, a device I have only come across a few times.
I must admit that when I started the book I felt it has more than a passing resemblance to Kass Morgan’s “The 100” series, but this is only superficial. I really enjoyed Tracer. It has a pace and intensity that is rare in science fiction. Rob has created a powerful and, most importantly, likeable character in Riley Hale. I hope her next outing – Zero-G – is just as good.