Monthly Archives: June 2011

Book Review: Sister by Rosamund Lupton

Title: Sister
Author: Rosamund Lupton
Publisher: Piatkus, Hachette Book Group UK
Genre: Suspense, Thriller, Fiction
ISBN: 9780749942014
PP: 358 pages
Price: Rs. 295
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Sister is an astounding accomplishment as a debut novel and is well worth reading. I was absorbed by Rosamund Lupton’s story of the truths we keep from our families and their desperate search for those truths once we leave them behind.

The bleak snowscape of the cover is fitting for the setting of the story, but on a deeper level it is indicative of the things before us that can remain hidden and the coldness of a search for answers. The young woman walking away from us into the wintry scene brings a splash of bright colour to the image with her read jacket. That vibrant red instinctively makes us think of blood and the chilling possibilities of what may have happened to Tess. My compliments to the design team at Piatkus for an effective cover design.

Sister is told simultaneously in the form of a letter from Beatrice to Tess and in Beatrice’s statement of events to a lawyer. Rather than being haphazard and confusing, this technique allows us to see the facts of Beatrice’s search for her sister while at the same time giving us an insight into their relationship and personalities. Lupton has managed to weave these two separate voices together to produce a coherent narrative that is thought-provoking and engaging.

Some reviewers have commented on the slower pace of Sister when compared to many thrillers. If you are looking for an action-packed thrill ride then Sister is probably not the book for you. But of you are interested in a book that will make you think and stay with you for days after you finish it, then don’t hesitate. While Sister is not your typical thriller it still fits quite comfortably into the genre, but the menace and threat is built up slowly – like an ominous shadow creeping into a bright sunny day. What I most loved about this story was that Lupton’s writing is crisp and intelligent and she has created real people in a situation that I could imagine myself into. Even now, a day after I finished the book, I find myself wondering what I would have done in Beatrice’s place. It’s this connection with the reader that I thing is especially amazing to find in a debut novel.

As Beatrice tells her story to the lawyer and her sister she undergoes a metamorphosis. Beatrice learns what is really important in her life and as her layers are stripped away the reader experiences this growth in her character firsthand. The snippets of memory shared with Tess from their childhood make the bond between them more real. And through these memories and Beatrice’s story Tess becomes as real a character as any of the others – despite the fact that we never meet her.

Sister is an accomplished debut that looks at how relationships affect us and it’s a book that will stay with you days after you finish it. I can’t wait to see what Lupton has in store for me next!

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Sister: A Novel

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Book Review: Palo Alto by James Franco

Title: Palo Alto: Stories
Author: James Franco
Publisher: Faber and Faber
ISBN: 978-0571273164
PP: 208 pages
Price: £12.99
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3/5

Palo Alto is a collection of short stories concerning teenagers who are your bottom-of-the-barrel type of people. There’s lots of sex, alcohol, drugs, and general life wasting going on. Franco scores a few points with me throughout the course of this book. I’m not so old yet that I can’t appreciate and get some laughs out of some of the childish expressions and subject matter that overwhelmingly permeate this collection. However, Franco also seems to be attempting to bring some more mature dialogue to the table, and in doing this he creates a rather unrealistic and entirely unbelievable narrative throughout much of his writing. The consistently delinquent and simple storytelling is spot-on, but then there will be certain phrases that surface out of nowhere, phrases an adolescent would never use. Some of these are poetics that demonstrate something above and beyond what an adolescent would conjure and some are just poor word choices.

Adolescence is a tough time for everyone, particularly with the cruel restrictions teens place on one another for fitting in. These restrictions on what people should be like and look like are basically an attempt to gain control during a turbulent time. James Franco’s short stories reflect this in the reckless lifestyles and the cruelties the characters impose on one another.

Although the characters don’t have much depth or redemption, it’s the meaning behind the stories that struck me. Each character is hollow and alone, and chemical and sexual stimulation can never fulfill that void of empty teenage existance. In fact, it usually deepens it in the long term. If you’re looking for something that isn’t so blunt and graphic with its depiction of teenage society, go elsewhere. If your looking for cute characters that are lovable and find redemption, go elsewhere. However, if your looking for an authentic depiction of the faceless, conformist teenage society, James Franco nails it with Palo Alto.

Book Review: Saints and Sinners by Edna O’Brien

Title: Saints and Sinners: Stories
Author: Edna O’Brien
Publisher: Faber and Faber
ISBN: 978-0571270316
Genre: Short Stories
PP: 224 Pages
Price: £12.99
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

You’ll never get more black Irish than this, some without much humor, other with very dark and wonderful humor. And I write that as a compliment to the rich voice of this remarkable author. I have to confess that this is the first time I have read anything by Edna O’Brien. I must reform myself and read much more.

The opening story, “Shovel Kings,” takes the reader into the darkness of life both outside–specifically London–and inside Ireland, where life is sustained, if at all, by drink where these characters live in poverty and suffer from abuse, told to the narrator, awaiting an appointment with a psychotherapist, by Rafferty, an exile of sorts whose life could be summarized by this sentence in the story: “Nothing was wrong…but nothing was right, either.” I would say there was much that was wrong. As for the title, well it summarizes the existential lot of the Irish men who came to labor, for naught, in London.

