Category Archives: 2016

Book 25 – The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Someone very like Sheldon Cooper falls in love with someone very much not like Sheldon Cooper. This book has a heart; it’s well written and with some seriously laugh-out-loud funny moments, the pages rattle along.

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Book 24 – The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

A complicated mystery / thriller, what you might call an ugly read. I struggled to like any of the characters.

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Book 23 – Buried by Justin Adler-Olsen 

I figure that reading contemporary novels translated from another language is a good way of gaining insight into what makes that country/culture tick.

But if Buried is to be believed, Danes are really tetchy, all the time; they’re rubbish at teamwork and their dominant workplace culture is a backbiting snake pit of large egos. And no-one has a happy marriage.

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Book 22 – The Northern Light by A.J.Cronin 

It’s interesting how novels from the 1950s often seem more dated than those written 20 years earlier (it’s often the same with films).

The Northern Light is a tale stuffed full with mid 20th century themes and sensibilities, though some of them only get a walk-on part. That’s because there are just too many plotlines to make this fairly short novel work. It all wraps around the story of a solid, provincial newspaper’s struggle against the commercial onslaught of London backed tabloids. But within that we cover nuclear power, abortion, mental health, 1950s style Christianity, various unsatisfactory marriages, postwar grumpiness, local politics, suicide and lots more.
If anyone wants to read a really good author from that era,  then I recommend Nevil Shute.

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Book 21 – The Circle by Dave Eggers

A thoroughly modern dystopia, which brings out shades of both Orwell’s and Huxley’s visions of omniscient, totalitarian, nightmare world’s. This is the novel that might persuade you to delete some accounts while you still can, or at least ensure you are not bound in to only one ecosystem.

Eggers skilfully weaves a story of how one social media/computing company (a kind of mash-up of Facebook, Google, Twitter et al) over a period of a year or two finally brings everything together and puts everyone online on one account, including all public services and puts it all in the public domain. Privacy becomes a thing of the past, any desire to be alone or to keep any information about anything to yourself a sin.

We don’t yet have the technology to do the things that happen here, but I bet they’re working on stuff just like it somewhere in the Googleplex. And the lead character, Mae Holland, was just a bit too stupid and impressionable to be true. 

But it was plausible enough to make me think twice about tweeting this book review. 

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Book 20 – The Odd Women by George Gissing

Absolutely fascinating novel, weaving a number of stories around the theme of the so called “surplus women” of the Victorian era. This it turns out was actually a thing; the 1851 census recorded 400,000 more women than men over the age of 20. No-one really knew what led to this,  but in a society where the only respectable occupation for a middle class woman other than marriage was to be a governess or paid companion, the result was a great deal of misery for thousands of single women of limited means.

The novel is full of all kinds of for-the-time radical notions and is quite prescient about the likely impact on society of a more equal approach to marriage, work, education and so forth (it was published in  1893).

It’s also a pretty good read, with some well rounded characters. Annoyingly atheistic, but that was the spirit of the age amongst progressive thinking types (much like today)

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Book 19 -How to be both by Ali Smith 

Interesting if quite hard work. 

I got the Camera/Eyes version and of course cannot now imagine reading it any other way. 

Best bit was the notion of translating pop song titles into Latin

Quem volo es

Adiuvete! 

Puella fulvis oculis 

And my personal favourite: Quingenta milia passuum ambulem 

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