Lapvona by Ottessa Moshfegh
You don’t finish a book by Moshfegh and think, ‘Well, that was lovely” because she is the master of putrid. Lapvona is no exception – her descriptions are at once stomach-churning and darkly humorous. This story, which has the tone of a fable or fairy tale, has characters that jump off the page. Villiam, for all of his ridiculous buffoonery, is unquestionably one of the most memorable characters I’ve come across in years. For those readers who want something deeper, there’s a tonne of material – the second coming of Christ; a blind, eternally living wet nurse; a dead mother; drought and famine; and a son traded for a misdeed. It’s all compelling stuff and it’s hard not to get caught up in the world of Lapvona.
White City Blue by Tim Lott
So it’s been a while since I’ve read any lad-lit and the only reason I picked up this book was because someone on Goodreads said ‘Read it for the last line alone.’ Was the last line outstanding? Well, I didn’t think so but that didn’t mean White City Blue wasn’t worth reading. It’s about a group of men who have been friends since high school. They are all single for various reasons and play at been happily so. Frankie, the protagonist, upsets the group dynamic by finding love and getting engaged.
Lott relies heavily on back story for humour and context – probably too much for my liking because some felt overworked. In contrast, the parts set in the present and the scenes developed around dialogue were strong. I enjoy reading about male friendships – obviously I can’t comment on the authenticity of this group but both their banter and vulnerable moments rang true.
Amy and Lan by Sadie Jones
This is a novel about two children growing up on a commune-style farm and the joys and hardships that come with living on the land. Initially, I was drawn to the alternating voices of the two central characters – seven-year-olds, Amy and Lan. However, the story stretches over five years and as Amy and Lan enter early adolescence, their voices are less convincing. Throughout the book, you see the adults and the challenges they face (both in running the farm and in their personal relationships) through the eyes of the children. This becomes slightly problematic because Amy and Lan’s perspective remains relatively naive and unchanging – little credit or opportunity is given to them in understanding what is taking place at the farm. In real life, I think kids are very tuned-in to what’s happening around them and are in fact good at picking up on the moods of the adults in their lives.
The charm of this book is in the descriptions of nature, the farm animals and how the children spend their time. It felt wholesome to be reading about kids playing in mud, using an axe, and exclaiming over a calf being born but ultimately wasn’t enough to make this book shine.
I read the Lott which left little or no impression apart from a pleasant blur.
Do you think the ‘putrid’ elements in Moshfegh are easier to listen to than to read?
I’ve read one by Lott and found it pretty forgettable.
I think they’d be putrid either way! She’s certainly a unique talent.