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A Blogging Good Read - October

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Hello booklovers. It's Blogging Good Read time and joining me this month are Char from T*rexes and Tiaras and Claire from Jazzpad. Woop! I love chatting books with these two.  We seem to have gone in for a bit of a film/tv adaptation theme this month but which books did we pick?

Char chose Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn:

I picked this up on a whim in a charity shop earlier in the year and have been waiting for an opportunity to read it, so when it came to picking my book, this seemed like the obvious choice. I don't suppose there's anyone out there who has missed the hype; both surrounding the book when it was released, and the upcoming film.

I hated both characters. I know that the reader is supposed to pick a side here. And based on the fact that the wife has gone missing and the police are considering the husband their main suspect, you'd have to be pretty dumb not to know that you're supposed to side with the wife, right?

Wrong. In fact, I think I spent most of the book feeling sorry for Nick because Amy is such a bitch. I actually found myself wanting something awful to happen to her. Which, come to think of it, maybe makes it quite a good book, if it can provoke such rage. I'm so confused. Frankly, all I can say with any definite certainly is that I'm glad the 50p I paid for the book went to charity.

What did Claire think?

Wow what a page turner! I got through this in about a day and a half, and the half way shocker genuinely threw me. Having your loyalties flipped and finding yourself questioning who to trust is especially difficult when you're not used to characters lying to you! Saying all of this... I haven't decided how I felt about the ending. It culminates in such a way that on one hand it made sense to finish as it did (trying not to illicit spoilers here!) but on the other hand after so much drama and build up... There was a part of me that wanted a "We Need to Talk About Kevin" kind of climax. I'll be reading it again for sure.

As for me, I loathed this book.  I know everyone adores it (apart from Char as I've just discovered, ha!) but good lord, all of the characters are awful, vile, despicable, irritating people. I can't remember the last time I read something and wanted everyone to die horribly, preferably by killing each other, but this book had that effect on me. It's not easy to enjoy something when you feel this strongly about it.

Weirdly, it's still a good book. I don't know how the author has quite managed to pull off that balance of making me hate the very depths of everyone in the book and yet managing to keep me reading till the end of it.  The writing is fantastic and you can't help but admire the skill that's gone into the plotting.  As a thriller, it's really taut and captivating. There's a part of me that wants to go and see the film because I think it would translate to cinema really well but I'm sorry, I just can't bear the prospect of spending any more time with the characters.

My pick was Atonement by Ian McEwan:

You might be more familiar with the film version of this and there's probably a good reason for that (hello McAvoy & Knightley!). The book is in McEwan's usual style and he's quite the descriptive writer. That means Atonement is very much on the slowish paced, dense side of things.  I love it - you can sink right into his prose and get utterly caught up in the complex inner workings of his character's minds - but I must admit you do have to be in the right frame of mind otherwise it could probably feel quite heavy going.

The book is split into three sections. The first is set in a country house in the 1930s where our young protagonist Briony oversees something she doesn't understand, with almost inevitable tragic consequences, the second is set during wartime France on the retreat to Dunkirk and the third takes us back to wartime London.  Everything is sumptuously, vividly described throughout and McEwan doesn't pull his punches. This book makes me sob so hard.  It's all about misunderstandings and deception and truth. The complex web of narratives unfold throughout the book and I mustn't spoil it but it's no surprise that the ending doesn't turn out to be quite what you think it is.

Did Char like it?

Ugh, what a beast of a book. I shouldn't have left myself so little time to read this because oh my, doesn't McEwan go to town on his descriptions. He's very much of the "why write four words when I could write 46" school of thought, isn't he?

I chugged through the first section of the book and whilst meaty, I rather enjoyed it. Seeing the world through naive little Briony's eyes made me think about how others can misinterpret the smallest of actions and how huge those potential consequences can be. Without wanting to spoil the plot, Briony's beliefs lead her to make a mistake which she then has to spend the rest of the book atoning for.

Frankly I found the wartime sections tiresome. The descriptions were overly lengthy in my opinion, but the way all of the loose ends seemed to tie up in the end was pretty neat, yet at the same time almost a little disappointing. Like, we've spent so long building up such tension, smouldering it's way through the book, and all of a sudden *poof* and it's gone.

I'm still not sold on this one.

How about Claire?

The first time I read this book I was incredibly underwhelmed (sorry). I found it heavy going and slow, and the ending wasn't a surprise to me because I'd seen the film - whoops. A few years on I appreciate it MUCH more, and feel a little daft for writing it off so quickly before! I still find the flowery passages quite hard to get through, particularly whole chapters devoted characters unnecessary to the plot such as Cecilia's ill mother, and the difficulties of war, but on the whole I enjoyed it a lot.

