I find myself in a bit of a pickle today. The last book that I read didn’t really require a full review and the book that I’m currently reading is taking longer than I expected. Of course, it doesn’t help that I’ve been more bothered about my Switch in the last few days to even think about reading. Whatever the reason, I find myself without a book to review and in need of a subject to write about.
The Monsters We Deserve by Marcus Sedgwick
I only picked up a copy of The Monsters We Deserve because it looked pretty. I was on a lunchtime shopping trip in my local bookshop and I could not resist the cover. Then it mentioned Frankenstein and I was hooked. Still, I wasn’t really expecting to love this book. After all, we’re told not to judge a book by its cover. Well, in this case judge away. The writing in this book was so beautiful and haunting. It’s been about 3 years since I’ve read it and I still can’t get over how good the writing is. And it’s not just style over substance either. There is so much going on in this novel that you’ll be fully engaged. It’s gripping and creepy. I love it and think more people should read it.
From my review:
“This isn’t just the story of a man writing about a book. It is literary criticism. It is a philosophical and sociological exploration of the place literature holds in our society. It is a book that is, primarily, interested in the interplay between works of fiction and their writers. Who, it asks us to question, is creating what? If the writer creates the book then, by the same token, surely the book should create the writer? Something highlighted by the fact that Sedgwick continually makes allusions to himself in the main character whilst never definitively stating who he is.”
The Pine Islands by Marion Poschmann
The Pine Islands was another book that I picked up on a whim. It just sounded too interesting to ignore. I really don’t have a great deal of demands when it comes to good literature. I just want something to be well-written and have some depth to it. It doesn’t even need to be exciting or interesting. It doesn’t need to be logical. I’ve always been more concerned with character development than I have with plot. So, The Pine Islands was always going to be my kind of book. It’s weird and nothing much happens. But the writing? Oh my god, the writing. There is so much beauty within these pages that it just seems unfair. This isn’t the kind of novel that everyone will love but, if you’re willing to give it a chance, it could offer you something wonderful.
From my review:
“As Gilbert and Yosa journey on, the novel quotes the work of Bashō and his mentor, Saigyō. This is when the novel really gets going. Where the idea of story parts and we’re, instead, taken over by a vague sense of insignificance. The vastness of the landscape and the enduring power of poetry showcase the power of nature and the inner battle for transformation. Gilbert hopes this journey will change both him and his new charge. Through Bashō’s words, he sees the potential for change and healing. But which came first, the appreication of nature or the transformation?”
The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld
From the first time I read about The Enchanted I knew that I had to read it. I went on a mission to find it in an actual bookshop so that I could read it as soon as possible. It just sounded incredible. The fact that I read it in 2014 and it still holds such a strong position in my brain tells you everything. I forced so many people to read this book because I loved it. The fact that it is full of such awful things probably didn’t help my reputation with the ones who read it. The fact is, I couldn’t see anything but the writing. It’s mind-blowing. It manages to make even the more horrific acts of violence seem magical and beautiful.
From my review:
“The Enchanted is, without a doubt, a fucking beautifully written book. Denfeld is able to use the English language in such an mind-boggling way that even the horrific events that are being described seem wondrous. There is plenty of room to make comparisons with Alice Sebold and The Lovely Bones and the overall effect of the novel is equally haunting. Denfeld’s lyrical prose is some of the most exciting work I’ve read in a long time. I finished it a few days ago and I’ve already lost count of the people I’ve tried to force to read it. Seriously I cannot recommend this book enough. I’m fucking obsessed. “
Twelve Nights by Urs Faes
Twelve Nights is another of those random book picks that ended up pretty well for me. Although, unlike the other books on this list, I didn’t think this was as good overall. I guess I was wrong when I said I only cared if a book was well-written. There can be no doubt that the writing here is beautiful. The way the landscape is described is incredible and it really allows you to get a feel for it. This is an example of beautiful writing that doesn’t rely on extravagance to make its point. It’s simple and to-the-point. Yet, it manages to evoke something primal and natural. If this had a little bit more going for it, this would have been another unforgettable book.
From my review:
“The reader is taken through the Black Forest with Manfred as he reacquaints himself with the places from his childhood. As he explores his old haunts, memories of his youth come back to him. Soon, he finds himself haunted by the figures of his past and the emotions that they still stir up inside him. The wintery scenery perfectly evokes Manfred’s inner turmoil and his desperation to reconcile with his brother.”
Starve Acre by Andrew Michael Hurley
As we’re starting to discover, incredible writing is not the only ingredient for a good book. There was so much hype around Starve Acre that I knew I had to read it. So many people had described it as horrifying or disturbing. I was prepared to be kept up all night from fear. Unfortunately, it was less creepy than I wanted but the writing was gorgeous. It was lyrical and mesmerising. I can’t fault Andrew Michael Hurley’s instincts as a writer. He’s the kind of person that makes you excited to use the English language. The kind of writer that helps you see words in a different way. I just wish he was also the kind of writer who could scare the bejesus out of me.
From my review:
“The use of the desolate Yorkshire setting is perfect and beautiful. The setting really does capture that feeling of being between two worlds both physically and spiritually. It is especially important in this novel as the family initially moved to Starve Acre with the promise of giving Ewan a better upbringing. The dream was to allow their child the freedom and benefit of nature. However, as we can see, nature is more than just a nurturing force. The sense of place that is created here is also a hostile one. At times, it can seem very oppressive and forceful.”
Grief Is The Thing With Feathers by Max Porter
Grief Is The Thing With Feathers is one of those unique books that really blends prose and poetry in seamless way. This isn’t a book written in verse but something that somehow manages to evoke both forms of writing simultaneously. It also perfectly captures the feeling of grief and despair in a very familiar way. It’s a really tricky book to talk about because it’s the kind of book that needs to be read. The use of language here feels fresh and exciting. It doesn’t seem right for a book about grief to feel like this. It does things that don’t seem appropriate but, in the end, all come together perfectly.
From my review:
“It breathes life into the lifeless and brings humour to the darkness. It isn’t afraid to get nasty and self-indulgent but it also shows the beauty and hope that exists in the world. The chapters from the perspective of the boys show that there is something of the mother left to grow. It is a messy and strange novel that takes a lot out of you, which seems perfect for the subject matter. But this is so much more than a story about grief. This is an exploration of writing and how to write about life and death. It is a book that has the feel of a collection of poetry but is pure novel. Max Porter shows us how possible it is to write about such difficult subjects in a way that feels fresh and free. That doesn’t weigh you down with the solemnity of grief. It’s a spectacular thing.”
The Death of Francis Bacon by Max Porter
Yes, I did include another book by Max Porter on this list and, had I read Lanny yet, I’m sure his other book would be on here too. The Death of Francis Bacon is another odd read. Made more strange by it’s very short length. The fact that there is so much to unpack in those few pages is testament to Porter’s skills as a writer. This is another literary experiment and another huge success for the writer. He manages to convey so much through his choice of words and sentence structure. There is so much thought in every single detail here and it really shows. I can’t believe this book is only about 80 pages long. I felt exhausted when I’d finished reading it. But in a very good way. It was invigorating.
From my review:
“The book is fragmentary and short in order to encapsulate the circumstances of his death. The silence of his hospital room is filled with the thoughts racing through his head. The semi-poetic style is an attempt to bring the act of painting to life using only words. The writing tries to mimic the texture on Bacon’s canvases. The text is jerky at times but smooth and flowing in others. Encapsulating the movements of the brush and the painter’s hand. The chaotic styling also alludes to his turbulent personal life. We see the ups and downs of his life played out before us as the painter falls further into his memories.”