Friday, 27 June 2008

My Cousin Rachel

Title: My Cousin Rachel

Author: Daphne du Maurier

Number of pages: 304

Started: 19 June 2008

Finished: 27 June 2008

Opening words:

"They used to hang men at Four Turnings in the old days. Not any more though."

Plot summary:

I threw the piece of paper on the fire. She saw it burn ...Orphaned at an early age, Philip Ashley is raised by his benevolent older cousin, Ambrose. Resolutely single, Ambrose delights in Philip as his heir, a man who will love his grand home as much as he does himself. But the cosy world the two construct is shattered when Ambrose sets off on a trip to Florence. There he falls in love and marries - and there he dies suddenly. In almost no time at all, the new widow - Philip's cousin Rachel - turns up in England. Despite himself, Philip is drawn to this beautiful, sophisticated, mysterious woman like a moth to the flame. And yet ...might she have had a hand in Ambrose's death?

Synopsis taken from Amazon.

What I thought:

Another good book from Daphne du Maurier. It’s difficult to give a view on this book without giving away some of the plot, but suffice to say it had a strong sense of foreboding that made you wonder throughout the book what the truth of it all really was.

Her books are also an interesting read because the narrator is always someone very much a part of the story and so you never know if you are really getting the full story or even a very accurate picture. Well written and as ever leaving you with more questions than answers.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

The Chrysalids

Title: The Chrysalids

Author: John Wyndham

Number of pages: 208

Started: 16 June 2008

Finished: 18 June 2008

Opening words:

When I was quite small I would sometimes dream of a city - which was strange because it began before I even knew what a city was. But this city, clustered on the curve of a big blue bay, would come into my mind. I could see the streets, and the buildings that lined them, the waterfront, even boats in the harbour; yet, waking, I had never seen the sea, or a boat. ...
And the buildings were quite unlike any I knew. The traffic in the streets was strange, carts running with no horses to pull them; and sometimes there were things in the sky, shiny fish-shaped things that certainly were not birds.

Most often I would see this wonderful place by daylight, but occasionally it was by night when the lights lay like strings of glow-worms along the shore, and a few of them seemed to be sparks drifting on the water, or in the air.

It was a beautiful, fascinating place, and once, when I was still young enough to know no better, I asked my eldest sister, Mary, where this lovely city could be.

She shook her head, and told me that there was no such place - not now. But, perhaps, she suggested, I could somehow be dreaming about times long ago. Dreams were funny things, and there was no accounting for them; so it might be that what I was seeing was a bit of the world as it had been once upon a time - the wonderful world that the Old People had lived in; as it had been before God sent Tribulation.

Plot summary:

In the community of Waknut it is believed mutants are the products of the Devil and must be stamped out. When David befriends a girl with a slight abnormality, he begins to understand the nature of fear and oppression. When he develops his own deviation, he must learn to conceal his secret.

Synopsis taken from Amazon.

What I thought:

Another enjoyable John Wyndham book, and I thought probably my next favourite to The Day of the Triffids. Another tale of the world gone wrong and how people cope and evolve. This book had an interesting theme of people surviving the Tribulation and them then trying to eradicate everything and everyone they believed not to fit the norm – but it raised questions of how do we even know what the norm is and can you ever truly stop things from evolving anyway.

This book did actually make me wonder what drove Wyndham to write all these books about being an outsider and dealing with the extremes of life. I didn’t find an answer to that but he certainly seems to have found a theme that he questions from different angles throughout his books. Another good read.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

The Sound of Laughter

Title: The Sound of Laughter

Author: Peter Kay

Number of pages: 368

Started: 12 June 2008

Finished: 15 June 2008

Opening words:

Ding Dong! Was that the doorbell? You can never be too sure. I didn't get up to answer it. I waited for it to ring again and confirm my suspicions. I waited and I listened. I listened by leaning my head forward and tilting it slightly to one side. Everyone knows that when you lean forward and tilt your head to one side the volume of life goes up.

Ding Dong! Now that made me jump, even though I was expecting it, like when I'm staring at my toaster waiting impatiently for my toast to pop up . . . when it does I jump, every time, never fails.

I've always disliked doorbells, but this has become worse since I got into showbiz. Most people who have experienced success have this fear of getting caught, found out, the-dream-is-over-type fear. My own version of the fear is that the Showbiz Police have come to take it all back. I imagine them stood at the door in green tights and holding a scroll like those blokes out of Shrek 2. There's two of them, one plays an introductory bugle, the other clears his animated throat:

'I'm sorry, Mr Kay, but I have orders to tell you that you've had a good run, sunshine, but the time has come for you to go back to your cardboard-crushing job at Netto supermarket.' He puts his hand out. 'House and car keys please.'

