Book review: The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow, 1953

To be honest, everyone comes across a book from time to time that they struggle to complete, indeed to get started with. The plot never really seems to start, the characters are undefined and un-engaging, and keeping track of who is who and what has happened doesn’t really seem worth the effort. But one persists,Continue reading “Book review: The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow, 1953”

Book review: A Month in the Country by J.L.Carr, 1980

‘A Month in the Country‘ is an exquisite novella, short-listed on publication for the Booker prize back in 1980 at a time when they weren’t so awkward about word-count (this runs to barely 80 pages), and turned into a film with Kenneth Branagh and Colin Firth which has its own, fascinating story. Carr only publishedContinue reading “Book review: A Month in the Country by J.L.Carr, 1980”

Book review: Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth, 1969

Portnoy’s complaint is both a noun and a verb – the book is another first person narrative describing the author’s childhood and later life, an autobiography with only the flimsiest attempt at disguise as a novel. Alexander Portnoy complains to his psychiatrist – at quite some length – about his domineering mother, his father crippledContinue reading “Book review: Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth, 1969”

Book review: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, 1963

“It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York”. Is there a better opening line to a novel? It wasn’t until towards the end of this book, when the narrator, Esther Greenwood, has electro-convulsive therapy as part of her treatment for severeContinue reading “Book review: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, 1963”

Book review: At Swim-Two-Birds, by Flann O’Brien – 1939

‘At Swim-Two-Birds‘ is quite unlike any other novel I have ever read. On the whole that is a good thing, but it also means that it can be a challenging, almost impossible read. Let’s start with a plot summary, which I have borrowed direct from Wikipedia: At Swim-Two-Birds presents itself as a first-person story byContinue reading “Book review: At Swim-Two-Birds, by Flann O’Brien – 1939”

Book review: The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger, 1951

Three things I didn’t notice about ‘Catcher in the Rye’ when I first read it as a teenager: a) Holden Caulfield, the novel’s 16 year old narrator, is seriously rich. He attends a private boarding school in New Jersey, from which he has just been expelled. His family live in an apartment building close toContinue reading “Book review: The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger, 1951”

Book review: The Man who was Thursday by G K Chesterton, 1908

What a great title for a novel. Set in the early years of the 20th century, ‘The Man who was Thursday’ is subtitled ‘A Nightmare’, which gives a clue to the novel’s eventual denouement. Gabriel Syme, a newly recruited, not to say unusual police detective, infiltrates a gang of anarchists, and within hours has securedContinue reading “Book review: The Man who was Thursday by G K Chesterton, 1908”

Book review: Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson, 1980

Among the various reasons for keeping this blog, the one I keep coming back to is to help me remember. I doubt if it is just me who forgets the detail of a novel, then the main events and protagonists, and finally come to doubt whether I have even read it at all. Which is whyContinue reading “Book review: Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson, 1980”

Book review: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, 1884/5

Mark Twain’s ‘Adventures of Huckleberry Finn‘ follows chronologically the earlier ‘Tom Sawyer’, but has a much darker, more adult tone. Huck is the novel’s first person narrator, and has a primitive, naive view of the world which contrasts with that of the reader, and provides much of the humour and insight of the novel. HuckContinue reading “Book review: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, 1884/5”

Book review: The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Graeme – 1908

It is an incredibly long time since I last read ‘The Wind in the Willows’, and I returned to it with some nervousness – would it have retained its wit and charm? Unsurprisingly, it is one of those novels which contains depths unnoticed in earlier reads. It is simply wonderful, and if you have a coupleContinue reading “Book review: The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Graeme – 1908”