Thursday, 1 July 2010

Kate's Reading Challenge 2010: Books 18 and 19

I've just read a couple of absolute stunners!

No.18. "The Financial Lives of the Poets" by Jess Walter (Penguin, 2010)

First up a proof copy of this debut novel due out in August this year. This is very funny and genuinely moving account of an ordinary guy struggling to protect his family and his finances during the recent economic crisis. When Matt Prior's idea for a publication combining financial advice with poetry fails he finds himself jobless and teetering towards repossession of the home he and his wife had always dreamed of owning. Under the impression of some rather strong marijuana (consumed in a bid to re-live his youth) Matt takes some rather drastic and ill-advised measures in order to protect his lot, with devastating results.

Jess Walter describes Matt's downward spiral, in which every frustration leads to yet another terrible decision with a dymanic sense of wit and oodles of surprising sensitivity (I even cried a tiny bit! How embarrassing!). Most of the chapters are introduced by one of Matt's own quriky poems depicting his situation. But don't be put off if poetry isn't usually your cup of tea, most of the poems are prosaical and therefore easy to follow with only scatterings of rhyme.

A really exciting novel from a brilliant new writer.

Started: June 20th Finished: June 26th

No.19. "The Road Home" by Rose Tremain (Vintage, 2008)

You know you're in safe hands with Rose Tremain! This is the third book I've read of hers, each of the three have come from different genres ("Restoration" = historical fiction, "Trespass" = literary thriller and "The Road Home" = literary fiction) proving Tremain to be a literary chameleon, but all share her sophisticated and beautifully controlled style.

In "The Road Home", Lev and Immigrant from Eastern Europe has come to London in search of work to support his stubborn mother and his adoring five-year-old daughter Maya, both of whom he has left behind in his home country. Life in London proves tough, as Lev struggles to find a job which will support his own lifestyle, let alone that of his family. Gradually with the support of Lydia (a fellow immigrant who he meets on his bus journey to the UK), Lev finds his feet; a job, a home, some friends and even a girlfriend. But Lev is still haunted by the life he left behind and frequently dreams of his deceased wife and his lifelong friend Rudi. So when he meets a young man from his homeland who gives him the news he's been dreading Lev's duty to his country and to his family cannot be ignored.

Started: June 26th Finished: June 30th

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