For the second time this year I’ve been reading more than reviewing and have decided not to attempt to turn my rambling half-remembrances into fully fledged reviews.
The recommendations that come my way via Clothes in Books are generally good ones so I expected to enjoy THE BLONDES by Emily Schultz. Alas on this occasion I was not as enthralled as I had hoped to be. It is a dystopian tale in which an absurd plague descends upon the world. Blonde women, natural or died, are susceptible to a virus which makes them go on murderous rages. Mayhem, fear-mongering and internment camps ensue. My lack of enjoyment wasn’t related to the enormous suspension of disbelief required (promise). Rather it stemmed from the book trying too hard to satirise too many aspects of our modern world. The list of subjects the book takes a dig at includes academia, gender issues, the media, the war on terror, pop culture and advertising. Although it’s quite a hefty tome there’s no real chance for any of these issues to be unpicked with much depth and I found that pretty frustrating. I was also not particularly engaged by the book’s protagonist: a young PhD student who recounts the book’s events to the unborn baby she is reluctantly carrying, having spent a lot of time unsuccessfully trying to obtain an abortion. I found Hazel a fairly insipid, lumbering presence with little agency of her own for most of the book and struggled to care whether she lived or died. As always, other opinions are available on this book and a lot of them are different to mine.
I visited Hawaii on the seventh stage of my Reading USA Fiction challenge with an audio book version of Frankie Bow’s THE MUSUBI MURDER. This is a modern cosy novel in which an unpopular business man who has recently made a significant donation to the local University, is killed on Hawaii’s Big Island. The story’s protagonist and amateur sleuth is Molly Barda, a young economics lecturer who, with the help of the requisite quirky friends and colleagues, manages to hunt down the killer. There’s a lot of humour in the story, nicely drawn out with the excellent narration of the audio book by Nicole Gose, and the plot hangs together well enough but I did find it a little repetitive and unfocused at times. However the insights into modern academic life, including the ridiculous lengths institutions go to these days to keep students was very realistic. And undoubtedly not nearly as funny in real life as portrayed here. The setting, language and food did seem authentically Hawaiin and made me want to go back for another (real world) visit.
I suppose I can say I finished Richard Flanagan’s THE NARROW ROAD TO THE DEEP NORTH though it took me more than a year and I don’t really have any sense of having completed the book as I only took in small chunks at a time. I did not find the combination of awkward love story (honestly parts of this read like the bastard-child of Austen and Cartland to me) and brutal prisoner of war experiences as insightful as almost everyone else (including the judges for last year’s Man Booker Prize) has done.