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  2. Blindness (1995) Jose Saramago A man is stuck in traffic and suddenly goes blind (a milky white blindness as opposed to darkness). A good Samaritan takes him home only to later steal his car. The next day he sees the doctor who is baffled. The day after that, the doctor discovers that he is now blind. And on it goes, with more an more people discovering that they are blind until the government starts rounding them up and placing them in an asylum. To begin with there are forty to fifty but gradually the numbers drastically increase. The doctor's wife also claims to be blind to stay with her husband despite this not being true. The army are positioned outside with strict instructions to shoot anyone who tries to leave. Soon the place is overpopulated with excrement everywhere and dead bodies. Then a group in a separate wing decides to keep all the food for themselves and demand money and jewels for food. Soon, they switch and demand that females from each ward be sent as payment. Eventually, the army abandon post as the blindness epidemic continues and the small group leaves and roams the apocalyptic streets in search of food and shelter. The allegory here is fairly obvious, concerning the true nature of humanity and how civilisation has a tendency to ignore what's in front of their eyes. But I found that fairly simplistic and predictable with little originality. Most of us know exactly what humanity is. Most of us keep that truth close to the front of our minds on a daily basis. There is nothing especially groundbreaking here and in truth the high praise this book receives is slightly bewildering to me. I get the impression that it's a lot of people who want to read Stephen King but also want to seem more intellectual (Saramago won a Nobel prize after all). That being said, I enjoyed the book and was swept along at a decent pace; the story is very engaging and though the writing style is often chaotic (very few full stops), it's actually quite an easy to read. My only criticisms would be the oppressively long chapters which, more than once, had me craving that they would end (never a good sign). And I also disliked the doctor and the girl with glasses having sex; it seemed absurd and pointless, and strangely presumptuous of a male writer. Overall, very good though. 7/10
  3. Last week
  4. Your Book Activity - May 2022

    Currently reading Impatience of the Heart, Stefan Zweig
  5. Never Ending Book Titles

    The Invisible Man - H G Wells
  6. Stop Crying Your Heart Out - Oasis
  7. Stop! In the Name of Love - The Supremes
  8. You Know My Name (Look Up The Number) - The Beatles
  9. Your Book Activity - May 2022

    So happy you've got your reading mojo back, Chrissy I've been enjoying books set on the Home Front during WW2. Perhaps it's the courage, humour and resilience of people being constantly bombed and putting up with so many deprivations that's somehow comforting and reassuring, especially with how things are in the world at present. Just finished Spam Tomorrow by Verily Anderson, and now reading Nothing to Report by Carola Oman.
  10. A Book Blog 2022 by Books do Furnish a Room

    They Came like Swallows by William Maxwell A novel about the influenza pandemic after the First World War. It is set in small town Illinois. This is a haunting novella which will stay with me, well written and hasn’t really become dated. The Morison family consists of mother, father and two boys: Bunny who is eight and Robert who is thirteen and has a disability (he has lost a leg below the knee). All four members of the family are ill at some point and inevitably there is loss. The first two parts of the book are told from the point of view of the two brothers. The last part is from a more general perspective. The title is from a Yeats poem: They came like swallows and like swallows went, And yet a woman’s powerful character Could keep a swallow to its first intent; And half a dozen in formation there, That seemed to whirl upon a compass-point, Found certainty upon the dreaming air… Maxwell is writing from his own experience in the pandemic and that is what makes this feel very personal. The eight year olds perspective feels like an eight year old and life is centred on his mother: “He got down from his chair at once. But while he stood waiting before her and while she considered him with eyes that were perplexed and brown, the weight grew. The weight grew and became like a stone. He had to lift it each time that he took a breath. ‘Whose angel child are you?’ By those words and by the wholly unexpected kiss that accompanied them he was made sound and strong. His eyes met hers safely. With wings beating above him and a great masculine noise of trumpets and drums he returned to his breakfast.” And: “Always when he and his mother were alone, the library seemed intimate and familiar. They did not speak or even raise their eyes, except occasionally. Yet around and through what they were doing each of them was aware of the other’s presence. If his mother was not there, if she was upstairs in her room or out in the kitchen explaining to Sophie about lunch, nothing was real to Bunny – or alive. The vermillion leaves and yellow leaves folding and unfolding upon the curtains depended utterly on his mother. Without her they had no movement and no colour.” I felt at times there was an indebtedness to Woolf and I was reminded a little of To The Lighthouse. Robert is older and a little more knowing and worldly wise and the two don’t always get on. Both perspectives work pretty well. Robert’s thoughts about the pandemic are different to Bunny’s: “Page two… There it was: ‘SCHOOLS … The school board and the health officer have posted notices on the school houses and at places about town to the effect that the schools will be closed until further notice…’ Robert felt very small prickles in the region of his spine. He read the first sentence twice, to make sure that there had not been a mistake… His mother couldn’t keep him at home indefinitely. Things as awful as that didn’t happen.” Semi spoiler ahead. We also see some perspective from Mr Morison senior as well: “It was a shock to step across the threshold of the library and find everything unchanged. The chairs, the white bookcases, the rugs and curtains – even his pipe cleaners on the mantel behind the clock. He had left them there before he went away. He crossed the room and heard his own footsteps echoing. And knew that, now that he lived alone, he would go on hearing them as long as he lived.” This is a really good novel which captures loss and uncertainty in childhood and is one of the better pandemic novels I have read. 8 and a half out of 10 Starting I'm not complaining by Ruth Adam
  11. A Book Blog 2022 by Books do Furnish a Room

