Wednesday, 31 March 2010

March Book Review

Oh the shame. The shame. I pitiful 2 books read this month. I should be slapped in the face repeatedly and told to get my act together.

Life in general took over this month and didn’t leave any room for reading. Plus I am at the moment trying to make my way through a behemoth of a book at home which means my only other reading is taking place on my lunch break at work.

Still it’ll make recommending something easy.

Amy Tan – The Kitchen God’s Wife.

I’ve read a few of Amy Tan’s books now and they are good but suffer from the Jodi Picoult syndrome I spoke about in last month’s review. They all start to merge in to one. In fact they merge so much that when I picked this one up I couldn’t really remember if I’d read it before. Not the greatest of signs.

Tan’s books have a formula – Chinese mother who has emigrated to America vs daughter who was born in America and the clash of cultures between the two.

The Kitchen God’s Wife felt a little confusing. At first you think it’s going to be the same old formula, daughter Pearl is keeping a secret from her mother Winnie and doesn’t want to tell her. But actually pretty much the whole book is Winnie’s story, the story of how she came to meet her husband and live in America. I had no problem with this because it was an engaging enough story but it felt a little strange.

Winnie tells Pearl the story to explain why her Auntie Helen is not Winnie’s daughter-in-law and that the secret can now be revealed because someone has died. So you start reading, waiting for the big reveal. Did Winner and Helen kill someone? Why the need to lie? So intriguing! And actually, it’s not really explained, unless it was and I completely missed it, and either way it’s not really relevant to the story.

So after finishing reading, I could feel the quizzical expression on my face as I asked myself “What the hell was that about?”


Not her best. If you would like to read one of Amy Tan’s books try The Bonesetter’s Daughter or the Joy Luck Club.

John Lanchester – Mr Phillips

This is an interesting one and I feel like I can’t really say a lot about it without giving it all away because this isn’t a racer of a book where there are multiple plot lines and characters which all collide at the end to be tied up with a neat little bow. This is more of a “nothing really happens” kind of book although that doesn’t really do it justice. In fact it doesn’t do it justice at all, pretend I didn’t say that.

We follow Mr Philips round on one day (it’s a pretty small book, won’t take you long to read at all) as he wanders through London and are treated to his inner thoughts and feelings about life in general.

I think that’s all I can say without spoiling things.

A word of warning to those of a sensitive and delicate nature – Mr Philips thinks about sex. A lot. You’ve been warned. I just wanted to spare your blushes.

The winner this month is clear – Mr Phillips. If only because he agrees with me about Tuesdays being the worst day of the week as this passage demonstrates...

“Monday, along with its awful back-to-workness, contains a tinge of relief, of the bracing moment after the plunge into the icy pool when we realize the worst of the shock is over. Tuesdays are his least favourite weekday, since they lack the get-on-with-it feeling of Mondays, and at the same time the next weekend is still an impossible way off...”

Here's hoping April is slightly more successful...


J said...

Nothing by Amy Tan as ever called to me for some reason and I don't think she's ever been recommended to me either.
I'm just about finished my Alexander McCall Smith book before embarking on my John Lanchester book. I'm actually quite looking forward to reading The Debt to Pleasure and will definitely let you know how I get on with it.

Diane said...

I am confined to my bedroom with only Phil, Kirsty and a Bouteille de vin rouge for company as my teenage daughter is entertaining her "Drama Group" friends in the rest of the house (I feel like an extra in "GLEE"!!!) I was going to read, but here I am blog surfing again!! xxx said...

I would definitely try M. Phillips! Sometimes those not seemingly doing anything books, really do do something, as when you get to the end you feel qite engaged! I must make more time for reading! Have a lovely Easter! suzie xxx

Em said...

March has been a reading drought for me..I just couldn't seem to get interesyed in anything I picked up, even old faves have been discarded.
But When I look back over my reading for last year I noticed march and april were both slow months for me book-wise.
Oh well I've got a couple of Alexdre McCall Smith books to get stuck into this month and I think I'm going to give Phillipa Gregory a try too.
Em xx

Trish said...

Reading? I feel sick that I never get time to read...and I used to read sooo much.

The Curious Cat said...

Funny, my old department at HC used to publish all of Amy Tan's works but I never picked her up...may do one day...I think the second book sounds better...but that's cause I like sex xxx :)

louisa @ Recycle This said...

(Just found your blog from a link on Notes from the Frugal Trenches - *waves east-ward at you from Leeds*)

I really liked Mr Phillips because my thought patterns are quite similar to his -- well, the Tuesdays are awful and number crunching stuff, not all the sex stuff ;)

It made me seek out more work by John Lanchester and I ended up finding a falling apart copy of 'Fragrant Harbour' in a charity book shop - a completely different style of story covering 60 years but also very good.