Fates & Furies

Hello Everyone and Welcome Back to The Boss Book Club!

Today we will be looking at one of the most beautifully written, astounding pieces of writing I’ve had the chance to enjoy at the tail end of last year- Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff.

I found this book by doing some research of the best novels of 2015. Fates and Furies was featured on multiple top ten lists around the place, and was even chosen by President Obama as his favourite book of the year. I figured, well if it’s good enough for the now former President, it’s good enough for me!

You shouldn’t be deceived by the topic of this book. The topic is marriage. A man named Lotto and a woman named Mathilde get married after only two weeks of dating, and this book tells about their marriage, from beginning to end, from both points of view. It sounds simple, it may sound boring- not your kind of thing- but I promise, if you are interested in the psychology of a person, interested in how two different people can think, feel and live, and the memories that shape their behaviour today, you will find no better book to explore that in than this.

Lauren’s work is incredible. These two central characters are so well written the experience is liking jumping into someone else’s mind completely. I’ve never read character work done so well. Both Mathilde and Lotto have their flaws, their talents, and of course, their secrets. This book is as much about what they share together in their marriage as what they hide, and there is certainly plenty of dramatic elements that push the story along- career highs and lows, money ups and downs, personal crises, and plenty of sex. This book tells the life of two people, in the moments together and apart, in a level of detail you won’t have experienced before.

Lauren’s writing style is easy to read and intimate. It is written in second person viewpoint, but Lauren has included little asides, written in brackets, that give the objective truth of the situation. Like this:

“The author of the Boss Book Club is thinking about eating a salad [She will back out and find her stash of stale Kit Kats].”

Except Lauren does it much better, about more interesting topics, such as what Lotto and Mathilde cannot see objectively about themselves or each other.

I thoroughly recommend this book for absolutely all adults. It will take you into a story of marriage, of personal growth, of truth and lies, that is detailed beyond belief, and never fails to be engaging. If you are a writer, it will show you character work done to perfection. If you are married, it will leave you thinking about a lot of things about yourself and your partner, and what makes a successful relationship. In terms of weaknesses, I would say that I found the first half of the book much more realistic and relatable than the second half. I feel that Lauren undoes some of her hard work in the second half by including a few melodramatic elements which I think cheapen the story a little.

I’ve left this review as vague as I can because it’s truly worth experiencing it for yourself.

 

Now, I’m going to go make myself a salad!

 

Happy Reading and thanks for joining us at The Boss Book Club!

 

Middlemarch

Hello Everyone and Welcome Back to The Boss Book Club!

Today we will be looking at the classic novel Middlemarch, originally published in 1871-2 by English novelist Mary Anne Evans, better known by her pseudonym George Eliot- a name she adopted at the commencement of her writing career.

I admit that, for whatever reason, I had up until this point avoided classic female writers. To my shame, I confess I’ve never read anything by the Bronte sisters, or Jane Austen, or anything in that field. Being a bit of a tomboy by nature, I thought I wouldn’t enjoy books with a romantic emphasis and find them “too girly.” I assumed Middlemarch would be all Lords and Ladies without much substance about the human condition.

I was very very wrong, and am glad that I got over my own prejudice to read Middlemarch.

Middlemarch is one of the most intelligently written novels I’ve ever read. It hides its deep and insightful look into the human condition under the broad heading of “a study of provincial life.” Middlemarch is the name of an English town, and the novel explores the lives of the families and couples that live there- it takes the reader into the intimate life of a number of central characters and details for us their ambitions, their beliefs and their hopes, then surely and relentlessly, shows us how luck, poor choices and life in general can get in the way of everyone’s best efforts. It shows us how people compromise, how people can improve themselves or become worse, and shows how big an impact marriage can play in a person’s life. Some characters serve as cautionary tales whilst others serve as inspiration. Every one of them is relatable in a deeply human way- the careers, technology and language may be different now, but you will see your neighbours and yourself in the characters in this book.

