Some more quick reviews

I’ve struggled to write reviews for much of this year. I blame working from home. After a day of work, I have no desire to stay sitting at my desk. And so, I’ll continue to keep a record of what I’ve read with short reviews (these are very, very short).

Summerwater by Sarah Moss

In the beginning, I admired the writing. Moss captures many different points-of-view, each with an authentic voice. But then it blurs, the stream-of-consciousness wears thin, and the distinct voices get lost in a contrived final scene. The highlight? The painting on the book jacket – it’s beautiful. 2/5

Strange Flowers by Donal Ryan

I’m a Donal Ryan devotee after reading Strange Flowers. He captures so many overwhelming feelings in an economy of words. In this book, the grief and shame experienced by the characters is tangible, and yet I came away with the overall impression of a story full of love, and heartbreak, and warmth, and unwavering belief.  4/5

Dear Reader by Cathy Rentzenbrink

It’s so refreshing to read a book about a bookseller that holds Gillian Flynn in the same esteem as Charles Dickens. Rentzenbrink simply loves books, and loves a good story. Even more, she loves recommending books. Dear Reader includes terrific lists, oodles of recommendations, and a memorable story about how Rentzenbrink’s father came to love reading. 3/5

The Topeka School by Ben Lerner

There’s careful intent in every sentence of Lerner’s novel – it’s terrific when you’re reading carefully, but it’s also tiring and can get away from you. At the broadest level, The Topkea School is an almost exhaustingly complex book – big themes dominate (power, regimes and institutions, patriarchy) and you need to stay focused to pick up the various threads. The effort wasn’t quite worth the reward for me, although I found the parts about debating fascinating. 3/5

A Modern Family by Helga Flatland

A ‘modern family’? More like an ungrateful family full of whiny adults behaving like children. I only finished this book in the hope that at least one of the characters would get over themselves… no such luck. 1.5/5

Inés of My Soul by Isabel Allende

The historical elements of this novel were interesting (I knew nothing about the Spanish settlement of Chile) but too often it strayed into info-dumping (my pet-hate in historical fiction), and as a result, I never really connected to the narrator, Inés. 2/5

7 responses

  1. I was underwhelmed by Summerwater as well, mostly compared to Moss’s other books, and I gave up on the Lerner not far in. Allende is an author I’ve mostly stopped reading, though there are a few of her much older books that I love. I’d agree with you that the Rentzenbrink is pleasingly accessible and unsnobbish. I’d like to read this one from Ryan; The Spinning Heart is fantastic.

    (Is there a different place where you could compose your blog posts? E.g. sitting outside with a tablet. Just thinking about how you could get a break from your desk.)

  2. I can sympathise since I’m losing the enthusiasm for writing reviews too. They take me longer and longer….
    Allende is someone I’ve never really got into and the info dump wouldn’t encourage me to pick this up.
    Delighted to hear you enjoyed Donal Ryan though – I love his work

  3. I’m sorry that Allende is info-dumping (great phrase!), that’s a pet hate for me too. What a good idea to do some short reviews, very tempting. . .

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