Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Review: A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki / The Vesuvius Club by Mark Gatiss / The P45 Diaries by Ben Hatch

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of my WorldReads from Canada

Buy the audiobook download from Audible via Amazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

I listened to the audio version of A Tale For The Time Being which is nicely read by Ruth Ozeki herself. There is an interesting few minutes after the novel finishes when she talks about the differences between the print and audio versions and I'm confident I chose the right one this time!
The novel is made up of several story strands and I found the Japanese characters fascinating. Nao and her family allows the reader to discover life in contemporary Japan, her great-uncles' letters and diary illuminate WW2 Japan, her great-great-aunt is a Buddhist nun in a temple. By contrast, the other side of the tale, Ruth and Oliver living on a Canadian island, I found irritating and, certainly in Oliver's case, pompous. He came across as a device to explain factual information the reader needed to know and Ruth as a bit of a dimwit on the receiving end of his lectures.

Ozeki explores a lot of theories, environmental and scientific, philosophical and religious. Some of these slot naturally into a story, others felt awkwardly shoehorned. Overall I thought this was a good book, unusual enough to keep my interest while walking my commutes and I'm glad to have heard it read by the author.


The Vesuvius Club by Mark Gatiss
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Buy the ebook from Amazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

I first read The Vesuvius Club seven years ago and it is still my favourite steampunk novel. Our hero, Lucifer Box, is wonderfully decadent and louche, his adventures as bizarre as the improbable names of his supporting cast. Allegedly set in early twentieth century London and Naples, I know other readers have criticised the writing for historical inaccuracies, but I think they've missed the point. The Vesuvius Club isn't a extensively researched historical novel, it's a fun, dark, fantasy sci-fi spy thriller or, as Mr Gatiss claims, A Bit Of Fluff. If you're into lightly depraved escapism, this is the book for you!


The P45 Diaries by Ben Hatch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Buy the ebook from Amazon.co.uk

I discovered the existence of The P45 Diaries from the author on twitter ( @BenHatch ). From publicity there, I got the impression that this would be a light, silly tale of a teenager failing to hold down a job. And this is certainly true. However, there's also a lot more to the novel as we discover why our anti-hero, Jay Golden, is quite so flippant about his future.

The P45 Diaries jumps back and forth a year in time, Jay's diary entries gradually revealing his family's helplessness as they watch his mother dying from cancer. Having lost my own mother last year from lung cancer, these passages rang uncannily true. From initially being annoyed by Jay's puerile attitude, I began to understand him and also identified a little with my own escapism recently.

I liked Ben Hatch's direct writing style and he has a great turn of phrase. His portrayal of a family struggling to stay together and of the father's sheer frustration is great. I think the contrast between Jay's professional stupidity and psychological pain is what gives the novel its poignancy. I will definitely be downloading more of Hatch's books in the future.


View all my reviews on Stephanie Jane or on Goodreads

No comments:

Post a Comment