Review – A Long Way Down, by Nick Hornby.

10073People say that brain surgery is hard, and I agree, it probably is, but I also imagine that writing a story about suicide, and making it into a dark comedy, is also very hard!   Nick Hornby has achieved this major feat in his novel, A Long Way Down.   Now, this book came out 10 years ago, but it is the first Hornby novel that I have read.   I’d always been interested in picking up one of his novels (Hornby is perhaps most famously known for his novel, About a Boy), but it was a case of never pulling the trigger, so to speak.    Well, I’m certainly glad that I did!

The novel explores the lives and interactions of four characters that incidentally meet on the top of a building on New Years Eve; all have the intent of jumping off said building.    Hmmm…. Sounds pretty grim, huh?   Well, let me give you an example of what drew me in:

Can I explain why I wanted to jump off the top of  tower block?  Of course I can explain why I wanted to jump off the top of a tower block.  I’m not a bloody idiot.  I can explain it because it wasn’t inexplicable: It wasn’t a logical decision, the product of proper thought.  It wasn’t even very serious thought, either.

The first few lines of the book are full of dark humor, philosophy (actual, realistic philosophical thinking) and candor.   Hornby’s use of the first person narrative really draws you in and entices you into each character’s experiences and story.   Talking of which, the characters are a huge reason this novel works so well; each character is real.  They all have their flaws, and you will spend a considerable amount of time disliking them, wanting to slap them silly, but at the same time, wanting to give them a hug and talk things out with them.   I think when you’re story circles around such a profound and personal theme of wondering how your life has ended up the way it has and not seeing any way forward, the characters need to be real; they need to be human – someone we can relate to.

Hornby is British, so his humor is very dark, discrete and dry.  I personally loved it, but I can see how a lot of people may miss it, or simply not find it amusing.   However, I think this novel will have something for everyone, as it offers hope, perspective and a good old fashioned kick up the rear end.    It’s not all doom and gloom, but it also doesn’t offer a glossy shine on life.  Oh, and there is a film version of this book, on Netflix, and while it isn’t a bad  film, it doesn’t offer nearly the same amount as the book does (and in my opinion, the casting person for that movie should have read the book a little more carefully!), so steer clear until you have finished the book!

Until next time,

Pegasus.

A Long Way Down

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Review – A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara.

22822858You know when you finish a book, and you have a sense of catharsis – a feeling that someone has gone inside your body and mind and washed it out with a hose pipe?  Yeah, I’m currently at that stage after finishing Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life.   It was only published in early March, so don’t be surprised if you haven’t heard of it before; actually, it was completely by accident that I came across an NPR review of this book whilst reading another review on the same page.  l did a little more research and found a few more reviews.  I immediately went to NetGalley and requested a review copy.  I now am going to buy the hardback version.  I need it on my bookshelf!

You know by now that I don’t like to spend too much time on premise as it often can inadvertently contain spoilers, so I’ll give you the briefest overview.    A Little Life follows four best friends from when they are roommates at college right through the next 30 or so years.   We have Jude, Malcolm, JB and Willem.   All have different personalities and ways of handling issues.  We explore their lives as they try and deal with revelations, tragedy, happiness, fame, and each other.   However, rest assured, that Yanagihara’s novel isn’t just your standard coming of age drama.  No.  It goes deep into who we are , how much we can endure, and what it means to truly live.

The characters in this novel are truly what make it an exceptional book.   Each character is fleshed out sufficiently enough for the reader to believe that they could actually exist and that the dynamics between them are genuine.  Even the secondary characters are believable and vital to the story.  In the hands of another author, the characters could have easily become caricatures and much eye rolling would have occurred.

The language used in this novel is phenomenal.   Having the ability to evoke a sense of horror and shock without being explicit, is a true art form.  The language is raw, yet it never becomes explicit just for the sake of shock value.  It is believable, poetic and realistic all in one.

I will give fair warning that some of the themes and content are indeed painful.  I have read some negative reviews from people, that I believe, went into this novel thinking it was going a Nicholas Sparks type deal, and they were duly slapped in the face.  Go into this novel with an open mind, a willingness to recognize that different people react different ways, because Yanagihara does not make it easy for you.

Having said that, if you want to experience a novel that will really make you pay attention and and will present you with the harsh and beautiful realities of life, then do yourself a favour, go to the library, click on the link, go to your local bookshop, and pick up a copy of this truly unique novel.

~ Pegasus.

A Little Life: A Novel

Review – Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami.

19288239I’ve just finished Murakami’s latest offering and I’m torn between really liking it, or feeling shortchanged. Out of all the Murakami novels that I have read, this one is perhaps his “simplest”. Why do I use air quotes, you ask? Well, even though the plot is basic in terms of narrative, the reader is still treated to the lexicon, syntax, emotional complexity, and philosophical internal turmoil that are all trademark Murakami.

The plot centers around Tsukuru Tazaki who was once a member of a tight knit group of friends before he seeks out new adventures at college in Tokyo. Upon returning to his hometown on a break, he discovers that his friends no longer want anything to do with him, and will not give him an explanation as to why. What ensues is Tsukuru going about his life wondering what he has done. Throughout the story, Tsukuru goes on a journey to discover what is the true essence of friendship, love and the choice we make in order to live our lives.

The plot has been hashed out a million times before, however, fans of Murakami will know that he is able to add a new passion to this, some argue, overused trope of “finding yourself”. This novel won’t necessarily appeal to the masses; Murakami, although becoming evermore popular, still has a niche fan base. However, I do think that it could well be a great beginners novel if you have never read any Murakami but are curious to see what his writing is like. Being only around 375 pages, it is just right to get a taste.

My only gripe with this novel was that it seemed to offer more than what it could deliver. I can’t go into details as it would spoil plot points, but even though I’m not looking for a nice little bow tie wrapped ending, I do feel as though it could have been 100 pages longer. But I suppose that is me just being greedy!

Give this one a go. You might love it and discover a new favourite author, or you may hate it and therefore not have to add to your TBR pile. You can’t really lose!

Until next time,

Pegasus.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage: A novel

Review – Is It Just Me? By Miranda Hart.

15733346It’s fair to say that I probably read too many (or not enough) depressing books in my spare time. So with this in mind, I decided to go for a bit of comedy this time. Yes, comedy. No, the world hasn’t ended, well, not that I’m aware of at least.
This light-hearted read from British comedian, Miranda Hart, takes a look at her life 20 years ago, and her life now. If you were to meet yourself from 20 years ago, what would you say? What advice would you give? Well, this is the premise of the book. Told in an almost vignette style, Hart attempts to explain to her younger self such things as the Internet, emailing, mobile phones, and office shenanigans. In the chapter about technology for example, Hart tries to describe the concept of email, and with this explanation, includes several funny tales of company wide inappropriate emails, issues of miss-communication, and general hilarity. Each chapter talks about a different topic such as Dating, Technology, Early careers etc, etc…
What I found particularly great about this book was the fact that you could actually hear Hart saying the words. The humor is very British, so I would Youtube a few videos of her before you read, just so you can get her style of delivery, which is rather unique! I didn’t realise this before I purchased the e-book, but Hart has recorded an audio of her book, which is far better, in my opinion, because she is a stand up comedian by trade, and so her audio delivery is spot on. However, if you don’t want to get it on audio just yet, you can get it for a good price on the kindle
~ Pegasus.

Is It Just Me?