Review – The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan

Hello,

After reading Donal Ryan’s wonderful novel The Thing About December, I also had to read The Spinning Heart which was longlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize.

The Spinning Heart
Image provided by Doubleday¹

In The Spinning Heart, twenty-one inhabitants of a rural Irish town tell us about their lives after Ireland’s financial collapse.

First to tell his story is Bobby Mahon. He was foreman at the local construction firm, its unexpected closing-down having effects on the whole town. Bobby links the twenty other people who follow, but the more stories we get to read, the harder it gets to remember who is who. There are just too many characters and the Irish names I have never heard before make it a guessing game to find out a character’s gender.

The plot is like a puzzle. In the beginning it seems a bit loose, but the further you read, the more the pieces start to fit together. The individual chapters are like short stories that are just connected enough to make The Spinning Heart a novel. This lack of connection makes the book a bit slow to read. Nevertheless, some of the stories make you want to know more and it is a pity that you have to part ways with the characters so soon. Overall, The Spinning Heart is a nice debut, but if you have to choose, I’d recommend you read The Thing About December.

3 Star Rating: Recommended

¹ http://www.transworldbooks.co.uk/editions/the-spinning-heart/9781781620083

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Halloween Giveaway – The Winners

Hi,

Thank you for entering the giveaway to win Richard Flanagan’s Man Booker Prize winning novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North
Image provided by Random House UK¹

The winners are:

  • Bettina E.
  • Janine
  • Ira
  • misshappyreading
  • Hannah J.

I already e-mailed them! Congratulations!

Thank you Penguin Random House UK for providing me with the books for this giveaway!

¹ http://www.randomhouse.co.uk/editions/the-narrow-road-to-the-deep-north/9780701189051

Halloween Giveaway – The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

Happy Halloween Everyone!

What are your plans for tonight? Are you going trick-or-treating? I’m baking a very spooky cake and in the evening I’ll transform the waiters at a local bar into scary creatures. 🙂

As I’m in a celebratory mood because of Halloween I thought we might as well do a little giveaway. I’ve been talking a lot about this year’s Man Booker Prize and I’ve even read some long- and shortlisted books (you can find the links below), so I thought let’s celebrate Halloween with someone who has something to celebrate: The Man Booker Prize Winner of 2014 Richard Flanagan and his novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North.

I have to admit that I haven’t read the book yet, but I will do so soon. Penguin Random House UK have been so nice as to offer me five copies of Richard Flanagan’s Booker Prize winning novel to give away. Thank you so much!

The Narrow Road to the Deep North
Image provided by Random House UK¹
What is the book about?¹

Forever after, there were for them only two sorts of men: the men who were on the Line, and the rest of humanity, who were not.

In the despair of a Japanese POW camp on the Burma Death Railway, surgeon Dorrigo Evans is haunted by his love affair with his uncle’s young wife two years earlier. Struggling to save the men under his command from starvation, from cholera, from beatings, he receives a letter that will change his life forever.

Hailed as a masterpiece, Richard Flanagan’s epic novel tells the unforgettable story of one man’s reckoning with the truth.

Giveaway

Like I’ve said before, you can win one of five copies of Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North. Please read the Terms & Conditions before entering the giveaway! In the Giveaway Tools form, you will be asked to state what country you come from. I need this information as this is an EU wide giveaway (+ SUI & LIE) with three copies going to winners from German-speaking countries and two copies to winners from any EU countries. The second question will be the very tricky 😉 quiz question. So all you have to do to enter is read the Terms & Conditions and, if you are eligible, do everything Giveaway Tools asks you for. Fingers crossed!

Terms & Conditions:

  • This giveaway is open to residents of all EU countries, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
  • You have to be 16 or older to participate.
  • The giveaway runs from October 31, 2014 until November 7 , 2014.
  • Be fair! One entry per person/immediate family/household.
  • Neither Penguin Random House UK nor I are responsible for lost or damaged items. There will be five winners who will each receive one English language copy of Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North, sponsored by Penguin Random House UK.
  • Three books are allotted to residents of German-speaking countries (1 book: Austria, 1 book: Switzerland and Liechtenstein, 1 book: Germany). If there is no entry from one of the aforementioned countries, this country’s allotted book will be added to the EU lot.
  • You have to enter through Giveaway Tools.
  • The winner will be selected at random and notified via e-mail. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, another winner will be drawn.
  • The personal information you enter will only be used to contact you in case you win. It will be deleted after the giveaway.
  • I can amend and interpret these official rules at any time, and terminate, suspend or cancel the giveaway at any time for any reason.
  • All decisions are final.
Enter the Giveaway
The Man Booker Prize 2014 books I’ve read:

If you like my blog, I would be very happy if you’d come back from time to time! Happy Halloween!

