March has been a good reading month, with pretty different books. I finished Don Quixote and read several other titles. Here’s a breakdown. How was your March in books? Hope it was as exciting as mine!
I finished Don Quixote on March 14. It was a long but worthwhile journey. I have ordered several copies for my shelves and I intend to start a DQ collection. Seriously, it’s an amazing book. My comments on the book are here: Review
After that I read The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. It was a surprise. I’ve avoided it for a long time, expecting something entirely different from what I got.
I was rather riveted to the story, though the writing is difficult, uncomfortable even, syntax feels convoluted at times. The story concerns a governess who comes to take care of two children. She has absolute freedom as the guardian doesn’t like to be bothered. It felt like James was mocking things like Jane Eyre a bit. Anyway, the children are sweet and angelic, but, are they? There are many questions about the governess’ behaviour too…many questions that raise an eyebrow. In fact, I’d say there are two concurrent interpretations of the narrator’s state of mind… and the narrator is extremely unreliable. It’s in many ways an unsettling story. It has a pretty wow / what the heck kind of ending too – for me, it’s a good thing because it leaves me with a lot more questions and highlights even more how unsettling the story is. The story is short and leaves a lot for the reader to think about if you can get past James’ style here/ Maybe his style was the point, too…it enhances the meaning; highlights, perhaps, the narrator’s state of mind. I say it’s an interesting story in the way it’s unsettling. A very good read!
My next read was an ARC of Orange City by Lee Matthew Goldberg. Not my style but an interesting read nonetheless.
What will you do to fight for yourself, if at all? Is it better to say shackled as a mindless, comfortable cypher, afraid to act, or take matters into your own hand? The protagonists of Orange City tackle this problem in different ways. The shortest way I’d describe this book is lurid dystopian pulp fiction.
When the main protagonist, Graham, gets a chance to leave his life behind, little does he know what forces stand behind his fate. Without realising that he is the chosen one, he becomes one of many faces living in the City controlled by a mysterious creature, its dictator who decides everyone’s fate. Graham’s closest surrounding consists of E – his boss, Gayle with her own, underdeveloped, problems, a rowdy buddy Mick, and a beautiful intern Marlena – Graham has developments with her that didn’t feel very authentic or organic to me. Like there just had to be something between them and I rolled my eyes. The players are set up, Graham is given a special task – to test new soda flavours. This opens up a whole new set of experiences, including vivid dreams and pretty wild behaviour that leads him to suspect something is afoul. The plot takes Graham from a poor pawn to a rebel, fighting forces he had little idea about.
The story touches on unsettling aspects of today’s reality – corporate America, controlling what people do, even to the point of inserting memory chips, modifying people’s memories, and an attempt to refer to Stalinism, albeit I found it all a little too cursory for my tastes. In short, lore, concept and world-building are interesting, if still perfunctory, but downplayed by cursory plotting, crudeness, and pretty schematic characterisation. I think I got my hopes too high due to comparisons with 1984. It’s not really quite there at all for me.
The book ends on a cliffhanger which shows this is something bigger, and Orange City might just be one of many enclaves, worlds within the world – and it might be exciting to visit some of those other worlds. I feel like it would work very well as a game or a comic. For me, the concept is entertaining, but the vulgarity diminished its overall reception. I wish the execution was more on the literary side for this one. But it is a quick read oozing luridness in its dystopian intent.
Full review on my goodreads. It was too long to paste here in its entirety.
Then I moved on to Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine
For me, the quote sums up the feeling I got.
Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine. Except she isn’t.
TW: abuse, physical and emotional and dealing with issues related to the trauma
It’s a lovely read about working to find an authentic connection with another person. Eleanor is scarred by her past, and she keeps her bad memories under lock and key, though some of them are so strongly present in her that they take on external manifestations. She makes lovely, frank observations of reality around her and is awkward around people- which resonates with me. Slowly, however, she finds a friend when she didn’t expect it. The friend is Raymond, an IT guy from her office. He’s supportive, helps her find her ground. Instead of cultivating a fantasy that pushes forward the first part of the book, she eventually refocuses on what’s near her and starts working for it, discovering that she doesn’t need to be quite so guarded all the time. Good read although wasn’t sure about the abuse theme, sometimes I felt like the book might have gone too far, and it would have been enough to just have Eleanor awkward around people and slowly finding her way around it. Ultimately, it’s a heart-warming uplit book though. I think everyone needs a Raymond in their lives and Eleanor is a lovely protagonist. Authentic friendship and care budding into more was well done. The book reads very well, flows and is a very enjoyable experience all in all. This is one book which I think lives up to its hype. A completely fine book. It put a smile on my face.
The last read of March was the spectacular House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski.
I’m still not sure what happened here other that it literally transforms the reading experience.
Two simultaneous storylines, one told in footnotes and often taking over the other as the footnotes spill out of control. A man called Zampano wrote a manuscript about a strange house. A house that’s way more than just a house. It’s all described in great detail, and reads like a piece of found footage that’s additionally described and analysed like a piece of academic research. Even reactions, every moment is subject to fictional academic scrutiny and I found it on point as far as academic research can sometimes go! A man called Johnny Truant comments on this narrative. He’s pretty wild, engaged in all sorts of danger and lust and his story is also pretty vulgar, but the tale that unfolds is very dark and towards the end some things within the Zampano story start making perfect sense for Truant.
The whole thing seems to be a product of an unstable mind, a mind riddled with anxiety. But whose? There’s so much unreliability, I ended up questioning everything, up to a point of asking – who’s actually behind it all?
It’s one book you cannot read on a Kindle as the experience would be lost. There is sideways text, upside down text, all reflects the chaos of the moments and I love it. Sometimes extra texts serves to make a noise.
It makes a fantastic use of academic discourse, inserts extra material just like Moby Dick, includes poems and fictional references. It makes a great use of the concept of the uncanny and labyrinths and is in general a work covering an astounding breadth of angles. Furthermore, it really is a story that crawls under your skin, and you can’t put the book down. The ending is not entirely hopeless though but still brutal. It’s all fascinating. I especially love the breadth of styles used. It’s one for rereading, definitely, to see what I missed on the first read, and I’m very happy to put this book on my shelf.
A month with exciting reads! Looking forward to April!