This book came at an opportune point in my life. I’ve been married less than a year, and this book gives you a lot to think about in terms of what makes a marriage successful, the sacrifices involved, and how one person’s choices, both their successes and their mistakes, can impact on the other half of the couple. The themes in the novel made me reflect on what I want to contribute to the marriage, and put my expectations from the commitment into a realistic perspective.

The themes in this book are universal, and Eliot’s insight into human nature is astounding. This book is as relevant now as it was over a hundred years ago, and I have no doubt, will be just as relevant in 100 years time.

This novel is not action packed as such- no bombs go off, no shots fired, but if you invest the time, slowly but surely, it will help you to understand yourself, and people in general, a lot better. This book is big, and whilst I believe anyone could read it and get something out of it, if you are married or are getting married soon, this book will serve to provide something extra- as marriage is one of it’s main subjects.

 

Thank you for joining us at The Boss Book Club!

 

Happy Reading Bosses!

American Gods

Hello Everyone and Welcome Back to The Boss Book Club!

Today we will be having a look at Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.

My husband is a big fan of the actor Ian McShane, and when he found out he’d been cast in a television series based on a novel, he went and bought the book for me to read. Since he bought the book I have seen Neil Gaiman everywhere, from other bloggers singing his praises, to a friend at work toting his collection of short stories. The British author is popular and, as I’ve found out, this is with good reason!

American Gods tells us the story of Shadow, a man recently released from prison who finds himself, after a sudden unexpected tragedy, on a trip home with nothing to look forward to. He then meets the mysterious and mischievous man who goes by the name of Mister Wednesday, who hires him to be his personal bodyguard.

And so begins a journey across America, a great big road trip. The only difference is, it’s to meet and greet the ancient Gods who have settled in America. It’s a mythical story which puts into modern times how old Gods would survive in modern USA. From driving taxis to working as prostitutes, the Gods that used to be so powerful have to scrape together a living, and Shadow is exposed to what life is like for these immortal creatures. There are also new Gods, Gods that people worship in this day and age- for example the God of technology- and there is a war brewing between the old and new, with potentially dangerous results.

You may think a book containing so many mythologies would be a difficult read, but it isn’t. The story is engaging and fast moving as Shadow moves with Mister Wednesday from town to town. Gaiman has obviously done a lot of research into the belief systems of a variety of cultures both within and outside of America, and he retells many old folktales in interesting ways. The main characters, Shadow and Mister Wednesday are both very likeable, and Mister Wednesday I’m sure, with his dry humour and shameless antics, will be a favourite character for many.

This novel provides food for thought in terms of what the modern person believes in, and what we think is important to us. It also will make you think about how our current beliefs fit within a history full of a huge variety of cultures, mythologies and stories to make sense of the world.

I found this novel to be engaging throughout, with a wide variety of fascinating, funny, bizarre and dark God characters to be met along the way. If you’ve got too much on your plate already, I’m sure the television series, due in 2017, will be great as the story would lend itself wonderfully to the screen.

I recommend this book for fans of American history, folklores and cultural legends, as well as those who like road trips and adventures. You will have a very enjoyable time.

 

Happy Reading Bosses!

 

A Wild Sheep Chase

Hello everyone and welcome back to The Boss Book Club!

 

Today marks the 5th and final day of the Five Day book review catch up. From here on in, book reviews will be posted weekly on a Sunday, as per the norm. We will be looking at Haruki Murakami’s A Wild Sheep Chase today.

 

I need to start off by saying that I read this book at the wrong time. This book is supposed to be the third part of a trilogy. Parts one and two are titled Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973, Murukami’s first two novels, only released in English for the first time last year. I thoroughly recommend reading the first two to start with, and then reading a Wild Sheep Chase straight afterwards to get the complete experience. I read this after reading some of Murukami’s later works (such as The Wind Up Bird Chronicle and Kafka on the Shore) and some months after reading the first two. It was therefore a bit difficult to get into the flow of this book, mainly because Murukami’s writing style has diversified and changed since these first three books so it felt like taking a step back into a different headspace, which was difficult.

