Cloud Atlas

GGD 7 IR Stellar Group | by geckzilla
by Judy Schmidt via Creative Commons

For years Cloud Atlas, arguably the best known of David Mitchell’s award-winning novels, has been floating around on my periphery in a rather irritating way. A scratch that I’ve really not known whether to itch. Bouncing up and down my TBR list for years, the Marmite reviews from friends and fellow book bloggers left me feeling understandably apprehensive. Having read and enjoyed Number9dream for book club a couple of years ago (unlike some of my fellow members) I’d long-ago decided I would take the plunge at some point.

Using my shoddy skills to even attempt to describe the, admittedly utterly unique, plot of this novel to you all is a futile task. Enter my woeful little diagram:

Capture‘Fanning’ out in 11 sections, Mitchell’s plot (that readers will find either completely rare and wonderful or totally frustrating) rides as follows :

  • The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing – (mid 19th century) lawyer sails from the Chatham Islands back home. Rescuing a native stowaway who hides in his cabin, Ewing becomes gravely ill on the journey.
  • Letters from Zedelghem – (1930s) a young musician forces his way into the home of a famous composer, begging work as his apprentice. Much naughtiness and deception ensues.
  • Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery – (1970s) A budding young journalist investigates rumours of wrongdoing at a nuclear power plant, at her own extensive risk.
  • The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish – (present day) fleeing the criminal family of one of his more interesting clients, publisher Cavendish inexplicably finds himself ‘imprisoned’ in a retirement home.
  • An Orison of Sonmi~451 – (dystopian future) the confessions of Sonmi; a clone who has become self-aware. A terrifying glimpse of our imagined near future.
  • Sloosha’s Crossin’ an’ Ev’rythin’ After – (post-apocalypse) the narrative of Zachry, now an old man, remembering his youth on ‘Big Island’ (Hawaii). A life crushed by ignorance and poverty, plagued by violent tribes and in awe of the goddess; Somni.

What I did manage to glean after some painfully obvious clues is that the main characters of each section are supposed to be reincarnations of one another…much pondering therefore ensues on what this is exactly supposed to signify….


 

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As much as it pains me to say it, I really struggled to get through this book and find that everyone I ask either feels exactly the same, or the violently opposite, way. How come?

This is an undoubtedly rich, complex, multi-faceted, clever and utterly unique tale; both in its content and the way it is structured. David Mitchell’s imagination is vast beyond belief and the concept striking despite its vagaries. Did I feel my mind open just a tad to his weird and wonderful adventure? I suppose so.

However, upon (finally) finishing the book I found myself asking whether any author should have to try this hard. The answer? No they shouldn’t. Mitchell’s prose is way over-complex, bordering on strained and even pompous-sounding at times. Check this out:

Sometimes the fluffy bunny of incredulity zooms round the bend so rapidly that the greyhound of language is left, agog, in the starting cage.

p.170

!!!

All was not lost however; the dystopian ‘Sonmi’ section sang to my periodic desire for something a little frightening and apocalyptical. Fascinating, logical, political. I loved it.

That however, was pretty much my lot. Rather than keeping me intrigued, I simply found the elliptical structure to be hugely disruptive to any enjoyment, it taking me pages and pages to become even vaguely concerned with rather drab, unattractive characters before they disappeared from the story entirely. The link between them was not nearly forceful enough for me to give a damn and the climatic ‘middle’ chapter, written in an almost primitive, ‘back to basics’ language, was, by that point, far too tiresome to try and penetrate.

I’m not stupid, and this book makes me feel stupid. Boo to you David Mitchell …. Perhaps I’ll watch the film instead. It looks wonderful:

Ever had a book make you feel completely stupid? How many pages does it take for you to give up on a novel?

Beyond the Sea

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Good golly. Getting back into writing on this blog is a rather strange and marvellous process. I must take the opportunity to apologise to all you Relishers out there for my mysterious absence over the past few weeks. A tussle with my internet provider (see previous post) followed by a wedding (NOT mine!) and a much-needed holiday has made for a busy summer where blogging, and sometimes even the glorious books themselves have fallen right to the bottom of the priority pile.

