Lies of Silence

At a quarter to nine, just before going off work, Dillon went down to reception to check the staff roster for tomorrow.

If I manage to pass the first year, I’m going to add a Read-for-school category. No doubt, this one was the coolest one yet.

Lies of Silence reads like a (nineties) Tom Cruise movie. There’s an unlikely hero whom has to choose between his wife and hundreds of innocent lives. There’s an obvious, but mostly incompetent bad guy. And there’s a younger mistress (okay, maybe not completely Tom Cruise movie).

Except this time it’s nineties’ Belfast. No ‘good thing it’s only fiction here’, IRA really used citizens to blow up more – in their eyes wrong – citizens. Michael’s used because of his function and his car, and quickly owning up to his wife about his mistress isn’t the biggest problem in his life any more.

Brian Moore keeps up the tempo, and the book just being 250 pages allow me to use the comparison with a nineties Tom Cruise movie again. Things move fast; the book just leaves you with the reminder that this is recent history.

Lies of Silence, Brian Moore, Vintage 1999

Penelope

In the July before school started, Penelope Davis O’Shaunessy, an incoming Harvard freshman of average height and lank hair, filled out a survey about what type of roommate she was looking for.

Who recommended this to me? When? Where and how did I find it and felt like I absolutely had to read this? Yes, this is another one of the To Read list. And while I’m pretty sure I enjoyed it, I wouldn’t know if I would recommend it.

You see, everyone involved in this story is annoying, awkward, embarrassing, cloyingly sweet, a fool or all of the above at the same time. It was full of recognizable thoughts and situations, and it probably depends on the age and mindset of the reader to motherhen-ish cluck over these poor fools or grow incredibly frustrated by them. I swapped between both on quite a regular basis.

Penelope is a freshman, an asocial one with no clue about her place in the world, how social interaction and other people work. She tries, because her mother wants it and because she doesn’t understand how it can be so tasking if so many manage. But even when trying, she floats, she stumbles, she’s a wallflower of existence.

That makes the story weird and uncomfortable and sometimes really funny. Does Penelope need a kick in the ass, a hug, or both? Will she grow out of it or do adults like her exist? It’s like fairytale on humanity: these oddballs are here.

Penelope, Rebecca Harrington, Vintage Books 2012

 

Blind Sight

Names are just what we all agree to call things.

Just like  Dark Dude a story about a teenage boy growing up, but in very different surroundings and time period. Luke has been raised by his New Age mother, religious grandmother and feminist, free-thinking sisters. When his – before unknown – father turns out to be a famous actor, inviting him to his life in Los Angeles, he’s introduced into a very different world with a very different state of mind.

His father is a capitalist, he’s not honest to everyone, eats meat and has no time for meditation. Through essays, Luke tries to get used to having a father, learn about how life is with a father in it and how it changes him. Is he a different person at home versus the apartment of his father? And how do you write an essay that will get you into university?

It takes a bit before Meg Howrey seems to have found a balance between telling and showing. Half way into the book it becomes a bitter sweet coming-of-age story with Luke doubting a lot, while at the same time enjoying everything and wondering if that’s allowed in such a strange situation. What threw me off most was the random changing from first to third person.

Even though there’s a lot of ‘Hollywood’ involved, Blind Sight never loses its realistic feeling, making you silently root for this lost kid.

Blind Sight, Meg Howrey, Vintage Books 2012

Up In A Tree In The Park At Night With A Hedgehog

‘What’s wrong?’

Well, that was absurd. The title and its cover were possibly the most fun of the experience.

Main character Benton Kirby does nothing more in life than drift through it.  He looks back at his life and countless mistakes, doesn’t really take any responsibility for it nor seems to feel particularly bad about it. He’s just there and other things just happen to him. Not his fault, what can he do. The more exciting things (a brother is mentioned, whom drives Death around in his cab or the suicidal pets of Benton’s girlfriend) barely get any attention. It’s navel staring with morally (very) grey glasses.

Some of his experiences are enjoyable silly. Absurd isn’t always a negative thing and hey, not every book needs to blow you away. The writing was easy to take in and with it being such a thin book you’ll be done quickly, no matter what your reading speed is. What just bugged me most is Benton’s “Not my fault” attitude. There is no learning curve, things don’t come back to bite him in the behind in any (satisfactory) matter ..he just stumbles on. When he gets to the titular hedgehog, I feel bad for the animal.

This could have been a collection of absurd sketches. With a little more (chronological) back bone it could have been funny. Now it was just ..’there’.

Up In A Tree In The Park At Night With A Hedgehog, P. Robert Smith, Vintage Books 2009