Saturday, 13 September 2014

Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane / Love In The Time Of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez / Laughing Policeman by Sjowall and Wahloo

The Red Badge of CourageThe Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Red Badge of Courage is the earliest dated book I received via this summer’s AudioSYNC programme. An American classic, it was first published in 1895 so is even before the first segment of theBookcrossing Decade Challenge I have joined on Goodreads. Young Henry Fleming has enlisted to fight in the America Civil War. Naïve to what awaits him, he flees during his first battle, finding himself among wounded men whom Henry sees as displaying their red badges of courage – their bloodstains. After being hit by one of his own side, Henry returns to his regiment where, believing his previous cowardice unnoticed, he seizes the flag when its bearer is killed. Suddenly brave beyond his experience, he leads through intense fighting, remaining unharmed. Red Badge of Courage is written in an impersonal fashion which I thought both helped and hindered its impact. By not particularly detailing people’s or places’ names, it can be a novel of any low-tech war, as relevant now as then and all across the globe. However, devices such as continually referring to Henry as ‘the youth’ made it difficult for me to really invest in his story and I found myself frequently drifting away from listening. I am also not sure whether Crane’s message was meant to turn readers on to or away from war. The descriptions of fighting and casualties are powerful, but our protagonist redeems himself by rushing headlong into battle, glorifying the bloodshed in order to 'become a man'.

Love in the Time of CholeraLove in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I registered a book at!

I probably didn't pick the best time to start Love In The Time Of Cholera as we were in the last throes of moving house so its first few chapters had to compete for space in my mind. However once I was able to read without interruption, I was totally drawn into the story.

I love Marquez's beautiful emotive writing and can easily imagine Florentino through his many years of waiting. The locations are eloquently described too and the flawed characters are all real people, whether being naive, irritating or poignant. There are so many depictions of different loves in the novel that I wondered which came first, this or Florentino's imagined work. I have already downloaded another Marquez novel and look forward to discovering more of his writing.

The Laughing Policeman (Martin Beck #4)The Laughing Policeman by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahloo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another excellently plotted police thriller by the Swedish duo of Sjowall and Wahloo. I discovered the Martin Beck series during last year's travels so it's appropriate to continue now with the fourth, The Laughing Policeman. I particularly appreciate the cast of characters and it's amazing to think that the dysfunctional detective began over forty years ago with these books. Stockholm almost becomes another character as descriptions of its streets and weather provide unusually vivid atmosphere. The cases aren't solved quickly either and the other important facet is the depictions of time passing which makes the whole novel feel realistic. Leads are as often misleading as helpful and I didn't see the ending coming until it had all but arrived.

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