Showing posts with label Orange Prize. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Orange Prize. Show all posts

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Family Affair

'The Way Things Look to Me'
By Roopa Farooki

Format: Paperback
Published: Pan; Sept. 2009
Pages: 360

Synopsis: At 23, Asif is less than he wanted to be. His mother's sudden death forced him back home to look after his youngest sister, Yasmin, and he leads a frustrating life, ruled by her exacting need for routine. Everyone tells Asif that he's a good boy, but he isn't so sure.

Lila has escaped from home, abandoning Asif to be the sole carer of their difficult sister. Damaged by a childhood of uneven treatment, as Yasmin's needs always came first, she leads a wayward existence, drifting between jobs and men, obsessed with her looks and certain that her value is only skin deep.

And then there is Yasmin, who has no idea of the resentment she has caused. Who sees music in colour and remembers so much that sometimes her head hurts. Who doesn't feel happy, but who knows that she is special. Who has a devastating plan.

My Take: I am mildly uncomfortable writing this review. Maybe it's because I feel bad because I don't know why I didn't really like this book. Maybe it was my mood. Maybe it was the book. I don't know. I've been sitting on it for a while but it's not coming to me. Ultimately, I think it's the fact that the characters really got under my skin and that was probably not the hope of the author and what does that say about me? These are philosophical debates I am not sure I want to have so let's just go forth here and discuss. 

I picked this one up because it was longlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction and the topic intrigued me. I've read a few books lately where the main character has autism, this seems to be a popular one of late. I enjoyed 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time' and 'Lottery'. Yasmin, in this story has Asberger's she is 18. Her parents have passed away and her older brother Asif is caring for her. Asif was probably the character I liked the best in the novel. He was genuinely sweet and was trying really hard but man his life sucked. He had to give up all of his hopes and dreams to take care of Yasmin. He seemed to be out of his depth. Their other sister Lila is dealing with her life a little less well and has a lot more resentment towards Yasmin and so is not a good choice as a caretaker. 

The story goes back to how it used to be just Lila and Asif with their parents and then when Yasmin came along they felt like they no longer had a mother. I thought it was really sad and hard to read. I can imagine as a mother you wouldn't really know what to do. The child with autism needs your help more but you shouldn't really desert your other children. However, every time Yasmin didn't get what she wanted all hell would break lose so that's exactly what happened. It was really uncomfortable to read.

In present day, there is now a documentary to be made about Yasmin because she is considered high performing so that's kind of where the action centers around. A lot doesn't 'happen' so to speak in the book. It's more felt, portrayed. Things are lived through, feelings are dealt with, people try to progress as humans. It was hard for me to read. Basically if I don't like most of the characters, its hard for me to form a bond with a book, however I think others might like this more. 

If you have read this, what did you think?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Slices of Orange

The Orange Prize for Fiction Longlist was released today (this morning at like midnight since it’s a UK prize but I’m sleeping and then working) but I thought you all might be just as interested to see what was on the list as I was. I love these lists, not just for my shear love of lists (of which it is vast) but because usually when I can get my hands on these books I tend to really like them. The list is varied – there are first time novelists as well as established novelists. Heck there is even a book on here I’ve read and two I have on my shelf and haven’t gotten around to reading yet (Mom, be proud to know that the 3 books you gave me for Christmas made this list - nice work, you!).

So without further ado, here you go: (the hyperlinks are to amazon when it is available in the US).

· The Very Thought of You’ by Rosie Alison

· The Rehearsal’ by Eleanor Catton

· Savage Lands’ by Clare Clark

· Hearts and Minds’ by Amanda Craig

· 'The Way Things Look to Me' by Roopka Farooki

· The Twisted Heart by Rebecca Gowers

· This is How by M. J. Hyland

· Small Wars’ by Sadie Jones

· 'The Lacuna' By Barbara Kingslover - link is to my review!

· Secret Son’ by Laila Lalami

· 'The Long Song'
by Andrea Levy

· Black Water Rising’ by Attica Locke

· The Wilding’ by Maria McCann

· Wolf Hall
by Hilary Mantel

· Black Mamba Boy
by Nadifa Mohamed

· A Gate at the Stairs
by Lorrie Moore

· The White Woman on the Green Bicycle
by Monique Roffey

· 'The Still Point' by Amy Sackville

· The Help
by Kathryn Stockett

· The Little Stranger
by Sarah Waters

Which ones have you read that you recommend? Which ones do you want to read?

Friday, January 22, 2010

One Heck of a Family Tree

'Fault Lines'
By Nancy Huston

Format: Paperback
Published: Oct., 2008; Grove Press
Pages: 320

Synopsis: Winner of France's Prix Femina and shortlisted for the Orange Prize, Huston's 12th novel captures four generations of a family and examines the decades-long fallout of a dark family secret. The novel proceeds in reverse chronological order from 2004 to 1944 and begins with six-year-old Sol, who is sheltered and coddled by his mother as he immerses himself in all the perversities the Internet can offer. After surgery to remove Sol's congenital birthmark turns out poorly, the extended family takes a trip to great-grandmother Erra's childhood home in Munich. A turbulent history underlies the visit, and after Sol witnesses a tussle between his great-grandmother and great-aunt, the novel skips backwards in time through the childhood of Sol's father, Randall; grandmother Sadie; and finally Erra.

My Take: I picked up this book in my quest to slowly make my way through all the books shortlisted for the Orange Prize and I am so glad I did. I haven't read any by Nancy Huston before and this book was unlike anything I had read previously.

