How To Talk To A Windower

Russ is stoned.

29 years old, a stepson but not really, a pregnant twin sister that left her husband, a dysfunctional family (mum drinks too much, dad had a stroke) and a dead wife. A dead wife that’s with him the entire way, weighing down every try to living.

Oh, this hurt. This grated, got under the skin. Douglas does (for a long time) absolutely nothing to escape the horrible pain of being left behind. Anything can trigger the realization that his wife is dead and only tears and alcohol can help him through. His wife’s gone and so is he.

But, it being a year later, the world slowly tries to reel him back in. Family, affairs, his agent and the stepson that officially hasn’t has any ties to him. It’s sink or swim while Doug can only work up the energy to float.

Jonathan Tropper keeps it clinical and clean and heart wrenching at the same time. The reader is the bystander, cringing through another sad show and immediately feeling bad because poor, poor man. A man who is obnoxious (stupid macho things!), heart breaking, painfully honest.

How To Talk To A Windower is a pamphlet for love lost, (not) dealing with it and trying to live again.

How To Talk To A Widower, Jonathan Tropper, Orion Books 2007

Black Swan Green

Do not set foot in my office.

How do you review a book in which “just” life happens? Teenage life, to up the ante?

In this semi-autobiographical bildungsroman (Wikipedia’s words, not mine) the reader looks over the shoulder and into the mind of Jason Taylor, a child in the early eighties. At first he’s a floater, not a hero but not a loser either. Things happen and he sinks to the bottom of the food chain. Bullying wasn’t more or less cruel in past years, it still destroys a life.

I really like David Mitchell’s work, how complicated and intricate the story lines are. With some authors it’s risky of them to move from adult to YA/teenager stories, but with Black Swan Green it never feels like Mitchell keeps his foot on the brake or dumbed down his style. There is a feeling of magic realism to all of it, without any hint of the supernatural. The stories of the ordinary, viewed through a new lens.

Black Swan Green, David Mitchell, Hodder & Stoughton Ltd 2006

The Bone Season

I like to imagine there were more of us in the beginning.

Oh, wow. I love to be swept of my feet like this. A compelling story, a less-than-perfect (and genuine unlikely) heroine and thrilling world-building. I know I harp on about that a lot, but a story having a sound foundation can change annoyed disbelief in flabbergasted positive surprise.

The Bone Season doesn’t worry with ‘In a galaxy far, far away’ or lengthy prologues to show the reader what’s going on. It jumps right in, things go wrong quick and the protagonist – already in a tight spot as criminal scum of the earth – ends up as a slave. And all that because she’s clairvoyant and this is a world that sees those kind of people as an epidemic threatening real humans. And because of several other things, including alien god-like creations, but that would be a bit of a spoiler.

Another pluses are the lack of romance pressed upon the characters, nothing that shows that this was written as a first book of a series (meaning: no plot lines being cut up for no other reason than ‘To be continued’) and that the book is just a very enjoyable, quick read.

The Bone Season, Samantha Shannon, Bloomsbury 2013

The Kills

John Jacob Ford’s morning began at 3:03 with a call from Paul Geezler, Advisor to the Division Chief, Europe, for HOSCO International.

Maybe ‘epic’ is the right word for this. With 1000 pages spanning continents, characters, genres and different kinds of media, it certainly aims high. It’s a shame about the sloppy editing from time to time, creating mistakes like missing words or typos. Yet in a way adds to the thrill. The meta feeling of reading a book about a book while being part of every level of the story. Like Richard House had to put it down in a hurry, running around like the people in The Kills.

So what is the story? What are the four stories, combined in this one, huge, creation? It’s about the Middle East, intervening and building there. It’s about a multinational company that doesn’t seem to do anything else besides making sure that the right men and material arrive at the necessary spot, wherever it is. It’s about a man who sheds identities like dandruff but seems to be unsure about who he was originally. It’s about a thriller that was fictional, but gets a real life following, resulting in a mess with prostitutes and tourists. It’s about desert roads that are only being build to launder money, it’s about cats that are being killed. It’s about a lot.

As with every series, there are better and lesser books. In the first two books the connections are very clear, the backgrounds and surroundings similar. Book 3 goes completely off that grind (I still don’t know its place)  and book 4 doesn’t neatly tie up every plot line either. And yet, it’s an easy accessible world. To read feels to passively participate, even though there are very little clues to cling to. Take you time for The Kills. It might as well turn out to be an exciting adventure.

The Kills: Books 1 – 4, Richard House, Picador 2013