Category Archives: Kneale Matthew

May Retrospective

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

Gillespie and I by Jane Harris – 3/5
The story of a soured friendship in the art world of Victorian Glasgow.  After a promising start, I’m afraid this was a bit of a damp squib.

The Grifters by Jim Thompson – 4/5
A career conman takes a beating that forces him to reassess his life.  This was a quick read but unexpectedly poignant.

The Voices by Susan Elderkin – 3.5/5
The spirits of the Australian outback try to make themselves heard in this wonderfully evocative piece of prose.  The writing is lively, poetic and original but the themes became a little too heavy-handed for my taste.

Rhumba by Elaine Proctor – 3.5/5
A sad and hopeful story about the bleak world of human trafficking, and the need to find somebody to love.  It has a curious sense of distance from reality and is night quite as powerful as it should be.

The Adventures of Vaclav the Magnificent & His Lovely Assistant Lena by Haley Tanner – 3.5/5
An inseparable friendship between an aspiring magician and his lovely assistant comes to an abrupt end when Lena disappears.  Strong characters drive this story of immigrants in America.

We have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson – 4/5
Not a brooding, suspenseful or spooky gothic thriller; but it is a short book, and the writing is fun, dark, magical, enjoyable – a great evening’s read!

BOOK OF THE MONTH:
Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi – 4/5
Stories within stories, slipping times and locations, where do memories and fantasies collide and divide?  A wonderfully original love story covering Bluebeard, escapism, storytelling and more.

Our Lady of Alice Bhatti by Mohammed Hanif – 4/5
Oops, was supposed to be saving this for my holiday reading… :S  An unexpectedly disturbing story that was not at all the lighthearted romp I expected.  An uncomfortable but thought-provoking read.

The Dream Room by Marcel Moring – 4/5
Re-read to refresh my memory.  Although a little cliched in structure, it is a quietly haunting story of wartime and beyond.

English Passengers by Matthew Kneale – 4/5
A wonderful narrative journey carried by great characterisation, and managing just the right balance between heart-wrenching historical fact and essential comic relief.

The Messenger of Athens by Anne Zouroudi – 3/5
I had mixed feelings about this one.  A compelling soap opera of Greek island life; but I felt it lacked the necessary tension to be fully successful as a mystery.

English Passengers by Matthew Kneale

DATE FINISHED: May 27th, 2012

RATED: **** 

SYNOPSIS:  A Manx smuggling ship sees its way out of a tight spot by offering itself up to charter. When the initial plan to offload its travellers fails dismally, Captain Illiam Quilliam Kewley eventually concedes that the only way out of his current conundrum is indeed to take his ragbag assortment of English Passengers all the way to Tasmania, on their doomed-to-failure plan to discover the original Garden of Eden. As their lengthy journey commences, the story is interspersed with the narrative of Peevay, who provides the voice of the aboriginal in an also-doomed fight against the colonial invasion. Eventually the two stories collide.

THOUGHTS: Kneale uses multiple narrators to advance his story, shifting every few pages between different voices.  Surprisingly, this works, as Kneale has a gift for characterisation, Read more of this post

Will I ever read these books?

 I collect books.  If it looks interesting, for whatever reason, it finds a home on my shelves.  Usually, eventually, I get around to reading it.  Sometimes, a particular interest may have passed, or something no longer appeals, so I remove it from the shelf & pass it onwards (unread books are sad and lonely creatures: far better to find a new and loving home).  But there are some books which I really do want to read, but somehow never quite have the impetus to pick up and…read.  Some I have started and put back to try again at another time; others have not even made it that far.  But I definitely do not want to move them on.

Although I have no intention of making a resolution to read my languishing books asap (books should only be read when the time is right, for best results!), I thought that making a note of them for myself might somehow nudge them closer to their time.  The current books I have in this category are: Read more of this post

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

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

DATE FINISHED: March 11th, 2011

RATED: *** (3.5)

SYNOPSIS: When 15 year old Christopher discovers his neighbour’s dog, killed with a garden fork, he begins an investigation to uncover the culprit. Instead, he accidentally uncovers family secrets which have been kept from him & turn his ordered life upside down. Christopher is highly intelligent but has an inability to read emotions, so the story (told in the first person) is peppered with his theories & favourite diversions as well as numerous misunderstandings.

THOUGHTS: Read more of this post