Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

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Review:

I feel late to this party, Things Fall Apart has been a great novel long before I was even born. Nevertheless, here are a few of my thoughts on it.

I love the way Chinua writes, the way he explains traditions and phenomenons are practical and beautiful.

“Proverbs are the palm oil with which words are eaten”

This book for me is a story of great sorrow. It is about the loss of culture in the name of civilisation. It is the story of how hundreds of African settlements  were destroyed in the name of western progress. It is a story of the arrogance of western society and I couldn’t be more glad that Chinua Achebe wrote it, lest we forget.

Things fall apart has been criticised by some claiming “nothing interesting happened”. Apart from the slow painful tearing down of a civilisation that just so happened to be different… I found a lot of interesting things did happen. Things happened to Okonkwo and members of his family (No spoilers). There were moments I was on the edge of my seat. But what is considered “interesting” differs from person to person, so let ye be the judge.

On the subject of misogyny, having myself been called a feminazi (for simply asserting that I think men and women should be equal), it’s safe to say I’m a feminist. I won’t sit here and say there was no misogyny present in this book. It portrays women as being owned by their fathers and then by husbands, serving little other purpose than to bear children. Having said that, the book tells us of the high priestess – A woman with the power to veto decisions made by the elders and clansmen. Did someone say bad bitch?

The ending – Unexpected. I hated Okonkwo at first, I expected more resilience and defiance from him. But he was a proud man, and we know what comes before a fall.

 

Happy Reading ❤

 

The Folly by Ivan Vladislavic

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Review:

& other stories brings us the work of Ivan Vladislavic, a celebrated South African writer. The Folly is an inventive tale of the unlikely friendship that blooms between two neighbours.

Mr and Mrs Malgas live simple lives, until a mysterious stranger appears on the unoccupied plot next door. Mr is keen to make acquaintance whereas Mrs remains sceptical and prefers to keep a distance from this suspicious creature.

Nieuwenhuizen arrives at his inherited acre with a headful of interesting ideas for a magnificent mansion. Father, as Nieuwenhuizen prefers to be called, makes tools and cutlery from any rubbish he can find – he is clearly resourceful. Soon he enlists the assistance of a trusting and willing Mr Malgas, who sets about clearing the land, prepping for the mansion he expects to see.

In this short fiction Ivan explores some interesting themes; ownership, trust, deceit and power. He highlights how easily a willing mind can be taken for a ride. In post-apartheid South Africa, should you love or fear your neighbour? Ivan’s characters are written with such depth, he explores their subtle mannerisms such that I feel I have walked with them. His command of language and attention to detail is exquisite, and has resulted in a mysteriously funny but serious novel.

The folly is an imaginative book for the sophisticated mind.

Written for Buzz Magazine Cardiff – Happy Reading ❤

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

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Review:

***4 stars***

Dark places by Gillian Flynn is a thrilling ride. We are taken on a journey, alternating between present day and 1985 when Ben Day allegedly massacred his family. Libby his youngest sister is the only one who survives to testify against Ben, sentencing him to life in prison. In the present day, dwindling funds force Libby down a path that leads her to question what really happened to the Days.

As a reader of mystery/thriller stories its natural to analyse every bit of the story and information given. Gillian has written 3 novels so far, and just as in Sharp Objects and Gone Girl I found myself coming up with my own theories. And in true Flynn fashion every single one was wrong. In Flynn novels once you are right up to the last few chapters, you feel proud that although its been a roller coaster, you do in fact know the identity of the culprit. But beware, Gillian has other plans.

 Flynn has an incredible talent for delivering a satisfyingly surprising end. She creates a world where everyone is suspicious, every single character is questionable and just might be capable of murder. Read these books, because my oh my they really are something.

Happy Reading ❤

Clowns Shoes By Rebecca F. John

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Review:

***4 stars***

 

Clown’s shoes is the captivating collection of short stories brought to us from the mind of Swansea writer Rebecca F. John.

She showcases seemingly ordinary people living out extraordinary situations with each story taking the form of a snapshot in the timeline of each characters life. We see snippets of lives that are full of disappointments, tragedy, love, loss and disguised blessings. In this collection we walk with characters that despite all of life’s hardships, are full of hope.

The author’s descriptions are powerful and the omission of a name for some characters made it easier for me as a reader to stand in their place, to feel in their place.

The stories are tantalisingly dark yet optimistic, an incredible combination to achieve and I was definitely left wanting more.

Happy Reading

Book Review: Root of the Tudor Rose

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Review:

***4 stars***

Root of the Tudor rose is the debut novel of Mari Griffith. The story of the origin of the Tudor dynasty is told from the viewpoint of Catherine De Valois, an important woman who history sometimes glosses over. We read of her journey from the young French princess to the wife of Henry V – Queen of England. After the unexpected death of her husband, the queen mother seeks solace in the arms of a wondrous Welshman. Their friendships progresses, and evolves into the love affair that gave rise to Britain’s most well-known dynasty.

Catherine De Valois’ beauty is initially the main focus, but we soon learn that although vulnerable, she is also intelligent and strong willed. Although she is pigeon-holed by the ruling men, and prevented from contributing to the upbringing of her eldest son. She manages to find some happiness in raising two of her children for some time, before death finds her.

The novel is easy to read and captivating, we are taken through the life of Catherine Valois at a brilliant pace. Mari Griffith’s descriptive talents bring history to life, making this book a page turner.

As a reader with very little historical knowledge in this area, I found the story intriguing enough to prompt more exploration of the Tudors and I believe this has much to do with the quality of work that Mari has produced.

Happy Reading

Book Review: What became of the white savage by Francois Garde

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Review:

***2.5 stars***

‘What became of the white savage’ is penned by French novelist Francois Garde and has won him 9 literary prizes in France.

The novel begins in the 1840’s when a young French sailor by the name of Narcisse Pelletier is accidentally abandoned on the coast of Australia and assumed dead by his shipmates. 17 years later he is discovered living as one with the aboriginal people having forgotten all of his initial French identity and language.

The novel alternates between two narratives, one being that of Narcisse as he is welcomed by an aboriginal tribe. The other takes the form of letters written from Octave, a geographer, to the president of the Paris geographical society.

This novel has an interesting concept at this core, it questions what identity means to us and touches on its fluidity. His depiction of the effects of competing cultural values was creative and I found it entertaining. The technique of alternating between the two narratives also worked well to keep me engaged.

The encounter with the aboriginal people is explored from a singular point of view, Narcisse’s. I feel I would have enjoyed the book more had there been some chapters about how the native people might have perceived the sudden arrival of this stranger. The novel is somewhat inspired by the true story of a French sailor abandoned in Australia, but it does not deliver in the way that historical fiction should, conveying very little historical truth. However, in a purely fictional context I found ‘What became of the white savage’ to be an engaging and satisfactory novel.

Happy Reading ❤