Doomsday Book

Mr. Dunworthy opened the door to the library and his spectacles promptly steamed up.

It might just be my age, but some books just feel like they were written a while ago (like up to twenty years while ago, not two-hundred years ago), and somehow they feel different. Maybe more about the story than about the production, or maybe it’s just the terrible covers. I’m done with this get-off-my-lawn-moment. I wasn’t wrong about Doomsday Book, though.

Because it was published in 1992, but plays in 2054 and the fourteenth century because yes, time travel! This was a recommendation related to time travel, and even though the place of recommendation is a bit dodgy sometimes, I’m so glad I read this. As mentioned before, it feels different, comfortable on a certain level. It was also just written in such a way that you have to keep on reading. There are hints scattered throughout, but you won’t know what went wrong to the historian sent back in time and getting ill while people in the present are getting sick as well!

The world-building creates accessible visuals (and again, that feeling of reading this during lunch break at high school), the characters know their place and the use of ‘special’ words is just enough to not get annoying.

There’s two more books in these series (of course it’s a series), but for now my time travel needs are satisfied. One warning: the visuals aren’t always attractive. As I said: sickness and illness.

Doomsday Book, Connie Willis, Bantam Books 1992

Run, Hide, Repeat

I was running along the Upper Blandford Road this morning, watching the little islands emerge from the morning mist, when I came upon a fisherman stacking lobster traps by his shed.

Truth again turns out to be stranger than fiction in this story that might make you repeatedly check if it really isn’t a dramatised/fictionalised version of events. That also means that pretty much everything I will put down here could be considered as spoilers, but at the same time you could look up the author and possibly learn the entire story without ever opening the book. Hm.

During a big part of her childhood, Pauline, her mother and her brother are on the run. She’s told why in her early twenties, but that doesn’t exactly put a halt to the running. There’s two large twists (do you call it twists when it happens in real life?) in this story, and Dakin writes with the right amount of insecurity (is it me, is this really happening?) to – as a reader – keep doubting things as well, even when rationale starts popping up.

This way it continues to feel like a slightly laughable and surreal story, instead of paint-by-numbers memoir of someone growing up in seventies Canada. The Mounties don’t even show up until the end.

So, you could read this one for several reasons. If you like memoirs, if you like truth-is-stranger-than-fiction, if you like a detective element without any detectives involved, if you want a slice of life view of seventies Canada.

Run, Hide, Repeat: A Memoir of a Fugitive Childhood, Pauline Dakin, Viking 2017

The Dark Tower

Pere Don Callahan had once been the Catholic Priest of a town – ‘Salem’s Lot had been its name – that no longer existed on any map.

I did it, I finished it – all seven of them. I’ve changed sides and am one of Those that Read Them now (applicably for many other book (series) of course). I’m done, and I feel slightly run over.

I don’t often review series, especially following books, because I feel like you won’t start a series if it’s only the third (etc.) installment that interests you, nor that it’s easy to discuss plot lines without spoiling those still starting. But it’s been five minutes since I’ve finished the last book and I need to get things off my lower ribs (it’s always my lower ribs over my chest).

For a large part of the last novel, I felt impatience and frustration. Because honestly, how much more world-building is necessary, how many pus-filled pimples on villains need to be described. I was still a bit uneasy about the meta twist of things (Stephen King getting involved), and basically felt almost as tired as Ronald to just get to that damn tower.

I’m glad I stuck with it. No novel is supposed to be stale, and even though you could view some decisions as made for shock value, you might realise that the ending motivates all those decisions made. And what an ending.

So this isn’t really a review for a series, it’s for the ending(s) of one.

The Dark Tower, Stephen King, Hodder & Stoughton 2004

The Underground Railroad

The first time Caesar approached Cora about running north, she said no.

Watching the series Underground, The Knick and than reading this book, gives you a triangle of black American history. If you’re not a complete dunce, you can recognise that these three are slavery-related, because that’s a large part of black American history. And as I often ask myself with books about ugly subjects; why should you read it? Don’t we know already?

