Book Review – Go Set a Watchman

 

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Last year I set myself a goal to read 52 books. Well – I must admit that I didn’t quite make it. I was pleased with the 32 I had read and reassured myself that it was a reasonable effort for this Baby Boomer, given all that was going on with my health in 2015. My goal is the same this year. 52 books here I come. I am determined to do it this time!

So to my review of Book 32…..

With all the hype surrounding the release of Go Set a Watchman, I had mixed emotions on opening my Christmas present hardback with the deep red cover. Never being one to shy away from a literary challenge, the anticipation got the better of me and I dived right in! But I made one mistake….

I realised that it was many years since I had immersed myself in one of my fave books ever – To Kill a Mockingbird. To complete the experience, I decided to refresh my mind with the original, much lauded tome and yes, yet again it affected me. With a vague mix of excitement and anticipation (read trepidation) I launched into the ‘sequel’.

Things started well and though I did not feel that the follow up book based on Harper Lee’s notes, rang as true as Lee’s original voice, I was soon further disillusioned when a large paragraph, equivalent to almost a page, was pretty much lifted word for word from To Kill a Mockingbird.

Yes, I know that there needed to be some backtracking for those who did not read the original. Yes, I know that some critics claimed that it was acceptable as a new work in its own right. But, for me – the repetition was grating, the voice too thin and some important characters were only alluded to throughout its pages. I was disappointed!

However….the further I got into the book, the more I was appeased. For Scout fans, the precocious child is now a precocious woman, who hasn’t quite found her place in the world. When she revisits the town of her youth, things have changed. Is the South that she knew gone forever? And what does Atticus Finch do to cause her to consider leaving them behind for ever?

The only thing is to pick up a volume and find out.

I rate it 3 out of 5. Worth a look.

PS I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts.

 

 

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Boomer Book Review – Sleep Before Evening by Maggdalena Ball

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Book Review

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Sleep Before Evening

by

Maggdalena Ball

 

Coming from a family of voracious readers, It has become of late, increasingly difficult to lay my hands on an original read.

Yes I have been known to ‘google’ in search of new authors, fresh titles and the promise of a new perspective.  In such manner, I subscribed to the reader’s friend, The Compulsive Reader as an easy fix for all that promises to be new and untouched.  And it was happily, on my fourth or so visit that I encountered it’s creator – the vivacious and omnipotent Maggdalena Ball. 

At this time, my eye was caught by an offer.  Maggie (to her friends, subscribers and those who have managed to get a free copy of her debut novel, Sleep Before Evening by suggesting that their local library order a copy), had produced a debut novel.  ‘Googling’ pronounced it as ‘brilliant, insightful and rich with characterisation’.

I ordered a copy through local library and eagerly awaited it’s arrival – a new and exciting debut from a female Australian Author to add to my literary belt.

Taking the soft cover home, my first impressions were low key.  The cover appeared to scream independent publisher – definitely functional and no frills. Thumbing through the pages, though, I was pleasantly surprised by the first chapters and the image of a realistic, dysfunctional family emerging from the plain typeface.

Promise beckoned.

The story in a nutshell, is not a new one.  A neglected, essentially fatherless, almost-18 year old quickly establishes herself as the main  source of familial angst.  Despite the constraints on her ‘development’, Marianne Cotton is portayed as a have, rather than a have not, with a musical genius on the piano, deft chess moves and a doting ex-Professor Grandfather, Eric.

Her alcoholic, haphazard mother, Lily is an Artist.  Through no fault of her own Lily, self-obsesses to the extent that she demands to play the role of  the Prima Donna, around which all the other characters have danced, all of Marianne’s short life.  A succession of equally immature and self-indulgent men are the only male role models that Marianne knows.  Except for Eric, of course.  Nurturing his Granddaughters intellect, musical genius and soul, have been his role, until he suddenly suffers a stroke one day, during a chess game with Marianne.

From here on, the story quickly descends into a mire of teenage self doubt, loathing and anger of betrayal.  Marianne is off to NYU on a scholarship the following year.  But when her mother and then partner decide to turn off her Grandfather’s life support, skipping school, leads to an indulgent depression, which in turn, steers her towards the streets of New York and the entrenched music scene.

Upon meeting Miles,  an up and coming jazz musician, ironically, Marianne begins to act more like one would have imagined her ditzy mother to have been in her teen years and succumbs to the heady freedom of drugs, dossing on her acquaintance’s doorstep and degradation as a means of avoiding her demons.

As the narrative progresses in what some have described as a Dostoyevskyesque haze of addiction, anst and half-realisation, the strong imagery evoked too readily the world that is commonly experienced by many of today’s teens…to the point that it sickened me. 

Around two thirds of the way through the book, irked by the repetitive addictive love for the ‘white lady’, I could no longer continue.  The book was like witnessing one’s parents having sex (not that I’ve ever done that), or smelling a homeless person’s breath in your face, whilst they beg for a dollar.  Not pleasant to say the least.  I was no longer enjoying Maggie’s clever evocation of the seedy side of The Big Apple.

Unlike Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, the book lost me.  Whilst hard going, Crime and Punishment was, to me like an endurance test, with a reward at the end and a psychological intensity that is mesmerising.

Yes, Sleep Before Evening is a cleverly contrived and some may say pertinent portrayal of how, even good girls, can easily get sucked into the druggie’s lair, it left me feeling sapped.  At one point, I was frighteningly close to venturing out myself to score some crack, so strongly was the lure of the high evoked.

Shaking myself out of this mood however, I could not bring myself to finish the book, a rare event for book-loving me.  Disturbing to the max, this novel is not one for a sunshiney, picnic-blanket reverie in the park and for those squeamish about the subject, I would caution against reading it.

 Sadly today there is too much challenge and in-your-face realism.  Whatever happened to escapism?  Reading for fun?  Nowadays I am too busy to spend my precious spare moments, drowning in the fountain of this style of writing.  Give me an episode of Bones any day…