Saturday, June 18, 2011

Good On Ya, Rosie

Now and again I seem to pick a common theme in my reading material.  This month it is evidently violence and animal abuse.  After some very disturbing scenes in The Wasp Factory I've had to endure some terrible scenes in Water for Elephants.  With this aside, it really is an engrossing novel.  Set during the Great Depression, it gives you an insight into how desperate men will do anything to remain in work even if it is with the unscrupulous Uncle Al,  the owner of The Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth.

There is a love interest, of course, and this is in the form of the talented Marlena whom Jacob, our narrator, is very attracted to.  Marlena is married to August the head animal trainer.  August is a paranoid schizophrenic and a very unlikable character indeed.  The novel is told by Jacob in the present remembering his life in the past, he is 90 or 93 - he's not too sure - and lives in a nursing home.  When a circus comes to town it triggers his memories.

Jacob has become a very cantankerous old man but he reminds you that we are all going to be old one day, that all old people were young once and, like Jacob maybe, they have a story to tell.

Ringling Brothers Circus is mentioned as the circus that Uncle Al aspires to become, and I was fascinated to note after Googling it, that it is a real circus that started in 1884.  It absorbed the famous Barnum and Bailey and was well known for its honest dealings, and is still in operation today.

And Rosie?  Well she's proof of the old adage that elephants never forget - and neither do they forgive.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Thoughts on The Wasp Factory

You do have to wonder how an author's mind works when you read something like The Wasp Factory.  It's a very twisted read indeed, not to mention violent.

Sixteen year old Frank Cauldhame is the narrator and he provides not only the horror but the humour too.  Frank's older half brother Eric has escaped from a mental asylum and he's on his way back to their isolated home in Scotland where Frank lives with his father.  We never meet Eric, but we do find out why his mind shattered, and we listen in on the bizarre phone calls he makes to Frank as he gets closer and closer to home.

Frank loves his older brother, but he is disturbed and horrified by the violent acts that he perpetrates on dogs yet Frank himself tortures animals and, during the course of the novel, he admits to murdering three children before he is nine years old.  Frank considers himself sane, and he has rational explanations for his murders, but he is aware that he needs to perform certain rituals - the sacrifice of mice, and the capture and killing of wasps in his 'factory' which he believes foretells the future.

In a way this character reminded me of Tom Ripley from The Talented Mr Ripley - Frank is a psychopath or a sadist but you actually quite like him.  I liked the way the novel unravels events from the past which have shaped Frank's present, and the revelation that even Frank is not what he seems. It's very well written, but it is very graphic and it would probably be wise not to read it if you are an animal lover.  I had to keep telling myself - it's only a story, it's only a story..........

It's been hard to find something interesting to read next, I'm trying Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro but it's not really grabbing me.  I've read some really good reviews so hoping it picks up soon, and I'm listening to Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.  I like the look of the movie trailer, but I always like to read the book first.  The narrators aren't bad, I think the old man is done very well, but the young man's voice is a trifle boring.  I don't know much about the story at all, but the premise is about a young vet student who joins a circus after his parents die in an accident and he finds that his inheritence belongs to the bank.  

Saturday, June 4, 2011

I'm Back!

Well actually, I have been back for the past week but I’ve been so busy catching up at work I can’t believe it’s already the weekend.  I didn’t read as much as planned, it was more tiring playing with a three year old than I expected and I was only interested in sleep by the time I went to bed!

The first thing I read when I got back was World War Z by Max Brooks.  I did start it before going to WA, but I started from the beginning again as I had really enjoyed what I read prior to leaving  and I wanted to ‘refresh’.  For a Zombie novel it was very intelligently written, fun and thought provoking.  It could have been a documentary on any war in history, the story is the same – the fight for survival and the inability of governments to act.

For book club our group read is The Light Keeper’s Wife by Karen Viggers.  I was hoping it would be better than it was. Set in Tasmania/Bruny Island it piqued my interest as I’m heading there over the Christmas break, but it was pretty awful.  It was morose and boring, and the character Tom (who I suppose Viggers was trying to write as a new age sensitive guy) was just wimpy and pathetic and more like a female character.

I’ve now started The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks, and although I'm only a few pages into it I really like it.  Frank, the narrator is a 17 year old boy but he’s really twisted.  His brother Eric also has problems and has been locked up in a mental institution from which he has escaped.  Frank reminds me a little of John Egan from M J  Hyland’s Carry Me Down but he is far more troubled and twisted.  I worried about John Egan, but I don’t think I’ll be worrying about Frank Cauldhame.