 

Having said that, this book has done nothing to diminish my new found Murakami obsession, and this is another great story. In this story our protagonist, the same man from the first two novels, is working in his small advertising and publishing firm, he has a new girlfriend with strikingly beautiful ears, and is continuing about his life, doing not much in particular. He is then accosted by a mysterious man in a dark suit, and is given a month to find a sheep from a photograph with a star on its back, with dire consequences if he fails.

 

The story takes our man on a trip across Japan in search of the Sheep and his friend the Rat. J from the bar also gets a look in. This book marks the departure for Murakami from his completely realistic and naturalistic books in Wind and Pinball, to the slightly bizarre and absurd. This is the book that marks the shift in style for Murakami. If I had read this directly after the other two, then the all out bizarre surrealism of The Wind Up Bird Chronicle wouldn’t have been so shocking. Therefore, as I mentioned before, I think it’s important that you read his novels in order, and somewhat close together. You can then note the progression of the story, as well as Murukami’s journey as an author.

 

This book contains more humour than his other novels, and is cheeky and odd. I recommend saving the trilogy for a rainy day. Keep the coffee and cigarettes nearby, and cook yourself a nice meal afterwards (the protagonist always does a ton of cooking in each novel- it will make you want to eat something too!).

 

Thanks for joining us at The Boss Book Club and participating in the 5- day Blogging Catch Up Bonanza!

 

Regular blogging schedule resumes from next week so please join us next Sunday for a review of American Gods.

 

Happy Reading from The Boss Book Club!

Kafka on the Shore

Hello everyone and welcome back to The Boss Book Club!

 

Today marks Day Four of our Five Day Blogging Bonanza to mark the return of TBBC. Today we will be having a look at Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore. The novel by one of Japan’s greatest living authors was written in 2002.

 

This novel follows the story of a 15- year old boy named Kafka, who is running away from home. Mature beyond his years, Kafka trains himself physically and mentally to be strong enough to survive on his own, and sets out with no clear plan, travelling by bus across Japan. An avid reader, he comes across the Komura Memorial Library and makes friends with the enigmatic librarian Oshima and the beautiful Miss Saeki.

 

On the other side of things is an old man named Nakata. Due to a mysterious illness when he was younger he has a low IQ and therefore simple way of living, and he can talk to cats. He embarks on a journey, assisted by a trucker named Hoshino who he meets along the way. What exactly that journey is, not even they are certain of, but it includes finding an important stone, and sealing an entranceway.

 

The story of these characters intertwine in such a way that blurs the naturalistic, realistic elements of life: ie a boy running away from home and an old man making his way across the country, with the bizarre, surreal and dreamlike qualities- including accessing the other side- whether that’s the other side meaning death, an alternate world, or an alternate state of mind is up to the reader to decipher. This book journeys firmly into the weird, and contains one graphic, violent scene that made me feel a little ill to be honest. However, apart from this one scene, the book is nonviolent. Murakami always includes a lot of the everyday things in life- a lot of descriptions of cooking meals, doing laundry and attending day to day activities, and then before you know it there’s a violent, bizarre or sexually explicit scene put in there and then it’s straight back to ironing shirts again. You would think this would be jarring or uncomfortable to read, but Murukami’s writing is so well done, and the pacing so perfect, that it poses no problem.

 

Of all his books so far, this contains the most definite plot and story arc, and would serve as a great introduction to Murakami if you prefer a structured story. This book, as with all Murakami’s novels, lends itself to multiple re-readings, as its rich in symbolism and hidden meanings.

 

Murakami has become one of my favourite authors, and if you’re willing to walk on the weird side, you will find his novels a truly rewarding experience. I enjoyed this book so much that I read A Wild Sheep Chase (by the same author) immediately afterwards.

 

Please join us for the review of A Wild Sheep Chase tomorrow.

 

Thanks for joining us at The Boss Book Club!

 

 

 

 

 

Purity

Hello everyone and welcome back to The Boss Book Club!

 

This week, to celebrate the return from hiatus, we’re doing a book a day for five days (this is Day 2!). Today we’ll take a look at Jonathan Franzen’s novel, Purity.

