House of Names

I have been acquainted with the smell of death.

Like a Creative Writing exercise someone gave up on after a few hundred pages. Or fanfiction, but where’s the line between those two anyway?

Anyway. House of Names is about the characters in Agamennon’s story. His wife Clytemnestra, his daughters Electra and Iphigenia and son Orestes. The sacrifice of one of them leads to mayhem and disaster, and everyone but Iphigenia get to give their point of view on the aftermath of it.

And they do so, and it feels like the build up to regular fiction build on mythological and/or historical figures. But then it’s done. Turns out it’s a slice of life, a collection of character sheets, instead of the creation of a story.

Maybe I should have known seeing that it only had little over 100 pages (in my e-reader). You can pass this one in your search for historical fiction with familiar names.

House of Names, Colm Tóibín, Penguin Random House 2017

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Hot Milk

Today I dropped my laptop on the concrete floor of a bar built on the beach.

I honestly don’t know what to make of this, and I finished it two days ago. What’s the genre? How do I feel about it? Would I recommend it, and to whom? Well, at least it’s original (urgh, worst argument)!

Hot Milk is the story of Sofia and Rose. Sofia is the daughter taking care of her mother, who has strange symptoms no-one can diagnose in a successful way. Rose is the mother, the ball and chain of her adult daughter, suffering all kind of mental and physical aches. They end up in Spain for a specialist that might be their last chance.

Sounds pretty straight forward, but the story quickly goes of the rails in an almost fevered matter. The relationship between Rose and Sofia is far from healthy, but Sofia’s relationship with the world outside of Rose is unstable and confusing as well. Then there’s the specialist, whom seems to go for something between mad scientist and rich hermit. It feels a bit like an ugly, depraved version of magic realism, with the heat and discomfort sensible.

So …you could read it, if you don’t mind feeling annoyed and uncomfortable from time to time. It gets under the skin, I just can’t say if you’d like it there.

Hot Milk, Deborah Levy, Penguin Books 2016

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There

Once upon a time a girl named September had a secret.

It was the first title I recognised in the endless collection that is Overdrive. It’s also the sequel to The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making, because who needs short titles anyway (it’s not like Valente can’t do it, see Radiance).

Again, she offers a world brimming with colours, weirdness and smart little thoughts you wonder how you didn’t come up with them yourself. It’s fairy tales as they once were, yet with a Pratchettesque humor: don’t take the story teller, nor the experiences at face value.

Things went bad (again), and September is up to fixing it (again). She’s around after all. This time it’s in Fairyland (Below), making things a bit darker, including September. Small pieces of (ugly) reality meander through the adventures/quests/September’s wanderings.

Because even if you can survive the Forgotful Sea, you’re still someone’s child.

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, Catherynne M. Valente, Macmillan 2012

De Surprise

91 min.

Ik vind dat Nederlandse romantische comedies heel redelijk zijn. Ik had De Surprise dan ook voor een licht moment bewaard; blijkt het ineens veel meer te zijn dan “oh nee, als ze elkaar maar op tijd op Amsterdam Centraal Station tegenkomen!”.

de surprise filmposter

Blijkt er dus ineens een zwart randje aan te zitten dat op zo’n manier uitgewerkt wordt dat het bijna de spotlights jat. Want een organisatie die euthaniseert op de manier dat de klant het wilt, ook als de klant verrast wilt worden, had makkelijk ééndimensionale nonsense kunnen worden als excuses om de hoofdpersonen bij elkaar te krijgen. Zit er gewoon genoeg achter om door heel de film heen te wortelen!

Ondertussen charmeert Georgina Verbaan iedereen de film af, en zo hield een Nederlandse (en Belgische, en Ierse) film ineens mijn aandacht vast van begin tot eind.

De Surprise staat op Netflix. En een hekel aan Nederlands horen in de film? Er komen meerdere talen langs.

De Surprise, A-Film 2015

A Gentleman in Moscow

APPEARANCE OF COUNT ALEXANDER ILYICH ROSTOV BEFORE THE EMERGENCY COMMITTEE OF THE PEOPLE’S COMMISSARIAT FOR INTERNAL AFFAIRS

This was a book like a sofa. I feel like I’ve used this compliment before, which means that I have to go start looking for a new comparison. But spacious, comfortable and easy to stay put in.

Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov is a Former Person in the Soviet Union, which basically means that he’s part of all that was awful before the enlightened bolsheviks showed up. Because he wrote an amazing, wonderful, beautiful poem, they can’t just depart him. Instead, they tell him he can’t ever again leave the hotel he’s been staying  in (logical!).

And that’s where the book plays out, in a hotel. But luckily, not just any hotel. And the Count isn’t just any ordinary man. Time moves, people come and go, the Soviet changes, but the gentleman in Moscow is there.

I have yet to find a book involving Russia that doesn’t fascinate slash baffle me. This is one man’s story, this is a part of history. While being an appealing reason to sit down.

A Gentleman in Moscow, Amor Towles, Viking 2016

Wynonna Earp

13 x 40 min.

You want some small town western in your Buffy, with focus on more women than a Firefly? Here you go!

wynonna_earp_posterWynonna Earp needs a bit of an investment, largely because of the grumpy and not instantly love-able title character (hmm, how different would that be if she would have been a guy?). But if you can give her a break (she’s got a proper motivation, after all), you are welcomed into a diverse world full of nasties and a heroine that honestly, completely, excusez-le-mot, doesn’t give a fuck.

This creates a messy thrill, speeding along in such a way that plot bumps or disbeliefs don’t have room for growing. Go for the demon-vigilante with bisexual sidekick ride, yiha!

Wynonna Earp, SyFy 2016 (first season on Netflix)

Caterpillars Can’t Swim

“Go!”

So I discovered something new (NetGalley), and now I’m sure I’ll never want for something to read ever again. If the subscriptions to two international libraries and Overdrive weren’t going to take care of that, of course.

To the book. Young Adult with the main character having cerebral palsy, living in a very small town and saving another male teen that might not want to be saved. But still, pulling someone out of the water creates a connection.

Ryan feels responsible for Jack after that, even though Jack and Ryan’s best friend Cody try to stop making him feel so. Jack’s not the best, most social, fun loving guy around, while Cody is the pretty stereotypical jock.

What Liane Shaw does – and very nicely so – isn’t hurry either of them into a corner. Yes, someone’s disabled, but not his disability. Yes, someone’s gay, but not his sexuality. And yes, the jock can learn. All characters get room for development, and that doesn’t happen often enough.

It makes for a sweet, soft story, and a nice start of my Netgalley experience.

Caterpillars Can’t Swim, Liane Shaw, Second Story Press 2017