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2017 50 Book Challenge - Page 182

post #2716 of 3367
List (Click to show)
1. A Wrong Turn at the Office on Unmade Lists

2. Acceptance
3. Shipbreaker

4. Winter's Bone

5. Dhmara Bums

6. Istanbul

7. On the Trail of Genghis Khan

8. Holy Bible

9. The Boat

10. Collected Stories

11. Lost and Found

12. Blind Willow, Sleeping woman

13. White Noise

14. Clariel

15. Off the Rails

16. Sabriel

17 Hitler's Daughter

18. Quack this Way

19. Grapes of Wrath

20. Every Man in this Village is a Liar

21. The Twelve Fingered Boy

22. Riders of the Purple Sage

23. The Sheltering Sky

24. How to Travel the World for Free

25. Deliverance

26. Trigger Warning

27. It's Complicated

28. Fight Club

29. Past the Shallows
30. Wonderboys
31. It's what I do
32. A Long Way Down
33. Men Who Stare at Goats
34. Boxer Beetle
35. This is How You Lose Her
36. No Sugar
37. The Invisible Writing
38. Schismatrix
39. The Water Knife
40. Essays
41. Wolfblade
42. Trash
43. The Honours
44. Cloudstreet
45. Cibola Burn
46. Prince of Fools
47. Nemesis Games
48. Golden Boys
49. Gommorah
50. The Ring
51. Wolves
52. Wind/Pinball
53. Distrust that Particular Flavour
54. Blankets
55. Go Set a Watchman

 

55. Go Set a Watchman

 

Well this book has been reviewed a few thousand times by now, and I'm not sure if I've got anything to really add, or much to say. The plot is beautifully simple - Scout (now Jean Louise) is in her 20s, and returns to Maycomb county from New York. Initially catching up with family, she quite early is continually grated by her Aunt. After reminiscing a lot here and there she stumbles on a meeting attended by her father and her boyfriend, in which an incredibly racist man performs a ministerial tirade about the end of segregation. This sets off a long chain of events leading her to confront her own views about her home and her family.

 

So, to me it's odd that Harper Lee published this book 60ish years after segregation ended. It, as far as I know, says nothing new on the topic and doesn't really seem relevant or contemporary. The majority of the book (like To Kill a Mockingbird) is a coming of age tale, and in that respects it is accomplished and clear. Yet the obvious content of race lacks any substantive content. There's no conclusions drawn, and instead of the novel reveling in that ambiguity, it seems to say nothing and miss the mark. With this particular event (end of segregation) something that happened so long ago, one would hope Lee would be able to use the novel to say something about it, what it meant, or why the opposition was so strong. Instead the two sides (progress and conservatism) clash, agree to disagree and the novel ends.

 

Part of me wonders if this was not Lee' attempt to kill parts of her legacy (namely Atticus) - but if that's her aim, I have no idea why she'd choose that.

 

The writing is beautiful, the vernacular spot on, the nostalgia evocative - it's a good novel for sure, but it fails to be anything more than that.

post #2717 of 3367
Quote:
Originally Posted by LonerMatt View Post


55. Go Set a Watchman

Well this book has been reviewed a few thousand times by now, and I'm not sure if I've got anything to really add, or much to say. The plot is beautifully simple - Scout (now Jean Louise) is in her 20s, and returns to Maycomb county from New York. Initially catching up with family, she quite early is continually grated by her Aunt. After reminiscing a lot here and there she stumbles on a meeting attended by her father and her boyfriend, in which an incredibly racist man performs a ministerial tirade about the end of segregation. This sets off a long chain of events leading her to confront her own views about her home and her family.

So, to me it's odd that Harper Lee published this book 60ish years after segregation ended. It, as far as I know, says nothing new on the topic and doesn't really seem relevant or contemporary. The majority of the book (like To Kill a Mockingbird) is a coming of age tale, and in that respects it is accomplished and clear. Yet the obvious content of race lacks any substantive content. There's no conclusions drawn, and instead of the novel reveling in that ambiguity, it seems to say nothing and miss the mark. With this particular event (end of segregation) something that happened so long ago, one would hope Lee would be able to use the novel to say something about it, what it meant, or why the opposition was so strong. Instead the two sides (progress and conservatism) clash, agree to disagree and the novel ends.

Part of me wonders if this was not Lee' attempt to kill parts of her legacy (namely Atticus) - but if that's her aim, I have no idea why she'd choose that.

The writing is beautiful, the vernacular spot on, the nostalgia evocative - it's a good novel for sure, but it fails to be anything more than that.

My impression was that Lee did not have much to do with the re-writing of this book at all. I've ignored it because, when you get down to it, this novel was rejected by the publishers twice. A good decision, as those rejections gave us TKAB, which might never have been written had this been Lee's first novel.
post #2718 of 3367
Clockwise counting 18/50: Alan Furst - Night Soldiers (1988)

The first in a long series of espionage novels, this is set in Moscow, Civil War Spain and Paris in the 1930s. Bulgarian Khristo Stoianev is trained as an NKVD agent and harbours an idealistic wish to fight fascism. He is however soon dragged into the dangers of Stalin's purges. This is a dark, unusual and rather poetic spy story, very far from the typical bestsellers. I enjoyed it and will read more of Furst.

