Here’s a round-up of what I’ve been reading this month:
Let the Right One In – John Ajvide Lindqvist – 1/10
I really, really hated this book and was very disappointed in it. It was self-indulgent and depressing and not terribly well-written either. It had the bones of a good 200-page or so novel in it – if they had just concentrated on the story of Oscar and Eli – but as it was it was flabby and I didn’t enjoy it one bit.
The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupery – 7/10
This was good, but I really wish I’d read it when I was a kid. The allegory was a bit to glaring (and yet incoherent) for me to properly immerse myself in the story. The drawings are fantastic and the writing is very, very engaging, but I think I’m just a touch to old (and too cynical? I am a law student after all…) to be swept away by it.
The Godfather – Mario Puzo – 9/10
I enjoyed this a great deal, much more than I had expected to. A lot of people complained about the plain, unadventurous style of writing but I felt it really suited the subject matter. There is some extraneous material – the sex scenes and the whole vagina storyline (no, really) are kind of pointless – but it doesn’t really impact too much on the overall narrative. The last scene with Vito is particularly moving.
A Winter Book – Tove Jansson – 8/10
This was very good, although some of the time I felt a touch disconnected with the narrator. I think that might be because of my weird relationship with short stories though, and these are very short. However, I really got a sense of Finland from it, and Tove Jansson seems like an endlessly fascinating sort of person. The chapter with the letters from Japan made me cry.
The Solitaire Mystery – Jostein Gaarder – 10/10
I think you either love Gaarder or you hate him – I think a lot of people feel his naive sense of wonder is a bit put on and I will admit that he does tend to repeat themes in his books. But I genuinely love everything about his style, his sense of language, the sheer fascination he has with the world. The plot is stronger in this than in some of his other works, and that definitely plays to his advantage. Genuinely beautiful. (But like I said, I have loved everything else that Gaarder has done, with the exception of The Castle in the Pyrenees.)
The 39 Steps – John Buchan – 8/10
Despite being largely set in Scotland, Buchan avoids most of my stamping ground so I don’t have a connection with this on that level. That said, there is something essentially Scottish about the deep vein of silliness that runs through this slight novel.
Espresso Tales (Scotland Street #2) – Alexander McCall Smith – 7/10
Love Over Scotland (Scotland Street #3)- Alexander McCall Smith – 7/10
The World According to Bertie (Scotland Street #4) – Alexander McCall Smith – 6/10
Taking these all together for obvious reasons. This series is such great escapism and capture a particular element of Edinburgh really well, I think. Matthew, Bertie, Big Lou, and Cyrill continue to be my favourites, and I like how sedate the pacing is. Of the three, TWAB was my least favourite, but I’m not sure if that’s because it was my third Scotland Street novel in three days! I really didn’t like that two pieces of character development from the previous novel (regarding Irene and Pat) were essentially wiped out by the end of this one, and I’m pretty sure I noticed a few mistakes – the most glaring being that Bertie’s room was mysteriously pink again?
Pygmalion – George Bernard Shaw – 10/10
What can I say that hasn’t already been said? Not a wasted word in this, and the final scene between Eliza and Higgins is incredible. Eliza has to be one of my favourite literary inventions.
Wonder – R.J. Palacio – 7/10
Started off strong, but too many point-of-views drag this one down slightly. There’s also a very sad bit about three-quarters of the way through that made me rate it a little lower because of my aversion to that particular thing (I don’t want to spoil it but if you’ve read it you can probably guess). It’s a very sweet story, if a little unrealistic, but it’s a children’s book so I was hardly expecting grim and gritty. I would have liked a bit more of Auggie’s experiences, and if we were going to have different narrators, why not have the parents? It would probably be a neat lesson in understanding how adults feel towards their children for the age group this is aimed at.
Childhood’s End – Arthur . Clarke – 10/10
Last, but most certainly not least. This is just plain fantastic. Again, not a wasted word. Turns the usual cliches about what first contact with alien species would be like upside down – I genuinely can’t say more than that without spoiling the magic of this one. I didn’t really know a lot about Clarke before (I know, for shame) but I will definitely be reading some more stuff by him now!