The taxi’s radio was tuned to a classical FM broadcast.

1Q84 was one of those books that has been on my To Read list for a while. I was curious about the premise, curious about Murakami’s writing and hopeful that hundreds of positive reviews couldn’t be wrong. I was disappointed.

There is no easy, straight-forward way to say what the book exactly is about. It’s a boy-meets-girl story with a dollop of loneliness, a cult and so many fantasy details that -into the second book- you could simply call it ‘fantasy’. Except a lot more pretentious. And that started to chafe after a couple of hundred pages.

I could appreciate Murakami’s world building, helping the reader understand what the main characters experience. But when -as a reader- you start to wonder when the story will start and how many times you need to hear about a random crow or spinach-eating dog ..I think you wrote too much while communicating too little.
Maybe I’m simply an impatient reader because I have read so many books and therefore might pick up hints and foreshadowing faster than anyone else. Maybe ‘ordinary’ readers wouldn’t feel as talked down to as I did on several pages.

And that’s a shame, because there is a lot of potential in this book. I am curious about what was going on and why, but 1Q84 is fine with telling you very little about it. Maybe I’m just a reader who prefers her books with answers, instead of only questions.

1Q84, Haruki Murakami, Knopf 2011

The Avengers

143 min.

Ik heb eens een fatsoenlijke reden om in het Nederlands te recenseren. De Amerikanen kunnen de film pas vanaf vandaag kunnen zien en het zo flauw is als de verrassingen verpest worden (alhoewel: het is een superheldenfilm, hoe verrassend kan het zijn?).  Dat gezegd hebbende ..hieronder worden dus gebeurtenissen uit de film genoemd.

Continue reading “The Avengers”

Another Man’s Life

When I eventually walk out on my wife, when I leave her to her own devices, stepping boldly into a thrilling new life of excessive booze, ample air hostesses, time-laden days, sleep-filled nights and dazzling tell-the-whole-world-about-it-freedom, there is no flourish.

Another Man’s Life had ik -als het geschreven was door een vrouw en de hoofdrollen voor vrouwen waren- chicklit genoemd. Wat is de mannenversie er van, men-lit? Dick-lit? In ieder geval, daar zou dit gedeeltelijk onder kunnen vallen.
AML heeft namelijk teveel diepgang voor de meeste chicklit. Natuurlijk, de plot is niet heel logisch met een tweeling die besluit twee weken van leven te ruilen zonder iemand er over te vertellen. De ene is een vrijgezel met een eigen bedrijf terwijl de ander getrouwd is en huisvader. Maar ondanks bijna (sociaal-)dodelijke gebeurtenissen en misverstanden, is er meer ruimte voor het uitdiepen van de karakters en voor- en nadelen van beide levensstijlen, dan eindeloze details over kleding en lijf.

Na de Wijze Levensles komt het dan ook allemaal weer goed, al onderstreept het einde nadrukkelijk dat dit mensen zijn en er dus nooit een compleet ‘eind goed, al goed’ is. Daar zijn het mensen voor, in plaats van karikaturen.

AML was een fris briesje na het epos van mijn vorige boek en 1Q84 dat op me ligt te wachten.

Another Man’s Life, Greg Williams, Orion Books 2007

The Wise Man’s Fear

Dawn was coming.

Or how such a long story (993 pages) can start with such a small sentence.  The Wise Man’s Fear is the second book in The Kingkiller Chronicle (it looks like a trilogy but I’m not sure) and it’s what I would like to call old-fashioned fantasy. There is a dollop of straight up fantasy in the fantasy book, told by a trouper who is part of the stories and makes the stories even bigger and bolder when retelling them. There is a comfort in the heaviness of the book, the thoroughness of world-building and how easily accessible every character is, their role cut out for them.
This means that there is little surprise in the story lines, but -for me- that was absolutely no bother. Known fairy tales are well known for a reason.

I read the first book a  couple of years ago and couldn’t remember much about the premises. That wasn’t necessary, as I quickly discovered. The Kingkiller Chronicle tells about Kvothe telling the stories of his (young) life, missing the first book means just missing a part of that. Patrick Rothfuss simply assumes you know this world he writes about, so there is no repetition or explaining. Just take it.

And I took it and thoroughly enjoyed it, skipping lunch breaks to continue reading because it’s simply a book like that. Only once did the thought of ‘This could have been shortened’ pop up and that was during a ballad on a woman’s body and the following sex. Other might love that.
Fantasy fans should definitely take a peek at this series.

