Thursday, 16 April 2015

Crome Yellow by Aldous Huxley / A Night On The Orient Express by Veronica Henry / Where The Bird Sings Best by Alejandro Jodorowsky

Crome YellowCrome Yellow by Aldous Huxley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Brave New World is the famous Aldous Huxley novel and I was very impressed with my audio version of it a few years ago. I saw Crome Yellow in Hailsham's OXFAM shop, an almost new copy at at just £1.50, so bought it expecting something vaguely similar. There are a few glimmers of the direction Huxley's writing would later take, but Crome Yellow, his first published novel, is actually a very humorous country house-based tale. Published in 1921 and set in the same era, it describes the visit of a self-conscious young man, Denis Stone, to a society gathering.

Huxley based his fictional characters on real people and, according to the excellent introduction by Malcolm Bradbury, not everyone was flattered by their portrayals! Huxley pokes fun at the pretensions of the time and of the upper classes, and also includes his writing in the mix. One character, Scogan, is particularly critical of exactly the type of novel that Crome Yellow is. I loved the Wimbushes, Henry and Priscilla, and can picture people I know who are remarkably similar to them. Not a lot happens during the gathering, but Huxley's sharp observations and the incidents he sets up are great fun and frequently had me giggling. There are a few moments where lengthy speechmaking slow the pace and date the novel, but overall I enjoyed Crome Yellow very much.

Buy the paperback at Waterstones.

A Night on the Orient ExpressA Night on the Orient Express by Veronica Henry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received a copy of Night On The Orient Express as a prize during Sophie and Suze's Review Challenge and it's taken until now for us to travel close enough to my sister that I could collect the book and get reading it.

Veronica Henry introduces us to several couples who will be travelling on a single Orient Express journey to Venice. Each pairing is quirky in some way and we learn a little of their history as the novel progresses. Flitting from one story to another made the pace swift, but I would have preferred to have spent more time with fewer people and got to know them better. Particular stories such as Riley and Sylvie are potentially fascinating.

Although the book is inspired and based around the physical train journey, there isn't much detail outside its carriage windows. I did enjoy getting insider information about the Orient Express as it's a trip I have aspired to, but I think most of our protagonists' journeys are within their own emotions as they discover what they really want from their relationships. Having said that, this isn't a deep philosophical read and I was a little irritated by sweeping gender stereotyping. A Night On The Orient Express is an entertaining light holiday novel and I'm happy to have had the opportunity to read it in a sunny campsite field among daffodils!

Buy the paperback at Waterstones.

Where the Bird Sings BestWhere the Bird Sings Best by Alejandro Jodorowsky
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a copy of Where The Bird Sings Best from its publishers, Restless Books, via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. I think this review is my tenth for Sophie and Suze's NetGalley Challenge.

I had not previously heard of Chilean born film director and writer Alejandro Jodorowsky so this translated edition of one of his most popular Spanish language novels is my introduction to his work. The book is a truly fantastical journey back through several generations of the Jodorowsky family, each more bizarre than each other, as they make their way from Russia, via Argentina, to settle in Chile. We meet circus performers, political activists, shoemakers and ballet dancers, a rabbi who doesn't actually exist and a child who is desperately trying to engineer his birth. I did find it quite difficult to keep track of the vast cast of characters, especially because they all are portrayed in a fairytale style. Men and women act on sudden instinct and make life-changing decisions, but without much explanation to the reader so I never felt as if I had got to know anyone as a real person. Also much of each storyline progresses through magical occurrences and extreme coincidence so it is impossible to guess where the narrative will go next!

I was totally swept up in Where The Bird Sings Best for about the first half of the book. Jodorowsky's rich language and incredibly inventive imagination make for a very different reading experience. However, I do think the book is too long to sustain its pace. I thought some of the later threads failed to maintain the promise of their earlier counterparts and felt rushed. I'm very glad to have had the opportunity to read Jodorowsky. His prose does require effort from its reader, but is certainly rewarding and I plan to try the Restless Books translations of two more of his novels at some point in the future. I just need some lighter reads to refresh my brain first!

Buy the hardback at Waterstones.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

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