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22 May, 2008 at 8:59 pm by belgianwaffle

“How we are hungry” by Dave Eggers
I didn’t like “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” but this was recommended to me and, as I would like to start reading more short stories, I decided to give it a go. I didn’t like most of these stories; they are more clever than they are compelling. For me, they were mostly what I would call “prose pieces” rather than short stories as the story element was singularly missing in a great number of them. All that said, there was one which I thought was excellent (Notes for a Story of a Man Who Will Not Die Alone) and several which I quite enjoyed. I’m not sure they make up for offerings like “The Only Meaning of the Oil-Wet Water”.

Jane and Prudence” by Barbara Pym

I was looking forward to this. The Glam Potter is very keen. Jilly Cooper, with whom I seem to share an alarming number of favourite authors, is very keen. She said:

“Over the years, as Barbara Pym replaced Nancy Mitford, Georgette Heyer, even Jane Austen, as my most loved author, I devoured all her books, but Jane and Prudence remains my favourite. Even an umpteenth reading this weekend was punctuated by gasps of joy, laughter, sympathy and wonder that this lovely book should remain so fresh, funny and true to life”

It was good. I would certainly read another. It was clever. But I didn’t love it. It certainly wouldn’t replace Nancy Mitford, Georgette Heyer or Jane Austen for me.

This Charming Man” by Marian Keyes

On the back of this book it says “trust Marian”. I’m not sure you should. The book is packaged as chick lit. All of Marian Keyes’s books have a dark streak in them but this one has far more dark than light. It’s a story of domestic violence told by four different characters. Marnie’s story, in particular, is very creepy in parts. Lola, on the whole, provides the light relief. It is really, really good. The characters are all in their mid 30s and for me that works better than her last book (which I didn’t like very much) where the characters are all in their mid-twenties. I found quite a bit of this story dark, unnerving and disturbing. But interesting. The charming man is a politician and she has a bit of fun with her Irish politicians and political parties – not sure how well this will play in foreign parts but mildly humourous for the locals. Overall, quite excellent but I think she needs to consider changing her book covers.

Also, she has given me a really useful new term: “eco-swot”.

“Slam” by Nick Hornby

I like Nick Hornby, I like teenage fiction. What’s not to like? Well, quite a lot, it transpires. I think that Nick Hornby is an excellent writer and this book is very well written. But it drags. It’s narrated by a nice teenager who gets his girlfriend pregnant and it’s just not very interesting. The plot is all over the place and that’s pretty much it for plot. And it really doesn’t seem to have a particularly coherent structure or to be aiming towards a particular end. It feels like one of those UK government public service advertisements warning about the risks of teenage pregnancy. Thumbs down, I fear.

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