Sunday, March 30, 2014

Something to Tell You by Hanif Kureishi (2008)

This was a random find while browsing through the library's English novel shelves.  I had never really heard of the author, Hanif Kureishi, although I definitely remember when the movie "My Beautiful Laundrette" came out (for which he wrote the screenplay).

I took this book home to read because the story sounded intriguing and it took place in London, a city I love to visit.  The story follows the main character, Jamal, who is a middle aged psychoanalyst, as he goes about his current life in London, as well as in flashbacks of his life in the late 1970's, centered around a romance he had with a woman he believes he is still in love with, and the reason their relationship ended.  This involves a secret he has kept about a crime he committed, and he fears the secret will come out after they reconnect in the present (2005).

I struggled to get through this book and the only thing that kept me going were the descriptions of places and life in London and my curiosity about whether or not Jamal's secret came out and what the ramifications would be.  The characters and their milieu were often shockingly decadent, and I had a hard time sympathizing with or relating to any of them.  Much of the book draws on the lifestyles of the rich and famous in theater, film, television and music, with a focus on the underbelly of drugs, prostitution, sex clubs, and how people manipulate and exploit one another.  Not really my cup of tea, so it will be a relief to return it to where I found it, and start reading something else completely different.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan (2011)

This book was a random library find; the dark red cover pulled me to take it off the shelf.
I had never heard of the author, nor of her first novel, Mudbound, which my library unfortunately doesn't have.

I've always been intrigued by stories that take place in a changed future world and When She Woke takes place in the near future in Texas mainly, where hinted-at wars and outbreaks of disease have changed society in many ways.  In many parts of the story I wished the author would have delved more into the details of these catalysts for change.   However, she stuck firmly to the story of the main character, Hannah, and the change that most affected her, the fact that abortion was illegal, and punishable by "chroming", a process whereby a convicted criminal is injected with a virus that causes their skin to turn a color that marks them to the outside world as a criminal.  In Hannah's case, she becomes red, and is instantly recognizable to everyone as a murderer.  The story details the illicit affair with her pastor that leads to her "crime", her incarceration and punishment, and her attempt to escape her plight.

The novel is an enjoyable quick read, and well paced, but many of the characters felt like they came right out of a script for a futuristic action-packed blockbuster; too many of them had too much of a stereotypical profile.  Plus the visual gimmick of bright red, blue and yellow humans seems to lend itself perfectly to a film interpretation, and a little bit more awkwardly to the printed page.