Claire's choice was Any Human Heart by William Boyd:

This book warms my heart so much. Though it makes me sob uncontrollably (oh Freya!) I feel like it encompasses every element of human life. I loved the famous cameos and you can clock the change in attitudes as Logan grows up. It has its highs and lows, its horrors and loves, but it's just so rich. Everyone should read this!

I enjoyed this book a lot.  Hurrah for epilostary novels! I know Char draws a very similar comparison in her review but this book reminds me a lot of The Hundred Year Old Man in terms of chucking the main character through as many significant events/meetings in history as possible and spinning a tale around them. Where it differs from THYOM (which I hated) is that this never felt clunky or obvious. It seems perfectly plausible that someone like Logan Mountstuart could have existed.  I've read enough diaries and biographies from the mid twentieth century to realise that someone living such a rich and varied life is quite possible.

The main flaw for me is that there is a real undercurrent of shallowness in this tale, largely due to Logan's character.  It didn't bother me when it's focusing on his life specifically but it meant there was little to no impact when things happened to Freya or some of the other characters.  The format of this book means you're very much living in Logan's head but I don't think it would have been impossible to make this element stronger. Perhaps it seems weaker because I read it so close to Atonement and the bad things that happen in that particular book absolutely destroy me.  Anyway, Any Human Heart definitely gets a recommendation from me.

What did Char think?

I took this to my spa break and can't say that I was particularly looking forward to reading it. And yet, it's the book of the three which I enjoyed the most, by far. By the time I'd got to the second chapter I was hooked and Thursday afternoon saw me sitting in the hydrotherapy pool reading away until I resembled a prune.

Logan Mountstuart intrigued me in a way I didn't expect him to. Despite getting frustrated with him during his adolescent years, his entrance into the literary world and his life story, told in diary form, had me gripped. Logan associated with so many well-known names (Fleming, Hemingway, etc) that the book ran the risk of becoming a little name-droppy. But somehow, it managed not to go the way of The Hundred Year Old Man and stayed entertaining.

I liked Logan regardless of his philandering ways, in spite of his family dramas. I felt sorry for him when he lost his way and was genuinely dreading the last few chapters as I knew what was coming.

Thanks ever so much to Char and Claire for joining in again this month!

I'll be back next week with two different readers and we'll be looking at Vivian Versus the Apocalypse by Katie Coyle, 4.50 from Paddington by Agatha Christie and We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. See you then!


  1. I also hated Gone Girl. I don't know why, maybe I've read way too many cheesy murder mysteries in my time, but I predicted the "twists" and I just found it all very contrived and irritating.

    The William Boyd one is going on my epic to-read list. Hurrah!

  2. How bizarre, for once I've read all three! Any Human Heart is one of my favourite books ever, I've been a huge fan of William Boyd for years and was genuinely bereft when I finished reading it three years ago. Jon & I only recently watched the TV dramatisation three weeks ago, I didn't like it quite as much as the book but it was enjoyable.
    I loved Gone Girl (found in a chazza) and as David Fincher directed the film I cannot wait to see that.
    Atonement was heart rending, the misunderstandings and deceptions left me feeling frightened to continue with the book at some points. Again, McEwan is another favourite author. I haven't seen the film as I cannot abide Keira Knightly! xxxx

  3. I think Atonement is a completely overrated book. The characters are pretty dull and it's fairly slow paced too.

    Lizzie's Daily Blog

  4. I have a long-standing hatred for Ian McEwan, I really dislike when authors treat their characters badly for no reason and he's often guilty of it. For that reason, I HATED Atonement; I just found it manipulative. Weirdly, though, I loved Gone Girl (perhaps because I didn't mind the characters being treated badly as they're all so horrible).

  5. I've still not read Gone Girl despite pretty much everyone I know having read it. And I'm not sure why I haven't, so maybe I will. I might have to add Any Human Heart to my to-read list as well. Yay! Looking forward to next week and knowing what others thought of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. Not enough people I know have read it and I want to talk about it!

  6. Ha I HATED Gone Girl! Hated hated it. Although agree, read it to the end like a mother, I don't know why I did that and didn't throw it at someone's head.

    I really liked Atonement, although there's a part of me that doesn't know if I'd have liked it so much if I hadn't seen the film a while back. Don't know if that makes sense or not. He's a funny old fish McEwan. I really liked Solar which is another of his.

  7. I'm so glad I'm not the only one who hated Gone Girl! Worst thing I have ever read!

  8. Really glad to hear someone else mention that they hated the vastly over-rated 100 yr old man! My main object to Gone Girl when I read it last year was the number of plotholes, but it also (I noticed this more in the film) implies some highly unsavoury things about women who claim to have been assaulted/raped


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