Saturday, June 07, 2008

Book Reviews

I have lots of time now for reading, and I'm realizing how much I've missed it. Bike racing is a big time suck, and after training and racing I've tended not to have much (mental) energy for anything else. I can see why pro racers don't do much besides play video games and web surf when they're not training. Add a full-time job, and there's not much time left at all! I digress.

The Reader - Bernhard Schlink

Hailed for its coiled eroticism and the moral claims it makes upon the reader, this mesmerizing novel is a story of love and secrets, horror and compassion, unfolding against the haunted landscape of postwar Germany.
When he falls ill on his way home from school, fifteen-year-old Michael Berg is rescued by Hanna, a woman twice his age. In time she becomes his lover--then she inexplicably disappears. When Michael next sees her, he is a young law student, and she is on trial for a hideous crime. As he watches her refuse to defend her innocence, Michael gradually realizes that Hanna may be guarding a secret she considers more shameful than murder.
Wow. This is a heavy, thought-provoking, evocative book. A classic for sure. Yet accessible, a good read, and very engaging. Some situations were a bit contrived, and some of the moral dilemmas were left a bit too ambivalent, maybe. Yet that's part of what makes it thought-provoking I guess: the reader (no pun intended) has to make up his own mind and make his own judgements. Highly recommended.

A Long Way Down - Nick Hornby
In his fourth novel, New York Times-bestselling author Nick Hornby mines the hearts and psyches of four lost souls who connect just when they've reached the end of the line.
Meet Martin, JJ, Jess, and Maureen. Four people who come together on New Year's Eve: a former TV talk show host, a musician, a teenage girl, and a mother. Three are British, one is American. They encounter one another on the roof of Topper's House, a London destination famous as the last stop for those ready to end their lives.
In four distinct and riveting first-person voices, Nick Hornby tells a story of four individuals confronting the limits of choice, circumstance, and their own mortality. This is a tale of connections made and missed, punishing regrets, and the grace of second chances.
Intense, hilarious, provocative, and moving, A Long Way Down is a novel about suicide that is, surprisingly, full of life.
This was a great read. It took a depressing subject matter, and instead of either sugar coating it or wallowing in it, it took it on head-on and yet made it entertaining to read. Sarcastic, realistic, humorous, cheeky, daring.

After Dark - Haruki Murakami
After Dark is a short, sleek novel that features various encounters set in the witching hours of Tokyo between midnight and dawn, and is every bit as gripping as Murakami's masterworks "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle" and "Kafka on the Shore.
Meh. Murakami's books have always been beyond excellent, so this was disappointing. It was like the first half of a book: short, and the storylines don't get wrapped up. The storylines didn't seem to have a point either, but Murakami can be accused of this in other books; in this case it was simply annoying.