Category Archives: Blackburn Julia

August Retrospective

A thin month this time, for various reasons!  Still, here is a summary of my August reading, with links to reviews:

The Blue Book by A.L.Kennedy – 4/5

Although the style grated in parts, the story was ultimately really good, and well worth wading through the bits I wasn’t so keen on.

How to Forget by Marius Brill – 3.5/5

Not at all what I expected from the jacket blurb, but turned out to be an enjoyable comedy/action romp that would make a great film!

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier – 4.5/5

A re-read from my teenage years, this is still a powerful read for any age, that will give you lots to think about.

BOOK OF THE MONTH:
The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing – 4.5/5

An intensely disturbing read that is horrific on many levels – how the introduction of one child leads a family idyll to self-destruction. Very keen to read the sequel which gives more insight from the child’s point of view (this one focuses more on the mother).

 

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July Retrospective

(Posted early due to leaving for ‘holiday’ but updated retrospectively with the month’s final books.)

A summary of the books I read in July, with links to reviews:

BOOK OF THE MONTH:
A Summer of Drowning by John Burnside – 4.5/5

Although I wasn’t immediately captivated by Burnside’s style of writing, by the time I finished reading I was reeling, and my head was so steeped in the atmosphere that I couldn’t settle into reading anything else for a good while longer than usual.  I really want to read this again, already, and discover everything I missed first time around.

Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce – 4/5

Although not a sequel to The Tooth Fairy, it bears a lot of similarities, both in location, ‘type’ of characters and story.  Joyce’s strength is the portrayal of an ambiguity between supernatural and psychological realities, and this particular novel is one of his best.

Bereft by Chris Womersley – 3/5

This story of a man accused of murder as a boy, then returning to the scene of the crime after years away at war, had lots of potential but was ultimately disappointing.

In a Dark Wood by Amanda Craig – 4/5

The first in a phase of re-reads, this month.  Although I found the structure a little televisual, I was ultimately impressed by Craig’s ability to cast an intensely unlikeable man in her lead role but create enough psychological intrigue to keep the reader reading regardless.  Very interesting use of fairy tales as a means of exposition.

A True Story Based on Lies by Jennifer Clement – 4.5/5 

A beautifully dark and simple tale, told with a timeless, storybook feel.  Suffused with magic, lyricism, and disquieting undertones.

Eucalyptus by Murray Bail – 4/5 

An earthy fairy tale and unexpected love story, with the landscape exuding as much character as the people.  I enjoyed this more than on my first reading, about 12 years ago.

The Book of Colour by Julia Blackburn – 4/5 

A carefully exposed story of inherited madness, juxtaposing luscious landscapes of exotic island life with interior dreams and nightmares.

Pobby & Dingan by Ben Rice – 4/5

A short and sweet fable about the power of the imagination.

Snake by Kate Jennings – 4.5/5

An intense, stifling, poetic portrait of two lives trapped in the wrong marriage, and the sweeping, poisonous landscape around them.  Beautifully visual prose creates a story of startling clarity and power.

All My Friends Are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman – 4.5/5

A wonderful novella about the powers, pigeonholes and pitfalls of everyday life but also a love story as sweet as they come.

Dreamland by Tom Gilling – 3/5

I sought this one out as I love the author’s previous novel (a light historical story, Miles McGinty), but sadly it turned out to be a very forgettable mystery thriller entirely lacking in personality and plot.

The Little Hammer by John Kelly – 4.5/5

Witty, wordy, wandering & playful prose dances around a story of murder, memories and misdirection.

The Waterproof Bible by Andrew Kaufman – 4/5

Lots of overwhelming emotions being dealt with in this successor to All My Friends Are Superheroes – just as likeable and ‘quirky’ and some interesting allusions to spirituality, but ultimately did not throw me any curve balls or make me think twice.

The Book of Colour by Julia Blackburn

DATE FINISHED: July 24th, 2012 

RATED: **** 

SYNOPSIS:  When the family is cursed by a ‘devil’ islander, the narrator’s grandfather as a boy is uprooted from the home he has known and transplanted into an alternative island life, now under the care of his uncle and ‘his mulatto’, while his father stays behind, and his mother is placed in an asylum.  A history of curses, mixed race unions and cultural bigotry haunts the family through generations.

THOUGHTS:  In the first part of the book some intriguing images are introduced but the characters appear as though within a dream or trance-like state.  In the second part of the book, however, the narrative becomes more linear Read more of this post

The Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende

DATE FINISHED: September 15th, 2011             

RATED: ***(3.5)

SYNOPSIS:  Tete is sold to plantation owner Valmorain when she is a child, as a gift for his new bride.  However as his wife succumbs to illness in the suffocating tropical atmosphere of Saint-Domingue (later Haiti), Valmorain finds additional uses for Tete.  The children she bears & raises for him change the course of both of their lives irrevocably, but Tete waits only for her freedom.  When Valmorain moves to New Orleans to escape the slaves rebellion and danger of Saint-Domingue, Tete’s situation changes again as Valmorain takes a new wife.  But in a new country & a new city, where interactions between the free and slaves, between whites and those of colour are even more complex, Tete and her children have all new challenges and relationships to face.

THOUGHTS:  I was initially taken aback by Allende’s sprawling prose, descriptive and decadent as the tropical climes represented, Read more of this post

White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi

DATE FINISHED: September 2nd, 2011

RATED: *** (3.5)

SYNOPSIS:  Twins Miranda and Eliot live in a house that is haunted by generations, a house with its own way of getting its own way.  Eliot seems immune to the ghosts they live with, but following the death of their mother, Miranda sees and hears more and more of them and her own existence becomes proportionally less and less.  Which family will claim her – the living or the dead?

THOUGHTS:  Oyeyemi’s prose style will not be to everyone’s taste, Read more of this post

The Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

DATE FINISHED: March 10th, 2011

RATED: ****

SYNOPSIS: After a lonely childhood watching her mother’s descent into madness, Antoinette marries an Englishman who has travelled to Jamaica upon invitation by her step-brother. They embark upon a sensual love affair, but soon the village gossip pushes Antoinette’s new husband to the brink of madness himself as he begins to believe the rumours.

THOUGHTS: Read more of this post