The book's narrators are all 6-year-olds within the same family who go backwards in time telling us slowly about the history of their family. I enjoyed this method. It was unconventional and it made me work for the story.

Normally, I don't like stories told by small children. If they are over 12 it's fine, but younger then that and they tend to be annoying and we don't get the whole picture which is what happened with the first section of the book. Sol, our first narrator, is in the modern time. He is a whiny, spoiled child who thinks he is, literally, the next Jesus. His mom kind of thinks he is too. I thought if I was going to have to read much more about Sol's take on the world I would throw the book across the room. Luckily, he was only 1/4 of the book and the rest made up for it so beautifully that I ended up loving it!

You find out why Sol's father acts the way he does when it's his chapter as a child and then so on back through time until we reach the end of WWII and his family's time in Germany. For me, I kept thinking, wouldn't that explain so much about adults if we could really know what their childhood was like because so often those experiences truly do make them who they are as adults.

Also, can we talk for a moment about the cover? How hauntingly beautiful is that little girl? My guess is she is our last narrator, Erra, but I'll never really know.

(I got this book from

Thursday, October 1, 2009

I Had Such High Hopes...

'The Lost Dog'
Michelle de Kretser

Oh fair readers, I did NOT see this coming! I had such high hopes for my second book posting on this blog. The Lost Dog was one of THE books of 2008, nominated for a TON of awards and I was going to go on and on about "yes the judges were so correct!" "I have been moved!" Wrong! This may be a case of something too highly hyped that it has no hope but to let me down but who knows. In 2008 this book won Australia's "Book of the Year" Award - The Christina Stead Prize for Fiction, the Gold Medal from the Australian Literary Society, was a finalist for the Commonwealth Writers' Prize, was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and was longlisted for the Orange Broadband Prize so I thought, I gotta read this!

'The Lost Dog' is a story about a man, Tom Loxley, who loses his dog Gus (hence the title). Its supposed to be a story full of great mysteries, so the first one is, does the dog live or die? Well really, can you sustain this plot line over 300 pages? There are only 2 options here. Of course we all want the dog to live but the story must of course verge off of this plot line in order to keep the reader interested and that's where it got confusing to me.

The book is divided into days, not chapters. Throughout these days we learn of Tom's past, how he came to Australia from Asia at the age of 12, and we meet his family. I found a lot of this part interesting but there was so much jumping back and forth in time I feel as though if any book should have been in chapters, and not days, it would be this one. We learn about his mother, who is still alive but not for long and his relationship with her. We learn about Tom's ex-wife. But maybe that's the problem with this book for me. I felt like we "learned" about all of these people but never really connected with them and therefore it was not a great book, one deserving of so many accolades. At least for me.

Another great "mystery" of the book is Nelly Zhang. Tom's has a "romance" with Nelly Zhang. I put romance in quotes because while they love each other she won't even hold his hand, and no they aren't 12, they are both divorcees. Apparently Nelly has been in some trouble with the law before due to her first marriage. The problem is, while this may have been a fascinating story, the author kept jumping to the many other characters she wanted to keep us up on so it got incredibly confusing. Present, past. What's happening? I don't care! I tried, I really did, but at 200 pages I said "Oh forget it."

Has anyone else read this book and had a differing opinion? If so, I'd love to hear it!

(I got my copy of 'The Lost Dog' from

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I'll Take A Shot of Vodka With That

'The Road Home'
Rose Tremain

It was with some trepidation that I started this book but it wasn't the first time I was wrong (hope the boyfriend isn't reading today!). I had previously had mixed reactions to Ms. Tremain's work. I had read 'The Colour' about 4 years ago and loved it. The scenery, the desire to make it rich during the Gold Rush captured my American spirit, only the book was set in New Zealand so I loved learning about the history of a new place (who doesn't? I could just imagine those accents!). So that book made me think that I had wonderfully stumbled upon a new author that I would love. I quickly went out and picked up a copy of 'Music & Silence'. This book however totally let me down. I did not root for the characters struggles like I did in 'The Colour'. I can't love a book if I don't love a main character. Lots of people can, I am sure this is some sort of character flaw, but that's a post for another day! Another trepidation? I tend to not like books wherein the main the character is male. This isn't always true, I just find I can't always relate. If the author is great then the book works for both sexes, but sometimes I find that a male character can be alienating. Much like say, a man, wouldn't necessarily run out and pick up 'Shopaholic' so like I said...trepidation.

Fear not! Lev, the heart and soul of 'The Road Home', is a character you most definitely want to root for! He is kind and wants the best for his family. He is forced to leave Russia after the sawmill he has worked in his whole life closes. His wife has passed away and he has a 5 year old daughter and a mother to care for, as well as a best friend who is almost like a mystical hero.

Lev gets on a bus and moves to London. We learn about his trials and tribulations in getting to know how to live in a vastly different city from that which he is used to, learn the language, work in a restaurant, find love again. The pace is slow, but Lev is a dreamer so it fits. The book is moving and it is a must read!

One more thing I must point out, and maybe Amazon will fix the link but the book description on Amazon says the main characters name is "Olev". Throughout the entire book Lev is frustrated with all the Brits who call him that...hehe. I love you Amazon but cut Lev a break!

Oh and if you are into these sorts of things, it won the UK's Orange Prize for fiction in 2008!

(I obtained my copy of 'The Road Home' from 'The Colour' and 'Music & Silence' I obtained from the library.)

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