Monday, June 22, 2015

A God In Ruins | Kate Atkinson

Another wonderful novel by Kate Atkinson. I have always enjoyed her books, and this one is superb. It is a stand alone book although one could also read it as a companion book to Life After Life. The same characters are the protagonists although Teddy is the focus in this one, as Ursula was in the other one.

This is the life of Teddy going back and forth from present to past, not in chronological order but in as he has memories of people in his past and present:  his relationships with the War, his bomber squadron, his wife Nancy, daughter Viola and grandkids.

The narrative is seamless and wanders through various character's lives and thoughts in a very skilled and readable style.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, and highly recommend it, and all her other novels.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Traitor | Stephen Daisley

A truly beautiful book written in a stream of consciousness style, weaving back and forth between New Zealand and Gallipoli.

David Monroe was a farming lad from the North Island of New Zealand who signed up and went to war. The horror and humanity of war is described in broad strokes, beautiful in their simplicity and use of language to portray the anguish of what those young men went through.

Monroe returns to farm in the valley where he grew up. His mother and father are gone, many of his childhood friends have died and have left empty farms all around him. He lives his life haunted by the friendship he had with a Turkish doctor who is injured at the same time as him. They go through hospitalisation together and then they escape, trying to get Mahmoud back to his family. The consequences of these actions reverberate through the years up to the last scenes of Monroe's death.

The narrative jumps back and forth between the years of the war and the rest of Monroe's life. Carefully woven and not always explicit, the story is told in measured steps.

Moving and very beautiful

Madness in Civilization: a cultural history of insanity | Andrew Scull

This book is a very good read, although the  topic and size of it may not at first compel you to pick it up. Scull is an expert in what is know about madness throughout history. He starts by going through the earliest written record of mad people, right up to modern day definitions and practises.

The book is full of fascinating stories of people and doctors who developed psychiatry. Treatments vary from the sadistic to the ingenious and are an eye opener to the medical profession.

I thoroughly enjoyed learning about this field, madness is a fascinating topic. Even now, it seems no one can define madness. Well worth reading by lay people, Scull has a very approachable writing style and can tell a good story.