Een zachte hand

De baby is dood.

De bibliotheek had mij eerst het origineel (Frans) aangeboden, maar dat ging mij net iets te ver, met een Frans vocabulaire dat niet verder reikt dan mij voorstellen en zeggen wat ik wil drinken. Dit was een boek dat op twee verschillende plekken werd bezongen, waardoor ik nieuwsgierig genoeg werd om ‘dan maar’ Nederlands te lezen.

Terwijl de omschrijving niet meer was dan ‘het gaat goed mis, nadat het zo lang zo goed leek te zijn’ bij een verhaal van een jong gezin dat een oudere, ietwat vreemde vrouw als nanny inneemt en in hun dagelijks leven verweeft.

Met een opbouw die niet in een horror zou misstaan, wordt dan wel getoond waarom dit een slecht idee is. In 189 pagina’s word je er van overtuigd nooit meer een vreemde in huis te nemen, en zeker niet wanneer je kleine kinderen hebt.

Een zachte hand, Leïla Slimani, Nieuw Amsterdam 2016

The Power

Dear Naomi,

I’ve finished the bloody book.

And Dud Read in February goes to The Power. If there wouldn’t have been some well timed critiques read, I would have walked headfirst into disappointment, because so many people were so_positive about this one.

I mean, Margaret Atwood supported the author in this (at least, that’s what’s mentioned in the acknowledgments), critics mentioned a science fiction story that would make you question patriarchy, the poison of the male fragility, how power corrupts and so on. All that, and teenage girls managing to shoot electricity from their hands.

But then there’s the execution, and the execution is crummy. There’s no fiber, no rhythm, no connection between the characters, the chapters, the paragraphs. It’s an idea dump, sketches of world building that are deserted before you can imagine the image. There’s no push to care about these characters, the worlds they (try to) destroy or build up. It’s not refined enough to add men(‘s right activists) without making it feel like the story is excusing them, and the conclusion of Power Corrupts is clear from early on.

Just don’t bother; I’m sure there are books out there with similar themes that do manage to come out more balanced.

The Power, Naomi Alderman, Hachette 2016

 

Acceptance

Just out of reach, just beyond you: the rush and froth of the surf, the sharp smell of the sea, the criscrossing shape of the gulls, their sudden, jarring cries.

And the Southern Reach Trilogy is done. As it looks like I haven’t reviewed the previous novels, I’ll just judge the entire trilogy in one go. It’ll be easier than just Acceptance, the last (and biggest) novel.

The Southern Reach Trilogy is an eerie set of books you’d best ignore if you like your conclusions clear and your clues obvious. In these three books, especially the first one, a lot of uncomfortable weirdness builds up, but Jeff VanderMeer doesn’t give you a breather.

There’s an unfamiliar place where life functions along different rules. It infects, it controls, it changes the research teams that enter, and no-one seems to be able to understand if it’s aliens, the planet itself, or something they can’t even think of.

The first two books are small ones, just enough to give the reader the creeps without feeling like you’re being brought along for a ride to nowhere. Acceptance might mean that the people involved are accepting, but the reader will have to do without a clear answer. The creeps stay though, just in a lesser amount.

Acceptance, Jeff VanderMeer, HarperCollins 2014

Pachinko

History has failed us, but no matter.

Yes, a much better start for the new reading year than Acceptance. Much better than any recent books, and it’s January 24th. Anyway, Pachinko was lauded and I’m glad it didn’t disappoint me.

It’s a family epic of a Korean family, starting in 1910. Generation after generation takes you past living in poverty, living in a colonised country, war, prosperity and loss. There’s born family and created family and all the other connections that happen in society.

Sounds terribly vague? Simply because this is a book you should allow to overwhelm you, instead of going in with any expectations. “Meh”, you think, “a soap opera spread through time”, but that’s an insult. Pachinko is history, humanity, entertainment and mind boggling (the things I didn’t know as a white woman). Oh, and the descriptions of food might make you drool a little.

Pachinko is nominated for the American award ‘National Book Award for Fiction’. It has my vote.

Pachinko, Min Jin Lee, Hachette Book Group 2017

Regen

De regen op Mars was zacht en welkom.

Ik weet niet of ik eerder zowel ‘think about it’ als ‘laat maar links liggen’ heb aangevinkt als categorie, maar hier zijn we dan. Elke dag kan een nieuwe ervaring brengen. Maar, waarom deze combinatie dan?

Vooral omdat de auteur van zeer brede geschiedenis, ruim de tweede helft van het boek inzoomt op de VS en Groot Brittannië, en daar op blijft inzoomen voor de rest van het boek. Ja, natuurlijk zijn feitjes over Thomas Jefferson en de eerste weermannen interessant, maar na een meer globale invalshoek valt het nogal rauw op het dak. Was de rest van de wereld wel genoeg bekeken?

Daarnaast verandert de toon in het laatste hoofdstukken van wetenschappelijk naar sprookjesachtig met een flinke dot toeristenheiligheid (oftewel; ‘gelukkig mag ik zoveel van deze inboorlingen leren’).

Beiden laten helaas een vervelende nasmaak achter bij een verhaal waar ik zeer enthousiast aan begon. Houd het anders bij de eerste helft.

Regen: Een natuur- en cultuurgeschiedenis, Cynthia Barnett,

The Hidden Oracle

Hoodlums punch my face
I would smite them if I could
Mortality blows

Looks like I’m on a bit of a fantasy kick these past (two) months; good thing it can be such an impressively versatile genre.

Rick Riordan is quite a familiar name in the genre, within the subgenre of YA. There’s been two movies, there’s plenty of books that brought Greek mythology to teens. Literally and figuratively.

This time it’s about – yep, right there in the title – Apollo. The god is turned human, but that doesn’t mean things go along breezily. Quests, monsters, demigods! And meeting your offspring.

Yes, the tongue is firmly in the cheek, but Riordan still manages to pass some mythology facts along. It’s all in seemingly effortless fun, and the twist might even surprise you. And if you’re looking at a way in for both reading and/or learning about Greek mythology, this and Riordan’s other work is a super accessible first step.

The Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle, Rick Riordan, Hyperion 2016

Clariel

Old Marral the fisherman lived in one of the oddest parts of Belisaere, the ancient capital of the Old Kingdom.

I’m pretty sure that Garth Nix is my favourite male fantasy author. Even when I’m a bit ‘hmm’ about some of his stories (for a younger audience), I’ll always appreciate his style and world building. This time it wasn’t any different.

Clariel is part of the The Old Kingdom series, but doesn’t fit into it chronologically. Not having read any of the series for a long while, this was kind of convenient for me. Just remember the necromancy, anything else can be new knowledge.

It being a (kind of) prequel also means that there’s not complete freedom to move and develop. Because of this the reader gets the slice-of-life option, things ending up before the (more) exciting and terrifying.

But I am a Garth Nix fan. I’ll read all of it.

Clariel, Garth Nix, Harper Collins 2014