Tag Archives: murder

Before the Fall: My Memory is Useless

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I wish I had written this post two weeks ago when I’d finished reading Noah Hawley’s Before the Fall. Two weeks ago I had insightful things to say. Now I can only tell you that I read the whole thing in 36 hours and that it has something to do with a plane crash. It’s worth considering why I read anything when I really and truly can’t remember basic plot points or thematic questions less than two weeks later. I’ll console myself by thinking that I read because I enjoy the novel while I’m reading it, even if I’m certain to forget the entire thing almost immediately.

Anyway. What I do remember: it’s a murder mystery. There’s quite a bit of focus on incredibly wealthy people and the luxurious stuff they own. I usually find these kinds of descriptions of wealth obnoxious (and an obvious show that the novel wants to be turned into a movie where everyone and everything will be Glossy and Shiny and Gold) and an implicit reinforcement that wealthy people not only have more money but are fundamentally better than us workers. This novel was no exception: rich people have better things, more interesting lives, access to power and influence, and generally get whatever they want. The rest of us are just along for the ride to show them how great they are. And in this case when the reader is (almost certainly) not a disgustingly wealthy person, the reading is an exercise in unsolicited envy as we’re made to identify with these rich folks only to look up from our novel and see a living room still populated by second hand furniture and IKEA cabinets. Oh well.

There’s a great opening scene with swimming that I do have a vivid recollection of and found quite captivating.

On the murder bits: there’s a twisty surprise ending that you will recognize as a twisty surprise ending and – if you’re like me – be not at all impressed by.

So yep. I devoured it because it was plotty and full of the described wealth envy (and some readerly self loathing). If you’re keen on well written murder mysteries: go forth! Otherwise…

 

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Filed under Bestseller, Fiction, Mystery

The North Water: Read This Instead of Moby Dick?

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Mostly I find nineteenth-century Arctic shipwreck stories too familiar (even though – or because? – it’s a very particular category). One of my thesis novels, Afterlands, was all Arctic shipwreck all the time. And I must have read and re-read that novel a dozen times. Too many times to read much about whale blubber without shuddering with concern that someone might ask me about the significance of the whale. or the blubber. But how often do we read in this niche category? Obviously not often. Unless you’re someone who re-reads Moby Dick. In which case you are someone with other kinds of (whale blubber) problems. Continue reading

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Filed under Fiction, Mystery, Prize Winner

The Secret Place: Because you like to read about violence.

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I can see why some people read only mystery and suspense novels. They are so. fun. Or at least, Tana French’s The Secret Place was so. fun. I mean, if you look past the murder of a teenage boy and the fraught and disturbing presentation of adolescent femininity and friendship. Yep. If you can focus just on the investigation, the unravelling of who did what and when, the certainty that everyone is lying all the time (but why? to whom?) then it’s a lot of fun. Continue reading

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Nutshell: Clearly I’m a Masochist

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Here’s the thing. When you’re feeling feelings the best approach is to repress, ignore, and eat. It is not to confront these feelings by way of literary engagement. Right? Right. So what was I thinking in reading Ian McEwan’s new novel, Nutshell? The book is narrated by a fetus. A fucking fetus. Continue reading

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Filed under Book Club, British literature, Fiction, Reader Request