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Two reviews and books for Sept. & Oct.

I seem to be lagging behind again. A busy week is to blame, in fact a busy month or even two and that's reflected in the number of books read I feel. I'm hoping for a quieter month this month and a bit more time to settle with a book.


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I started To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf and got to about page 70, struggling all the way with her rambling style, her going off at a tangent about this, that and the other. I don't know why it irritated me, I usually have a lot of patience with that style of writing, maybe I wasn't concentrating hard enough, I don't know. Sometimes she just totally lost me! So, I gave it a rest for about a fortnight. Read a couple of other things and then went back to it. The story, btw, is about the Ramsay family who own a holiday home on Skye. Really it's about the family and their hangers-on, the dynamics of the relationships between them and especially what kind of marriage Mr and Mrs Ramsay have. So, anyway, after a fortnight or so I went back to the book. And somehow it didn't seem as bad. Suddenly I didn't feel like flinging it across the room but was reading it quite happily. Did she stop rambling after seventy pages? Was I in a different mood? I haven't a clue. Nor can I decide whether I actually liked it or not. I couldn't help comparing it to a wonderful Persephone book I read in the summer called Family Roundabout by Richmal Crompton. That too was a book about families, set around about the same time, if memory serves me correctly. I'm very much afraid the Woolf book came up wanting. Family Roundabout was so much more involving, crisply written, amusing - I was desperate to know what happened to all the members of the family. Sadly, in To the Lighthouse I wasn't really all that bothered. Does this make me a Philistine? The fact that I prefer Richmal Crompton's writing to that of the genius that is Virginia Woolf? I'll have to think on that one. Maybe try one or two more of Woolf's books or essays before I cast judgement on my own judgement (so to speak). The thing is, I really want to like her writing. I feel as though I should like it for some bizarre reason. After all, I saw and enjoyed the movie of Mrs Dalloway and yes, I know a film is a very different kettle of fish to a book, but nevertheless I found the story interesting and liked what it had to say. I honestly don't know what to think (no change there then) and clearly will have to try another of her books in order to form some kind of definite opinion.

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Well this one was somewhat of a *different* kind of read. Abarat by Clive Barker was written for young adults and, not having read anything by him before, I had no idea what to expect.

The book's main character is Candy Quackenbush, a teenage girl living a less than fascinating life with an abusive father in Chickentown, Minnesota. She finds herself transported to the land of Abarat, an archipeligo of islands where each island is always at a particular hour of the day. As would be expected of a fantasy/horror story the book is peopled by some very strange characters that Candy meets along the way, some friends, some foes. Christopher Carrion is the main villain of the peace, for some reason he is compelled to capture her, but there are plenty of others in this very weird universe and all are pretty fascinating.

Abarat is the first in a series so is a kind of scene setter if you like. Not sure how many have been written but I know there's a part two. The book itself is lavishly illustrated with paintings by Barker which help to make this a unique book - and the characters are so weird that this is actually very helpful. The book itself is very readable, and a *quick* read but somehow I was never really set alight by it. It was good but not wonderful and I'm not sure if I'll read the rest or not. And if you want a fantasy book about islands then I would recommend The Earthsea Quartet by Ursula Le Guin instead of this.

Books read for September and October:

September:

Dracula - Bram Stoker
The Book of Lost Things - John Connolly
The Historian - Elizabeth Kostova

October:

A Time of Gifts - Patrick Leigh Fermor
The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray - Chris Wooding
Smoke and Mirrors - Neil Gaiman
To the Lighthouse - Virginia Woolf
Abarat - Clive Barker

My favourite of that lot? The Historian by a long chalk.
Books read so far this year - 57. Last year's total was 64; if I want to beat that (I'm not that bothered) I'll have get my skates on.

Comments

I have tried reading The Historian twice and couldn't get past the first 50 pages. Maybe I will try again since it has been over a year since I tried to read it.

I haven't read Abarat, but you should try reading The Thief of Always. That is another great book by Barker.
It's funny, so many people can't get past the first 50 pages of The Historian and I can see why. It *is* very slow and doesn't seem to be going anywhere fast. I happened to be in the mood for this kind of book - I'm not always - and it is worth persevering, but wait until you're in the mood for a very slow read. And it's also a really good idea to read Dracula by Bram Stoker first, if you haven't already that is...

Thanks for the Clive Barker rec. I'll make a note of that and check the library. I have Weaveworld on my tbr pile because a lot of people like that one.

I've added you as a friend and will also add you on my main journal as I read that flist religiously, much more than I read this one.
To the Lighthouse bored me to tears :-/ But I do like Orlando, which is a much more reader-friendly book IMO.
I shall check out Orlando then. I also had The Voyage Home (I think that was the title) recommended to me. I don't want to give up on Woolf just yet.
'The Voyage Out' is probably my second favourite of the Woolf novels that I've read so far - it's not exactly action-packed (well, you wouldn't really expect it to be, would you?!), but I found it quietly absorbing.
To the Lighthouse was such a struggle the first time that I read it. I read it again four years later and loved it. Weird how that happens. This is my absolute favorite line: "[A shell exploded. Twenty or thirty young men were blown up in France, among them, Andrew Ramsay, whose death, mercifully, was instantaneous.]"

I gave up on The Historian. Maybe I should give it another shot.
So, my reaction to To the Lighthouse is not that uncommon. I'll wait a few years and try that one again then. Interesting...

Yes, that was shocking quote. Took me by surprise as did the other two deaths. Really wasn't expecting them when they occurred though I should have expected Andrew's given the time setting. I thought it was very sad how Carmichael (think that was the character) was never the same again after his death.

I personally think The Historian is worth another shot. It is a very slow read and luckily I happened to be in the mood for that. It also helps to have read Dracula by Bram Stoker first.