This time the underground railroad to the saver surroundings up north is really an underground railroad, but that doesn’t make an escape easier. Main character Cora is followed through different states and escapes, and even when it looks safe, it doesn’t mean it is. Sometimes the violence against black people is written down so detached, it’s easy to believe all the slavery-wasn’t-horrible stories some people still try to taut. Only for this author to proof them wrong, again and again. This book isn’t just about the violence, it’s about the impact on human lives.

The railroad gives it a slightly fantastical shade, but an escape is an escape, whatever way used. Sometimes the author veers off a little in style, rails to a dead end, but Cora’s story needs to be seen through.

And if people know already, even about South Carolina, even about the mass sterilisations, maybe they can just pass this story on for those that don’t.

The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead, Doubleday 2016

The Rules of Magic

Once upon a time, before the whole world changed, it was possible to run away from society, disguise who you were, and fit into polite society.

It’s the book that your mother loves. Or, like, the book the mothers love in movies about small, sleepy towns and antagonists that dream about a more exciting life but are told by those mothers that you shouldn’t want that because look what could happen. If someone would have told me that this book was written in the nineties, I would have believed it. It’s absolutely stale, and I don’t even mean this in a very negative way, but just because it feels like you’ve seen this movie a hundred times already. It’s comfortable, but never thrilling.

The Rules of Magic is the (“long awaited”) prequel to Practical Magic, which was a book before it was a movie with Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock. Both are about a family of witches, The Rules is just a few decades earlier, so you get New York city of the sixties and seventies, which might be one of the things that make the story appealing. The Owens family is cursed to destroy those they love, so it’s moping about that, destroying (unwittingly) and avoiding anything remotely looking like love. Although it seems to only be about romantic love, else there wouldn’t have been a family at all.

Anyway, there’s nothing wrong about this book, it’s not just very exciting. I wasn’t eager to read on and stay up late, and it’s been a while since I had that with a book which might have made me more impatient.

The Rules of Magic, Alice Hoffman, Simon & Schuster 2017

Green Island

My mother Li Min’s labor pains began the night that the widow was beaten in front of the Tian-ma Teahouse.

I’m a sucker for family epics, “spanning decades”. Honestly, you can just get my attention with those two words. Add a not-western background (because honestly, aren’t we familiar enough already with those?) and I’m in. So that’s how I ended up with Green Island.

You follow the main character from birth to seniority, over two continents and through so much political unrest that it’s sometimes boggling to realise that these are real life events. How much do you know about the history of Taiwan, after all?

Shawna Yang Ryan leads you through the casual horrors different governments exercise while juxtaposing it with (immigrant) domestic life, making some chapters almost surrealistic. The narrator is always chafing in her surroundings, sometimes making her annoying, but the story continuously enticing.

Green Island, Shawna Yang Ryan, Alfred A. Knopf, 2016

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

101 min.

Wat een vermakelijke idioterie. Dit is een voordeel van films over boeken: wanneer je klassiekers (en ik gebruik het woord losjes) wilt uitproberen, gaat dat met film vaak een stuk vlotter.

TRHPS posterIn het geval van The Rocky Horror Picture Show ben je in anderhalf uur klaar, plus misschien een half uurtje om te verwerken wat je gezien hebt, en of het wel een film te noemen is en niet een soort kunstinstallatie.

Want een lief, onschuldig stel krijgt autopech en komt terecht in een duister kasteel waarin iemand (iets?) tot leven wordt gebracht door een zingende travestiet (maar eigenlijk zingt iedereen wel regelmatig). Soms helpen die liederen met verduidelijking, maar het is vooral show voor Dr. Frank-N-Furter, en die steelt hij ook meerdere keren.

Voor een film uit 1975 zit er geen moment iets oubolligs of ouderwets bij, het is gewoon idiote lol waarbij je vooral niet te veel moet nadenken. Aan de ene kant wil ik meer weten van deze vreemde types, aan de andere kant ben ik vrij zeker dat je dan de vreemdsoortige magie ontmantelt. Die tag line is er voor een reden, tenslotte.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Twentieth Century Fox 1975