When God was a Rabbit

I divide my life into two parts.

A story about a brother and a sister, as the blurb on the back tells me. And it is, but it is much more the story about two people who are related to each other. The brother is always there for his younger sister, his sister always expects this and doesn’t know how her life would be if he wouldn’t. The novel is a two parter: part one for when they were young kids, the second for when they are both adults and a lot of things have happened to the both of them.

Writer Sarah Winman tries to give you a sense of security which does the opposite. Even with her vague hints, the reader steps into a world that is severely layered, unsure if he/she even wants to know about what’s going on. The relationship between brother and sister seems one way and not completely healthy, but why? How many of the implied actions and situations were only in their mind? And how could a seemingly happy childhood create such world-naive people?

A lot of things happen underneath the surface in When God was a Rabbit, but the nice thing about this novel is that the reader has the space to decide if he/she wants to look underneath it or not. Because without digging and dodging rising questions the story is an enjoyable, richly detailed one that shows genuine images of the human side of history.

 

When God was a Rabbit, Sarah Winman, Headline Review 2011

Dead and Gone

“Caucasian vampires should never wear white,” the television announcer intoned.

Here we are again, back with Sookie Stackhouse. With series like these (every novel has basically the same story line with extras and locations that are swapped around) it is somehow less easier to review it. Haven’t you read and reviewed all of them when you read one? Will there be a time that Sookie Stackhouse follows through on her idea of laying off dating and dangerous men in her life? Either way, on to the story.

Sookie Stackhouse  finds her sister-in-law (a were-panther) crucified in the parking lot of her job. Faeries are after her. Good looking men circle around her to protect her or kill her. She comes into some money and gets severely hurt. I have skipped the last three books before this one and could still pick up on every plot line. It is simply how it goes.

And yet – like the chicklits I told myself I was going to stop reading – it’s all very enjoyable. Yes, Charlaine Harris has the annoying habit to describe everyone’s clothing and hair and using the word ‘nub’ in a sex scene might have been the most libido-killing thing I ever read, but she knows how to tell an entertaining story. It moves fast, reads easily and oh well, there is almost an illusion things won’t end up right. It’s a snack.

A snack you don’t want to have every day or even every week, so I’ll say goodbye to Sookie Stackhouse for a few other novels. It’s not like I’ll be missing something anyway.

Dead and Gone, Charlaine Harris, Ace Books 2009

 

Vaclav & Lena

“Here, I practice, and you practice.”

There is a small sense of doom following you throughout this story. No, gloom. The expectation of Things Go Wrong. Tanner continues to walk the thin line between ‘Oh No Look Here It Comes’ and keeping the reader comfortable. After all, this is just a small story about two immigrant children who find comfort in each other, right?

Even after finishing it, I don’t know if I can answer that question. There are hints about something slumbering underneath Vaclav and Lena’s struggle to fit in with the other students, to learn English and be American instead of Russian, even though everything they know is just that. Lena talks very little, while Vaclav has a very concerned and interested parent. He dreams of becoming the next Houdini and she dreams along with him, because she doesn’t know what else to dream about.
But than something happens and the two are unraveled, have to learn to leave as separate people. The curtain is slowly pulled open, but never completely, leaving space to ponder what happened. And more importantly, what you want to have happened, because the options are open.

Vaclav & Lena is a small and silent story that will sneak underneath your skin.

Vaclav & Lena, Haley Tanner, Heinemann 2011

Snake Ropes

The tall men in boats are coming.

I feel like a lot of this story went straight over my head. And I feel bad and a bit disappointed about that, because it has (/it looks like it has) enough elements to make reading Snake Ropes an amazing, slightly disturbing experience.

Snake Ropes tells the stories of Mary and Morgan. Mary lives on a small, sheltered-from-the-real-world, island. Her father trades with ‘the tall men’ and every family needs to hide their sons because it is thought the tall men take those with them. Morgan lives on the same island, but is even more sheltered because of the huge gate her unstable mother built around the house. Mary’s life starts to change when her brother is taken, while Morgan tries to find her way out of the gate, out of the jail that is her house. There are also talking keys, ropes that act like snakes, an alive house of punishment and a giant woman involved.

It takes Snake Ropes ’till around page 290 to start giving some less vaguer hints about what could have gone wrong. In a book with 342 pages, that is -for me- kinda late. I tried to cobble together what the relationship could be between Mary and Morgan, why the boys are leaving, how do the tall men fit in, but nothing. I’m very bad in just taking a story in, I want to get some kind of control over it. In this case I just felt too much like a bystander and that also made it harder to care about the characters, to not feel like I was struggling through the pages.

Maybe I’ll re-read it some day and understand. Maybe there is nothing to understand and it is simply a very tangled net and I should skip around the knots instead of trying to free them. But for now I am left behind with a taste of bewilderment and disappointment in my mouth.

Snake Ropes, Jess Richards, Sceptre 2012

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

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

Mudbound

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