Summer Reading: 5 Mini Reviews

I haven’t set a particular target for this summer in terms of reading, other than a vague, ‘I’m going to read EVERYTHING’. So far you may have seen my reviews of The Luminaries and The GoldfinchIn a similar fashion, I thought I’d share my thoughts on the last few novels I’ve read since then. During university I have accumulated a lot of books that I have wanted to read, but have never found the time to get stuck into. These are the few I’ve read in my new found free time.

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Past Lessons.

The memories that filter through my brain of childhood are scattered and half blotted with time. I can no longer see faces too clearly (although Facebook profiles of my old friends helps the process), but I can remember the colours. The primary school classrooms were always so colourful; perhaps it was so you would remember them, so someday those colours would filter back through in the background, mingled with childhood feeling.

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My Five Favourite Films.

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This post has been knocking around my skull for a while. Lists like this always seem to come in handy in life, and always completely escape me when I’m asked. I band the word ‘favourite’ around like no tomorrow, trying to find a way to express my admiration for things but in doing so completely degrading the adjective. I have several films that I love that haven’t made it onto this list. The films below are the ones that I never stop wanting to watch, and can enjoy again and again.

This list is bound to change over time, just as my 5 favourite authors list has definitely had a shift around.

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14.

I took photos of Versailles

but the images were blurred –

shaky hands

making memories unsatisfactory,

 

Many duplicates

Versailles within itself,

twin statues of decadence

imperfect beside themselves

 

A few years later

learning about French kings

I revised their flaws

their mistakes repeating

and mirroring.

 

Everything less glorious in the past tense.

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton: Review

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It’s just been a few weeks since I read the tome that is The Goldfinch. While I still had the momentum I decided that I better get stuck into The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton too. This is another 800-page paperweight, but is dissimilar to The Goldfinch in every other respect. Here’s the blurb:

It is 1866, and Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields. On the night of his arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men, who have met in secret to discuss a series of unsolved crimes. A wealthy man has vanished, a whore has tried to end her life, and an enormous fortune has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. Moody is soon drawn in the mystery: a network of fates and fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely patterned as the night sky.”

When I opened the book to start reading, I had the strange sensation that I wasn’t reading a book published in 2013 (the year in which it won the Booker prize) but an older classic. This wasn’t just because of it’s 1866 setting. The style of the narrative, the images conveyed, and the unfolding of the mystery all put me in mind of classic novels. Considering the fact that I never much enjoyed the mysteries of Arthur Conan Doyle, I wasn’t incredibly hopeful that I would continue to enjoy this novel. Mysteries have never been my thing, partly perhaps because I can be a bit of a lazy reader, and I don’t always pick up on the clues.

While I was aware of the astrological mapping and organisation of the novel, I’m afraid this may have been one aspect that slipped over my head. In the beginning of the novel Walter Moody interrupts a secret meeting of twelve men. All of these distinctive characters have some part to play in the unfolding mystery. These men are all loosely based on the signs of the zodiac, each having characteristics that represent their signs. Learning this after the novel, I’m not entirely sure how I missed it. The mapping of the zodiac and phases of the moon organise the novel tightly into a plot that follows an unfolding mystery, with the sky as its witness. This unique inclusion made the novel more than just a mystery. It was a preordained sequence of events that the characters could not escape from. This put me in mind of a few Thomas Hardy novels (Tess of the d’Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure particularly) that employ the similar ideas, making me think again of this novel as something classical.

In this case I didn’t mind the length of the novel. It seemed that every chapter was vital in unravelling the plot, however, it did take me a while to really get to grips with the narrative. I would say I only truly became invested around page 300, but this may be due to stopping and starting when reading it. When I hit the 300-page mark, everything began to feel a lot clearer and I could tell I was going to really love the rest of the novel. The unthreading of the mystery is captivating and very clever. Every character is vital to the story, and all are fully rounded interesting individuals.

The Luminaries is a book I would urge everyone to read. Stick with it and don’t be put off by the length. The story, the setting and the characters are enchanting (particularly Lydia Wells, she is something else), so much so that you’ll almost feel yourself part of the town as well. Take this on holiday with you, read it on your commute, or indulge it before bed; you definitely wont regret investing your time in this one.

Thanks for reading!