I didn't post anything for the past half year. Life events just took overhand and made me tooooo busy. I didn't completely stop reading though so I will bit-by-bit be posting capsule reviews of what I have read up until now.

Congrats to those who already reached 50! Matt and CD only? Not SteveB? butbut.gif
post #2719 of 3367
Clockwise counting 19/50: Ola Nilsson - Isidor and Paula (2014)

Nilsson is one of the big new stars of serious Swedish literature (possibly not yet translated into English). This, his latest novel, is a modern day version of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice with the setting in an "underground" Stockholm. A depressive but extremely well written novel.
post #2720 of 3367
Clockwise counting 20/50: Fred Vargas - Have Mercy on Us All (2001)

French mystery novel with the strange but brilliant Inspector Adamsberg solving a case of serial murders. People have graffiti painted on their apartment doors and then turn up dead by what looks to be a modern-day outbreak of plague. Very entertaining.
post #2721 of 3367
Clockwise counting 21/50: Fred Vargas - Dog Will Have His Day (2014)

The latest Vargas mystery novel doesn't feature her most frequent crime-solver Adamsberg but instead the eccentric intellectual Kehlweiler and his "three Evangelists". A dog-chewed fragment of a human bone is found on a Paris sidewalk and through a surrealistic investigation Kehlweiler solves a mystery which originates in an old story in a Nazi-occupied Northern French village. Vargas is addictive and all her novels are of a high and entertaining standard.
post #2722 of 3367
Clockwise counting 22/50: David Nicholls - Us (2014)

Well-written bestseller-style romantic comedy about a marriage falling apart due to a huge mismatch of personalities. The wife is sex-and-drugs liberal and liberated, a bit of an intellectual hippie, while the husband, who is the narrator of this long story, is a rather boring and inhibited man. It's pretty good as long as it's not mistaken for great art or even serious literature. Would make an excellent screenplay for Hollywood.
post #2723 of 3367
Clockwise counting 23/50: Karl Ove Knausgaard - A Death in the Family (2009)

Knausgaard has been a huge phenomenon in Norway and now, I believe, he is starting to get really big all over the Western world. This is the first in a series of autobiographical novels (presumably more memoir than fiction) written in a style of hyper-realism. The suite has the provocative name "My Struggle". It's extremely dull to follow the adolescent Knausgaard, whose daily family life in Norway is accounted for in microscopic detail. But it's at the same time fascinating and the dull details amazingly don't make for boring reading. Some of my friends are big Knausgaard fans and they say parts 2 and 3 are the best, after which the standard declines. I will in due time move on to the second novel. Recommended for those with a taste for the peculiar and mundane.
post #2724 of 3367
4 Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier Decided to read this after watching the movie, highly engaging and stimulating.
post #2725 of 3367
Clockwise counting 24/50: Klas Östergren - Twist (2014)

One of Sweden's biggest selling authors, Östergren's writing is stylistically excellent and always entertaining. His stories always have an element of mystery and Twist is no exception. It's a story about love, corruption, shady business and idealism. A good read.
post #2726 of 3367
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
1. A Tale for the Time Being
2. The Sun is God
3. The Keeper of Lost Causes
4. Lost and Found
5. Murder on the Eiffel Tower
6. How to be Both
7. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
8. Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth
9. Levels of Life
10. The Seventh Day
11. Fortunately the Milk
11b. The Sleeper and the Spindle
12. The Agile Project Management Handbook
13. Reykjavik Nights
14. The Siege
15. The Torch
16. Being Mortal
17. Hicksville
18. Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen
19. The Buried Giant
20. Another Time, Another Life
21. The Corpse Reader
22. Portrait of a Man
23. All the Birds, Singing
24. Out Stealing Horses
25. Last Winter We Parted
26. The Rabbit Back Literature Society
27. Rituals
28. Bitter Remedy
29. The Ring and The Opposite of Death
30. Old Gold
31. Hausfrau
32. Irene
33. I Refuse
34. Nothing is True and Everything is Possible
35. The Dalai Lama’s Cat
36. Blood Year: Terror and the Islamic State
37. The Eye of the Sheep
38. The Miniaturist
39. Crime
40. Golden Boys
41. The Holiday Murders
42. My Brilliant Friend
43.The Girl Who Wasn't There
44. The Thief
45. Someone Else's Conflict
46. Dark Road
47. The Paying Guests
48. Titus Awakes
49. The Writing on the Wall
50. The Straight Dope


By sheer coincidence ...

51. Us
UsUs by David Nicholls

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Us is the story of a long-term marriage that seems to be coming to an end. Douglas is a scientist married to former artist Connie. As their lives are about to move to the empty-nester stage, Connie announces that she is considering leaving Douglas when their son Albie leaves for college. In a bid to save his marriage, Douglas takes his wife and son on a European Grand Tour, but his over-bearing manner only makes things worse, with both Albie and Connie leaving him in the middle of the holiday. Doug resolves to do everything in his power to track down Albie and pull his family together.

