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Heather "star_reader" (Leeds, Yorkshire)
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Rabbit, Run (Penguin Modern Classics)
Rabbit, Run (Penguin Modern Classics)
by John Updike
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

34 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The dreariness of a 'second rate' suburban existence..., 1 Mar 2007
This book tells the story of the once great college sportsman Harry 'rabbit' Angstrom, who at the age of twenty six has made nothing of his former talent and feels trapped in a loveless marriage, to an alcoholic wife who is unable to keep their home and young son under control. Rabbit is stifled by his dreary suburban existence and cannot escape the feeling that having once been a 'first rate' sportsman, being second rate just doesnt cut it. Unable to accept his life as it is, Harry walks out on his wife and child and begins a complicated journey to rid himself of his dull existence. Along the way, meeting his one time sports coach Mr. Tothero and striking up an odd friendship with a priest.

The book explores the suburban experience of an outsider, one who cannot conform to the life he has become tangled up in. In much the same manner as writers like John Cheever and Richard Yates, this book explores the disasterous effects of characters whose expectations of life have been seriously diminished.

This book is really well written and has a clear narrative voice, while the reader may not agree with Harry's actions, we cannot help but become immersed in his world. This book is the first of four 'Rabbit' books which follow Harry throughout his life, but also acts as a great introduction to Updike. Highly recommended!


The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus (Myths)
The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus (Myths)
by Margaret Atwood
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.61

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Funny and entertaining, 28 Feb 2007
As a huge Margaret Atwood fan, i was drawn to this book even though my knowledge of mythology is sketchy to say the least! I was not disappointed, this is a great fast paced read, really funny and intelligent.

The Penelopiad is a retelling of the story of Odysseus and Penelope, from Homer's Odyssey. The two are separated for twenty years after Odysseus leaves to fight in the Trojan war and this book picks up the myth from Penelope's point of view. Margaret Atwood brings her distinctive style and take on the story without compromising the overall feel of the original myth. Telling the story from Penelope's view point is original and extremely entertaining. Highly recommended!


Rebecca (VMC)
Rebecca (VMC)
by Daphne Du Maurier
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.09

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great gothic tale, 28 Feb 2007
This review is from: Rebecca (VMC) (Paperback)
Daphne Du Maurier's 'Rebecca' is a timeless story, one which appeals to readers across generations, of all ages, with varied literary interests. I first came across this book on a university course and it worked really well as a book which opened up wide areas of discussion, but this book also works just as well as one which can be read purely for escapism and enjoyment.

'Rebecca' tells the story of a young wife, taken to her husband's estate, Manderley, where she is haunted by the memory of his dead, first wife Rebecca. Maxim de Winter's new wife is taunted by the housekeeper Mrs Danvers who refuses to accept the new Mrs De Winter into the house.

Overall this book has all the ingredients of a great gothic tale, it is mysterious, intriguing and has great plot twists which will keep you guessing to the end. A book to be enjoyed by everyone.


The Collector (Vintage Classics)
The Collector (Vintage Classics)
by John Fowles
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Haunting and creepy..., 28 Feb 2007
This is a frightening and haunting portrayal of a lonely and isolated man, Ferdinand, who becomes caught up in his obsession with the young and beautiful Miranda, eventually kidnapping her and keeping her imprisoned in the basement of his house. While the book deals with some disturbing psychological issues, it is no doubt beautifully crafted and an excellent novel. One which left me almost breatless as i could not put it down until i had read to the very end.

The book however, is more than just a psychological thriller, Fowles manages to deal with the subject of kidnapping almost sensitively and we become immersed in the lives of both characters. The reader almost sympathises with the character Ferdinand who wishes no real harm to come to Miranda but has no other means by which he feels he can communicate with her and so turns to the desperate measure of imprisoning her in an attempt to befriend her.

The Collector is also a great literary novel with the use of the names Ferdinand and Miranda taken from Shakespeare's The Tempest, as well as other well placed references. The use of metaphor also runs deep in this novel, most obviously, with the meanings of the term 'the collector', in which Ferdinand collects both butterflies and Miranda.

Overall, i found this to be a really great read, sometimes disturbing and upsetting but no less worthwhile. Highly recommended.


Ham on Rye
Ham on Rye
by Charles Bukowski
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A book with attitude, 27 Feb 2007
This review is from: Ham on Rye (Paperback)
I have just finished reading Ham on Rye and as my first experience of reading Bukowski i found it really enjoyable, and definitely feel like it has given me an insight into his writing and i will look forward to reading more of his fiction in the future.

Ham on Rye describes the early life of Bukowski's alter- ego, Hank Chinaski, who features in much of his fiction. Chinaski is growing up in America between the end of the first and the start of the second World War. Being raised by an abusive father, Chinaski grows up learning to hate the world, becoming seriously disallusioned with it and descending slowly into alcoholism. Despite Hank's cynical and angry outlook i found him to be a character that i could quickly warm to and sympathise with. Knowing this book it partly autobiographical, however, makes Hank's life seem all the more saddening.

Ham on Rye shows the adolescent Chinaski and sets up the life of the down and out character that appears in other Bukowski novels. Despite it being his fourth novel, i would say that it acts as a great introduction to this character and i didn't feel any worse off having not read Bukowski's earlier novels first.

Overall, this is a powerful novel, sometimes uncomfortable, somtimes depressing but generally easy to read and enjoyable. It describes full blown adolescent angst emerging from a dysfunctional family set up. I like to think of Hank Chinaski as Holden Caulfield with attitude! Highly recommended.


