Sunday, 13 June 2010

The Idea of Love by Louise Dean


DATE READ: May 2010

NOTES: I very much enjoyed Louise Dean’s This Human Season so was looking forward to this book. The Idea of Love is a much more complex book and not at all what I expected. I thought it was going to be about prosperous Brits settling down to an idyllic life in the French countryside – a sort of Year in Provence (only better written!). But my preconceptions were quite wrong.

Richard has moved to the Var region with his French wife and their son. They make friends with the other local ex-pat crowd but have little contact with locals – except for Valerie’s parents who loom large throughout the narrative. The story has many dark undertones – everyone is seeking happiness and love but things go awry through jealousy, disloyalty or selfishness. Things are not helped by the challenging behaviour of their son Maxence who seems to be very disturbed.

Richard works for a large pharmaceuticals firm and he goes to Africa specifically to persuade doctors there to use anti-depressants. He gradually realises that these powerful and expensive drugs are not really necessary in African culture but are being pushed as a means of gaining profits for his company. Their neighbours also visit Africa to try to adopt a child but soon become disillusioned as they realise that the “orphanages” they visit are not what they seem. (I thought that the African sections of the book were the best parts.)

There is a lot packed into 300 pages – a compelling read.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Chosen by Lesley Glaister


DATE READ: June 2010

NOTES: After Dodie finds her mother dead from suicide she seeks out her younger brother but is told he has gone to America to stay with relatives. As Dodie is unaware of any relatives she sets out to find him. She is led to a religious community in New York State but instead of finding Seth and bringing him home she is gradually drawn into the cult by a mixture of curiosity, persuasion and mind-altering drugs. This is possibly the best part of the book – very effectively written – as we feel Dodie being drawn more and more into a dangerous situation.

The second part of the book is written by Dodie’s aunt Melanie who is a long term resident of the Soul-Life Community. She is in complete thrall to the leader Adam and again and again finds herself being persuaded to make wrong choices against her better judgement. However I was not convinced by why anyone would really respond to Adam. He was rather a laughable and pathetic character but only Stella (seriously depressed and possibly mentally ill) sees through him. Though, having said that, I suppose most cults are filled with vulnerable or damaged people just waiting to be told “the truth”.

The writer evokes the atmosphere of a cult community brilliantly and it is a compelling read. But if you would like a story about happy family life this is not for you!

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov


DATE READ: May 2010

NOTES: Another classic ticked off….. but, oh dear, what a disappointment. I was fully expecting a satirical look at like in a totalitarian state and the effects of censorship on the lives of writers. What I got was a Faustian fantasy that left me bemused and confused. The opening chapter where Berlioz is killed is brilliant but then it all just became too crazy. The parts where the story of Pontius Pilate is told were much better – but again this never really went anywhere.

Sorry, I can’t take books seriously that have people flying on broomsticks and rushing into the street and tearing off their clothes.

Is this sacrilegious?