In “Sinners,” aging Delia has “lost that most heartfelt rapport that she once had with God,” her prayers coming only from her lips, not “from deep within anymore.” Delia’s is an abode–that is also a small bed and breakfast–much in need of refreshing: wallpapers, paints, towels…everything. She is the mother of five, one dead, but they are like the wallpapers, faded images only, no longer present in her lonely life. Hers had not been a happy marriage, of course! Few are apparently in Edna O’Brien’s works. Is there any happiness in any Irish households? One wonders when reading these brilliant stories.

In “Madame Cassandra” Millie speaks in first person outside the caravan carrying Madame Cassandra, the gypsy seer, who appears not to wish to met with Millie–and the reader soon learns why. Millie reveals this about her past: “I cannot tell you what a relief it is to be here…to be able to let off a little steam.” A little steam??!! Oh, no, this is a woman filled with wrath. And, of course, the sbuject of her discourse, filled with allusions to various mythologies, is her errant husband.

Okay! When these two sentences soon reveal themselves in “Black Flowers,” “She didn’t know him very well. She had volunteered to give painting lessons in the prison in the Midlands where he was serving a long sentence,” then you know you’re in for a good read.

I could write a lot more about this collection of stories, but hopefully this is enough of a taste so that you will want to order a copy. This is a collection of excellently written short stories from a great author. They are not action packed and there are no car chases, but the writing is good quality and interesting. It is an excellent book to dip in and out of if you have only short bursts of time to spend relaxing with a good book – the short journey to work or even a trip to the bathhroom – come all; we all read on the toilet! I bought the book after listening ton interview with Edna O’Brien on the radio and have loved it. I can fully recommend it to anyone that likes good literature and relaxing.

Tomorrow Pamplona Blog Tour 2011, Gig 9

Laura’s Question: How easy or difficult it was to work on the translation, considering that the book was written in dialogues and so much imagery was involved?

I really enjoyed working on the dialogue. It felt almost like translating a play sometimes! I have to confess to sitting there in front of my computer and talking to myself occasionally, just to check that the dialogue worked. One aspect that I spent some time thinking about was the absence of quotation marks in the book. I tried inserting quotation marks in one short section to see what effect it would have, but it just didn’t feel like Jan’s text anymore. I did perhaps normalise the text a little, by, for example, inserting the names of the speakers at points where I felt the attribution wasn’t quite clear or by rearranging the order of the elements in the dialogue to something that felt more natural in English, but I decided to stick with Jan’s choice not to employ quotation marks.

One interesting point about the amount of dialogue in that text was that the short lines made the book thicker than Peirene’s other titles. Peirene aim to keep their books under 200 pages, which was a challenge on this occasion because so much of the page was taken up by very short lines: ‘Yes.’ ‘Okay.’ ‘No.’ Tomorrow Pamplona may look longer than Peirene’s other titles, but that’s mainly because dialogue is such an important feature of this book.

This translation was a real pleasure to work on, as the original text flows so well and the tension is so strong.

Book Review: Partitions by Amit Majmudar

Title: Partitions
Author: Amit Majmudar
Publisher: Metropolitan Books (Henry Holt and Co)
ISBN: 978-0805093957
Genre: Fiction
PP: 224 pages
Price: $25.00
Source: Publisher via Bookpleasures.com
Rating: 5/5

My grandmother used to tell me stories about the partition, about how they left their homeland Pakistan and were evicted to India in August 1947. I used to hear these stories with enthrallment, not knowing the hardships she and my grandfather went through to build a new life. How could I have known? I was but a child at that time. However, as I grew up, I started being more perceptive of the event and it made me see things differently – keeping in mind both countries – India and Pakistan and what its citizens experienced when partition was announced.

A lot of writers have written about the Partition – from Salman Rushdie to Bhisham Sahni to Khushwant Singh and each one of them have depicted the state of affairs in a different way. Amidst these stalwarts, comes a new book entitled, Partitions by Amit Majmudar.

I had the opportunity of reading this vividly written book and I must say that I was mesmerized by the prose.

Partitions centers around four individuals from both sides of the border and how their lives converge throughout the book. Shankar and Keshav, two Hindu Boys, have lost sight of their mother at a train station and don’t know where they belong or where to go to. Simran Kaur, a young Sikh girl, has run away from her father, who would rather see her dead than dishonored. Ibrahim Masud, an elderly Muslim doctor is driven away from India towards the new Muslim State of Pakistan.

The book is about the meeting of these four characters and how they come together ironically enough, defying every political thought and viewpoint. The writing is lyrical – it is almost like the sentences dance on the page and you are transported to another time and place. The main theme of the book, hope, comes across strongly and evokes a sense of belonging and what does it take for a bond to form amongst strangers.

I would highly recommend this book because of its plot, the heart-felt writing and the possibilities that exist in our world and are brilliantly portrayed by writers such as Mr. Majmudar through the medium of writing.

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Reviewer for Bookpleasures.com