Friday, 30 July 2010

The True confessions of Lauren the Bookmonkey

Hi all!

I realise you haven’t been hearing too much from me at the moment so I thought I would put up a post. I would love to say I have been industriously and solely working on my own manuscript this whole summer or curling up with several good novels but this simply isn’t true.

I seem to have been spending a large amount of time indulging in picnics and barbecues, piously saying to Mark ‘The diet begins tomorrow,’ on an almost daily basis! I have also been loving the summer sales as a self-confessed shopper and yes, Monsoon changing rooms seem to have been beckoning! I bought a gorgeous green and turquoise summer dress there the other week. I was going to put up a picture but technology and I have a turbulent relationship and I’ll leave it to your imagination.

Don’t fear though, I have started our next book Lyrics Alley and am really enjoying it thus far. Mark and I should have our reviews up in the near future with a few more reviews from friends who are also avid readers. Hope your reading is going well and you enjoyed our book review on The Weekend.

So with the resolution to shop less and start the diet tomorrow, I’ll sign off for now!

Happy reading!!


Saturday, 24 July 2010

Foyles Twitter Comps

Foyles has a run a few competitions on Twitter this week, including #bookband and #bookflower. Simply mash up a book with band name or flower. So as a lazy way to create a new post here are some I like.


Girl with the Pearl Jam Earring

Jane Aerosmith

The Curious Incident of the Snoop Dog in the Night-time.


A brief history of Thyme

Carter Beats The Daffodil

The Holly bible

My entry was a bit rubbish, The Rhododendron. Hang my head in shame.

I'm sure they'll be doing some more. Possibly. So best get on to twitter and follow @foyles, you can see all the other entries as well. Or pop down to the South Bank and visit the shop. I was there a few weeks ago and fell asleep on the fake grassy bit outside. They probably thought I was a tramp.



Saturday, 17 July 2010

Lyrics Alley, Leila Aboulela: Philosophical Look at our Next Book Review

So, one book down and an endless stream of new ones to go. The next book we'll be reviewing in "Lyrics Alley". Lauren chose it from the two options I gave her and to be honest it does look to be a bit of a girls book. I am indeed judging it by its cover.

The Book is set in 1950s Sudan and about a powerful Abuzeid Dynasty. I'll let you know what one of those is once I've read it. It's by Leila Aboulela who also wrote The Translator and Minaret.

It's nearly 300 pages long so it'll take about 3 weeks to read so come back then. Might take a bit longer due to BBQs and I'm reading "How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer" which is frankly cracking.

"Lyrics Alley" will be out in December but is available to preorder. You might want to wait for our fantastic reviews first.



Sunday, 11 July 2010

The Weekend, Bernhard Schlink - Lauren's Review

I really enjoyed The Weekend. Schlink carefully crafts minor and major mysteries, building suspense, through sentences that hint at a larger reality. The reader is left guessing at the relationship between characters and what has come before.

The Weekend opens with Jorg, a former Red Army Faction terrorist being released from jail having committed four murders over twenty years ago. His sister, Christiane, anxious to reintegrate him back into society invites a group of his former friends together for the weekend of his release. Old times are relived, emotions bubble to the surface and grievances are addressed as the characters congregate.

Jorg is the fulcrum from which all the characters pivot as they come together collectively, yet individually examine the ideals and expectations of their own lives. Schlink seems particularly concerned with the passing of time, poignantly contrasting his character’s youthful appearance and aspirations with the reality of their mature present. Ilse is now ‘nondescript’ having lost the promise of beauty she held her youth whereas Jorg has lost his ‘cheerfulness’ he held as a student. Gone are the days where everything lay ahead of them and they would ‘plan’ and ‘enjoy their own strength.’ The reader cannot help but feel that Ulrich’s sentiments that his youthful self feels ‘alien’ to him is perhaps a sentiment that all the characters share.

Schlink suggests that his characters have to come to terms with what they have actually achieved. Margarete chides Marko for setting Jorg the same expectations he held for himself as a young man. She is adamant that hardly anyone’s life turns out the way they dreamt it would but this doesn’t relegate that life to the scrap heap. Schlink tellingly allows Margarete to muse that perhaps what makes a terrorist is someone that cannot reconcile themselves to the reality of their life but instead ‘wants to bomb his way to his dream of home.’

