Review: Don’t Look Now and Other Stories – Daphne du Maurier

don't look nowThis was, once again, an incredible collection of short stories by Daphne du Maurier. It’s also actually the penultimate of her short story collections for me to read. Thankfully I do still have one left to read, which I didn’t think I did at the start of this book – I thought I had read them all. Needless to say, I savoured this over the entirety of the month of December thinking it would be my last foray in to her short stories.

On the whole this was incredible, as with all of her short story collections. There were a couple in the collection that I didn’t click with quite as much but damn, this was good.

The stand out story has to be the first one, which sent chills down my spine when I read it. I kid you not. It starts out really mundane but then becomes really trippy and honestly it is so good. It was atmospheric and completely bizarre but so, so very du Maurier and I loved it.

I hate to repeat myself but her ability to build atmosphere is incredible and I just find myself so drawn in to her work and I just can’t tear myself away. There was a low point in the collection, there is always a weak story, but a weak short story by du Maurier is still an amazing story by the arbitrary standards I rate a book on!

Overall this was a 4* read. Alongside the titular story, my favourite was The Way of the Cross which was also a damn good read. I’d put this up there with my favourites, but honestly of her short story collections my favourite will always be The Rendezvous which I really ought to reread soon! I still have The Breaking Point to read – which I will have to get to in the near future! I’d recommend her short stories to anyone so seriously, give them a whirl!

Review: The Dumb House – John Burnside

thedumbhouseThe Dumb House has made quite an impact on the bookish community in the last month or so and having heard nothing but good things I had to join on the bandwagon. This is a new edition of John Burnside’s first novel, published in a beautiful Vintage redspine edition in a collection of Scottish Modern Classics. After reading this I will be getting my hands on more of both John Burnside and the series of Scottish Classics because this book is just incredible.

The novel follows the story of Luke, possibly the most unreliable narrator I’ve ever encountered, as he lives through a fairy tale his mother told him as a child. The in fairy tale his mother told him, Akbar the Great filled a palace with newborn children, who were cared for only by mutes; done order to to learn whether language was innate or learned. Of course the children never learned to speak, but Luke’s obsession with this idea leads him to carry out his own experiment, creating his own dumb house.

The only way to describe this is Criminal Minds, in literary form. It is both wonderful and disturbing in equal amounts. It is disjointed but makes perfect sense. It is by no means an easy read, this should have trigger warnings on it for everything (rape, child cruelty, animal cruelty, violence, murder etc.) and is definitely not a book for the faint of heart. It is however absolutely fascinating and I think it is a book I will continually think about. It is all shades of disturbing but damn, it just had this quality that numbed it somewhat – as a reader I felt distanced and very much like a fly on the wall; unable to do anything but not taking my eyes off what is unfolding in front of me.

Overall, I had to think for the best part of a day on what to give this book in terms of rating. Some of it is just so wrong and made my skin crawl but, on the other hand it was a book I could scarcely put down, it was a book that held my attention and will have me thinking for a long time. It was beautifully written and that can’t be ignored. I eventually settled on a 5/5 because the content, while difficult to read, is honestly no worse than what I would watch on something like Criminal Minds. It just feels a lot more personal and difficult to accept when written down. This is honestly one of the best books I’ve read this year, not sure I can say it is the best but definitely up there, it is one that will keep me thinking and stay with me so that itself is something. I wouldn’t say this is a book for everyone, it’s really not, but if you like slightly twisted things or maybe can stomach something like Criminal Minds, I think this book is worth a shot.

Review: Orlando – Virginia Woolf

orlandoI loved Mrs Dalloway when I read it a few years ago, but I did say it was a book that I would have to reread to appreciate. Because of that I waited, 5 years, before picking up any more of Woolf’s work and… I’m so glad I waited.

Orlando is a book that requires patience. It’s a book that required me to slow down my reading to fully bask in the beauty that it is. I think having a few more years on me also helped comprehend and appreciate her grasp and use of language. She is a genius. I love her. This book has changed me, it has changed how I will read from now on. I just cannot verbalise how amazing it is.

I actually read this twice; the second time straight after the first because I didn’t feel like I took enough out of it the first time around. I read a different edition (I have a mass market paperback sized edition which isn’t nearly as pretty) and actually annotated it – this is a huge thing, I hate to write in a book but it was beautiful to do that. To just fully appreciate her writing and put my own thoughts in the margins, highlighting the bits that stood out to me. A second read made me notice how vividly she describes colours and textures; the first chapter/section has far too many references to the colour green but never once is it repetitive and God – this woman!

Reading this book once is not enough to take everything away from it; it’s just so complex. I know that I can’t write about it and do it justice. I will however, briefly gloss over the general gist; Orlando begins the novel as a man (He – for there could be no doubt of his sex) in Elizabethan England; by the end, Orlando is a married woman in the 1920s.

It is just sublime, there are no other words for it.  The experience I had reading this was transformative; it is already changing how I approach books and what I take away from them. I will reread it again in future and make further notes with a different colour, for sure as it is – undoubtedly – a book that with every reading I will take more away from. Read it. 5/5.