¹ http://www.randomhouse.co.uk/editions/the-narrow-road-to-the-deep-north/9780701189051

Review – Us by David Nicholls

Hello,

Yesterday, the U.S edition of David Nicholls‘ new novel Us was released. It was longlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize, and thanks to HarperCollins US I was able to read an e-galley in exchange for an honest review.

Us
Image provided by HarperCollins US¹:
Synopsis quoted from HarperCollins US¹:

Douglas Petersen may be mild-mannered, but behind his reserve lies a sense of humor that, against all odds, seduces beautiful Connie into a second date . . . and eventually into marriage. Now, almost three decades after their relationship first blossomed in London, they live more or less happily in the suburbs with their moody seventeen year-old son, Albie. Then Connie tells him she thinks she wants a divorce.

The timing couldn’t be worse. Hoping to encourage her son’s artistic interests, Connie has planned a month-long tour of European capitals, a chance to experience the world’s greatest works of art as a family, and she can’t bring herself to cancel. And maybe going ahead with the original plan is for the best anyway? Douglas is privately convinced that this landmark trip will rekindle the romance in the marriage, and might even help him to bond with Albie.

My Thoughts:

In Us, David Nicholls takes us on a trip all over contemporary Central Europe. Due to the author’s vivid descriptions, you get to see the replica of Michelangelo’s David on Piazza della Signoria in Florence and a great selection of paintings, including Velazquez’ The Maids of Honor.

The main character Douglas Petersen is a caring but introvert husband and father. He can’t show his feelings and is therefore often misunderstood by his extrovert wife Connie and his teenage son Albie. The relationship between the three is the novel’s main theme and is depicted so realistically you’ll probably be able to relate to at least one situation.

All in all, Us is a wonderful read for someone who misses the summer. You get to travel quite a bit and I think you will probably find someone to connect with. What I find fascinating is the pacing. Overall, Us reads very comfortably, but at some point during the Petersen’s trip the novel’s pace slows down. I think this is intentional, as the trip becomes strenuous for the reader as well as for Douglas and the slow pacing adds to that feeling of strenuousness. If you’re up for a stirring adventure that could make you shed some tears and rethink your own family, Us will be the book for you.

4 Star Rating: Recommended

¹ http://www.harpercollins.com/9780062365583/us

Review – History of the Rain by Niall Williams

Hello,

The secret is out, Richard Flanagan won the 2014 Man Booker Prize for his novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North. As you might have noticed, I already read some Man Booker Prize long- and shortlisted books this year (but didn’t read Richard Flanagan). The one I’ll be talking about today is Niall Williams‘ longlisted novel History of the Rain. Its cover made me want to read it as soon as I first set eyes on it. Thank you Rupertus Buchhandlung for providing me with a free copy for review.

History of the Rain
Image provided by Bloomsbury UK¹
Synopsis quoted from Bloomsbury UK¹:

We are our stories. We tell them to stay alive or keep alive those who only live now in the telling. In Faha, County Clare, everyone is a long story…

Bedbound in her attic room beneath the falling rain, in the margin between this world and the next, Plain Ruth Swain is in search of her father. To find him, enfolded in the mystery of ancestors, Ruthie must first trace the jutting jaw lines, narrow faces and gleamy skin of the Swains from the restless Reverend Swain, her great-grandfather, to grandfather Abraham, to her father, Virgil – via pole-vaulting, leaping salmon, poetry and the three thousand, nine hundred and fifty eight books piled high beneath the two skylights in her room, beneath the rain.

The stories – of her golden twin brother Aeney, their closeness even as he slips away; of their dogged pursuit of the Swains’ Impossible Standard and forever falling just short; of the wild, rain-sodden history of fourteen acres of the worst farming land in Ireland – pour forth in Ruthie’s still, small, strong, hopeful voice.

My Thoughts:

History of the Rain is set in a small town in contemporary Ireland. It is very hard to think of the setting as contemporary because the story could as well be set in the early 20th century. The town is a very small rural town and Niall Williams’ writing gives it a vintage touch. It’s quite shocking when suddenly a modern car winds its way up the road.

Our main character is Ruth Swain, who tells us about her ancestors’ lives. She is a young, intelligent woman bedbound in her family’s home. Ruth tells us a lot about her father Virgil, a great thinker born into a world of doers. Virgil turns out to be a very intense character in the second half of the book. He loves writing so much that he starts to forget everything around him.

History of the Rain has two stories to tell. While Ruth recounts the lives of her ancestors, we observe how Ruth leads her own life. These two plotlines are interwoven and alternate just like two fish taking turns jumping out of the water. The novel is beautifully written and some passages are amazing and create very strong feelings. On the whole, however, History of the Rain very often drags on. I was wondering about this, because the story isn’t boring. I think it was the writing (some very long sentences in there) that made the book tedious to read, at least for me. Nevertheless, History of the Rain is a book that you will enjoy if you’re looking for a novel you can analyze (and reread), because I think there is more to it than I had time to discover.