It is clear that all the characters were searching for something in their youth. Ilse remembers feeling as if ‘…she was on the trail of something big…where was it?’ Being former Baader Meinhof sympathisers the group sought the answers to their search in the cause. Schlink hints that this search is linked to that of establishing an identity. However, unlike Jorg, the group of friends have moved on with their search. The identities they have now constructed for themselves within society provide them with a place in the world and a much needed ontological security. Henner is a journalist, Karin a Bishop, Ulrich a business man, Ilse a teacher, Andreas a lawyer and Christiane a doctor. They judge each other’s identities acknowledging that Andreas ‘twists’ words and Karin says ‘pious’ things.

Schlink clearly portrays this reunion and its reminiscing as another way of the characters to cement their collective as well as individual sense of identity and their place in the world.

Schlink sets up the dilemma that our very identity that we seek for security also constrains us and takes away our freedom. For instance Ilse employs her writing as an escapism from her identity as a teacher whilst Jorg ‘carried his cell with him,’ constantly hampered by the cause and an inability to find a lasting peace away from its ideals. It becomes apparent that there is a paradoxical struggle to forge an identity yet to lose oneself or rid oneself of this identity and merge or unite with the whole in order to gain a form of freedom. Henner wishes to lose himself in Margarete who represents a freedom to him and a reconciliation with his demanding mother. Ilse loses herself in her writing. Margarete loses herself in the ‘compelling’ landscape, the ‘high sky, wide empty land.’

However, Schlink tenderly reveals that ultimately we are individuals and we make our journey alone to find our freedom. As the characters converge at the end of the book to help bail out the cellar, they lose themselves in a mutual task. However, it is only a ‘spectacle of collaboration’ and not long before they ‘…would also fall apart again.’ Perhaps it is symbolic at the end that Karin does not impart a travel blessing, they do not swap email addresses or say elaborate goodbyes.

As Jan faces death Ilse contemplates that he always wanted to be free. Schlink hints that perhaps it is only in death we can be free. Ilse ponders whether we can bring the same ‘delight we are capable of bringing to the enjoyment of life,’ to death.

However, the continual delicate dance between the fight for life and death is depicted through Ferdinand’s desire to reconcile with his father despite the suffering he has experienced. The human spirit continues to strive against adversity and reach out despite the fact it is only in its ultimate demise and death that we can find the freedom we seek. Although many of the characters may not be immediately likable or induce empathy, they are well constructed presenting both the vulnerabilities and flaws we all share as they partake in what is both our common yet very individual plight.


Monday, 5 July 2010

The Weekend, Bernhard Schlink – A Text Based Adventure?

The weekend - cover
The Weekend is based upon a group of old friends who were mostly casual terrorists in the RAF meeting up for a weekend in the country. It revolves around Jörg who has just been released from prison after being pardoned for the murders he had committed twenty odd years before.

Through the first few chapters The Weekend felt a bit like a text based adventure. You’d meet a character and they dump a massive part of their life story onto you. You’d walk down a path in a wood, wondering which way you should wander(go South; go North; go North; go West). You enter a room and the barest description is given followed by a list of items in it (take all). I felt a bit overwhelmed by the eleven characters that present themselves one after the other. Some are just described as wife or husband to begin with but get named later on, which usually ends up confusing me so I have to skip back and read earlier parts again.

The book is split into three parts, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. By the end of Friday I didn’t really care for any of the characters and was hoping someone would turn up and shoot most of them. But over the Saturday Schlinky drew me into the story. The characters had time to develop, become more interesting and engender my sympathy (I’m not a complete bastard).
In the end everyone talks a lot, a few people possibly fall in love and everyone works together to bail out a flooded cellar. And maybe this was the message of the book; Buckets bring people together.

Not really. But the book is good if you can get through the slightly bizarre first part. Maybe the ending doesn’t live up to what it could have been or what the blurb on the back suggests but I didn’t feel disappointed. Though if you are after something with even the slightest bit of action in it you’d be better off with a text based adventure like this:

Also if you are going to read it but don’t know much about German Terrorism it might be worth reading up on Red Army Faction/Baader-Meinhof Group as it will probably help understand what the book is about.

You can preorder The Weekend now. It's out in October.


P.S. Lauren's review is coming soon. Honest. She does exist.