Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Resurrectionist by James Bradley

This is a very well written novel but that is the only good thing I have to say! It is about Resurrectionists in London in the 1800’s and although I knew what the subject matter was beforehand I had no idea it would be so unpleasant. It was a Richard and Judy summer read recommendation which is how it came to be on my reading list. I like to broaden my horizons with the books I read but this one contained some of the most unpleasant descriptive passages I have read in recent years. It was certainly an insight for me into the sinister goings on in the London of that period. There is not much of a plot to hold one’s interest but it did make me think about the characters that are vividly described and wondering how they could live with themselves. Gabriel Swift the protagonist starts out training as an anatomist but soon slips into a life of violence and corruption as a body snatcher. The ending I actually felt was philosophical in the way that it made sense of all that had gone before. Worth reading if you can cope with the gory details, not good bedtime reading if you are susceptible to nightmares though.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Body Artist by Don de Lillo

A ghost story far from my favourite genre but I thought I would try it as it is a minuscule novella and would take very little time to read.

The protagonist is Lauren Hartke, The Body Artist and the story centres on her being alone in a large house after the death of her late husband. Is she alone though as she discovers someone is living in the spare room. His physical presence never seems to be proved by Lauren and you are never quite sure if he is real or a figment of her imagination. He certainly seems to know a lot about her late husband Rey and even starts talking to her in his voice. A real person, a ghost, the ramblings of a recently bereaved woman; who knows?

In all I found it very strange, but maybe I did not fully understand the style this was written in.

Big Cherry Holler by Adriana Trigiani

As a sequel to Big Stone Gap a gentle continuation of the ups and downs of the love between Ave Maria Mulligan and the man she has now been married to for eight years, Jack MacChesney. Ave has still not completely opened her heart to her husband but she needs to now or she is in danger of losing the best thing that ever happened to her. They have not been easy years for them or the local community. The death of their son seems to have come between them, instead of drawing them closer too each other. Ave Maria only realises her lack of full commitment to the marriage after a trip she and her daughter take to Italy. She returns to Big Stone Gap determined to put things right between her and her husband and learn to be more open and honest with him.
Once again I found this rather slow but marginally more enjoyable as it was only in April that I read Big Stone Gap, so the cast of characters were still familiar to me.
I will go on to read the final volume of the trilogy Milk Glass Moon soon while the story is still with me.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

A novella from the pen of the brilliant Alan Bennett. Written with his renowned dry sense of humour this is an excellent quick read.
The queen had no idea that a mobile library van even made a regular visit to Buckingham Palace until one day whilst walking her corgis in the palace grounds they came across it. At first she borrowed a book out of politeness but soon discovers the joy of reading. With the guidance of another travelling library member, Norman who works in the palace kitchens, she becomes widely read. She soon finds that she prefers reading to her duties as monarch to the dismay of the palace staff. This new passion of the queens leads her to behave somewhat differently than she has ever done before when undertaking her duties.
Brilliant and witty, it is a short and enjoyable read, full of interesting facts which will be a delight to anyone fascinated by the world of books.

The Constant Gardener by John Le Carre

This novel was somewhat spoilt for me by the fact that I already seen the film. A mistake as I much prefer not to have any preconceived ideas about the plot, characters and settings, letting my imagination have free rein.
This is probably the reason that although the book has been on my bookshelves for a few years now I have only just got around to reading it. Even so with pictures already in my mind I did enjoy the book more than I expected to.

This novel is disturbingly believable as exploitation of Africa and Africans for medical testing by the giant pharmaceutical companies is a sad but I suspect true fact of life. In this case the story is set in Kenya and the protagonist Justin Quayle is a diplomat in Nairobi with the British High Commission. His wife Tessa is murdered because she finds out that a drug being used as a cure for tuberculosis within the tribal villages is unstable. There are still many unresolved and dangerous side effects making the drug unsafe for prescribing, although bribery and corruption have meant that it is in common local use. Tessa is a lawyer and so horrified by her discovery that along with her friend Arnold Bluhm she had been collecting data to prove what she has discovered.
After her death Justin carries on with his wife’s campaign, turning spy to resolve why his wife was murdered and by whom. Time spent working in the foreign office meant he knew to be extra careful in his investigations as ‘In a civilised country you never can tell!’