 3beans

¹ http://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/history-of-the-rain-9781408852026/

Review – The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

Hello,

I hope you’ve heard that David Mitchell has written a new novel. It’s called The Bone Clocks and it was longlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize.

The Bone Clocks
Image provided by Sceptre¹
Synopsis quoted from Sceptre¹:

One drowsy summer’s day in 1984, teenage runaway Holly Sykes encounters a strange woman who offers a small kindness in exchange for ‘asylum’. Decades will pass before Holly understands exactly what sort of asylum the woman was seeking . . .

The Bone Clocks follows the twists and turns of Holly’s life from a scarred adolescence in Gravesend to old age on Ireland’s Atlantic coast as Europe’s oil supply dries up – a life not so far out of the ordinary, yet punctuated by flashes of precognition, visits from people who emerge from thin air and brief lapses in the laws of reality. For Holly Sykes – daughter, sister, mother, guardian – is also an unwitting player in a murderous feud played out in the shadows and margins of our world, and may prove to be its decisive weapon.

My Thoughts:

The Bone Clocks is set on various continents between the 1980s and the 2040s. Sometimes the story takes you even further into the past. David Mitchell is good at setting different scenes. I really enjoyed my time at an Alpine ski resort and got scared visiting other places and times (I’m being vague, so I don’t spoil anything 😉 ).

Throughout the book we meet a lot of different characters: writers, a war reporter and the members of two old organizations. We actually switch between those characters and that becomes quite confusing at times. The book is written in first person narration and each time the narrator changes you have to find out who you are. The first character we meet is Holly Sykes. She plays a vital role in the Script, which is a sort of prophecy, but she also connects the various characters we meet. Another important character and narrator is Marinus. He is very old and was easier to empathize with than some of the other narrators.

As I’ve already said, The Bone Clocks is divided into sections that each feature a different character. It was easy to find into the story and the first two sections flow wonderfully, but by the third section things slow down and the plot distances itself from the supernatural part of the book and what in my opinion is most gripping about it. Unfortunately, the plot only picks up after about 300 more pages. So, 300 out of 600 pages didn’t really add to the main plot. Not that they weren’t written well, but they just didn’t fit the story and made me want to skip them altogether (which I didn’t do of course). In The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell shows off his talent, so we get to read a little bit of everything, like for example young adult literature, dystopia and fantasy. I would have preferred a condensed version of The Bone Clocks without having the feeling of reading a portfolio. I’ll still read Cloud Atlas though!

3beans

¹ https://www.hodder.co.uk/Books/detail.page?isbn=9780340921609

Review – We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Hi,

I’m still suffering a massive book hangover after reading Karen Joy Fowler‘s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves which was shortlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize and has won the Pen Faulkner Award and the California Book Award.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
Image provided by Serpent’s Tail¹
Synopsis quoted from Serpent’s Tail¹:

Rosemary’s young, just at college, and she’s decided not to tell anyone a thing about her family. So we’re not going to tell you too much either: you’ll have to find out for yourselves, round about page 77, what it is that makes her unhappy family unlike any other. Rosemary is now an only child, but she used to have a sister the same age as her, and an older brother. Both are now gone – vanished from her life. There’s something unique about Rosemary’s sister, Fern. And it was this decision, made by her parents, to give Rosemary a sister like no other, that began all of Rosemary’s trouble.

My Thoughts:

Karen Joy Fowler’s novel We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is set in the contemporary United States, but the book’s focus isn’t on the setting.

Rosie, our main character, is a young woman telling the story of her sister’s disappearance. When Fern vanished, both Rosie and Fern were still small children. Since then, Rosie feels as if half of herself is missing. She is insecure and has a hard time making friends. At college, Rosie meets Harlow, a girl very different from herself. Harlow is outgoing, takes risks, doesn’t think about her actions. Rosie feels drawn to Harlow even though the latter, in my eyes, isn’t a very likeable character. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves lives from characterization and the relationships between characters. Most of the time this works out brilliantly, but Rosie’s & Harlow’s “friendship” just doesn’t work that well for me. I can’t understand why anyone wants to be friends with someone like Harlow.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves was quite the surprise. I had no idea what it really was about. So if you don’t know either, you are in for a treat. While the story is very unusual, Ms Fowler still manages to embed it into a perfectly normal environment. I am glad that the novel doesn’t get kitschy at any point because I sometimes feared it would. If you’d like to pick up a gripping novel that stays with you for a long time after reading, I’d recommend We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves.

4beans

¹ http://www.serpentstail.com/book-detail/9781846689666