Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Popcorn (Ben Elton), The Virgin and the Gypsy (DH Lawrence) and Murder in Mesopotamia (Agatha Christie), amongst others.

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Thanks to a lengthy commuting time to and from work everyday, I've read a fair few books this Summer already. And, as a lot of these books have been wonderful, my thirst for reading has been re-ignited. Thus, if you have recommendations for reading material of any kind, hit me up!

Popcorn (Ben Elton)
Well, well, well. I'd thought Ben Elton had nailed down social satire in his book Past-Mortem, but it turns out he'd done an even better job of it 8 years earlier. Bruce Delamitri is a trendy film director who has just won an Oscar for his ultra-violent film Ordinary Americans, a film which he claims represents America in its brutal, bloody-thirsty state, but others have condemned for influencing America's violent condition. With an Oscar under his belt, Delamitri is highly sure of himself, spouting various tidbits of pseudo-philosophy and expecting people to lap up his every word. However, he really learns the meaning of the word hubris when two white trash serial killers hold him hostage on the very night he wins his Oscar. As with Dead Famous, this is deliciously dark stuff, some of the funniest moments being at things the reader really should not have found amusing. The epilogue was pithy and the fact that there were no really likeable characters meant that, amidst the horror, the reader derived a twisted sense of glee from everything that occured. Full of characters you can see in celebrities today and short, staccato chapters, this is as good a condemnation of the pliability of the masses as you'll ever find, I can't recommend this enough.

The Virgin and the Gypsy (DH Lawrence)
Despite usage of the word "insinuate" that definitely veers on the repetitive side, DH Lawrence's novella proved to be a brilliant read nonetheless. It tells the story of two vicar's daughters, Lucille and Yvette. When the daughters were little girls the vicar's wife had run off with another more virile man, and this hangs over him in all the puritanical things he does. That, along with the somewhat-deranged nan who lives with the girls, has affected them and their thinking in different ways, Lucille is more conservative but Yvette, free-spirited, finds herself drawn towards a local gypsy, who's sexual attraction (and interest in her) cannot be masked. Despite being warned off him, that only serves to make her more and more beguiled by him, and their relationship, though not high on the verbal interchanges, is compelling as it is beautiful. I won't lie, I was a tiny bit disappointed at the lack of a deflowering scene of any kind, but there was a metaphorical orgasm, when he was drying her off. Evocatively written and with an oddly banal ending, I was far more taken with this than Lady Chatterlay's Lover.

10 Reasons Not to Fall in Love (Linda Green)
This novel is, as the fluffy title would betray, a romantic comedy chicklit, but it was surprisingly, deeper than just that. It tells the story of a woman living up North (she resides in the Yorkshire area but works as a part-time news reporter in the Lancashire area) who has a two-year-old kid, Alfie, who's dad walked out on them on Alfie's first birthday. She's recently gone back to work as a reporter, wherein he's been promoted to her boss. Somewhat awkward. Not surprisingly, she hates men. Until this super-sweet, hot guy called Dan walks into her life. So far, very Sophie Kinsella. But it managed to balance the sweet with a surprisingly sour bit about Dan's backstory, wherein his dad got drunk and hit his mum (hence causing him to be somewhat of a closed book). The depiction of domestic violence was actually pretty disturbing in the book, especially how it escalated from verbal abuse to the odd slap to life-threatening amounts of violence. I found myself shedding tears at the most unexpected of moments during this book, and, surprisingly for a chicklit, there was football banter! At first I thought the author was a closet Kopite when she made Richard (the bastard ex) a Man Utd fan and hot Dan a Scouser, but then the narrator was a City fan so I don't know frankly. Anyway, I really liked the narrator's writing style, a fine balance between colloquial and intellectual. And I love how it demonstrated that amidst all the shit life throws up, we can eventually get our happy ending, if we're not afraid to try. Recommended.

The Big Four / Murder in Mesopotamia (Agatha Christie)
Not, as I'd blithely wondered, about the "big four" teams in the Premiership, but instead about a cartel of mastermind criminals who collude to bring down entire empires. There was a bit too much bluffing and double-bluffing regarding whether or not a pretty integral character was alive or dead in The Big Four to render it believable, plus it focussed more on the espionage side of things, when I prefer the murder mystery. But Agatha Christie showed just why Hercule Poirot remains one of the most beguiling, ingenious men in literature.

Murder in Mesopotamia, I was less taken with, just because I got rather confused when more and more and more characters got introduced (lol, I'm so clever NAT), but the plot twist was as audacious as I'd expect from Christie, and I'm glad the cold-hearted bitch at the centre of it all got what she deserved.

Tales From a Hen Weekend (Olivia Ryan)
Katie Halliday, a vivacious, happy 30something who believes in true love, is on the brink of getting married to Matt, the man she believes to be the love of her life. As he jets off for a weekend in Prague, she's off to Dublin with her friends, aunt and mother, but over the course of that holiday, home truths and murky secrets are revealed left, right and centre. This was a rather more predictable chicklit, and although the characters were all sweet enough (although I found it hard to warm to the protagonist because she seemed to have the gift of being loved universally, which I found hard to believe), the book itself had nothing new to contribute to the genre. A fun enough read, just massively forgettable.

Dead Lovely (Helen Fitzgerald)
Oooh er. Whatever I was expecting from Fitzgerald's novel, which revolves around a claustraphobic set-up of married couple Sarah and Kyle and their best friend's Krissie's camping holiday in the Scottish highlands, it wasn't this. Krissie, you see, is a free-spirited woman who likes the length of her sexual conquests to be inversely proportional of the willy size of the men inside her who has recently given birth to Robbie following a one-night stand in a public toilet whilst on holiday, and Sarah, despite being married to Kyle and copulating in cycles, can't conceieve for love nor money. Add into this equation the fact that Kyle finds himself increasingly attracted to Sarah and it doesn't take Stephen Hawking to work out that this seedy threesome is just an accident waiting to happen. And, sure enough, there's murders, failed murders, attempted murders, and finally, a plot twist so dark that I was surprised such a thing got published. But credit to Fitzgerald for her accomplished fusion of sex, murder and human relationships, as well as the way she evoked laughter even at the most dastardly of actions.

Not a bad bunch, on the whole!

1 comment:

jaime said...

hi emma!