However, I have been lurking about on other blogs liking your posts and commenting for a couple of weeks and finally need to take the time to enthuse about one book that I have finished and thoroughly enjoyed over these past few weeks. A thoroughly decent yarn that I really needed to help me through the madness. Beyond the Sea is Melissa Bailey‘s second novel and her deft pen flourishes in this thoughtful, atmospheric tale of grief, love and loss.

Freya, a tragically widowed young woman is finally returning home to Ailsa Cleit; the remote Hebridean island where she lived in a lighthouse with her husband and son; both tragically killed in a boating accident. Escaping the inevitable fuss of her family (but not the attentions of her tireless sister Martha) Freya’s seafaring world is peopled by down-to-earth friends who are well-versed in the mysteries that lurk in the depths of the Atlantic sea.

Saturated in the rich history and mythology of her surroundings, Freya embarks on a journey of discovery, starting with the appearance of a mysterious stranger; Daniel, washed up on her shore as if by fate. Where this will lead her only the intrepid reader knows, battling through shipwrecks and ancient superstitions in a quest for a peace.


I’m a bit fussy nowadays and have recently started to make a 25602986concerted effort to read all of those wonderful books I have collected and compiled in lists over the years and that have, thus far, remained just that; lists on Goodreads or my bookshelf that never get read. I’m careful about wasting my precious reading/thinking time and only delve into things when I’m confident I won’t walk away disappointed. Although tales of grieving widowers aren’t usually my cup of tea, the promise of a windswept tale of myth and legend in an isolated part of the world that I love so much lured me in, and it didn’t disappoint. (I also took the fact that the woman on the front is clearly wearing my winter coat from Next as a good omen!)

This story is permeated with the history and legends of Scotland’s Hebridean islands, some of which I’m already familiar with and this helped pique my interest from the off (and those elements I did Wiki just out of pure interest were perfectly accurate, allowing for some extra brownie points). This beautifully barren part of the world was a pitch perfect setting to play out this family tragedy; poignant without becoming oppressively bleak.

Bailey quite smartly transforms what could, under another pen, become a maudlin, stagnant picture of grief. Here, she transforms her heroine into a Robert Louis-Stevenson-style adventurer on her quest for understanding, finding keys, clues and hidden letters that allow her to retrace her family’s last steps. This treasure hunt sweeps the reader up and across the waves and keeps the narrative rolling on sharply towards its fantastical ending. There are no wasted moves here, nor wasted words as we, along with Freya, follow both her own son’s diary and the saga of a tragic 17th century sailor through his letters to his wife, his fate eerily mirroring her family’s own sad destiny.

I have, as per usual, been busting to read something simple, well-written and absorbing lately and I thank you, Melissa Bailey, because Beyond the Sea did just the trick. Compelling enough to become invested in Freya and her lonely life yet light enough that I didn’t feel as if my head would explode. Marvellous stuff. The predictable ending I also had in mind for this story also didn’t materialise which greatens my admiration and respect for an author with a great deal of promise.

What have you all been reading lately? Do you have a preferred country/part of the world to indulge in when you read?

BT Bobbins !!

I’m sure you’ve all been there …. The most perfect idea for a blog post … Half a handcrafted review completed and then SNATCHED in the blink of an eye as your stupid Internet connection  fails. 

The bf and I have been out of action wifi-wise for over a week and, due to the frustrating lack of customer service at BT (RUBBISH, avoid them like the p l a g u e) threatens to be out well into next week ! So, for now bookworms I’ll say a short cheerio. Using this temporary hiatus to get some much needed reading done AND have a think about my pending review of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. A tricky one to say the least ! 

Xxxx much love from the Relish iPhone, courtesy of some scarce 3G action xxx

The Little Prince – The Film

by Lerche2 via wikimedia commons © Unedited image by Lerche2 via wikimedia commons used under Creative Commons International Public License.

My first encounter with Antoine Saint-Exupéry’s adorable and much-loved novella came during my French A levels. Swiftly realising the real academic advantages and, most importantly, the literary bliss of picking up this French classic, I quickly had to come to terms with the cave my head had been stuck in for so long.

Le Petit Prince has got to be, hands down, my favourite book of all time. Yes, technically this is a ‘children’s book’ and there are lovely little illustrations throughout, but anyone who has the joy of reading it will realise that this is essentially a grown-up book and philosophy in every sense of the word.

