Flood

Finished this late last night when I just couldn’t put it down. Apocolyptic fiction at its finest, especially because the danger described in this book seems so much nearer, so much more real than most of the books in this genre.

Apart from a really good plot, I particularly like the way the character’s personalities and flaws are exposed as time races by and panic increases. It’s a really good look at how humanity would react (not well, by and large) to circumstances they simply never believed could happen. The strength of denial as a defence mechanism should not be underestimated.

It’s also quite sad, not just for the demise of civilisation, but SPOILERS! for the way all the hostages strive to protect baby Grace, who grows up throughout the novel. They believe they are constantly acting in her best interests, but it becomes clear that they simply have no idea what those would be, having never taken the time to really get to know her and ask what she wants. A simplistic drive to keep her alive at all costs, in response to a promise made to her mother before she died, is arguably much more harmful than allowing her to go her own way and live in whichever way she chooses.

But, there’s a sequel! I’m very excited.

IQ84

I had quite high expectations of this book, based purely on the blurb and cover of course. It just looked like something that would be really good, and fortunately it was. It’s got all sorts of elements I am intrigued by, including Japan, magic and cults. It also demonstrated the perfect way to maintain tension and to keep your readers hooked (something I’m trying to deconstruct in the books I read now that I’m writing again). Each chapter is told from one of the two main characters’ perspectives. Usually when writers employ this trick, the reader tends to prefer one character, or one plotline, and so can feel slightly irritated at the end of a chapter, when they realise they have to switch. In the case of IQ84 I did feel irritated at the end of each chapter, but for a different reason – both stories were so good, and they so often ended on a mini-cliffhanger that I would be annoyed I’d have to take a break from one character. But then I would remember I’d felt the exact same thing just a chapter before, when I couldn’t wait to keep reading about the original character, so I was always happy to be reading more about both of them.

It also raises very interesting questions about reality and perception: in short, how can we tell that the world we are living in is a) real and b) hasn’t changed into something else without us realising. My pragmatic response would always be that regardless of any higher truth about reality, we have to live as if this is the only reality we know and always have known. Anything else is futile really, as we have no way of knowing any differently. There’s only one moon in our sky.

NaNoWriMo

I heard about NaNoWriMo five days too late, although I don’t have anything planned to the stage where I could start immediately anyway. It’s a shame because it seems like a great campaign, to help and support writers to write 50,000 words in thirty days – a novel in a month. It also fits in very nicely with the 30 days to a first draft excerpt I’ve been reading; a month to plan and a month to write. All sounds very structured and quick and easy, although I’m sure it’s not. Anyway, I’ve been following people’s progress on their own books and trying to soak up as much advice as possible. The main thing I seem to have found is: Write every day, don’t worry about the quality of the work – that comes later – just write. Perhaps I will wait till next year to start, or maybe just December. I’m working on an idea, and hopefully soon I will be at a stage of preparation where I am ready to just write.

On a brief note from Sweden, all my holiday reads were great. Well, apart from Written on the Body which was a bit too love sick for me, and seems to have the potential to irritate people both in and out of relationships. But Eat Pray Love I really, really enjoyed and the Snow Child was just as perfect as I imagined it to be. Perks of Being a Wallflower was also very good, but the film adaptation I’d seen was very true to the book, so it was probably a bit too soon to truly appreciate it.

We need to talk about Kevin

Although I recently finished a book which I quite enjoyed, it’s not really worth writing home about, so I thought I’d write instead about We need to talk about Kevin, despite having read it ages ago.

Warning! Spoiler alert.

I really liked this book – I thought it was incredibly intelligent and posed an uncomfortable question to its many readers. But apart from the concept, I really liked the main character, Eva. She is a very interesting character, who is made more realistic by the fact that she is so nasty. She is a mother who is very far from perfect, but not a monster of abuse, which appear to be the only two models of motherhood we are offered in fiction. She is not loving towards her son, but it’s not because there is anything inherently wrong with her. She is simply, humanly flawed, and I love the way you can see aspects of her personality coming through in Kevin. Out of the whole family, they are the most alike, though Eva would not like to believe it. To do so would be to accept she is capable of a similar mentality.

My absolutely favourite part of the book (or the film for that matter) is when Kevin is sick, and Eva finally finally feels like a real mother, able to offer him comfort and protection. At this point, he drops the act and shuns the father who cannot see beyond his innocent facade and reaches out to the one person who understands him, even if he knows she does not love him in the same way.

But then you could argue that true love is the kind that knows exactly who you are and continues to love, sometimes grudgingly, sometimes in fear, but in an underlying, fundamental sort of way.

It is more like the mother and son are equals rather than a traditional parent-child relationship.

And I think it is her husband’s incapacity to see the truth which makes me like Eva so much more, even though she is so very unlikeable. Shriver writes so that we understand her perspective perfectly, and can appreciate why she acts in such an unpleasant manner. She feels driven to it.

I also really like the fact that it is this narration through the eyes of Eva which suggests we are not getting the whole picture. If Franklin sees things so differently, it cannot be as simple as she is right and he is wrong. The truth must lie somewhere between her biased view of events, and his, in which Kevin is just a boy.