Wednesday, August 09, 2006

More Books

No substantive post until I get the template sorted out, I’m afraid. For now:

Wednesday Book Review

Winter Breaks – Joseph Connelly

Connelly writes English social farce, much like Tom Sharpe but (to my mind) significantly funnier. He has an ear for internal monologues, and much of the narrative happens inside his character’s heads. Winter Breaks is the sequel to Summer Things, which was possibly a little funnier. In the sequel, the characters are even more dysfunctional, and it’s harder to feel enough sympathy for them to stay interested in their stories. Nevertheless, a funny light read. Good for holidays.

Paullina Simons – Red Leaves

Some authors write one or two brilliant books and then lose their way. Others only become mistresses of their craft in later works. Simons is one of the latter.

Red Leaves is an early work, and it’s got some technical faults. It seems unsure of whether it’s a murder mystery or a social drama, and the result is a clumsily paced narrative. The switch between the first half of the book, which chronicles the last week of the main character’s life, and the second half in which a detective tries to discover her murderer, is jarring; the first half is too long for a book revolving around the mystery, and too short for the reader who has become intrigued by the character herself. The revelations of the latter half are oddly paced, and the dénouement unsatisfying. Simons excels at human drama and the conflicts of people trying to balance love and morality. Luckily, that’s what she has concentrated on since Red Leaves. Read Tully or The Bronze Horseman instead.

Anne Tyler – Ladder of Years

I love Anne Tyler to bits, and none of her books have disappointed me yet. So when I say that Ladder of Years may well be my favourite, I don’t say it lightly. There’s something strangely compelling in the theme of a person who walks away from their life and trappings to start again (Douglas Coupland’s Miss Wyoming and Douglas Kennedy’s The Big Picture are both great examples), and that’s what Tyler concentrates on here. She writes in a style so realistic it could be accused of dwelling on minutiae, but she is so intelligent and incisive that every detail is valuable.

If Tyler has one fault, it’s that her couples are all variations on the same theme; a talkative, scattered, slightly childish wife contrasted against a dour husband. That said, she has sympathy for how these types create and reinforce a symbiotic relationship, and Ladder of Years examines how one’s self-identity is connected to the role we play in the eyes of others. It’s a beautiful book. I loved it.


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