The Wise Man’s Fear, Patrick Rothfuss, DAW Books 2011

Jamrach’s Menagerie

I was born twice.

Jamrach’s Menagerie tells the story of Jaffy Brown, a street urchin living at the end of the nineteenth century. His life turns into an adventure when he is eaten by a tiger, meets the people and animals of Jamrach’s Menagerie but most importantly: when he goes to sea to catch a dragon in the far south.

I didn’t get this from the Children/Young Adult division, but it could easily fit there along other ‘boy adventures’. The reader follows Jaffy from nine years old to adulthood, but his view on the world, adventures and misadventures, never changes. He’s good with animals, so he can hang out with every one of them in the Menagerie. He’s allowed to come along with the quest for a dragon (because that would make the Menagerie even better) and only doubts the danger of it for a moment.

It takes Jamrach’s Menagerie a while to get up to speed. I really felt like I needed to push myself through the first eighty pages, but after that it’s situation after accident after adventure and there isn’t even time left to breathe or doze off.  It’s a colourful story with extensive descriptions on the countries they visit, animals they see and people they meet. It shows how dangerous travel by ship can be and how resilient humankind. From time to time it reminded me of Pirates of the Caribbean, and it’s up there in unpretentious fun (but with more blood and gore).

 Jamrach’s Menagerie, Carol Birch, Canongate 2011

The Way Life Should Be

My grandmother is stirring the soup.

Dit boek verraste me. Het zag er zonnig en zoet en chick-lit-erig er uit en toen bleek het een coming-of-age verhaal voor een 33-jarige vrouw (Wat Wil Ik Met Mijn Leven) en komt de Ware Liefde niet eens aan bod.

Terwijl The Way Life Should Be toch genoeg elementen heeft voor een afgeknauwde chick-lit. Hoofdpersoon Angela is dertig-plus, zoekt naar de ware liefde, verliest haar baan door een bizar geval, verhuist terug naar haar vader, stiefmoeder en oma en gaat internet-daten. Als kers op de taart gaat ze op bezoek bij zo’n internet-date duizenden kilometers van huis. De doorgewinterde lezer kan de zin bijna af maken: gelukkig is de internet-date écht de man van haar dromen, vindt ze een geweldige baan en weet ze wat ze van haar leven wil.

Maar deze keer dus niet. Zonder te veel te verklappen; het wordt nergens zoet. Geen van de karakters zijn karikaturen waar de plotlijn al voor vast staat. Het enige ongeloofwaardige is dat de lezer bijna iedereen wel sympathiek kan vinden, ook de  stiefmoeder. Natuurlijk kabbelt alles maar door en moest ik twee uur na het uitlezen al op zoek naar de naam van de hoofdpersoon, maar dat kan ook zijn omdat het in de eerste persoonsvorm is geschreven (of mijn korte termijngeheugen afschuwelijk is). TWLSB is charmant en fris en stiekem zelfs een beetje reclame voor Maine, ook al zijn de winters daar heel koud.

The Way Life Should Be, Christina Baker Kline, Morrow 2007


She got to the parking lot earlier than usual.

Out is a lot. It shows daily life in contemporary Japan (the majority of the time through the eyes of women, but men also feature), it’s a study on how far a human can be pushed and adjust to a situation, it’s a thriller and a game of cat and mouse between two people who start out as very different, but have more in common than expected.

With so much going on, it isn’t so easy to say where this book is about, but the first thing that starts everything off is a woman strangling her husband, her admitting it to a colleague and her colleague helping her with covering this up. This and the disposal of the body seem to be successful, until more and more players get in on the secret and they all want something else from it, from the always broke colleague to the falsely-accused night club owner.
All this shows there is no such thing as a clean cut, no-loose-threads ending when it comes to anything that involves humans (yes, also outside of murder). Every characters copes (or doesn’t) in her/his own way, making the knot that ties them together bigger and tougher to escape from.

I took Out out from the library because it plays in Japan with (native) inhabitants, far away from the usual ‘white-view’ books I read. And though some information made me sad (women over 30 won’t ever be promoted in office life, men are more important in every situation), it was also very interesting and made me wonder how different the story would have been if it would have been set in The States or anywhere in Europe.

The thriller part of this book is the least exciting of everything Out has. Pick it up for the people, the plot lines and the society.

Out, Natsuo Kirino, Kodansha International 2003