Friday, April 25, 2014

Review: & Sons by David Gilbert

A novel set to make waves; thick in volume, boasting the New York skyline on its cover and with rumors of publisher, Fourth Estate, printing more galleys than Gilbert's first novel, The Normals, printed in finished copy totality. 

It's a different novel, one I wouldn't pick up, it's too long, too manly and too well-written. Ok, you have me there, a novel that is too well-written is completely perfect, so I digress.

It all starts with AN Dyer, a famous author whose great work, Ampersand, is a Salinger-type classic work, and set work for schools across the USA. AN. Dyer is about to give a eulogy at his best friend's (Charles Topping) funeral, told from the view of a son, not AN Dyer's but Charles' son. 

Centering itself around the relationships of fathers and their sons, this epic tome threads itself against the picturesque setting that is upper east side NYC. Faced with the heartbreak and certain regret that now awaits him and his determined demise (death) AN Dyer is determined to play a sort of 'make-up' with his sons; cleverly referred to in the title, are overshadowed by their father's success - Ampersand.

It truly is an epic tale to say the least but about 90 pages in, I felt as if I swam through exotic chocolate that I couldn't afford. While gorgeously crafted, I have to - sadly and regretfully - say that this book found me at the wrong time. Written with a slight hand, I found I couldn't identify with the seemingly all-male cast (and a handful of what seemed to be ambitious women who were downplayed). 

Oh, gosh, I don't want to be the one banging the feminist stick, but I am. I need at least one bat shit crazy woman (think Penelope Cruz in Vicky Christina Barcelona) to challenge these men, or at least make them work harder. Perhaps that is the point though, that fathers do think they have enough time with their sons, or wish their sons turn out a certain way. All end up disappointed in one way or another.

This is a John Irving style of writing, challenging but rewarding, even though I didn't manage to fully read this set-to-be-great novel, I will emphasize that patience is required for this novel, something I don't have now, but the basis is there with Gilbert's slight of comedic plotting, characters dutifully crafted to play their parts, and a setting worth writing about. Perhaps, when I can be found on a beach with endless hours ahead of me... Maybe then.

& Sons by David Gilbert features on this month’s Exclusive Books Recommends for April.

Happy Reading

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Review: The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

It is no secret that I am a Jojo Moyes fan. It was when I first picked up Me Before You, a novel that broke my heart in every way possible, that made me adore this master piece of a story. Moyes has a lightness of touch in her writing, as if she writes in nothing but homemade rock buns and knitted jerseys - comfortable and lush.

The One Plus One is the story of a single mother (Jess) trying, or should I say battling, to keep her family afloat. She has a step-son who is being bullied, a mathematical genius for a daughter, a dog and a sleaze-bag husband who has done a runner. She tries her best to keep everyone going, working two jobs as a cleaner by day and a waitress by night, she is constantly washing, cleaning and mothering.

Then we have Ed, a nerdy businessman who stumbled on his fortune 500 company, but would much rather be back in the 'old days' creating than actually being a CEO. When Ed is surrounded in controversy involving a slightly underhanded woman and a seedy affair. 

Moyes creates a perfect set up for these two characters to crash together, because Jess cleans Ed's house, but this isn't where their story begins. When Jess's car breaks down on the way to Tanzie's (her daughter) mathematics Olympiad, one that will gain her entry into a school that Jess cannot afford, on full scholarship, and so arrives Ed, not in the knight in shining armour type of way, but by pure happenstance - who agrees to take Jess and her family to the Olympiad. So begins the journey of this very odd and motley crew, discovering and learning, but with a hint of emotion. Each learning more about each other the closer they get to their destination.

This is where we see Moyes's pure skill, and motherly care for her characters. She gives them the idiosyncrasies, the mood swings, the arbitrary quirks and holds them out for you to lap up.

Now, let the gushing end - I didn't think this was Moyes' best work. Perhaps, I gave too much of myself to Me Before You and with it lost so much more; that is not to say that Moyes lost her touch with this novel, to say the least, she certainly didnt. I still couldn't help feeling irritated, rolling my eyes and 'ugh'-ing about, but perhaps that is the point. I finished the novel, not regretting one bit that it had taken me two days to finish, but I felt like something was missing, perhaps I expected too much and didn't just let Moyes work her magic in her own way. Still one to add to your Moyes collection.

This is a perfect on for the long weekend ahead...

Happy Reading.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Review: The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick

There are times in a reader's life, or reading-life, that one needs to step out of their comfort zone and take a plunge into something far beyond their likes and dislikes. Not that I took a complete 180 on this novel, but it certainly isn't the first book I would rush out to buy. Who didn't love Bradley Cooper in The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick, film adaption? If you didn't, then, well, go back to start and do not collect R200.

Before I carry on, I do need to thank Exclusive Books for supplying me so quickly with a review copy. I am eternally grateful.

Matthew Quick has had two books out by two different publishers at the moment - I love it when something like this happens, because without a doubt these two books, while by the same author, will be polar opposites, but funnily enough not for Matthew. Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is about an awkward eighteen year old overcoming his sense of weirdness and ultimately committing suicide

Then we meet The Good Luck of Right Now, that follows a similar theme as 38-year-old Bartholomew Neil who has only ever lived with his mother. When she gets sick and dies, he sorts through his grief by writing letters to Richard Gere. Why? Well because one day a general letter about the 'Free Tibet' campaign is received by his mother signed by Richard Gere; a huge fan she keeps this letter in her underwear drawer, and in the midst of her death she begins confusing Richard Gere and Bartholomew. So this is where we begin our adventure with dearest Bart. 

As Quick does so well, a cast of rather kooky characters from a disrobed catholic priest who takes up residence in Bart's house insisting God is soon to reveal his plan; the grief counsellor Wendy who is far more brittle than she likes to think; to the Girlibrarian Bart is dying to ask out, and how can we forget dear Richard Gere.

Told in a voice so honest and sincere you cannot help but to forgive Bartholomew's naivety and completely fall inlove with him. This is one of those books you pick up for a pick-me up. You wont find any astounding literary epiphanies in this novel, nor the speedy gritty pace of plot, what you will find is a rare chuckle at the events splashed on the page, a sparse thought on religion (even if you are atheist) and have the urge to watch Pretty Woman. Oh, what a lovely read.

Happy Reading.
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