So I’ve been slacking a little on the ‘Quick Book Review’ posts for a while, so I thought I’d put a post together with quick thoughts on the books I have been reading over the past few months (I will shortly post an update to my ‘To Read List’ as well). So here we are with an overview of my recent reading material:
Pompeii (Robert Harris): I’ve always been fascinated and intrigued by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, and the destruction of the titular city resulting from it, so I was instantly drawn to this when I saw it in a charity shop. This book tells of the events leading up to it and the immediate aftermath from the perspective of vastly differing characters, which makes it an interesting read. It perhaps gets too caught up in tangents and minutiae a little too much for its own good at some points, but the focus on how it affects the water systems of Pompeii (and the surrounding towns) is nonetheless an intriguing approach.
The Green Mile (Stephen King): I’d seen the film when it first released, which of course had me in tears by the end, but had not got around to reading the book until recently. The book did much the same thing, perhaps more so. The story is just crafted beautifully, raising several moral questions and brutally demonstrating just how unfair life can be, the idea of true justice not being attainable in these unusual circumstances. However (not to spoil too much), King of course anticipates the reader’s feelings and adds a bittersweet resolution to John Coffey’s fate with this quote, which is about the point I was a tearful mess:
‘I know you been worryin, but you ought to quit on it now. Because I want to go, boss….I’m rightly tired of the pain I hear and feel, boss. I’m tired of bein on the road, lonely as a robin in the rain. Not never havin no buddy to go on with or tell me where we’s comin from or goin to or why: I’m tired of people bein ugly to each other. It feels like pieces of glass in my head. I’m tired of all the times I’ve wanted to help but couldn’t. I’m tired of bein in the dark. Mostly it’s the pain. There’s too much. If I could end it, I would. But I can’t.’
(p.414 in Orion Paperback edition, 1998)
A Clockwork Orange (Anthony Burgess): Again, this was a film I had seen some time ago, and had just now read the source material. The invented slang constantly used in the narration and dialogue within this twisted dystopia can make things a little hard to follow, so the glossary in the edition I was reading was a godsend at certain points. It says a lot of Burgess as a writer (and Kubrick as a director) that you feel sympathy for the protagonist by the end despite all the despicable things he has done, as his path to redemption is certainly not an easy or painless one.
The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood): Atwood’s chilling dystopia is the first book of hers I read way back in my sixth form English Literature class, and I then went on to basically read everything else she’s written immediately after. Her trademark sardonic tone is all that really softens the horror of the setting, where fertile women are forced into the servitude of bearing children for those incapable of doing so, and little else, all freedom and identity taken away (even being forbidden to read). The recent television adaptation is excellent, and adds some welcome fleshing-out and extra details to the world Atwood has built (with her approval as well), and the upcoming second season goes beyond where the story ended in the book, so will be very interesting to see where it goes. Both the book and series are highly recommended.
The Devil’s Dictionary (Ambrose Bierce): This brilliantly cynical observation on humanity is a very amusing read, and quite depressing in its home truths at the same time. A no-holds barred tome basically saying everything we think, but don’t say. Among my favourite entries are:
APOLOGIZE, v.i. To lay the foundation for a future offence.
BACCHUS, n. A convenient deity invented by the ancients as an excuse for getting drunk.
FRIENDLESS, adj. Having no favours to bestow. Destitute of fortune. Addicted to utterance of truth and common sense.
IDIOT, n. A member of a large and powerful tribe whose influence in human affairs has always been dominant and controlling. The Idiot’s activity is not confined to any special field of thought or action, but “pervades and regulates the whole”. He has the last word in everything; his decision is unappealable. He sets the fashions of opinion and taste, dictates the limitations of speech and circumscribes conduct with a deadline.
PORTUGUESE, n.pl. A species of geese indigenous to Portugal. They are mostly without feathers and imperfectly edible, even when stuffed with garlic.
Have you read any of these books? Do please share your own thoughts in the comments. Until next time folks…
Check out my debut poetry collection, ‘The Awakening’, avaliable NOW!