PROBLEM NO. 1
Your regular table at the fabulous restaurant on the exclusive island where you own a beach house is unavailable.
Follow up from Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend, now with even some issues that everyone that isn’t a billionaire or millionaire could relate to. Maybe.
Does one read books of these series for recognising situations from their own lives? Probably not. Bring in the details about the clothes, the planes, the houses, the spending.
Again, there’s so many characters that the genealogy in front of the book can be helpful. The author ramps up the amount of notes as well, this time using them (more often) to comment, instead of to explain. But in between all of that is a brightly coloured, very expensive (looking) story full of dramatics and diamonds. It’s silly, it’s superficial, it’s quite delicious (especially in between Year of Wonders and writing essays about The Catcher in the Rye).
Rich People Problems, Kevin Kwan, Doubleday 2017
The night Effia Otcher was born into the musky heat of Fanteland, a fire raged through the woods just outside her father’s compound.
A much recommended book that didn’t disappoint one bit. How often does that happen (rhetorical question)?
I often appreciate a family epistle, using people to show history through the centuries. Sometimes their surroundings are more interesting, something the characters and their impact on later generations are the elements that make the story.
Homegoing does both. It starts in Ghana, with the time when white people were just a minor element, a mark in between tribal issues. It goes on into the twenty-first century. So that means kingdoms rising and falling, slavery, wars, segregation, the American civil war and civil rights movements, fear for lives solely because they’re being lived in dark(er) skins. And during all that, people. Likeable people, confusing people, people you worry for. There’s their family mythology, but Yaa Gyasi never makes you forget that these are (just) humans.
It’s ugly, how close to the skin it plays. Colorism, racism, the superiority feelings of white people. This is reality, and there’s no judging tone; the situations speak for themselves. Doesn’t mean this story is non-stop hard to read, just another gold star for in Gyasi’s book. All in all, add me to the voice of recommendations.
Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi, Alfred A. Knopf 2016
In a single year, my father left us twice.
This was work. I don’t know how I managed to read two similarly build up novels (the other one being Disappearing Moon Cafe), but this one was the tougher of the two. Maybe because the comparison material was so recent. Both left me wondering how I’d like something contemporary written by an Asian actor.
Anyway, time moves every way but chronologically in Do Not Say We Have Nothing. Keep your head with you, because there’s a lot of characters going through a lot of things. The most brutal one, probably Mao’s ‘Cultural Revolution’ and the horrors of Tiananmen Square.
These aren’t light, bright stories. There seems to be no end to what a family can be put through, and the small, mythology-like side steps only make the difference starker. How did anyone come out alive?
It’s a novel to take in in small doses, to learn and see through another set of goggles.
Do Not Say We Have Nothing, Madeleine Thien, Granta 2016
Oh dear, what is this? A mockumentary, although the people starring are small-mindedly human enough to be straight from reality. And what is it about? Sport mascots, the people that dress up as animals (and other things) at sport games. The featured mascots are preparing for a world championship of mascots and accompanying con. The people attached to that are ..maybe even weirder, and in the worrying way.
Especially when sex and furries are added. It moves the not-documentary from ‘people very passionate about an unfamiliar hobby’ to ‘how many weirdos can we gather’.
In the end this made me more curious about the people in mascots, the real ones. Surely they’re not as annoying and frown-worthy as this lot. And hopefully they perform without a dancing poop.
Mascots, Netflix 2016
‘Thomas, Thomas! Wake up!’
Well, Dan Vyleta got the Victorian-feel of it down pat. Several times I paged back to the front to check the year of first publication.
This could be viewed as a compliment, but as I expected something else going in, it took me a long time to adapt. Smoke is as straight-edged as its characters, afraid of anything that could be viewed as sin or a wrong emotion, any form of entertainment that could ‘evoke’ something.
This element makes the novel dystopian, a strict society in which something or someone will give sooner than later. Not just that, but on top of the societal mystery, there’s a mysterious group that’s kind of powerful, but not powerful enough to have a clear enough message. Or maybe the smoke just got in between.
Even when adventure is added, the feeling doesn’t get very urgent. Power hungry people want to keep things the way they are, maybe some light sins aren’t that horrible, okay, okay. It could have been a short novel, a foundation for a television series, but as a hefty book there’s just not enough spark.
Smoke, Dan Vyleta, Weidenfeld&Nicholson 2016
If you would have told me that this was a movie from ten or even twenty years ago, I would have believed you as well. It’s a b-adventure movie, unoriginal plot with reel-thin plot and pretty people.
There’s an unlikely hero who is found by a rude stranger to be his new apprentice. There’s witches returning you see, and witches have to be fought. Because they’re evil, except when they are the love interest.
What follows is just a lot of destruction and explosions and some semi impressive CGI use. Creatures are gathered to help the witches, while the hero only has his rude master. Nameless civilians are sacrificed, towns decimated, how did it end again? Oh yes, the good guys win, but learn about how every win comes with losing (people) as well. Just pause and stop the VCR when it says The End, there’s no after-credits-anything.
Seventh Son, Universal Pictures 2014
It was the happiest moment of my life, though I didn’t know it.
Not for this story, but my opinion on it. A Nobel Prize winning author it may be, a deep, emotional romance in the loved city of Istanbul it may be, I only found egoism and sexism, with a dollop of patronizing ideas towards women.
The male main character starts an affair with a much younger, and poorer woman when he’s engaged to a nice, intelligent woman of his age and social standards. He steamrolls his mistress into many things, while not giving anything in return, only to throw a tantrum in any way but yelling when she disappears after his engagement party. There’s moping, pouting, dramatic thoughts and work-omitting behaviour. But don’t view it as that, he all has to do that because he’s so in love!
This goes on for years and years. Whenever there’s an interesting look into (high) society in Turkey of the seventies and eighties, the lens is turned back to the ever-suffering man. How dare she, how dare his mother worry, how dare his brother ask to come to work again, and so on, and so on. After eight years things turn in his direction again, but still there’s the woe-is-me tone.
An exhausting, frustrating novel that is interesting for about 10% of its pages: whenever Kemal Bey deigns to show a look at the world around him, instead of the one inside of his head.
The Museum of Innocence, Orhan Pamuk, Faber and Faber 2009