The central thesis of How the West Was Lost: Fifty Years of Economic Folly–and the Stark Choices Ahead, Dambiso Moyo’s latest offering, may come as an interesting theoretical shock to some people, may seem inevitable to others, and may be rejected outright by others. Her argument is that the West as we know it, particularly the United States, is fated to lose the economic “battle” with China and the other major emergent economies, and sooner rather than later the roles of “the West” and “the Rest” as they currently are, will be reversed.
The Snowman is Jo Nesbo’s 5th in his series of English-language Harry Hole novels, and therefore the 7th in his native Norwegian-language series of same. Before reading this, I happened to read a review posted on Amazon of The Leopard, which is the 6th in the English-language series of Harry Hole novels, and in which the reviewer gave away the end of this novel! Infuriating is one word I can think of to describe my feelings regarding this. Anyhow, I won’t be making the same mistake here, and ruining your enjoyment of this or any other Harry Hole novels, within this book summary – so feel free to safely read on!
The Rum Diary is the late, great and awesome Hunter S. Thompson’s tale of the rum-soaked existence and adventures of a young American journalist, Paul Kemp, in late 1950’s Puerto Rico. There are really two main characters in this story, alcohol and Paul Kemp. Booze is utterly pervasive, with the novel opening and closing on a drink-related note, and being omnipresent throughout.
Some books grab you by the seat of your pants for wild adventures, some whisk you off on wonderful fanciful trips of the imagination, others still reminisce on lovely lovers. This book forcefully pitches you head-long into an almost alien-like world of insane violence and ultra-hard living, never lets you up for air, and leaves you almost dumb-founded at the end. No need to read the rest of the review really, just read the book!
Blood Meridian ostensibly tells the tale of “the kid”, who remains nameless throughout, and his blood-soaked trudge through life, in mid-19th century America and Mexico. However, its is much more than that – I have read it described as a parable, and I would have to agree I think. In fact I believe the author has dropped clues to this fact throughout the work, as mentioned further below.
Enigma is a re-imagining of the real-life events that took place at Bletchley Park, which was the nerve-center of the Allies code-breaking efforts on Nazi ciphers and codes during WWII, in the form of a mystery-come-thriller.
There are two central characters to the piece: Tom Jericho, who is essentially the third-person narrator of the tale, and is therefore almost omnipresent throughout, and his one-time love Claire, who we only ever meet through recollections and reminiscences. Tom is a genius code-breaker, capable of Einstein-esque leaps of thought and insight, while Claire Romilly is an increasingly suspicious looking character.
Memory and Identity, Personal Reflections by Karol Wojtyla a.k.a. Pope John Paul II, could be described as a collection of philosophical essays, detailing the late Pope’s thoughts on various topics or subjects such as freedom, patriotism, democracy, to name but a few. When I say “thoughts”, I mean that in the heavy sense of the word – the thinking expressed in this book is truly impressive in terms of its broadness, depth, clarity and logic, and is firmly routed in the body of philosophical thought. Having said that I believe the aim of the book is to discuss these issues somewhat in layman’s terms, so to speak.
If I understand it correctly, I suppose you could say the central thesis of this book is the link between memory and identity, specifically how memory creates and shapes human identity, and how the memory of the Church, as the living body of Christ, impacts the identity of humanity.
Lauren Oliver’s second novel, Delirium tells the tale of a world where love is illegal. Yes, that’s right – the emotion of love is illegal.
Its actually not a bad idea, and the novel starts brightly enough, introducing Lena the 17 year-old main protagonist, and her corner of the world in Portland, USA.
This novel borrows very heavily I feel from Children of Men (P.D James’ book, not the film), and Logan’s Run (the film, not the book). It copies the notion of a time-limit on a person’s freedom from Logan’s Run, whereby upon turning 18 years of age, you get de-loved, so to speak. To cut a too long story short, Lena rails against this dystopian society, and to be quite honest you could probably guess the rest of the story from here!
When I Am Playing With My Cat, How Do I Know She Is Not Playing With Me: Montaigne and Being in Touch With Life, penned by Saul Frampton, is an analysis and commentary on the 16th century philosopher/writer/connoisseur Michel De Montaigne’s vast body of work, known as his Essays.
Montaigne was a fascinating character, and his musings on life in general range over a vast array of subjects – from how best to avoid being shot, to the alleged beauty of the prostitutes of Florence. Continue reading
Post Office was the celebrated American author Charles Bukowski’s first novel, chronicling the life and escapades of anti-hero Henry Chinaski, which all revolve around his soul-destroying employment in the titular post office. Bukowski to me is like a proverbial breath of fresh of air – his writing is honest, unpretentious and straight-from-the-hip, and this book is all the more vivid and real for that.
When we first meet Henry, he is a hard-drinking average Joe, putting in a long tough slog as a stand-by postman. His boss is the ultimate hard-ass, who makes it his mission in life to make things as tough as possible for Henry. Bukowski really paints a grim picture of minimum-wage working conditions in America here, it really wipes the glamour off the “American Dream” for me; in fact, Henry’s life reads like the American Nightmare.
Despite all his travails, Henry has a real lust for life – the job just can’t beat that out of him. This is evident from his ever-fascinating love life, with women who clearly love and respect him, and have a lot of “time”, shall we say, for him. Its evident from his unexpected compassion towards the same women in times of extreme stress – you can really feel his pity and sorrow for his young wife when he sees her falling for another guy for example, who he knows is only after a one-nighter.
In fact, the above episode also demonstrates another exemplary quality of Henry – his acceptance of all the curve-balls life just throws at you. From cheating lovers, to torturous bosses, to Dickensian work environments, he just motors on to the next seemingly good thing. So yes, this novel is a litany of bad-luck stories and amazingly unfortunate happenings for Henry, but its a real testimony to the human spirit that he can “keep on keepin’ on” throughout it all.
Technically, the style is brash and stripped of all literary niceties, yet it is profoundly coherent and gripping. Henry maintains a dark sense of humour throughout, and without ruining it for you, there is one particular scene involving the boss-from-hell, Henry and a certain favoured employee, that is one of the funniest passages I can ever remember reading. All the more impressive when the humour is delivered so effortlessly and economically by Bukowski – its really wonderful.
Overall, my main memory of this book will be the life of vain toil of the semi-autobiographical Henry Chinaski – I really shudder to think what life must be like working the insane soul-sucking shifts our protagonist did in this book. That said, I loved the ending – its reminiscent of the classic ending to Trainspotting, where Renton is donning the proverbial garb of normality, and coming to live in a town near you!
This is the third installation of the Patrik Hedstrom series, which could also validly be called the Erica or Fjallbacka series I suppose. That might be jumping the gun a bit I suppose, bear with me!
Camilla Lackberg is a Swedish author, whose novels are set in the rural seaside town of Fjallbacka. This novel, like the previous two, is a thriller in the guise of a detective whodunnit story. I wouldn’t call this a slow-burner as such, nor is it a fast-paced action thriller: I think its a medium-burner, if you’ll excuse my tongue-in-cheek expression.