 

This is the first book I’ve read by the modern American novelist and I was very impressed by the scope of this book. At the start of the drama is a woman named Pip Tyler, an individual who’s struggling with life due to a large University debt; a less than ideal living situation squatting with some housemates, a job she doesn’t enjoy and a friction filled relationship with her mother. There are certainly relatable moments for just about anyone in the opening chapter, however the novel rapidly expands and opens out to cover a large range of characters, and a broad array of themes.

 

This is as much a political thriller as it is a personal drama. The political side comes into play through the character of Andreas Wolfe, a Julian Assange type figure who was raised in Germany and is now leaking anything and everything political he can find on the internet. When Pip is hired by this man she is pulled into a world of journalism, of secrets, of information and intrigue.

 

Before this novel my knowledge of Berlin’s history was somewhat limited but through the character of Andreas, Franzen does an excellent job at painting a picture of what it was like to grow up in a very politically and socially unstable time. Also, Andreas’ character is very interesting psychologically, and if you enjoy your characters complex and working out why people think the way they do, you will find him incredibly fascinating.

 

On a smaller scale, this book is also about relationships, between parents and children, between husbands and wives, and between friends. It’s about what pulls people together and drives them apart. The book is written in third person viewpoint, but the chapters alternate focus between the characters, so each main character gets a chapter of their own. Franzen does an incredible job at putting together a story that includes the relatable, everyday relationship issues that we can all relate to, as well as tell a tale that’s big enough to cover themes about freedom, the right to information and….

 

Murder.

 

Yes, somebody gets killed but you’ll get no spoilers here!

 

All in all, this is an interesting book with a broad scope: personal drama, intrigue, politics, the information age, love, reunion, family and death all mix together to create a great story by Franzen.

 

Thank you for joining us on The Boss Book Club!

 

Please stop by tomorrow for a review of Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moby Dick

Hello Everyone!

Thanks for joining us today at The Boss Book Club!

The Boss Book Club has been in hiatus over the past few months, but a lot of reading has been done in that time. To celebrate the return, over the next five days will be five book reviews- to catch up on what we’ve missed!

Today, the classic American novel Moby Dick.

I’ve attempted to read Moby Dick approximately 4 times over the past five years, each time giving up after the first 50 pages, overwhelmed by the old-style language or the sheer size of the thing. This time I persisted and pushed on, and I’m very grateful I did.

If you’re yet to read the classic but have been tempted to, it’s certainly worth your time. Written by Herman Melville in 1851, the story gives you an immersive look at the life of a whaleman in the 1800s, where great ships would head out to find and slaughter the sperm whale in order to collect and harvest the oil- which was predominantly used to light lamps across the country.

The story is told in first person narrative by Ishmael, a somewhat experienced seaman (don’t you giggle) but a first time whaler. This book shows you the perils and dangers of whaling from his point of view, as well as captures the sense of excitement and comradery that goes along with voyages that could last years.

The other central character is that of Ahab, the ship’s captain, a psychologically tormented man, whose motives in the voyage are entirely centred around the capture of one particular whale- the legendary Moby Dick.

There are many reasons why this book has been given its rightful status as a classic. For me, it shows me everything there is to know about what the whaling life was like. Herman explains everything about the experience in amazing detail, from what the ships were like, to the customs and traditions shipmen had, to the type of equipment they used- even how they would rig and cut the whale. It shows me a life I would never have known about- being a landlubber myself. It does, however, go into lengthy details of what a whale looks like, which I’m sure in its time would have been wonderfully informative, but can be a little dry in the reading now.

The other thoroughly enjoyable element of this book is Ahab, the dark, brooding Captain, and the book explores many religious, philosophical and psychological themes regarding his and Ishmael’s journey as characters.

Many schools and Universities over the years have included this book on the read list as the book is rich in religious and social metaphors and analogies. It reflects the development of America and man’s relationship with himself and God. You can read as much or as little into this novel as you like and I’m sure repeat readings would offer something new each time.

