Gone Girl

When I think of my wife, I always think of her head.

This is the first book I ever read because a book club (on goodreads.com, my account name is MNLO) suggested it. It was also my first time reading an eBook. Does that excitement take anything away from the novel? No.

I read a lot of books. The bad thing about that is that it’s kinda hard to surprise me with genuine plot twists or original lines. This will sound very snobbish, but I like to be surprised not more than one page before the twist, not thirty pages in advance with “subtle” “hints”. Gone Girl definitely delivered on this, receiving several surprised ‘Oh wow!’s from me.

In Gone Girl the reader follows a men and a woman, from meeting and dating to married life and what follows after that. The disappearance of the woman.
After that – instead of turning into a run of the mill – missing person story, Gillian Floyd keeps throwing the reader curve balls, adding (little) twists. A lot of them are very spoilerish, so you will have to find out for yourself.
Another thing I liked about this, is that neither of the main characters are like-able and yet they are not irritating (to me, any way) to read. There is a difference between not caring about your characters because you think they’re horrible or care because you might wish horrible endings for them.
And even the ending surprised me, even though I’m usually not a fan about these kind of endings.

So all I can say is: Yes, I enjoyed this very much (not sure about the eBook though) and recommend this book. Good work, book club.

Gone Girl, Gillian Floyd, Crown 2012

Much Ado About You

‘I am happy to announce that the rocking horses have been delivered, Your Grace.

Als je eenmaal de smaak te pakken hebt, kan het zo lekker zijn. Hersenloze romances waarin het alleen om detail en zwoegende boezems gaat. Much Ado About You is er zo eentje.

Vier zussen in het Engeland van het begin van de negentiende eeuw moeten een man vinden, want een merendeel van hen is al over de twintig en ze zijn oorspronkelijk Schots en oh wat genant straks worden ze oude vrijsters. Gelukkig is er een Knappe, Mysterieuze Man, een frustrerende Casanova en een goedsul. Zo gaan die dingen. De aandacht ligt vooral op de drie oudste dochters, die snel het seizoen in moeten om een man te regelen.

Natuurlijk valt de verkeerde voor de verkeerde, wordt er stiekem getrouwd en gaat het mis voor het goed kan gaan. Dat hoort zo. Je leest dit soort boeken niet voor de originaliteit, maar omdat het een smakelijk zuurtje is zonder enige  nasmaak.

Net zoals in de vorige Eloisa James zijn haar vrouwelijke karakters stiekeme feministen (zeker voor die tijd). Ze hebben kennis en durven die te tonen, hebben hun woordje klaar en durven van seks te genieten. En dat is waarschijnlijk -voor mij- het grote verschil met (andere) doktersromannetjes waarin de heldin maar op haar rug ligt te huilen en blazen.

Much Ado About You, Eloisa James, Harper 2006

Gods Without Men

In the time when the animals were men, Coyote was living in a certain place.

The flap text gave me the idea that this novel would be about and around the same place, the characters connected in some, yet undisclosed, way.
Instead this book was a collection of short stories about and around the same place, through time and with most of the characters connected in a random way. It took me a while to adjust to that difference. Especially because I’m not a fan of collected stories.

The one big plus Gods Without Men has (there are others, including making the ordinary creepy and interesting) is the way it offers visuals and accompanying atmosphere. I was there in that desolate, forgotten-by-the-world place in the desert, felt how heavy its surroundings pressed on the characters.
Another plus are the characters, all trying to escape a side from their selves they want to forget, loose, reshape.

It was not an easy read, almost 400 pages taking 10 days. There is little joy on it, and yet the story lingers when you close the book, the characters giving you room to look at your own life and ideas.

Gods Without Men, Hari Kunzru, Hamilton 2011


Henry and I dug the hole seven feet deep.

This is a tough one. Not because this novel is badly written or has a boring story, far from the opposite. This is a tough one because some of the situations in it made me very uncomfortable.

