Tuesday, 24 August 2010

A book a week in 2010: My Fathers' Daughter

My Fathers' Daughter by Hannah Pool is a personal memoir of raw, emotional power.

Originally born in Eritrea, Hannah was placed in an orphanage after her mother died during her birth. She was adopted at six months old by David Pool, a British academic, and she eventually joined him in England where she grew up in Manchester.

It was when she received a letter from her brother in Eritrea, while still at university, that she finally discovered her birth father was alive and that she had a family of brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins. But it was ten years before Hannah finally got a chance to meet a cousin who was living in London. That meeting proved to be the catalyst for arranging a visit to meet her Eritrean family.

Pool writes with searing honesty: about her conflicting sense of anger and guilt, towards both of her fathers; the duality of not fully belonging in either culture; the overwhelming sense of paralysis in the face of an emotional reunion; and with the bewildering sense of wanting to run away from what she has yearned for all her life.

This is powerful and honest. In turns emotional and thought-provoking.

I couldn't put it down.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

The Girl Who Played with Fire trailer

Couldn't resist posting it. Looks good, huh?

Source: Uploaded by simarchetto, YouTube.com

A book a week in 2010: The Girl Who Played With Fire

'Gym? The Girl Who Played with Fire? Both?'

A pretty innocuous Facebook post. Or so I thought. But no. It sparked a massive debate between friends about Stieg Larsson's Millenium trilogy. I had no idea there was such divided opinion.

'Dull, no pacing, weird sexual stuff, badly written, badly translated, badly edited... Am I really the only one who thinks this?' said one friend. I just don't agree.

You may recall my earlier review of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I was ambivalent. I liked the atmosphere, but felt it took a while to build up the story and characters. Now, having read The Girl Who Played with Fire, I get the importance of the trilogy. And I could not put this book down.

The girl is restrained by leather straps on a bed. She's in a room. He visits her daily, trying to get a response. But she will not give him the satisfaction. This drives him mad. So each time he tightens the restraints.

The crusading business journalist, Mikael Blomkvist, has settled into running Millennium magazine with best friend Erika Berger and recently joined board member Harriet Vanger. The magazine has gone from strength to strength since the Wennerstrom affair: a massive expose of a business magnet in the magazine, also published in a best-selling book.

Their reputation attracts a talented journalist, Dag Svensson, and his girlfriend, the academic researcher Mia Johansson, who have an explosive new story they want Millennium to publish. The investigation into sex tafficking reaches into the very heart of the establishment.

Lisbeth Salandar was an investigative researcher who Blomkvist worked with closely on the Wennerstrom affair, but she suddenly broke off contact and disappeared about a year ago. Blomkvist knows that Salandar hates the establishment with a passion. But the brutal murder of three people, with only Salandar's prints linking the crimes, make those around him start to wonder just exactly how deep her hatred runs.

This is a gripping, taut thriller and a huge improvement on the first book, particularly as I was familiar with the characters. It's well written, compelling and cranks up the tension. There's a lot of bizarre sexual stuff in it, but it's central to the story and is balanced by plot, characters and dialogue.

Highly recommend, but you need to read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo first.

Friday, 6 August 2010

A book a week in 2010: Ten Steps to Happiness by Daisy Waugh

In a Victorian terrace, somewhere in South East London, our heroine soldiers on with Wolf Hall, the epic Booker Prize winning historical novel by Hilary Mantel.

And yet she yearns for something a little less challenging; for a book that whisks her mind away to a life of simple pleasures and away from the drudgery of literary fiction, her frantic social life and the high powered job in skills that she is SUPER at.

A life where successful career girl meets handsome boy; falls in love; gets married; and moves to new husband's crumbling old pile in the country, complete with grumpy father-in-law, dodgy old retainer, and an ensemble of characters straight out of OK! magazine.

To a life where she can create the most AMAZING retreat for tired, worn out stars, wannabes and minor royals. Where they, too, can shelter from the real world, taking in the faded grandeur of the terribly old farm and shambolic buildings. And they can laugh in the face of petty bureaucracy, strange locals and general bizarreness of country folk. Nothing that a FABULOUS contacts book and a bit of vim and vigour (plus a few Jo Malone scented candles) can't fix, eh?

She turns her attention back to the tome on her lap. Slowly, she reaches for a book, a colourful book that has appeared miraculously on the table before her. She thought she was being discreet, but little did she know that all her blog readers were watching. Watching, as she PICKED UP A CHICK LIT BOOK AND ACTUALLY READ IT!

Her blog readers sighed and thought to themselves "Jesus, I hope she finishes Wolf Hall soon."

"Me too." Said our heroine.

Monday, 2 August 2010

A book a week in 2010: All My Friends are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman

'Buy it, borrow it, steal it but just make sure you read it.'

That's what Scott Pack said. And he's so influential, they put it on the front of the book. You may know him as meandmybigmouth: blogger and tweeter extraordinaire.

Please don't tell him, but when I was browsing in Dulwich Books and saw his quote, that's what made me buy it.

So after that HUGE build up, what's it like?

Well, it's a quirky, sweet love story. Charming yet sparsely written. It has a light touch, yet feels like a deeply philosophical observation on human nature.

It tells the story of Tom, a normal person, who is married to The Perfectionist, a superhero. They should be settling down to a happy, married life, but The Perfectionist's ex-boyfriend Hypno arrives at the wedding with other ideas.

This is a cute book (hmm, cute, never used that word in a review before) that somehow manages to feel profound. Definitely worth a read.

Read a sample here and find out about Andrew Kaufman here.