On a final note, if like me you struggle somewhat to get through classic novels, I have a good tip. Each time you start a reading session, start with one chapter of a classic, followed by whatever other novel you like. I found this helped me focus on the chapter I was reading, and after you’re half way through you’ll find it much easier to plough through and finish it!

 

Happy Reading everyone, see you tomorrow for a review of Jonathan Franzen’s Purity.

 

 

 

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

Hello Everyone and Welcome back to the Boss Book Club!

Today we will be looking at Norwegian Wood, a novel by Japanese author Haruki Murakami, first published in 1987.

After reading (and reviewing!) Murakami’s recent English releases of Pinball, 1973 and Hear the Wind Sing I was itching to read more from this author, as the unique, laid back writing style provided one of the most relaxing and enjoyable reading experiences I’ve ever had. This story did not disappoint, and for those yet to give him a try, Murakami may be one of the best authors you try all year. Norwegian Wood is the novel that pushed him into mainstream fame in Japan, so may be the perfect one to start with.

The story is told in first person viewpoint from our lead character Toru Watanabe. It is 1969 and he is studying at a University in Tokyo. The book provides a casual picture of what student life was like in Japan in the 60s. The story details Toru’s daily student life and his friendships at University. However, Toru is a solitary, somewhat lonely character so it often details how he spends his day, occupying himself with books, music (including the Beatles of course!) and cafes.

There is more of a plot shape in this book compared to Pinball, 1973 which gives the book a nice direction and will make this book more appealing to those who appreciate a destination. Plot is not the point in this book however. It is more focused on the relationships between the characters, and what our lead character is contemplating in his daily life.

The central character of Toru doesn’t read like a character at all, it certainly seems like the author is just writing about his life in the 60s. It is so casually written you feel like you’re walking alongside Toru through Tokyo and spending a University year alongside him.

The book centers around Toru reflecting on his first love, an emotionally troubled woman named Naoko, and the connection they share over the suicide of a mutual friend from their high school years. Also in Toru’s life is a new friendship with a girl named Midori- hip, free thinking and spontaneous, who shares his lectures. The book centers around themes of friendship, love, sexuality, grief, suicide, loneliness and ultimately, the nature of human connection.

Where Murukami really shines is the emotional depth with which he writes. He writes with an emotional intelligence that is truly special, and casually incorporates the seasons, the five senses, memories, thoughts and music all into a picture that seems to require no work at all.

Don’t expect big dramatic moments, expect deep ones and enjoy the journey.

 

5 out of 5 stars- give Murukami a try!

 

Thanks for joining us and Happy Reading!

The Boss Book Club

 

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Hello Everyone and Welcome Back to the Boss Book Club!

Today I will be reviewing Gillian Flynn’s first novel, Sharp Objects. Gillian Flynn is the novelist behind the book/movie Gone Girl.

Before I go any further the first thing I will say is this book will not be for everyone. It is definitely an adult novel, which I would pitch at an 18+ age group. It is a thriller with dark content, including: child murder, self- harm, sexual assault and acts of violence. If you want a feel good story then please come back next time.

For those of you wanting to know if this thriller is for you, then read on…

This novel is told from first person view by our leading lady Camille Preaker, a reporter from Chicago who is sent to her home town of Wind Gap after a local girl is found murdered, and another is missing. She is given the task of covering the story of a small town under the threat of a potential serial killer. This will be the first time in eight years that Camille has returned home, and faced her mother Adora, and a stepsister Amma whom she barely knows.

This story can be read in two layers. The first is the mystery of what has happened to the girls and the suspense of finding out who the killer is.  The second layer is learning about our main character Camilla, a troubled woman who is struggling to connect with a family she had left behind.

I think this story has its weaknesses in the first layer: the mystery of what has happened to the girls. There are not many credible options as to who the killer could be, or attention paid to minor characters to pique the readers attention or keep them guessing. When the killer is revealed it makes a lot of sense, rather than leaves you surprised.