    The Muse by Jessie Burton I have found myself reading some quite recent stuff of late as well as my usual diet (this has only been around six or so years). Formerly I have felt that books ought to be left a while to see how they age. However there are a couple of problems with that. Firstly I have found a significant number of books that are a century or more old that have been almost completely forgotten and are really rather good. Secondly I am getting on in years so if I wait to see how they age I will be pushing up the daises anyway. The next problem is how you pick them. I haven’t cracked that one yet! This was cheap and had a nice cover: how shallow! There are two timelines here. One is London in 1967 and the other is in Spain in 1936 at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. This is an exploration of the relationship between art and artists and indeed the role of the muse. It also considers the afterlife of a painting. Burton explores the way men and women are treated differently as artists and there is a sort of artistic detective story. It’s well-crafted on the whole but the linking of the two timelines is a bit heavy handed. One of the main characters in the 1967 strand is a Trinidadian immigrant and I don’t think Burton quite pulls this off. Odelle experiences no racism in the novel, not something that would have happened in 1960s London. The sections which concern the Spanish Civil War was rather two dimensional and unconvincing. The sections on the creative processes is stronger. There was also an issue with some of the language, a bit too 21st century for the 1960s and 1930s. There are complaints about the difficulties women artists had: “Was the difference between being a workaday painter and being an artist simply other people believing in you, or spending twice as much money on your work? As far as Olive saw it, this connection of masculinity with creativity had been conjured from the air and been enforced, legitimised and monetised by enough people for whom such a state of affairs was convenient – men like her father.” See what I mean about the language: monetised? In 1936! This wasn’t all bed. It read easily and as I read it last thing before sleep, it sent me off rather well. 6 out of 10 Starting A net for small fishes by Lucy Jago
  12. Quotes on backs of books

    They're endorsements or sometimes more commonly referred to as book blurbs.
  13. Quotes on backs of books

    I have always known it as book blurb , along with the brief synopsis and the 'from the author of..' or the 'If you enjoyed...you will love this' bits. There likely is a proper term for it all though.
  14. Muggle Not's Reading - 2022

    Thanks, I do enjoy the Beverly Brook character. She adds a lot to the story. You hit the nail on the head. Raymond Chandler's books are easy to settle into. The more of his works I read the more I enjoy them. I love his phrasing from the 40's. The current book "Sisters" is really good so far.
  15. Is there a term for those comments on the back covers, or inside pages, that say how great the book is? They are often lifted from reviews in newspapers and magazines. For example, on the back of a Jack Reacher book, The Times is quoted: 'Busy, bloody and ingenious'. I ask because I was amused to see a quote from Samuel Johnson on the back of Clarissa: 'The first book in the world for the knowledge it displays of the human heart'. A recommendation from Samuel Johnson must be pretty hard to beat.
  16. Best seafaring books

    I started reading Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. I do not think R.L. Stevenson was a sailor, so there is not so much furling of maintopstunsls or whatever they are. Main, mizzen and foremast is as technical as it has got so far. That puzzled me a bit. I thought mizzen would be middle, but then what's the main mast? I once cycled from Mizzen Head to Malin Head in Ireland, and Mizzen Head was at the extreme south, so maybe mizzen means rear. Aside from that, this is a boys' adventure book, but it is very good. The characters are colourful and the language is salty. It strikes me as being a bit like a western for dialogue. "No, not I,' said Silver. 'Flint was cap'n; I was quarter-master, along of my timber leg. The same broadside I lost my leg, old Pew lost his dead-lights. It was a master surgeon, him that ampytated me - out of college and all - Latin by the bucket, and what not; but he was hanged like a dog, and sun-dried like the rest, at Corso Castle."
  17. Your Book Activity - May 2022

    After a few months of at best, sluggish reading, I sped through William Boyd's Brazzaville Beach. I first read the book many years ago (20+?), and many aspects of it has stayed with me over the years. I got so much enjoyment from reading it again. So hard to describe, but an excellent read. On the back of such a successful re read, I have decided to start Anthony Burgess' Earthly Powers. Another book that left its mark on me many years ago.
  18. Muggle Not's Reading - 2022

    muggle not, I do enjoy Raymond Chandler. I find it easy to settle into his books, and his descriptive turn of phrase is truly wonderful at times. You enjoyed the first Rivers of London novel? I'm so glad. I have really enjoyed them. I will be interested to 'hear' your thoughts on them as you read on.
  19. Detective novels recommendation!

    If you enjoy detective set in the early decades of 1900, then I can recommend Dorothy L Sayers Lord Peter Wimsey series. They are very much of their time, with class barriers, occupations and the formal education of women among other aspects well captured.
  20. I worked my way through a lot of Enid Blighton's books. Like many, I started with Noddy, and then moved on to such series asThe Famous Five and The Secret Seven, The Five Finder-Outers (and dog), Malory Towers and St Clares,
  21. Pride (In The Name Of Love) - U2
  22. Invisible Girl - Lisa Jewell
  23. Never Ending Book Titles

    The Invisible Library - Genevieve Cogman
  24. Literary Crushes

    I always remember as a young lad, falling for Lorna Doone when I read RD Blackmore's book of the same name!
  25. Where The Streets Have No Name - U2
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