Sunday, 28 October 2012

Audio books, book club meetings, and more...


This week has been less reading-intense than last week, but I have an audio book and a book discussion to tell you about.

You may remember I mentioned an audio book I had started a while ago called My Revolutions by Hari Kunzra.  It tells the story of a man called Michael Frame who, as a young man, was involved in subversive activities as Chris Carter, his true identity.  More than 20 years later, some individuals from his past reappear in his current life and threaten to reveal his true identity and past activities, and Michael must make some choices regarding his future and his past.  It sounded like a really interesting story, and I downloaded it.  Once I started listening to it, however, I found it difficult to follow the story as an audio book, as it shifted around from past to present, and from different times in the past.  With a physical book, the reader can usually keep track of these shifts because the page may have breaks or spacing to indicate these shifts.  Also, the book involved many slogans and headlines, given the political nature of the story, and  again, with a physical book, the reader can tell what these are by a change in text size, capitalization, etc.  These shifts and differing messages could only be conveyed to a certain extent by the narrator, who was really quite good.  But I often felt lost listening to this book and gave it up to listen to something else, probably an Agatha Christie mystery.  I ended up going back to My Revolutions and finishing it, as I figured I could get the gist of the story, which I did.  But, while the story proved to be really interesting, it was a painful listening experience.  I would probably recommend this book but as a reading experience, not as a listening one.

I’ve now moved on to Minette Walters’ The Dark Room, which I’ve read a few times before and have listened to at least once.  I’m loving it!  I can listen to or read her books again and again because they are so complex and involved that at first reading I never catch all the details.  This novel tells the story of Jane “Jinks” Kingsley, a 34 year old woman who owns a photography studio in London.  She wakes up in a hospital and is told she tried to kill herself by driving her car into a concrete pillar while drunk after learning that her fiancee has called off the wedding and has run off to France with her best friend Meg.  She can’t remember anything of the weeks leading up to this supposed suicide attempt, but finds it hard to believe that she would have done such a thing over Leo, to whom she was engaged.  As she struggles to piece together what really happened, with the help of her doctor at the convalescent clinic, unsavoury details of her family life come to the surface and paint a very different picture of the girl than the reader is presented with at the beginning of the book.  I love Walters’ early novels, as she really delves into the psychological aspects of her characters, both the victims of the crimes and the (often alleged) perpetrators.  I just started this audio book a few days ago, and I’m nearly halfway through, as I look for opportunities to listen to it.  I highly recommend this title, but be prepared to be totally confused on first reading.

And my book group finally met on Thursday evening to discuss Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale, a novel about a young woman who is summoned by a famous author to write her biography.  This novel, too, leads to the discovery of family secrets, along with a possibly haunted house, eccentric characters and shadowy figures.  I have read this book before and have discussed it with my other book group in the past, so it was not a new reading experience for me, but the other members had never read it before and they loved it!  They loved the atmosphere the author created, the sense of mystery surrounding everything, the characters and their own personal histories as revealed through the novel, the relationships that develop between characters, the shifting between past and present, among other things.  There were no criticisms of this book from anyone.  I think I wrote in a previous post that I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys gothic fiction, as it would definitely fit into that genre.  I don’t think most male readers would enjoy it, but if you like to read about swooning heroines, haunted houses, family secrets, and mysteries revealed, this title is for you.

I’m now reading The Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda, which is the book selection for next Saturday’s book club meeting.  This novel tells the story of a woman who gives her daughter away to an orphanage in India, and the couple who adopts her.  These two stories are intertwined as they follow the lives of the two couples over the years as their children grow up.  I was sure I had never read this popular book club selection before, but as I started it a few days ago, it was all very familiar to me.  I checked my list (I’ve written down the title of every book I’ve read since 1992), and could not find it listed anywhere.  I’m now past the halfway point, and the story has finally become unfamiliar, so I think what happened was that I started this novel but for some reason never finished it.  I think it will be a good discussion book for my group, as it deals with many different themes, such as a mother’s bond with her child, adoption, inter-cultural marriages, the bond a child has with her country of origin, relationships in general, a journalist’s responsibility to present the truth to his or her readers, even if it is unpleasant, and others.  I’m just over halfway through the book, and I’m enjoying it.  It reminds me a bit of Chai Tea Sunday, by Heather Clark, in that it is not brilliant writing, but it is a good, solid, straight-forward story told in a very readable way.  The Secret Daughter is in my opinion a more complex novel than Chai Tea Sunday but if  a reader came to me saying they liked one of these titles and could I recommend something similar, I would definitely encourage him or her to read the other.  I’ll see how I feel once I finish, and will let you know what my ladies thought of the book.

Time to finish my tea and get on with my day.

Bye for now!
Julie

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