November is such a busy month, with both my husband's and daughter's birthday arriving, and Christmas shopping starting in ernest. However, I can always squeeze in some reading!
My book club read this month was "The Cat's Table" by Michael Ondaatje. A young boy from Sri Lanka ( Ceylon as it was then) is sent to England on a liner in the early 1950s and finds himself amongst the characters of the cat's table, that is the one furthest away from the Captain's table. The book describes his experiences on board and how they affect his adult life. This was a bit of an odd read, beautifully written as one would expect from Ondaatje, and the characters were very well drawn. However, not an awful lot happens, and the constant flip-flopping from the past to the narrator's present, made it rather disjointed. It was a bit of a "meh" read really.
Kazuo Ishiguro's "The Remains Of The Day" was excellent in comparison, again, not a lot actually happens but oh, how beautiful and tragic it is. Stevens, a butler at a stately manor in the 1950s, drives through the English countryside to visit Miss Kenton with whom he used to work. It is such a haunting novel, I found it very moving and the final pages had me in tears. Ishiguro is a wonderful writer, his prose is so vivid, I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
Monica Ali used to attend my daughter's school so I always keep an eye out for her books, I really enjoyed "Brick Lane". "Untold Story" is a strange tale, Princess Diana isn't dead, she faked it in a boating accident and is now living incognito in Kensington, America. She has a contented life, working at a dog sanctuary, until a former paparazzo coincidentally arrives in town and recognises her, this received poor reviews and I can see why. I kept on reading as I wanted to see what would happen, but it really isn't very good. The characters were all cliche-ridden, the plot full of holes and even for a work of fiction, it was exceedingly far-fetched. A strange book from such a talented writer.
Another writer I enjoy is Ian McEwan, I think "Atonement" is one of my all-time favourite books. "The Child In Time" is one of his earlier works. It is a deeply sad tale of a couple whose three year old daughter goes missing from a supermarket and the effect this has on the lives of the mother, but the father, children's writer Stephen Lewis, in particular. It takes place in a world that isn't quite contemporary Britain, and this sense that everything isn't quite right is enhanced as Stephen's deep grief can even play tricks on time. This isn't an easy read, in any sense, but it is interesting to see McEwan's development as a writer.
John O'Farrell is a very funny writer and "The Man Who Forgot His Wife" has some very amusing lines in it. Vaughan finds himself on a train with no idea who he is, he has had a "fugue" and the story follows him as he tries to find out who he is. When he comes across his wife, he instantly adores her, but discovers they were about to divorce. I enjoyed this book, it's light hearted but also deals with deep themes of love and loss and what makes us "us".
Benjamin Wood's debut novel is "The Bellwether Revivals", set in Cambridge it is an odd tale of Eden Bellwether who thinks he can cure illness through the power of music. I don't really like the plot device of putting the denouement right at the start, a lot of the tension is lost in such a way as we know what will happen. However, this was well written and I was drawn into the privileged world of the Bellwethers and the care worker, Oscar, who falls in love with Eden's sister. It has been compared to Donna Tartt's "The Secret History" and I can see the parallels. Worth a read when it appears in paperback, I got a cheap hardback from The Book People!