I’ve read quite a lot over the past few weeks but have slipped behind on my reviews. So, I thought I’d write some mini reviews for the older books I’ve read and then there will be longer reviews to come for the newer releases.
Bright Young Things by Scarlett Thomas.
This was my first Scarlett Thomas and it probably wasn’t the best place to start. Having spoken to many fans of hers, Bright Young Things is rarely mentioned among her best. Indeed it started off very slowly and while you could say that Thomas was leading you in with a false sense of security, the opening lacked enough punch to keep me invested. I out the book down for a fortnight and it wasn’t until chatting to somebody about it that I picked it back up.
In the end, it was a very enjoyable read. I would say that anyone who experience the pop culture of the nineties will have a blast revelling in mentions of music from the time and videogames that were leading a generation. This is an aside from what it a very compelling idea and one that leaves the reader guessing until the last 50 pages. The premise that six “bright young things” have attended a job interview and then woken up on a deserted island is just the teasing of the thread. The whole thing comes unravelled when the twist in the tale crops up. By the halfway point I was hooked and suddenly I didn’t want to put it down.
I have since run out and picked up more of Scarletts work and will begin on catching up on what seems a terrific writer.
Man in the Dark by Paul Auster.
Another author I’d not read is Paul Auster. I picked this up in a charity shop when I was having a bad day – I was stuck with no book and a car journey ahead, so I opened it and got stuck in. Man in the Dark is a very short book and quite obviously not one of Austers most famous works, but the plot intrigued me. The idea of an old man hiding from the tragedies of his life by telling himself stories during his bouts of insomnia is original to me. I was expecting a rather dark journey and while it certainly stopped in the pitch black of broken hearts there was some light to take out of the tale.
The story that August tells himself is only half of the book and is one about a man torn from his life and placed in a parallel world where America hasn’t gone to war with Iraq and instead has exploded into another civil war. You can see Augusts emotions and memories leak into the story of Owen Brick and he stops occasionally to explore his own past and grieve for his wife or his granddaughters boyfriend who was horrifically murdered. Auster paints a picture of an isolated family plagued by disaster and bereavement wonderfully and the novel leaves you feeling empty but for an ache in your heart.
The final third of the book sees all the emotions laid bare between August and his granddaughter and their conversation is both sweet and moving. Their dialogue together is one of the best I’ve read in that Auster writes a very familiar relationship and one that is comforting despite the details. I was utterly impressed by the novel and am now gutted that I didn’t see Auster at Cheltenham Lit Festival.
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier.
Goodness, where do you start? When I first thought about writing a review of Rebecca I thought of taking the easy route and just writing one word “stunning” them linking to Simons blog (Honestly, he’s your man for anything Daphers!). If it wasn’t for Simon I probably never would have read this book.
My opinion went from disappointed in the overly wordy opening to gripped and reading at midnight to find out what happened next. There’s little point in me talking about the plot as it is well known to most. However I do want to say that I was blown away by my own reaction to the book and have now lined up another Daphers to read soon. Everything from the dark Mrs Danvers to the often arrogant Maxim was wonderfully sumptuous and brooding. The writing is exquisite and the pace of the novel leaves you constantly wanting more. I will now join Simon on his journey to spread word of what a fantastic novel this is. I’m certainly glad I took the time to read it.
Thank you to Canongate for sending Bright Young Things for review.