With its trope of an awkward scientist in an unlikely relationship with a beautiful bohemian girl, Us is quite reminiscent of The Rosie Project in some ways. It lacks the unique narrative voice of Rosie, and Douglas is a far less appealing character than Don Tillman. After all, Don has a reason for his societal awkwardness; Douglas just comes across like a complete boor a lot of the time. It's very hard to sympathise with a character whose awful behaviour is the author of his demise, and this weakens the book. None of the central characters are all that likeable, and at least half the book feels to be just going through the motions. Some of it is so unlikely and contrived as to be ridiculous. It's hard to believe that this unexceptional novel made the Booker longlist.


View all my reviews
post #2727 of 3367
Clockwise counting 25/50: Keigo Higashino - Malice (1996)

A psychological crime mystery and a quick page-turner. Probably not up to the standard of Higashino's most famous novel, The Devotion of Suspect X but nevertheless good fun. It's a murder case where we very early understand who the killer is, the mystery is in understanding the motive. Unusual and intriguing.
post #2728 of 3367
Clockwise counting 26/50: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - Americanah (2013)

This is a brilliant novel by female Nigerian author Ngozi Adichie. It's partly a love story but mainly, I believe, a story about race perception in the US as opposed to Nigeria. The main character Ifemelu, a young Nigerian woman of upper middle class means who moves to USA to study and work, is the "Americanah" of the title - an African woman who becomes Americanized. Contrary to social expectations, Ifemelu returns to her home country after many years in the US, only to find that both she herself and her country have changed.

Both Ifemelu and her childhood sweetheart Obinze are brilliantly drawn characters with depth and complexity such as you seldom see in modern literature. It's unimaginable that this is not based on a true story, on Adichie herself, but I actually have no idea if that is the case.

Possibly the best novel I have read or will read this year. Highly recommended.
post #2729 of 3367
Quote:
Originally Posted by California Dreamer View Post

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
1. A Tale for the Time Being
2. The Sun is God
3. The Keeper of Lost Causes
4. Lost and Found
5. Murder on the Eiffel Tower
6. How to be Both
7. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
8. Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth
9. Levels of Life
10. The Seventh Day
11. Fortunately the Milk
11b. The Sleeper and the Spindle
12. The Agile Project Management Handbook
13. Reykjavik Nights
14. The Siege
15. The Torch
16. Being Mortal
17. Hicksville
18. Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen
19. The Buried Giant
20. Another Time, Another Life
21. The Corpse Reader
22. Portrait of a Man
23. All the Birds, Singing
24. Out Stealing Horses
25. Last Winter We Parted
26. The Rabbit Back Literature Society
27. Rituals
28. Bitter Remedy
29. The Ring and The Opposite of Death
30. Old Gold
31. Hausfrau
32. Irene
33. I Refuse
34. Nothing is True and Everything is Possible
35. The Dalai Lama’s Cat
36. Blood Year: Terror and the Islamic State
37. The Eye of the Sheep
38. The Miniaturist
39. Crime
40. Golden Boys
41. The Holiday Murders
42. My Brilliant Friend
43.The Girl Who Wasn't There
44. The Thief
45. Someone Else's Conflict
46. Dark Road
47. The Paying Guests
48. Titus Awakes
49. The Writing on the Wall
50. The Straight Dope


By sheer coincidence ...

51. Us
UsUs by David Nicholls

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Us is the story of a long-term marriage that seems to be coming to an end. Douglas is a scientist married to former artist Connie. As their lives are about to move to the empty-nester stage, Connie announces that she is considering leaving Douglas when their son Albie leaves for college. In a bid to save his marriage, Douglas takes his wife and son on a European Grand Tour, but his over-bearing manner only makes things worse, with both Albie and Connie leaving him in the middle of the holiday. Doug resolves to do everything in his power to track down Albie and pull his family together.

With its trope of an awkward scientist in an unlikely relationship with a beautiful bohemian girl, Us is quite reminiscent of The Rosie Project in some ways. It lacks the unique narrative voice of Rosie, and Douglas is a far less appealing character than Don Tillman. After all, Don has a reason for his societal awkwardness; Douglas just comes across like a complete boor a lot of the time. It's very hard to sympathise with a character whose awful behaviour is the author of his demise, and this weakens the book. None of the central characters are all that likeable, and at least half the book feels to be just going through the motions. Some of it is so unlikely and contrived as to be ridiculous. It's hard to believe that this unexceptional novel made the Booker longlist.


View all my reviews

We had similar views about this one. I did however think it was decent as pure entertainment in a light-comedy vein. I have some times in the past noticed that the Booker longlist has some strange inclusions. It's obviously a lot harder to get on the shortlist.
post #2730 of 3367

Damn - want to read Americanah - I think my GF would like it too.

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