The sample sounds great, Hanks goes along at a nice clip, enunciates beautifully and is just his usual awesome self. However, the story is really not my kind of thing. Usually I run the other way, when I see a book tagged as literary fiction.
Set over the course of five decades, The Dutch House is a dark fairy tale about two smart people who cannot overcome their past. Despite every outward sign of success, Danny and Maeve are only truly comfortable when they’re together. Throughout their lives, they return to the well-worn story of what they’ve lost with humor and rage. But when at last they’re forced to confront the people who left them behind, the relationship between an indulged brother and his ever-protective sister is finally tested.
From the Goodreads blurb
Will have to think about it! I also feel tempted by his short story collection, Uncommon Type: Some Stories. Somewhere I came across a story talking about his hobby of collecting manual typewriters. It immediately made me long for having one again myself. They are so expensive! And not easy to come by…
I love Tom Hanks. I hope there will never, ever be any stories in the news declaring him to be a horrible human for some reason. It would break my heart.
I read the first few chapters, then skimmed my way roughly to the middle of the book, looking at the illustrations and reading a bit here and there. The writing doesn‘t feel as dry and dated as I feared, but all together this didn‘t grab me enough to properly read it in full. That‘s just me though. I recommend reading the Goodreads review of my buddy Trish…
Fatma, Siti and Hamed are back. Promising start with likable characters, but a very slow plot. It took me two weeks to make it a third into the story, with several days of not wanting to pick it up. I thought it was me and was disappointed that this wasn‘t a fun rollercoaster ride, sweeping me along. I almost abandoned it, but instead skimmed through the denser passages in the middle to make some progress. Less filler would have been good.
For example the convention in the middle with all those dignitaries served no real purpose. It added to the complexity of the world, but it did not really bring the plot forward or could have happened as a shorter scene. Maybe Clark had another short story/novelette in his hand and blew it up to novel length by expanding the word count, without actually adding significantly to the story?
I did like the development of Siti a lot. Fatma felt a little more one-dimensional than previously and Hamed and Onsi sadly where only small side characters. Nonetheless it was fun to encounter them again.
I liked the last part of the book, so if I disregard the middle, this was a good book. The Djinn are complex, multi-faceted and definitely not one-dimensional. It‘s nice that even the bad guys have personalities and are not just victims of circumstance. Still, this book was nowhere nearly as good and entertaining as the prequel stories.
You can definitely read this as a stand-alone novel, but for more enjoyment I recommend to first read the two novelettes and the short story that came before this:
Welcome to #6degrees. On the first Saturday of every month, a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. Readers and bloggers are invited to join in by creating their own ‘chain’ leading from the selected book. I am using this meme to work on my backlog, aka reviews that I haven‘t yet posted to my blog here. How the meme works and how you can join is explained here. The initial blog post about this month‘s choice is here.
This month we yet again begin with a book I haven‘t read and have never heard, of The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld. This won the 2021 Stella Prize, something I have never heard of either. Very educational for me today!
The Bass Rock is about family and love, and the ways that both can undo a person – as both storm and haven. It’s about the legacy of male violence and the ways in which these traumas ripple and reverberate across time and place.
Doesn‘t sound bad, but isn‘t really my cup of tea.
About the prize:
Stella began in 2012 with the Stella Prize, a major literary award celebrating Australian women’s writing. The aim was to counter the gender bias rife in the Australian literary landscape at the time and promote cultural change through the recognition of women’s perspectives.
On the longlist of that prize are some books that sound more interesting. Song of the Crocodile by Nardi Simpson sounds a bit more down my alley, as it seems to have some magical realism in it.
Exploring the experiences of a First Nations community living on the outskirts of a rural town, Song of the Crocodile focuses on four generations of one family as a vessel to explore the insidious and generational impacts of racism, colonialism and violence.
A family favour their son over their daughter. Shan attends university before making his fortune in Australia while Yannie must find menial employment and care for her ageing parents. After her mother’s death, Yannie travels to Sydney to become enmeshed in her psychopathic brother’s new life, which she seeks to undermine from within.
As disturbing news arrives of a pandemic sweeping the country, Jean realises this is no ordinary flu: its chief symptom is that its victims begin to understand the language of animals — first mammals, then birds and insects, too. As the flu progresses, the unstoppable voices become overwhelming, and many people begin to lose their minds, including Jean’s infected son, Lee. When he takes off with Kimberly, heading south, Jean feels the pull to follow her kin.
…a warm, funny and highly original portrait of a young girl’s search for identity and her struggle to deal with grief. Through families lost and found, this own-voices story celebrates the resilience of the human heart and our need to know who we truly are.
Evoking the rich, unfolding tapestry of Australian life in the late nineteenth century, Stone Sky Gold Mountain is a heartbreaking and universal story about the exiled and displaced, about those who encounter discrimination yet yearn for acceptance.
…a story collection that is astonishingly clever and witty, while also full of piercing insights into contemporary society. As she plays with structure and voice, Tan also explores popular culture and modern technology to great effect, and her futuristic scenarios are well thought out and all too plausible. Food scarcity, environmental destruction, capitalist bureaucracy and misogyny are just some of the ideas explored in the collection – in tales that feature mermaids, devious cats, and mangled ‘90s ballads.
Strangely enough, these books are not only connected through nominations for the Stella Prize, they also all have either animals in their titles or on their covers. There you go. Tempted to read any of them?
Egypt, Cairo, Djinn, ghuls, sorcerers, magic, airships, gas light, aerial trams… steampunk plus electricity. An investigator looks into the suspicious death of a djinn and follows traces through a magical Cairo.
“Fatma was born into the world al-Jahiz left behind: a world transformed by magic and the supernatural. […] Egypt now sat as one of the great powers, and Cairo was its beating heart.“
The setting of this story made me home-sick for Cairo! Or whatever you call it for a city I lived in for six years…
This was fun! Plot driven, not much character development — not an easy task anyway for such a short novelette — although I did like Fatma. Good action scenes and sleuthing, interesting setting. Potential for a lot more. Onwards to the next two stories/novelettes, in preparation for reading Clark’s first full-length novel next month.
Read in 2012. The first book was only just interesting enough for me to want to get the next one. Nothing special. But this one grabbed me. I really liked it. Interesting plot, good world building, introduction of some new characters that I really liked and want to see more of. The varying points of view added a nice layer to the various existing characters as well. Very good.
“Some people are like Slinkies. They aren’t really good for anything, but they still bring a smile to my face when I push them down a flight of stairs.”
Mark Gatiss isn‘t only great as screenwriter or the occasional supporting actor…
“Once the telephone had been invented, it was only a matter of time before the police got in on the new technology and, first in Glasgow and then in London, the police box was born. Here a police officer in need of assistance could find a telephone link to Scotland Yard, a dry space to do “paperwork” and, in certain extreme cases, a life of adventure through space and time.”
She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb. It is a very poetic book, the characters feel real and I got very involved in the storyline. It was just too much. Dolores was such a terrible person in the first half of the book. Not an easy read.