Book review: Here I Am, by Jonathan Safran Foer, 2017

As I may have mentioned once or twice, I keep this blog as a record of what I read. If I don’t blog it’s probably because I haven’t been reading, but occasionally there are novels that really challenge my ability to say something interesting. ‘Here I Am’, Jonathan Safran Foer’s third novel, is a caseContinue reading “Book review: Here I Am, by Jonathan Safran Foer, 2017”

Book review: 1919, by John Dos Passos, 1932

‘1919’ is the second book in Dos Passos’s ‘USA’ trilogy. Which immediately begs the question, why read only the middle book in a trilogy? You wouldn’t read only ‘The Two Towers’, would you? I think there are several reasons why I am going to resist the temptation to read the rest of ‘USA’. Firstly, ‘1919’Continue reading “Book review: 1919, by John Dos Passos, 1932”

Book review: As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner, 1930

William Faulkner’s ‘As I Lay Dying’ tells the story of the death of Addie Bundren and her last journey to her hometown, Jefferson, Mississippi. The novel opens with the dying Addie watching her son Cash construct her coffin. The ominous sounds of his carpentry echo around the house, forming an aural backdrop to the family’sContinue reading “Book review: As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner, 1930”

Book review: Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury, 1953

“A book is a loaded gun in the house next door…Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man?” Bradbury’s seminal dystopian novel is one of the key texts of the McCarthyite era in post-war America. Bradbury describes a world in many ways very much like his own, but where firemen burn books,Continue reading “Book review: Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury, 1953”

Book review: Babbitt, by Sinclair Lewis, 1922

‘Babbitt’, Sinclair Lewis’s satirical portrait of 1920’s America, was written only three years into the prohibition era, and published three years before that other, very different portrait of the USA of the time, ‘The Great Gatsby’. The term ‘babbitt’ was used in the US for some time (I am not sure if it is still current)Continue reading “Book review: Babbitt, by Sinclair Lewis, 1922”

Book review: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, 1939

‘The Grapes of Wrath’ opens with a portrait of the devastation caused by the dust bowl in 1930’s Oklahoma: “Every moving thing lifted the dust into the air…A walking man lifted a thin layer as high as his waist. An automobile boiled a cloud behind it.” Tom Joad has just been released on parole, afterContinue reading “Book review: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, 1939”

Book review: All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren, 1946

‘All the King’s Men’ is the story of the rise and fall of Governor Willie Stark in 1930’s America. The novel is narrated by Jack Burden, one of Stark’s assistants and “fixers”, who offers a detached, sardonic commentary on Stark’s progress to become Governor of his State. Stark starts his political life as a honestContinue reading “Book review: All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren, 1946”

Book review: Catch 22 by Joseph Heller, 1961

I was slightly nervous on approaching a re-read of ‘Catch 22’. We are all familiar with the experience of a much loved book, television programme or film being much weaker when revisited (for some reason this is particularly true of television programmes – some iconic series such as The Prisoner, or Monty Python, utterly brilliantContinue reading “Book review: Catch 22 by Joseph Heller, 1961”

Book review: Breathing Lessons, by Anne Tyler, 1988

The title of Anne Tyler’s 1989 Pulitzer prize-winning novel refers to the lessons given to pregnant women to help cope with labour pains. As with many other themes in this novel, there is a second, subtler meaning – lessons in breathing are the lessons life teaches us. This is a novel about middle age, aboutContinue reading “Book review: Breathing Lessons, by Anne Tyler, 1988”

Book review: Underworld, by Don Delillo, 1997

Some novels are easy reads – the pages roll past in a blur, the events have a pace and unity that keep you turning the page, but the reader sometimes feel a bit of a passenger, riding the tide of the novel without having to do any work. Chapters are as short as the reader’sContinue reading “Book review: Underworld, by Don Delillo, 1997”