Wednesday, 25 May 2011


Title: Choke

Author: Chuck Palahniuk

Number of pages: 293

Started: 21 May 2011

Finished: 25 May 2011

Opening words:

If you're going to read this, don't bother.

After a couple of pages, you won’t want to be here. So forget it. Go away. Get out while you’re still in one piece.

Save yourself.

There has to be something better on television. Or since you have so much time on your hands, maybe you could take a night course. Become a doctor. You could make something out of yourself. Treat yourself to a dinner out. Color your hair.

You're not getting any younger.

Plot summary:

Victor Mancini has devised a complicated scam to pay for his mother's hospital care: pretend to be choking on a piece of food in a restaurant and the person who 'saves you' will feel responsible for you for the rest of their lives. Multiply that a couple of hundred times and you generate a healthy flow of cheques, week in, week out. Victor also works at a theme park with a motley group of losers, cruises sex addiction groups for action, and visits his mother, whose Alzheimer's disease now hides what may be the startling truth about his parentage.

What I thought:

This is my first Chuck Palahniuk book and, despite his rather discouraging start to the book (see above), I read on. I thought this book was funny and a good read. It brought it urban myths and weird scenarios and a whole load of things that if I explained what they were would seem kind of weird, but actually worked very well. A very readable book - although not necessarily suitable for those of a slightly prudish disposition or who have concerns about people reading their book over their shoulder on the tube.

Friday, 20 May 2011

The Impostor

Title: The Impostor

Author: Damon Galgut

Number of pages: 249

Started: 18 May 2011

Finished: 20 May 2011

Opening words:

The journey was almost over; they were nearly at their destination.
There was a turn-off and nothing else in sight except a tree, a field of sheep and lines of heat rippling from the tar. Adam was supposed to stop, but he didn’t stop, or not completely. Nothing was coming, it was safe, what he did posed no danger to anybody.
When the cop stepped out from behind the tree, it was as if he’d materialized out of nowhere. He was clean and vertical and pe- remptory in his uniform, like an exclamation mark. He stood in the road with his hand held up and Adam pulled over. They looked at each other through the open window.
Adam said, “Oh, come on, you can’t be serious.”
The cop was a young man, wearing dark glasses. He gave the impression, in all this dust and sun, of being impossibly cool and composed. “There is a stop sign,” he told Adam. “You didn’t stop. The fine is one thousand rand.”
“Wow. That’s a lot of money.”
He smiled and shrugged. “Your driver’s licence, please.”

Plot summary:

When Adam moves into an abandoned house on the dusty edge of town, he is hoping to recover from the loss of his job and his home in the city. But when he meets Canning - a shadowy figure from his childhood - and Canning's enigmatic and beautiful wife, a sinister new chapter in his life begins. Canning has inherited a vast fortune and built for himself a giant folly in the veld, a magical place of fantasy and dreams that seduces Adam and transforms him absolutely, violently - and perhaps forever.

What I thought:

Damon Galgut is a recent discovery of mine, and one that I am glad I made. This book was another sinister tale and looked at the dark side of humanity. It was a well written novel that looked at the tensions of South African society, although the underlying issues are perhaps ones about humanity as a whole, rather than one particular nation.

It was a dark reflection on the depths that people will stoop to in order to feel that they are in control of their own destiny.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

One Day

Title: One Day

Author: David Nicholls

Number of pages: 448

Started: 11 May 2011

Finished: 18 May 2011

Opening words:

15th July 1988

‘I suppose the important thing is to make some sort of difference,’ she said. ‘You know, actually change something.’

‘What, like ‘change the world’ you mean?’

‘Not the whole entire world. Just the little bit around you.’

They lay in silence for a moment, bodies curled around each other in the single bed, then both began to laugh in low, pre-dawn voices. ‘Can’t believe I just said that,’ she groaned. ‘Sounds a bit corny, doesn’t it?’

‘A bit corny.’

‘I’m trying to be inspiring! I’m trying to lift your grubby soul for the great adventure that lies ahead of you.’ She turned to face him. ‘Not that you need it. I expect you’ve got your future nicely mapped out, ‘ta very much. Probably got a little flow-chart somewhere or something.’