Le Grand Meaulnes (Penguin Modern Classics)
Le Grand Meaulnes (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Henri Alain-Fournier
Edition: Paperback

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A romantic tale, 26 Feb 2007
This book begins with the narrator Francois thinking back to the time of his adolescence and recalling the great adventure which began with his friendship with Le Grand Meaulnes. This book is beautifully written and was captivating throughout.

"But now it is all over, now that nothing is left but the dust of so much that was evil, so much that was good there is no reason why the strange story should not be told" These beautiful lines evoke the sadness of the story about to be told. A story that deals with friendship, love and loss.

The plot centres around Meaulnes who is trying to find his way back to a hidden 'domain' in which he met and fell in love with the beautiful Yvonne de Galais. His desperte longing to find Yvonne and marry her is beautifully evoked, and deeply saddening. Unlike other adolescent novels, this book follows Francois and Meaulnes into adulthood as their friendship grows and changes and passages describing the love and bond they share is deeply moving. Overall this is a book about the deepest of adolescent emotions and about two friends who never really grow up and hold on to the dream of happiness they have envisioned since Meaulnes first discovered the hidden domain.

As a huge fan of 'adolescent' fiction i found this book really exciting, although very different from the American fiction i am used to reading. It has a slower pace to it somehow, and describes emotions which we can truly believe in, its a book about love and dreams which can be held onto and has two characters who do not loose their passion for this dream with age, it is not cynical like much other adolescent fiction.

Reading a French Classic was a first for me but i will definitely be hoping to read more in the future and would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a beautifully written, honest story about friendship and love and the power these things hold above all else.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 18, 2011 4:11 PM GMT


Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams: and other prose writings (FF Classics)
Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams: and other prose writings (FF Classics)
by Sylvia Plath
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars A must read for any Plath fans, 25 Feb 2007
This book brings together some of Plath's most successful short stories, as well as lesser know prose writings and early stories and journal excerpts.

If anything, this collection proves that Plath is more than just the author of 'The Bell Jar' combining her expertly crafted sentences with a vast and unique imagination to create some really original and memorable stories. My personal favourites are the title story as well as 'The fifty- ninth bear' and 'The day Mr Prescott died'.

This is a great collection of stories, to be enjoyed by anyone, not just Plath fans!


Letters Home: Correspondence
Letters Home: Correspondence
by Sylvia Plath
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A must read for any Plath fans, 25 Feb 2007
This book brings together the letters Sylvia Plath sent home between 1950 and 1963 (the year of her death) and is compiled and introduced by her mother, to whom the majority of the letters are addressed.

What is most striking about this collection is Plath's committment to writing and maintaining contact with her family while away at college and later, while living in England with her poet husband Ted Hughes. The collection shows that during some years she wrote to her mother on almost a daily basis, sharing every detail of her life.

There is a rare quality to Sylvia Plaths writing, which is also evident in her collected journals and that is her ability to write with sheer abandonment detailing her desires as well as her depression and insecurities particularly over her relationship with Hughes. The letters (as well as her journals) then are both raw and honest and really allow the reader an insight into a troubed and complicated mind.

Some of the later letters seem to be attempting to reassure her mother, particularly after the break up of her marriage, that she is well and coping but also cause the reader to question whether or not these are just eveidence of her severe depression, in which she suffered bouts of happiness and positivity followed by periods of deep sadness.

This is a really interesting collection which gives us further insight into the awful downward spiral that lead Plath to committ suicide in early 1963, leaving behind her two small children. Poigniantly, her mother writes as the end of the letters "... some darker day than usual had temporarily made it [life] seem impossible to pursue." Which makes you realise how long her struggle with depression had been building and this is also the impression we get from reading her letters.

In our culture we tend to mythologize writers like Plath who have died young, particularly if that death is a result of suicide. It seems there is no figure more captivating than the 'tortured artist' but there is no better evidence or tool by which we can start to understand Plath than by reading her own writings so i would highly recommend this collection to any Plath fan or anyone who just wants to know more about a great writer. Read it and make up your own mind.


A Spot of Bother
A Spot of Bother
by Mark Haddon
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very funny, 19 Feb 2007
This review is from: A Spot of Bother (Hardcover)
While i found this book a little slow to get going, overall i did enjoy it. It is extremely funny and will make you laugh out loud! It is quite different to 'Curious Incident...' but equally funny and moving. The story centres around the build up to an family wedding, a stressful time for anyone, but in the case of this family who are 'unconventional' to say the least things just never seem to go right!

The bride and groom fight... a lot, the mother of the bride is having an affair with her husband's friend, to ditract perhaps from the fact that she is so worried about the arrival of her gay son and his lover, and while all this is going on the bride's father falls deeper into madness and depression, obsession over his health.

A very funny, light read... will make you laugh and cry.


Collected Stories (Vintage Classics)
Collected Stories (Vintage Classics)
by John Cheever
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.09

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars American fiction at its best..., 16 Feb 2007
John Cheever projects such a strong vision of a particular time and place in American history that i think it would be hard not to like these stories. They are, as individual stories, great achievements but as a collection these stories become something much more, they transport the reader into the heart of the post war American suburb, describing societies lonliest and most vunerable characters. Those for whom achieving their 'American Dream' is not an option but a necessity, it is their sheer belief that against all odds they will succeed, which keeps them going.

My personal favourites are those which describe Cheever's fictional 'Shady Hill' suburb, in particular, 'O Youth and Beauty' which tells the story of the once great sportsman Cash Bently who spends his weekends hurdling over the furniture in his neighbours houses, as a desperate attempt to win back some of his former glory.

This is a great collection, one which you will come back to time and again.


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