Review: If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things – Jon McGregor

insortI’m actually starting this review prior to having even got half way in this book. In fact, I’ve hardly started this book, I’m 70 pages in. I just wanted to make sure that I put my initial thoughts down.

Why did I wait so long to read this?

I bought this book in September after Sar begged me to but it because she adores it. I trust her judgement, she’d been on at me for years to read this and damn I’m glad I finally did. My only question is that one above. It’s just beautiful and I can see why she loved it and recommends it so highly.

Seriously, this book is just word porn. I actually found myself reading parts aloud because it just sounds so beautiful. The prose in this is just exquisite; it forms more like poetry and I think I’m a little in love. It’s just a breath of fresh air to read something like this, especially after my previous read.

While beautiful, it took me a while to actually sink in to it and actually understand where it was going. Really, it’s quite mundane. It’s just the way in which it’s written makes what would ordinarily be quite dull story vivid and just beautiful. It’s a slow mover and sometimes it’s a little hazy but it’s nonetheless a great book.

Essentially, this book follow a day in the life of a street through a series of vignettes from our narrator, but also interludes from the other people on this street. Each character is only identified by their house number, which can sometimes get a little confusing but it’s an interesting factor as it does just prove that people are more than a name or an appearance. This book is a very intense character study really, showing that ordinary people can be extraordinary if we only look hard enough. From the very beginning there is foreboding of what’s to come as all events are set over one day, with insights in to the past and future at times, and we don’t find out what happens until the last 5 or 10 pages wherein it all happens at once.

I just cannot put in to words how beautifully this man writes; so I’m going to put a few quotes below just to make a point.

“The whole city stopped – And this is a pause worth savouring, because the world will soon be complicated again.”

“I wonder how many ways there are for a mother to produce that wreckage in her own daughter, and my muscles tense as I think of them.”

I’ve just had to really think how to rate this because… it’s difficult. On the one hand it’s absolutely beautiful but, on the other, half the time it just felt like a bunch of pretty words all coming together and not making all that much sense! It was a long decision for me to eventually settle on this: 4/5

Review: A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing – Eimear McBride

A Girl Is a Half-Formed ThingI’m just going to throw it out there – this was nothing like what I was expecting.

I picked this up in Oxfam after a few people I know mentioning it saying that it’s just a book that you “have to read”. I do agree with that statement. It is by no stretch of the word an easy read, it’s quite difficult in fact and truthfully, I really didn’t enjoy reading it much. But I am so glad I did read this. At times it was frustrating, it was difficult and I wanted to throw it at a wall but I persevered and it’s one of those books that I think is going to haunt me a little bit.

It’s told in a somewhat more modern take on the stream of consciousness technique, it’s broken, it’s haphazard. I struggled at first, I’m a fan of a stream of consciousness but this was very broken and it was difficult to settle in to. It does hold such a power; when the narrator is desperate, you as a reader feel that desperation because the writing becomes even more disjointed and fractured and that’s just such a powerful thing for an author to accomplish. There wasn’t one gramatically correct, fully complete sentence in this book. I also maybe think that it would have been a book better read in short bursts than for a readathon as it was for me; I think maybe I would have enjoyed it, or at least taken more from it, had I read it over a longer period of time. At the same time, I think it’s a book that is best consumed all at once. I’m very conflicted on a lot of points with this.

The story itself follows a young woman (initially as a girl) growing up; it’s a coming of age story. She has a brother that has had a brain tumour and it’s really not an easy read. It’s a story that has been told endlessly but the writing style gives this it’s own, unique voice and a perspective that is very individual to it. Truthfully, I didn’t understand what was going on half the time because it was so broken.

I can understand why this was so popular with the book-award circle; it’s experimental and new and very…award-y. But as a standard, every day reader, I’m a little conflicted. In one respect, I was thinking about this more than I’ve thought about a book in a long time, I don’t feel that it’s necessarily a book there for you to just enjoy – it’s one that’s made to make you think and made to make you put it down to just take a moment and question it. It’s not a book I think I ought to read at the time I did – I’m emotionally raw and this book does take it out on you a little bit!

I’ve sat on this rating for a while; I’ve been flitting back and forth from 1 star right through to 5 because I am just so conflicted about it. Ultimately, I have to give it 4. It’s just so raw and consuming. Maybe I’m just raw at the moment, maybe this book is a little close to home but… it just had a power to it that I can’t put in to words. It’s not a book for the casual reader, you have to be patient with it because it will frustrate you. It’s dark, it’s twisty but damn it’s a good book. I read it in 2 sittings, I just threw myself in to it – partially because it was for a readathon and partially because I just didn’t really want to stop. I had this morbid fascination throughout it.

So yes, this one has had me thinking quite a lot and it’s a comfortable 4/5 (though in time, I may change my opinion)!