‘So what’re you going to do then? What’s the great plan?’

‘Well, my parents are going to pick up my stuff, dump it at theirs, then I’ll spend a couple of days in their flat in London, see some friends. Then France - ’

‘Very nice - ’

‘Then China maybe, see what that’s all about, then maybe on to India, travel around there for a bit - ’

‘Traveling,’ she sighed. ‘So predictable.’

Read a longer extract here (and also Emma Morley’s mix tape).

Plot summary:

15th July 1988. Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew meet for the first time on the night of their graduation. Tomorrow they must go their separate ways.
So where will they be on this one day next year? And the year after that? And every year which follows?

What I thought:

This book was a pleasant return to normality following on from the previous book I had read. I am not normally someone who reads the latest popular read. It’s not a snobbish thing, it is that I think that books don’t normally live up to the hype – I have never read a Harry Potter book (although I wouldn’t rule it out one day, and if I am drawn in I can read them all without having to await the next one being published).

“One Day” is certainly a very popular book. I borrowed my copy from the library and as I walked into the shopping centre have just been issued a copy, I walked past someone carrying a copy. I also know several people at work who have just read or are reading it. I even saw Deirdre Barlow reading it on Coronation Street. Need I provide any more evidence of its popularity?

I thought the concept was interesting. The plot develops based purely on what happens on the same day – 15 July - each year. In a lot of ways this worked, there was no dwelling on incidents or life’s occurrences, instead you got an insight into one day and then you started a new chapter and you were a year in the future, what ever that might bring.

The book moved at a decent pace, and was light relief, which I most certainly needed, but it also lacked something. I suppose because of the way the book is put together, there was no reflection as such. A day started, a day ended and the world moved on by a year. That is a somewhat simplistic description of the book, but not entirely inaccurate. Don’t expect anything life changing or profound, but it is a decent enough read and a pleasant distraction.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

The Diaries of Jane Somers

Title: The Diaries of Jane Somers

Author: Doris Lessing

Number of pages: 528

Started: 28 April 2011

Finished: 11 May 2011

Opening words:

The first part is a summing up of about four years. I was not keeping a diary. I wish I had. All I know is that I see everything differently now from how I did while I was living through it.

My life until Freddie started to was one thing, afterwards another. Until then I thought of myself as a nice person. Like everyone, just about, that I know. The people I work with, mainly. I know now that I did not ask myself what I was really like, but thought only about how other people judged me.

Plot summary:

The diaries introduce us to Jane, an intelligent and beautiful magazine editor concerned with success, clothes and comfort. But her real inadequacy is highlighted when first her husband, then her mother, die from cancer and Jane feels strangely removed. In an attempt to fill this void, she befriends ninety-something Maudie, whose poverty and squalor contrast so radically with the glamour and luxury of the magazine world. The two gradually come to depend on each other -- Maudie delighting Jane with tales of London in the 1920s and Jane trying to care for the rapidly deteriorating old woman. 'The Diary of Jane Somers' contrasts the helplessness of the elderly with that of the young as Jane is forced to care for her nineteen-year-old drop-out niece Kate who is struggling with an emotional breakdown. Jane realises that she understands young people as little as she so recently did the old.

What I thought:

Well, what to say about this book? This is the first Doris Lessing book that I have read. In fact this is actually two books that she originally wrote under a pseudonym that have now been brought together under one title and, since the cat was let out of the bag, are now attributed to Lessing. She wrote the books under a pseudonym because she wanted to try a different style and to see how the books would be received if they were submitted by an unknown author. The first book was turned down by many publishers, at least one of which said this was because it was too depressing. I can see why.

This book gives me dilemmas. It was well written and I persevered with it to the end because there was something very engaging about it. But it was so depressing and my general mood plummeted because of reading this book.

It is a book that looks at British society and how we treat each other and the social care system, loneliness, relationships and much more. It is an insightful novel and one that is worth reading, but beware of the psychological impact that this book can have.