Category Archives: DeWitt Helen

June Retrospective

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

The Taint of Midas by Anne Zouroudi  – 3/5

I have discovered that I don’t find the Mysteries of the Greek Detective series especially mysterious… You might like it for the Greek characters and location but it didn’t do much for me.

Candlemoth by R. J. Elloryunfinished

I honestly gave this my best shot (I got over halfway), but I found I was wading through it so slowly that I was beginning to resent the time it was taking away from the reading of potentially more enjoyable books. I did find the coming-of-age story of the two friends quite readable, but the interspersed primer of American history of the period and the conspiracy theories were not very interesting. It just didn’t hang together for me, and I found the prose to be very generic.

The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedmanunfinished but 2/5 

I couldn’t face reading beyond the halfway mark. The prose was so-so but the sense of history was non-existent, with dialogue that didn’t fit the period at all. Mostly, though, I think it was just the story itself that was too sentimental for my taste.

After Such Kindness by Gaynor Arnold – 3.5/5

Based upon the relationship between Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), and his child-muse Alice Liddell, Arnold offers an interesting perspective and a good story. I was a bit put off by her attempted ‘Carrollisms’, though.

The Tooth Fairy by Graham Joyce – 3.5/5

Joyce is brilliant at portraying ordinary people in the real world, and this is a really good coming-of-age story of growing up in the 60s. Don’t be put off by the fantasy aspect of the Tooth Fairy as the reality versus the psychological origins of the tooth fairy is very much a part of the story. I highly recommend Joyce, if you haven’t tried him before…

The Silent Land by Graham Joyce – 3/5

…but don’t start with this one! I was very disappointed with it – really cliched, I’ve-seen-this-a-thousand-times-before Sunday afternoon fare. And the ‘banter’ between the couple became very grating, very quickly.

On Loving Josiah by Olivia Fane – 4/5

A well-written story, with challenging ideas but – for me more importantly – great characters. The style reminded me of Barbara Trapido (or a less-caustic Fay Weldon). I’m very interested to see what she writes next.

BOOK OF THE MONTH:
The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt – 5/5

Although this was a re-read, I think I enjoyed it even more this time around. DeWitt’s style is a sprawling stream-of-consciousness, a witty and wonderful adventure through words, but with appealing characters and great story, too. It’s ages since I enjoyed a book so much!

Lighthousekeeping by Jeanette Winterson – 4/5

This is a very fable-ish story told in lyrical, lilting prose – very enjoyable to read but ultimately a little insubstantial.

Girl Meets Boy by Ali Smith – 4/5

A wonderful, joyful love story that captures the happiness of Ovid’s original version of the Iphis myth (from Metamorphoses) whilst relating it to utterly contemporary themes. The prose is playful, witty and rhythmic stream-of-conscious style which will not appeal to everyone but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Burning Bright by Helen Dunmore – 3.5/5

A quite disappointing. With the exception of Enid, the characters are never really fleshed out, and although smoothly written and interesting in parts, it has neither the glittering crispness of A Spell of Winter, nor the taut and highly-charged atmosphere of Talking to the Dead.

an idea has only to be

An idea has only to be something you have not thought of before to take over the mind, and all afternoon I kept hearing in my mind snatches of books which might exist in three or four hundred years.

from The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt

The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt

DATE FINISHED: June 21st, 2012 

RATED: *****

SYNOPSIS:  Ludo is a child prodigy with a voracious thirst for knowledge; his mother, Sybilla (equally gifted), is trying to earn enough money for them to get by through mind-numbing, soul-destroying work, whilst finding the energy and inspiration to feed both of their appetites for language and literature. Sybilla tries to fill the father-shaped gap in Ludo’s life with a video of the Japanese classic, The Seven Samurai. But Ludo just wants a father, and as soon as he is old enough, determines to find one.

THOUGHTS:  At first told from Sybilla’s perspective, a torrent of thoughts and ideas are unleashed resulting in a slightly fragmented narrative mirroring the distracted concentration one imagines the harried mother of a (maddeningly voracious) child might experience. Sometimes sentences are left hanging mid-flow Read more of this post

there are people who think

There are people who think contraception is immoral because the object of copulation is procreation.  In a similar way there are people who think the only reason to read a book is to write a book; people should call up books from the dust and the dark and write thousands of words to be sent down to the dust and the dark which can be called up so that other people can send further thousands of words to join them in the dust and the dark.  Sometimes a book can be called from the dust and the dark to produce a book which can be bought in shops, and perhaps it is interesting, but the people who buy it and read it because it is interesting are not serious people, if they were serious they would not care about the interest they would be writing thousands of words to consign to the dust and the dark.

There are people who think death a fate worse than boredom. 

from The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt

Duchess of Nothing by Heather McGowan

DATE FINISHED: March 27th, 2011

RATED: *****

SYNOPSIS: Abandoned by her lover in Rome, a woman finds herself taking care of the young brother who has also been left behind, and trying to balance the need for bread against the desire for new hats.  Told in stream-of-consciousness style, this story is not as straightforward as it might seem.

THOUGHTS: Read more of this post