Snake Ropes

The tall men in boats are coming.

I feel like a lot of this story went straight over my head. And I feel bad and a bit disappointed about that, because it has (/it looks like it has) enough elements to make reading Snake Ropes an amazing, slightly disturbing experience.

Snake Ropes tells the stories of Mary and Morgan. Mary lives on a small, sheltered-from-the-real-world, island. Her father trades with ‘the tall men’ and every family needs to hide their sons because it is thought the tall men take those with them. Morgan lives on the same island, but is even more sheltered because of the huge gate her unstable mother built around the house. Mary’s life starts to change when her brother is taken, while Morgan tries to find her way out of the gate, out of the jail that is her house. There are also talking keys, ropes that act like snakes, an alive house of punishment and a giant woman involved.

It takes Snake Ropes ’till around page 290 to start giving some less vaguer hints about what could have gone wrong. In a book with 342 pages, that is -for me- kinda late. I tried to cobble together what the relationship could be between Mary and Morgan, why the boys are leaving, how do the tall men fit in, but nothing. I’m very bad in just taking a story in, I want to get some kind of control over it. In this case I just felt too much like a bystander and that also made it harder to care about the characters, to not feel like I was struggling through the pages.

Maybe I’ll re-read it some day and understand. Maybe there is nothing to understand and it is simply a very tangled net and I should skip around the knots instead of trying to free them. But for now I am left behind with a taste of bewilderment and disappointment in my mouth.

Snake Ropes, Jess Richards, Sceptre 2012

My Friend Jesus Christ

I’m fifteen the first time.

De eerste reactie die ik kreeg toen ik liet zien wat ik deze week aan het lezen was, was: “Is die titel serieus? Refo of zoiets?”
Ja, de titel is heel serieus. En er komen Jehova’s Getuigen in voor. Misschien zelfs Jezus. Maar het is geen moment wat je verwacht.

De hoofdpersoon is Nikolaj. Hij verliest op zijn dertiende allebei zijn ouders aan een auto-ongeluk. Zijn oudere zus zorgt voor hem en wordt zijn leven, hij kán niet zonder haar en hij zal alles doen om haar aandacht te krijgen.
Dat loopt niet goed af.

En zo lopen er veel dingen niet goed af, maar nergens wordt My Friend Jesus Christ zo zwaar dat het onleesbaar wordt. De schrijfstijl is zo nuchter dat de lezer er niet in wordt meegesleurd maar afstand kan houden.

Het is moeilijk om My Friend Jesus Christ in een vakje te stoppen, maar lezers die het niet erg vinden om een genre-overschrijdend boek te lezen, moeten zeker deze eens proberen.

My Friend Jesus Christ, Lars Husum, Portobello Books 2010

Gone Girl

When I think of my wife, I always think of her head.

This is the first book I ever read because a book club (on goodreads.com, my account name is MNLO) suggested it. It was also my first time reading an eBook. Does that excitement take anything away from the novel? No.

I read a lot of books. The bad thing about that is that it’s kinda hard to surprise me with genuine plot twists or original lines. This will sound very snobbish, but I like to be surprised not more than one page before the twist, not thirty pages in advance with “subtle” “hints”. Gone Girl definitely delivered on this, receiving several surprised ‘Oh wow!’s from me.

In Gone Girl the reader follows a men and a woman, from meeting and dating to married life and what follows after that. The disappearance of the woman.
After that – instead of turning into a run of the mill – missing person story, Gillian Floyd keeps throwing the reader curve balls, adding (little) twists. A lot of them are very spoilerish, so you will have to find out for yourself.
Another thing I liked about this, is that neither of the main characters are like-able and yet they are not irritating (to me, any way) to read. There is a difference between not caring about your characters because you think they’re horrible or care because you might wish horrible endings for them.
And even the ending surprised me, even though I’m usually not a fan about these kind of endings.

So all I can say is: Yes, I enjoyed this very much (not sure about the eBook though) and recommend this book. Good work, book club.

Gone Girl, Gillian Floyd, Crown 2012

Much Ado About You

‘I am happy to announce that the rocking horses have been delivered, Your Grace.

Als je eenmaal de smaak te pakken hebt, kan het zo lekker zijn. Hersenloze romances waarin het alleen om detail en zwoegende boezems gaat. Much Ado About You is er zo eentje.

Vier zussen in het Engeland van het begin van de negentiende eeuw moeten een man vinden, want een merendeel van hen is al over de twintig en ze zijn oorspronkelijk Schots en oh wat genant straks worden ze oude vrijsters. Gelukkig is er een Knappe, Mysterieuze Man, een frustrerende Casanova en een goedsul. Zo gaan die dingen. De aandacht ligt vooral op de drie oudste dochters, die snel het seizoen in moeten om een man te regelen.

Natuurlijk valt de verkeerde voor de verkeerde, wordt er stiekem getrouwd en gaat het mis voor het goed kan gaan. Dat hoort zo. Je leest dit soort boeken niet voor de originaliteit, maar omdat het een smakelijk zuurtje is zonder enige  nasmaak.

Net zoals in de vorige Eloisa James zijn haar vrouwelijke karakters stiekeme feministen (zeker voor die tijd). Ze hebben kennis en durven die te tonen, hebben hun woordje klaar en durven van seks te genieten. En dat is waarschijnlijk -voor mij- het grote verschil met (andere) doktersromannetjes waarin de heldin maar op haar rug ligt te huilen en blazen.

Much Ado About You, Eloisa James, Harper 2006

Gods Without Men

In the time when the animals were men, Coyote was living in a certain place.

The flap text gave me the idea that this novel would be about and around the same place, the characters connected in some, yet undisclosed, way.
Instead this book was a collection of short stories about and around the same place, through time and with most of the characters connected in a random way. It took me a while to adjust to that difference. Especially because I’m not a fan of collected stories.

The one big plus Gods Without Men has (there are others, including making the ordinary creepy and interesting) is the way it offers visuals and accompanying atmosphere. I was there in that desolate, forgotten-by-the-world place in the desert, felt how heavy its surroundings pressed on the characters.
Another plus are the characters, all trying to escape a side from their selves they want to forget, loose, reshape.

It was not an easy read, almost 400 pages taking 10 days. There is little joy on it, and yet the story lingers when you close the book, the characters giving you room to look at your own life and ideas.

Gods Without Men, Hari Kunzru, Hamilton 2011

Mudbound

Henry and I dug the hole seven feet deep.

This is a tough one. Not because this novel is badly written or has a boring story, far from the opposite. This is a tough one because some of the situations in it made me very uncomfortable.

Mudbound tells the story of different characters. The family that moves into a cotton farm, the people that work for them and serve them and the bystanders from the nearest village. As all of this happens in 1946 Mississippi, so you might already understand that there are no balanced relationships here. The woman needs to serve her family first, the  man needs to take care of the farm and protect what is his from ‘those’ people, while the members from ‘those’ people desperately try to break free from the box society pushes them into.
It made me slightly nauseous to read how careless slurs and threats are thrown around, how someone, only based on their skin colour , can turn into a free for all for entertainment and anger and shame.

And yet Mudbound is more than a confrontation with racism. It is an image of a vastly different time not that long ago, of a family that is drifting and pulled apart by its surroundings. And there is a raw, uncomfortable beauty to the way that had been written.

Mudbound, Hillary Jordan, Heinemann 2008