On ne voit bien qu’avec le coeur, l’essentiel c’est invisible pour les yeux

One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye.

Drawing from experiences in Saint-Exupéry’s own eventful life, The Little Prince begins with a human pilot crash-landed in the desert. Curling up for his first cold night alone he is awoken by a strange little figure with bright blond hair, asking him to draw a picture of a sheep. Indulging in the strange boy’s request, the pilot is, in return, transported by the little prince’s own far-out tale of his journey across the universe, meeting strange adults along the way who allow him a telling glimpse into their bizarre ways. From his love for a vulnerable yet vain rose to a strange encounter with a mysterious fox, the prince’s story is full to the brim with wonderful philosophical ponderings and is universal in its heartwarming message to readers of all ages.


Given my love affair (that I’m positive so many other people around the globe have had – this is, after all, one of the best-selling, most translated books of all time) with this little gem, how do we all a feel about the new film? I for one am apprehensive:

As the trailer reminds us, this is one of the bookish world’s most beloved of stories, and what better way to introduce it to everyone else than through a beautifully produced animated film? Isn’t this supposed to be for children after all? I must confess the music does make me feel a little shivery and fuzzy inside…

I always feel a little sore about films messing with my beloved books – although I do realise I need to get over myself on that front. I suppose I rather wish this one hadn’t kept ‘The Little Prince’ title, which is fairly misleading as  the little girl/old man framework isn’t present in the book at all. Would it be melodramatic to say that it almost feels sacrilegious to bring a book that holds so much meaning for so many people and is so special and subtle in its own way to the big screen? I suppose it does.

That said, I suppose I will inevitably be toddling along to see this at some point, despite my better judgment. It looks fabulously produced and, at the end of the day, if the theatre crew can enjoy a slice of the magic, then why not the film folk as well?

How many of you have read/would like to read The Little Prince and what does it mean to you? How do you feel about your favourite books being transposed onto the big screen? Which have you hated/loved the most?

The YA Review: Malala

Bruno Sanchez-Andrade Nuño

The epic trials and tribulations of Malala Yousafzai are quite rightly well-known around the world. Her battle for the rights of women everywhere to have an education is inspiring to everyone though most particularly, I reckon, to young women like her who can perhaps even more readily imagine themselves in her shoes.

Although what I’m personally after is the full autobiography aimed at adults, I was lucky enough to read and review the young adult version for the awesome We Love This Book not so long ago and decided, afterwards, to pass it on to my budding bookworm friend Liv (still at school herself) whose opinion I was so desperate to hear (and I’m sure you’ll love as well):

Malala is the autobiography of Malala Yousafzai. Malala had a difficult life. She started off a happy child with a family who cared for her but, when she was only ten years old the Taliban took over her region and her world slowly started to fall apart. They said music was a crime which I would hate as I l love my tunes and that women could not go to the shops and that girls could not go to school. She was taught to stand up for herself and her freedom and many others. She felt that it was her right to be educated, however I do not feel that way as I am made to go to school but if I wasn’t then I probably would feel the same. She was shot point blank on her way home, along with two of her friends because she stood up for this. No one believed that she could survive, but she did, this made me realise that miracles do happen if you believe they can.

Malala is an inspiration to many people around the world, young and old. She stood up for what she believed in and was treated horribly for it and because of this, she will never be the same again, but doesn’t care because she knows that no matter what happened she is lucky to be alive. On her 16th birthday the United Nations declared that the 14th July will officially be Malala day. She also won a Nobel peace prize. She didn’t ask for these things all she asked was to have an education, and, with a lot of hard work and determination she got it.

Ever since I heard about this inspirational girl I wanted to know the full story behind it so when I got the opportunity to read it I was really happy. It tells us about all the tragic things that happened in her life. It’s a very powerful and strong story that, after I read it, made me re think the way I lived and the way I thought about things. It made me want to be more thankful for the things that I already have, but, also try harder to get the things that I want, instead of sitting here on my butt and complaining about the things that I don’t have.

Livy  x

Thanks Liv!

Have any of you out there had the chance to read Malala’s autobiography? In what ways does her inspirational tale effect what you think about your own life?