Tuesday, 31 May 2011

May Book Review

Book me up people. I feel like it’s been longer than a month since I did one of these.

Wuthering Heights took up a lot of this month – if you missed my stellar review then pop here.

On the agenda this month?

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter – Kim Edwards

I felt a kind of overwhelming disappointment with this book. I guess that’s what happens when you read a book that everyone has raved about. I didn’t really know what it was about, I just heard lots of people saying it was good and saw lots of copies lying about the place. Culture Friend kindly lent me her copy and I got on it as soon as possible – mainly because I’ve been in a book debt to her for a very very long time, if I finished this book I would officially be all square with her.

Basically a woman gives birth to twins. Her husband delivers the baby and upon seeing that the daughter is Down’s Syndrome he gives her to a nurse to be put into a home before the wife sees her. The wife is told that the daughter died shortly after being born. The nurse doesn’t take the baby to the home and instead runs away with her to raise her by herself.

The book follows both families, told in alternate chapters, as the children grow up and move on with their lives. The couple’s marriage starts to fall apart – wifey can’t get over the death of her daughter and hubby struggles with the enormity of the secret he’s keeping.

It was just a bit blah. I felt like it didn’t really get under the skin of any of the characters, instead painting with broad brush strokes. I like a bit of meat, I like to know how they’re feeling and why they’re feeling that way and this book just didn’t really dig deep enough for me.

Plus I seem to struggle with books that try to cope with large expanses of time in a relatively short book. Give me a tome that I’m going to have problems carrying and I’ll be totally happy, but give me something that covers the same time span that I can fit in my handbag and, unless the writer is supremely talented, it’s not going to work for me. At the end I had the feeling I was just reading to finish my book debt, rather than because I really cared about the book.

I wouldn’t go as far to say “Don’t read it” but maybe I would say “Don’t buy it” see if you can nick someone else’s copy.

The Year of the Flood – Margaret Atwood.

I’m not normally a one book girl. Usually there’s a couple on the go – one at home and one that lives at work (I read on my lunch breaks and...you know...when people leave me alone in the office). But occasionally there comes along a book that totally consumes me and there’s no room for anyone else.

This is one of those books.

I think I’m going to struggle to convey how much I enjoyed this book and I’m already pretty certain that it’s going to be the Book of the Year, I can’t see how anything’s going to beat it to be honest.

Year of the Flood takes you to a parallel universe, where everything seems at once familiar and yet strange. Some kind of plague has wiped everyone out, leaving Toby and Ren to tell the story of how the world got to this point. The world is a mildly terrifying place – the CorpSeCorp are a terrifying security force in charge of law enforcement, people live within compounds, like the Healthwyze compound where suspect vitamins are made and distributed. The ‘pleebs’ are the run down areas of town, occupied by outlets of Secretburger (the secret being that you don’t know what meat the burgers are made out of) and ruled by mobs. In the fields folic green rabbits and rakunks and there are liobams – lion/lamb splices.

Toby and Ren are members of The Gardeners, a cult that believe in the good of God and his earth – think super hippies and you’d be on the right path. They live on their Edencliff Rooftop Garden.

We start the story after the plague has hit – Toby is stuck in the AnooYoo Spa where she worked and Ren is stuck in the Sticky Zone, a safe room in the Scales and Tails club where she works. Year 25 is the year of the flood and we then go back and start from Year 1 and hear the story of the world from Toby and Ren in turn, before we catch up in Year 25 and their attempts to escape from the places they’re trapped in.

It is amazing. I gobbled it up like a greedy book reader. I could have read forever. I was angry when the story ended because I could have read about them forever. In a way this book contrasts nicely with The Memory Keeper’s Daughter – both don’t contain great amounts of detail, but Atwood handles it supremely better than Edwards. Whereas Edwards’ lack of detail left me not caring about any of the character, Atwood left me begging for more.

And more is on its way. When I discovered that Atwood had published a book called Oryx and Crake a few years before, which features The Gardeners and a lot of the same characters, I was ordering it quicker than you can say Greedy Book Reader. What better recommendation could you get?


Book of the month?

Erm....The Year of the Flood obvs.

And whilst we're on the subject of monthly reviews...I've decided to drop the Photo Scavenger Hunt. It was just getting too complicated, I have enough trouble finding a photograph each day without putting more pressure on myself! Plus compiling the posts was just becoming an annoyance - once the annoyance/pleasure balance gets thrown out like that I think it's best to drop it. I don't want things to become a chore.


  1. Ooh top Atwood tip. Adds to list.

    I assume you've read The Handmaid's Tale?

  2. Echo what Mooncalf says, I think you ight like Handmaid's Tale if you liked this.

    I have both books on my shelf so pleased that at least one of them is worth reading; I have Oryx and Crake unread too and being the anal reader I am, have to read that one first because it was published first, even though they're not in order or even that closely related to one another.

    Good call with the Photo Scavenging and the pleasure/pain aspect :)

  3. I studied Cat's Eye for A Level and really enjoyed it but haven't since been able to connect with another Margaret Attwood novel which is a shame as they seem to be so good. x

  4. I was massively underwhelmed by The Memory Keeper's Daughter too. I find the sort of books that pop up in all the big book club recommendations to be very hit and miss. I've just read The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks and found it utterly fascinating but a lot of the fiction choices make me wonder exactly what all the fuss is about.

    Fair enough with the scavenger hunt. I'm still really enjoying doing it but then I don't have the Project 365 thing to juggle at the same time. I can see how it would rapidly approach chore status that way.

  5. I really enjoy your book reviews! Keep them coming! xxx


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