lizabelle: (Old coat new book)
Most of my reviews are confined to GoodReads these days, but I haven't talked about Justin Cronin's The Passage here, and apparently I need to.

I've just finished reading it for the third time, which should tell you something (possibly that I have too much time on my hands). It stands up to re(re)reading pretty well, despite a couple of parts where I wished Cronin's editors had been stricter with him. For such a lumbering giant of a story, Cronin's writing is surprisingly lyrical, his tone wistful as he describes a world full of lost people - which later becomes, literally, a world of lost souls.

Note: there are minor spoilers below, but only for the first part of the book, and nothing that you wouldn't find in a regular newspaper review.

The premise - a government experiment goes horribly wrong, releasing a plague of vampire-like creatures ("virals") that destroy civilisation in a few short years - is simultaneously preposterous and in keeping with the slightly apocalyptic feel of our own world, with its melting ice, polluted cities and religious conflict. Cut for length )

Even at the third time of reading, I was caught up in the action and emotions of the story. I didn't want it to end.

So it's a good thing that the sequel, The Twelve, is due out very shortly.
lizabelle: (Default)
I was a starry-eyed, unquestioning reader growing up, always ready to absorb suggestions for my next read. I read books because my teachers told me to, because my parents loved them, because professors told me they were great works of literature. Obviously, like any kid whose happiest moments were spent sitting in front of the shelves in her local WH Smith, I also read plenty of books that I found without guidance. But that was different - those were the books I adored, books that I reread until they fell apart. They were the kinds of books I stayed up late writing sequels to in my imagination; the kinds of books for which I rewrote the ending so that a certain character didn't die*. In this post, I want to talk about the other kind: the kind of book you read because someone - a teacher, a parent, a mentor, a cute girl or guy - tells you it's great.

I read a lot of those books, too, and often, my mentors were right. Some of my favourite pieces of literature are those I studied for A-level English: Mrs Dalloway, Bleak House, Antony and Cleopatra, Thomas Hardy's poetry. The best book I read last year was Wolf Hall, which everyone from my friend's mum to the Booker judges told me I should read, and yeah, I loved it.

But sometimes, also, I read these books and did not get them. They didn't do anything for me, and yet for a long time I slogged on, because this was literature, and I wanted to be literary. I wanted to be the kind of girl who could converse with the literati without looking silly or naive. Let's face it, I wanted to write literature, and so surely I had to understand the literary canon, didn't I? Because if I couldn't read, digest and discuss every single book that the (until recently, primarily privileged, white and male) establishment has decided is literature, it meant I wasn't intelligent enough; the problem wasn't with the books, it was with me.

That's changed lately. I'm not entirely sure why, but it probably has something to do with my ever-growing to-read pile, and also with the fact that I've done a lot of writing myself recently. I know how I look on a reader's interpretation of my writing: if they didn't get it, it's not their fault. Maybe they weren't in the right space to read it; maybe they need a little time; maybe I didn't communicate as effectively as I'd hoped to; maybe they're just never going to like the kind of writing that I produce - but if it's anyone's fault, it is mine, not theirs.

At any rate, several times in the past year, I've found myself realising early on in a book that it is not working for me. Perhaps some day in the future it will work for me as a reader, but right now it does not. So I put the book away and pick up another that appeals to me, rather than bemoan the hours lost to a book I didn't enjoy. It doesn't matter what the book is; if I'm not getting anything out of it, away it goes.

There are many ways to write a sentence, and to read it. It feels liberating to realise that.

*Dear LM Montgomery: My heart is still broken. Yours, etc.


lizabelle: (Default)

June 2014

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