1001 Books Round-Up November 2021
Better late than never…or is it?
How Late it Was How Late by James Kelman – BOTM #1 – What GR says: Sammy’s had a bad week – his wallet’s gone, along with his new shoes, he’s been arrested then beaten up by the police and thrown out on the street – and he’s just gone blind. He remembers a row with his girlfriend, but she seems to have disappeared. Things aren’t looking too good for Sammy and his problems have hardly begun. Sammy is definitely having a bad week
My Thoughts: Written entirely in the Scottish vernacular this book will either draw the reader in or completely throw them out. I was drawn in. While on the surface the story may appear bleak it is actually very humorous and Sammy’s encounter’s with bureaucracy is so well drawn I felt like I was in the office with him.
This is a story with a seedy background hidden behind a heart of gold.
I got to the end of the book and thought WTF did I just read? I have no clue what happened but I enjoyed the ride.
3 Stars – If swearing doesn’t bother you give it a go
The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil (Translated by Sophie Wilkins) Yearly Read – What GR Says: Set in Vienna on the eve of World War I, this great novel of ideas tells the story of Ulrich, ex-soldier and scientist, seducer and skeptic, who finds himself drafted into the grandiose plans for the 70th jubilee of the Emperor Franz Josef. This new translation—published in two elegant volumes—is the first to present Musil’s complete text, including material that remained unpublished during his lifetime. Hmm unpublished material always worries me…
My Thoughts: Boy am I glad I made it to the end at some points it felt like that was never going to happen. I started out trying to read a chapter a day but found my motivation would wain and I would go days, weeks or months without picking this up. That is not to say the book is bad but in my honest opinion it is not suited to being read in this manner, when I picked it up and read big chunks at a time everything flowed and I found myself making progress and enjoying the ride.
This is not a bad book when I look back on it, there are loads of quotes I highlighted relating to art, politics, love, war, philosophy, sex and everything in between it just requires a lot of dedication from the reader for what can only be described as a rainy fireworks display.
3 Stars – Make time to read this without long pauses and enjoy all the interesting debates along the way as the ending won’t give you the payback you are seeking.
The History of Tom Jones a Foundling by Henry Fielding – Tackle the TBR. Synopsis from GR: A foundling of mysterious parentage brought up by Mr. Allworthy on his country estate, Tom Jones is deeply in love with the seemingly unattainable Sophia Western, the beautiful daughter of the neighboring squire—though he sometimes succumbs to the charms of the local girls. When Tom is banished to make his own fortune and Sophia follows him to London to escape an arranged marriage, the adventure begins. A vivid Hogarthian panorama of eighteenth-century life, spiced with danger and intrigue, bawdy exuberance and good-natured authorial interjections, Tom Jones is one of the greatest and most ambitious comic novels in English literature. Or to put it in other words a sprawling romantic novel.
My Thoughts: I actually enjoyed this story more than I expected. At just over 1000 pages you would think this novel was looking at the minutiae of one man’s life however that is not the case. The story is split into 18 separate books each of which begins with a look at fiction and how it should or shouldn’t be written along with some critique of modern and ancient writers the “history” then proceeds to follow one of the key players before switching to one of the others and back again. The story moves backwards and forwards in time as we see events from the different participants.
When the author decides that events are irrelevant to the history the story skips years at a time. In fact Tom’s early years pass by in the blink of an eye while his ill-fated romance and several affairs take up whole books. The later years of Tom’s life are also glossed over with a brief summing up of what has happened to each character.
The fact that most of the book concentrates on womanising and romance would lead me to categorise this as a romance story at its heart as well as a story of family, misunderstandings and manipulation.
3 Stars – this seems like a daunting read if you just look at the page count but when it is split down there is enough in each section to keep most readers interested. A good book for those long winter months where leaving the house seems like a challenge too far.
Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis BOTM – What GR Says: The classic novel, international sensation, and inspiration for the film starring Anthony Quinn explores the struggle between the aesthetic and the rational, the inner life and the life of the mind.
The classic novel Zorba the Greek is the story of two men, their incredible friendship, and the importance of living life to the fullest. Zorba, a Greek working man, is a larger-than-life character, energetic and unpredictable. He accompanies the unnamed narrator to Crete to work in the narrator’s lignite mine, and the pair develops a singular relationship. The two men couldn’t be further apart: The narrator is cerebral, modest, and reserved; Zorba is unfettered, spirited, and beyond the reins of civility. Over the course of their journey, he becomes the narrator’s greatest friend and inspiration and helps him to appreciate the joy of living.
Zorba has been acclaimed as one of the most remarkable figures in literature; he is a character in the great tradition of Sinbad the Sailor, Falstaff, and Sancho Panza. He responds to all that life offers him with passion, whether he’s supervising laborers at a mine, confronting mad monks in a mountain monastery, embellishing the tales of his past adventures, or making love. Zorba the Greek explores the beauty and pain of existence, inviting readers to reevaluate the most important aspects of their lives and live to the fullest. Based on this the book sounds exciting…but….
My Thoughts: This could be a classic (see what I did there) case of it’s not you it’s me, but I found this book to be completely dull and unentertaining. I really struggled to finish the last 10 pages they took way more time than necessary to finish.
When it came to tackling the discussion questions about this one I realised the whole book had gone in one ear and out the other without making any impact on me at all.
The overall impression I took away of Zorba was that he was a fickle man looking out for the next opportunity while succumbing to drink and women to various degrees and with varying in success. I could perhaps say the attitude to women put me off the entire book but as it is the only thing I can remember it is probably the case that the rest of the book made me resent even more the attitude to women.
3 Stars – need help getting to sleep at night? I highly recommend a few pages of Zorba. Not a terrible book and some readers really love it so I will leave you to make your own minds up.
Have you read any of these? Let us know what you thought.