Where it has its great strength is the psychological depth of Camilla’s character and the others within her family. Adora the mother, Amma the step-sister and Alan, her step-father share a complex relationship that is thrilling, interesting and at times, disturbing. Camilla’s attitudes and thoughts on life are skewed and her sense of self is oddly affected by her upbringing, and the reader watches as Camilla slowly falters due to being back in the environment she grew up in, and tried to escape.

If you have read or watched Gone Girl then you will find some similarities here: psychologically disturbed characters and deeply flawed relationships between damaged people. If you enjoyed Gone Girl then you will likely enjoy this too.

I thought, three quarters of the way through the book, that in my review I would say I didn’t it. However, when I had reached the ending, I was satisfied. This is a thriller which did have me in suspense until the end, but it was a bit of a journey to get there. The closing chapters were great, and would make a wonderful finale… on the big screen! Which leads me to…

My overall recommendation is to wait for the movie. This is a thriller that thrills, but this can be achieved in three hours or less- I wouldn’t consider it worth spending 12+ hours reading. Apparently a TV movie has been announced so you probably won’t have to wait long! Also, because the book is written in the first person, the story fits tightly around Camilla, and her thoughts and perceptions on everything. The objectivity of a movie may give more focus to other characters, which will hopefully build the suspense of who the killer is a little better.

Thank you for joining us, next time we will be heading into lighter territory with a wonderful children’s book!

 

Please let me know what you think in the comments below.

 

Happy Reading Bosses!

 

Hear The Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973

Hello Everyone and Welcome Back to The Boss Book Club!

Do you wish you could spend your life drinking coffee, hanging out at your local bar, smoking cigarettes and occasionally doing some writing?

If your answer is yes I have the perfect book to accompany and inspire you!

Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973 are two short novels recently released in the one volume. They are the earliest novels by contemporary Japanese author Haruki Murakami. Their release marks the first time these two stories have been published in English outside of Japan, and they make up parts one and two of a trilogy.

Hear the Wind Sing is written in first person viewpoint from our unknown narrator who is home from University for the summer break. During this time he smokes cigarettes, hangs out with his friend the Rat at J’s bar, listens to music, and contemplates the three serious relationships he has had so far. Then he has another cigarette. That’s it. That’s all that happens in this book. And it’s greatly enjoyable.

Pinball is set three years later, from the viewpoint of the same narrator. He is now working in Tokyo, translating papers. He is currently living with a set of identical twins. He sets out to find his old favourite pinball machine. He smokes a lot of cigarettes. It also follows the story of the Rat, who has remained behind in the old home town and is struggling to move on from J’s bar. He is also smoking many cigarettes.

If you are a person who loves a strongly driven plot with peaks and troughs and build and twists and turns then forget about it, walk straight past this book and don’t look back!

If you are strongly against cigarettes and hate the thought of people smoking then you may want to put this book in a fireplace and watch it burn.

But if you are a person who can sit by a window and do nothing else but watch the rain come down for an hour, or if you like to wander about your local neighbourhood just to soak in the atmosphere, or if you love to sit by train windows and watch the world go by you will love this book.

This book is the equivalent of a lazy Sunday with your friends, drinking beers, or a long leisurely stroll. The narrator is interesting, you may or may not find him likeable but I doubt the author would care. It details the daily goings of his life and what he is contemplating at the time. It is one of the most relaxing, most enjoyable reads I’ve ever had. After the book was over I struggled to remember what had happened, or what any of it was about. This may seem bizarre but the book has a way of making you live the moment with the narrator. What comes before or after doesn’t matter.

This book is for adults, because it talks about adult things. There’s no swearing or adult scenes, no violence or explicit content. It just talks about subjects only adults would understand, like the feeling of staying in a town too long when your friends have left; when you break up with someone without having a conversation about it; or when you decide to go hunt down a pinball machine you loved three years before, just to see it again.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough for a relaxing read. It would be perfect to enjoy with a coffee at a cafe.The third book in the trilogy is titled A Wild Sheep Chase. I will certainly be looking into that next.

 

Thank you for joining us today at the Boss Book Club!

 

Happy Reading!

 

By the way, I’m not kidding about the smoking. The narrator lights a smoke on every single page. Every one…