Wednesday, October 1, 2014

All Saints' Rising | Madison Smartt Bell

I was a little daunted by the size of this book, it's 530 pages. But as I began to read this epic historical novel I was swept away by the well written account of the Haitian slave uprising in the late 1700's and early 1800's. The research involved would have been a huge undertaking in and of itself, but the author has done a seamless job of balancing historical detail and fictionalising characters to engage the reader.

I knew very little of what happened in Haiti before and during its bid for independence. Brutal and violent, savage and indiscriminate all parties involved were intent on massacres and torture to bring about their desired government.

The slaves rebelled against the white plantation owners who had oppressed them for centuries. The whites fought between themselves, the French against the English. Mixed up with all that were the Mulattos and other mixed race people. All in all a great knot of belief and histories and philosophies all trying to untangle themselves and gain the upper hand.

Well worth investing the time to read, and as it's so well crafted, it won't take very long. Interesting from a historical point of view and the characters are so well portrayed, the reader engages with them and cares deeply about their fate.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Taking Pictures: Images and Messages Rescued from the Past | Ransom Riggs

Riggs is the author of two great books about Peculiar Children: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children and Hollow City. The third instalment in the series will be published soon.

The amazing thing about these books is that they are based on real photographs found by Riggs and friends in Op Shops, car boot sales and anywhere else where people dump old photographs.
The photos are unusual in that they portray children and adults in bizarre ways. It's based on old dark room tricks when printing the photos, which are included in the text of each story.

In this book, Riggs has published a collection of his own photographs and tells a bit of a story about them. He began collecting a s a young boy and continues today. He only collects photos that have writing or captions on them. It is a truly astonishing and moving book. Each photo tells a story and each caption is a slice of life. Well worth getting hold of this book.

Much enjoyed.

The Sun is God | Adrian mcKinty

This writer is from Northern Ireland and this is the first of his novels that I have read. I'm not altogether convinced by this novel but he does write well so I may go on to read some of his other books.
This is the story of what happened on an island in the South Pacific, where a group of cocovores resides. They are a cult looking for eternal life based on their beliefs on the worship of the sun, extended use of heroin and eating only coconuts and bananas. Nearby in German New Guinea Will Prior is asked by the German authorities to help investigate the death of one of the cult members.
Prior and two others go to the remote island of Kabakon and spend a few days interviewing  the remaining cult members.
From then on it reads like a gentle whodunnit, and a study on a social experiment which went badly wrong. In the afterword we discover that this is in fact a true story, which McKinty has adapted and retold. I wish I had known that at the begging, it would have made more sense.

Although I enjoyed the style, I didn't fully engage with the story. I thought it was a bit overwrought. But based on the writing I will read more by this author.