Thursday, December 26, 2013

Short Notes: The Secret History, The Sisters Brothers, Drinking Midnight Wine


What happens when reviews pile up, the year is drawing to an end, and time is limited? Well, you resort to short reviews especially if you haven't enjoyed the books.

I had heard a lot about Donna Tartt's The Secret History. The story revolving around a group of students studying Greek classics seemed unusual, so when I found it in a book sale, I was ecstatic. Unfortunately, the book didn't really appeal to me.



Richard Papen is a small-town boy who gets admitted to a prestigious academic institute, the Hampden College in New England. Richard is eager to study ancient Greek not only because of his fascination with the language and literature of ancient Greece but also because he is fascinated by the elite group of students who are doing the course. At first rejected, he is later able to impress the professor and his small select band of students by his knowledge and admitted into the class. However, since he still remains something of an outsider, he is not initiated into some mysterious rituals that the others practise including Bacchanal rites. One day the rites go too far and result in the death of an innocent man.The group tries to suppress the murder but, like in all classical Greek tragedies, blood that is shed cries out for vengeance.

This novel had a superb beginning but I just could not sympathise or relate to any of the characters and hence it simply failed to work.

*

I have a great liking for books that feature brothers so I was really keen to read Patrick deWitt's The Sisters Brothers, a book that had been nominated for the Man Booker Prize 2011.



The book is a historical Western set during the Californian Gold Rush. Brothers Charlie and Elli Sisters are the fastest draws in their part of the world who are hired by a man known as the Commodore ( a title which reminded me of the mostly dim-witted commodores of Star Trek) to track down a man called Hermann Kermit Warm who has apparently cheated him. The brothers thus start on for what turns out to be a long journey full of many adventures and revelations even as Warm remains one step ahead.

The book's ending was a huge disappointment what with its 'all's well that ends well' kind of scenario. Surely two murderous men didn't deserve this kind of infantile end.


*

What happens when a sexual violation leaves you with a baby? Well, you reject the baby, abandon him, and care two hoot about how he is being brought up. What happens when the same baby grows up to be a twisted being, full of hatred and bent on destruction? Well, you suddenly become all maternal and profuse plenty of platitudes about how love conquers all hate. This hypocrisy made me so sick that this is all I am going to write about Simon R.Green's Drinking Midnight Wine.




*

First Line: The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we came to understand the gravity of our situation.

Title: The Secret History

Author: Donna Tartt

Publication Details: London: Penguin, 1993.

First Published: 1992

Pages: 660

Other books read of the same author: None

*

First Line: I was waiting outside the Commodore's mansion, waiting for my brother Charlie to come out with news of the job.

Title: The Sisters Brothers

Author: Patrick de Witt

Publication Details: London: Granta, 2011

First Published : 2011

Pages: 328

Trivia: Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2011


*

First Line: BRADFORD-ON-AVON is an old town, and not all of its ghosts sleep the sleep of the just.

Title: Drinking Midnight Wine

Author: Simon R. Green

Publication Details: NY: Roc, 2002

First Published: 2001

Pages: 290

Other Books read of the same author: None

*

Submitted for various challenges.

5 comments:

  1. All three are strange books, Neer, though not in the negative sense. Your short reviews read well. I ought to try them someday.

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  2. Neeru - Oh, those do sound like unusual books. I'm sorry to hear you didn't enjoy them. I hope you didn't read them one after another; three disappointments in a row would be a bit much...

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  3. Yes, Prashant and Margot,they do have unusual stories but the characterisation leaves a lot to be desired. Hope you enjoy them more than I did.

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  4. Sorry that you did not care for these books. Especially the Donna Tartt book, which is so long. I have not read any of these books. I have a differnent Tartt book (The Little Friend) that I have not read (also very long). And I have read other Simon R. Green that have been OK.

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    1. They were really disappointing Tracy, perhaps in part because I had such high expectations from them. You have been luckier in Simon R. Green than me because this has put me off him perhaps forever.:(

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