Mudbound tells the story of different characters. The family that moves into a cotton farm, the people that work for them and serve them and the bystanders from the nearest village. As all of this happens in 1946 Mississippi, so you might already understand that there are no balanced relationships here. The woman needs to serve her family first, the  man needs to take care of the farm and protect what is his from ‘those’ people, while the members from ‘those’ people desperately try to break free from the box society pushes them into.
It made me slightly nauseous to read how careless slurs and threats are thrown around, how someone, only based on their skin colour , can turn into a free for all for entertainment and anger and shame.

And yet Mudbound is more than a confrontation with racism. It is an image of a vastly different time not that long ago, of a family that is drifting and pulled apart by its surroundings. And there is a raw, uncomfortable beauty to the way that had been written.

Mudbound, Hillary Jordan, Heinemann 2008


Seven o’clock on a Monday morning, five hundred years after the End of the World, and goblins had been at the cellar again.

Joan Harris is the writer of -much loved by me- Chocolat. I didn’t know she wrote ‘YA’ and only realized later that I recognized the style, because I read her adult stuff.
Because just as with her novels (for grownups), Runemarks is an easy, entertaining read and I can’t really imagine why it would only be for young adults.

Main character Maddy carries a runemark in a world where everything that reeks of magic, other worlds or not-humans is frowned upon or -in some places- killed upon. This makes her an outsider, alone until she meets another outsider who starts teaching her about her abilities. Those start to become necessary when the inquisitors of this world start a witch-hunt and daily life in a small village turns into running with (demi-)gods and goblins. There is also a new End of the World involved.

First of all, I love myths being used to spice a story up. Secondly, Maddy is a cool, smart badass without turning into an unbelievable teenager. She uses her brain, yet still makes mistakes from time to time. Thirdly, you race through this story because it’s written so ..light, but it still sticks with you after finishing it.

So ignore the ‘YA’ tag (if you’re afraid of those), and enjoy Maddy kicking the asses of Odin and his family  (and some scary religious fundamentalists).

Runemarks, Joan Harris, Doubleday 2007

The Borgias

Een kostuumdrama op de zaterdagavond op een Nederlandse publieke zender, het is niet een heel onbekend beeld. Maar The Borgias biedt een paus met een minnares, dreigende oorlogen, implicaties van incest en veel bloot. 

In de serie volgt de kijker de wereld van de Borgia familie, de vader een zestiende eeuwse paus die met chantage en omkoop aan zijn functie komt, ookal heeft hij vrouw en kinderen. Die gebruikt hij zonder scrupules om zijn positie vast te houden (en naar zijn idee omdat het het beste voor Rome is).

The Borgias geeft een mooi beeld; kleding en decor en architectuur is tot in de puntjes verzorgd. Maar meer dan dat is het ook niet. De momenten van dreiging, verdriet en verraad kabbelen aan één stuk door en na de zoveelste blote borst is dat ook niet bijzonder meer. Zelfs de acteurs lijken er niet heel veel zin in te hebben. En toch blijf ik kijken, met een half oog. Want het is mooi, als behang voor een luie zaterdagavond.

The Borgias, zaterdagavond (wisselende tijden) op NL2

The Poisonwood Bible

Imagine a ruin so strange it must never have happened.

Several decades of five lives that live through emigration to the Belgian Congo, puberty and growing up, love, loss and independence of both country and family. It’s a big and small story at the same time, with characters you can take with you into your daily life.

A missionary family goes to ‘Dark Africa’ to save souls and show the Christian way. Only the father wants to be there, while the mother and four daughters try to adjust in different ways or not at all. The Belgian Congo is a gorgeous and dangerous and completely different world than Georgia, United States, but they simply didn’t choose it.

The Poisonwood Bible is history, social commentary and a family story. It takes you in easily and is hard to put down. With five points of view it’s easy to pick a favourite or find relief when you don’t like someone’s story.

I recommend this book because it’s very honest. It shows the disappointment of discovering that Christianity and Western society aren’t all-knowing, the gorgeousness but also brutality of Africa and how one situation can turn different people to completely different paths.

The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver, HarperFlamingo 2008