But I wasn't enjoying any kind of success when the doorbell rang in 1990. There was a completely different reason for my fear. It was my driving instructor ringing the doorbell and the time had come for my first ever driving lesson.

Raymond was his name. He was big burly fella, constantly tanned, like a cross between Bully from Bullseye and a fat Des O'Connor. If you can picture that, then I think you need help.

Plot summary:

Peter Kay's unerring gift for observing the absurdities and eccentricities of family life has earned himself a widespread, everyman appeal. These vivid observations coupled with a kind of nostalgia that never fails to grab his audience's shared understanding, have earned him comparisons with Alan Bennett and Ronnie Barker. In his award winning TV series' he creates worlds populated by degenerate, bitter, useless, endearing and always recognisable characters which have attracted a huge and loyal following. In many ways he's an old fashioned kind of comedian and the scope and enormity of his fanbase reflects this. He doesn't tell jokes about politics or sex, but rather rejoices in the far funnier areas of life: elderly relatives and answering machines, dads dancing badly at weddings, garlic bread and cheesecake, your mum's HRT...His autobiography is full of this kind of humour and nostalgia, beginning with Kay's first ever driving lesson, taking him back through his Bolton childhood, the numerous jobs he held after school and leading up until the time he passed his driving test and found fame.

Synopsis taken from Amazon.

What I thought:

I really enjoyed this book. It was very funny and even though it covered what could have been some very boring years of Peter Kay’s life, it was actually really funny reading about him growing up and ultimately getting on the road to stardom. Some really good observational comedy and he picked up on some of the most potentially mundane points like going to Rumbelows to buy a video player, which were just actually very funny. Very amusing book.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Title: Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Author: Robert Louis Stevenson

Number of pages: 82

Started: 5 June 2008

Finished: 8 June 2008

Opening words:

“Mr. Utterson, the lawyer was a man of rugged countenance, that was never lighted by smile; cold, scanty and embarrassed in discourse; backward in sentiment; lean, long, dusty, dreary, and yet somehow loveable. He had an approved tolerance for others and in any extremity inclined to help rather than to reprove.”

Plot summary:

Everyone has a dark side. Dr Jekyll has discovered the ultimate drug. A chemical that can turn him into something else. Suddenly, he can unleash his deepest cruelties in the guise of the sinister Hyde. Transforming himself at will, he roams the streets of fog-bound London as his monstrous alter-ego. It seems he is master of his fate. It seems he is in complete control. But soon he will discover that his double life comes at a hideous price ...

Synopsis taken from Amazon

What I thought:

Another dark book, albeit a very brief one. The story of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is one that is probably well known, and just the very title of the book is sometimes used as a description of people. I wonder how many people have actually read the book though? It’s an interesting tale of what happens when someone finds the ability to experience life as a purely evil person and the ramifications of trying to play God with such things. A story that raises such questions as whether people are primarily good or evil - or somewhere in between.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

The Virgin Suicides

Title: The Virgin Suicides

Author: Jeffrey Eugenides

Number of pages: 256

Started: 29 May 2008

Finished: 4 June 2008

Opening words:

On the morning the last Lisbon daughter took her turn at suicide — it was Mary this time, and sleeping pills, like Therese — the two paramedics arrived at the house knowing where the knife drawer was, and the gas oven, and the beam in the basement from which it was possible to tie a rope. They got out of the EMS truck, as usual moving much too slowly in our opinion, and the fat one said under his breath, ‘This ain’t TV, folks, this is how fast we go.’ He was carrying the heavy respirator and cardiac unit past the bushes that had grown monstrous and over the erupting lawn, tame and immaculate thirteen months earlier when the troubles began.

Plot summary:

In a quiet American suburb an ambulance arrives outside a house where five sisters live. Watched by a group of adolescent boys, the paramedics carry thirteen-year-old Cecilia Lisbon to the ambulance, her slit wrists bound. Twenty years later, the boys, now men, are still in thrall to the Lisbon sisters, all five of whom took their lives that year.

Summary taken from Bloomsbury

What I thought:

I enjoyed this book. It was rather dark and macabre in its subject matter, but was underpinned by a somewhat dark humour that made it rather more of a light-hearted read than might have been expected.

It started with a tragedy and ended with an even greater one but it was interesting to see how the lives, and ultimately the deaths, of the five Lisbon girls had such a profound effect on so many people’s lives. We never get any answers and never truly know why they died but that isn’t really the point of the book and instead it paints images in your mind that make you wonder about the influence that others can have on our lives no matter how brief that contact might be.