Thursday, 4 February 2010

Kate's Reading Challenge 2010: Books 1-3

So far I've managed to read a measly three books this year...

No.1. 'All the Names' by Jose Saramago

(Harvill Press,1999)

Not the most contemporary start, but I've had my eye on this one on the shelves at Mr B's for some time now, and it was worth the wait.

'All the Names' is the wonderfully quirky story of a clerk at the central registry who delights in checking the mundane details of minor local celebrities after registry hours, which is, of course, strictly forbidden. One night Senhor Jose accidentally picks up the registry card of an unknown woman, and so embarks upon a crazy detective/stalker mission to discover anything he can about her.

I absolutely loved Saramago's style, although I have a feeling this may be exactly what puts some people off his books. His sentences are epic, and punctuation is pretty sparse; but such a style lent itself perfectly to the story of an anxious amateur detective.

Wonderfully quirky and absorbing.

Started: January 1st Finished: January 9th

No.2. 'Man of my Dreams' by Curtis Sittenfeld
(Random House, 2006)

Don't be put off by the chic-lit title, or by the frog on the front. Curtis Sittenfeld first came to my attention last year when I read her mock autobiography of W. Bush's long-suffering spouse 'American Wife'. Later in the year I read 'Prep', also by Sittenfeld, which is definitely one of my top reads from 2009.

'Man of My Dreams' follows Hannah from a stubborn, socially inept fourteen-year-old to a stubborn, socially inept-adult. As Hannah observes her family and friends and their choices, her honesty is brutal and hilarious. But the real glory of Sittenfeld's writing is her (yes - she's a woman) descriptions of the most horribly cringe-worthy situations and her ability to intensify these with characters that make everything worse.

This is no 'Prep' but Curtis Sittenfeld remains one of my favourite contemporary novelists.

Started: January 10th Finished: January 14th

No.3. 'Shades of Grey' by Jasper Fforde
(Hodder & Stoughton, 2010)

Jasper Fforde's latest (long-awaited) novel enthralled three of the B Team. Caroline, Lydia and Myself all read the proof of 'Shades of Grey' and I thought it was absolutely fantastic.

Set in a world where colour is a commodity and the colours that you can see define your place in a strict hierarchy, this is typical wacky Fforde! The protagonist is Eddie, a highly perceptive red, whose impending engagement to a haughty Oxblood looks sure to secure his place in chromatic society. But then he is banished to the outer fringes, where the inhabitants flout the rules and the wily ways of an aggressive grey tempt Eddie away from his secure life plan.

Each chapter begins with a hilarious rule and the books is littered with misunderstandings of our more conventional world, such as 'Over there was Catch 22, which was a hugely popular fishing book and one of series I believe'.

I've only ever read one other Fforde before 'The Eyre Affair', which I loved, but I do think this latest one is better, its not as light and the intricacies of the world created are really clever and entertaining.

Started:January 20th Finished: January 25th

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