Friday, 18 July 2014

Forgive Me Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick / October Mourning by Leslea Newman / Perfume by Patrick Suskind

Forgive Me, Leonard PeacockForgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I initially thought that this first-person tale of a self-obsessed teenager was going to wear thin very quickly. Leonard is suicidal and his constant need to tell us that he is going to kill himself 'today' does become irritating. Methinks the lad doth protest too much! However, as Forgive Me Leonard Peacock settles into its storytelling, I became quite engrossed in his life. My Hachette audio came via AudioSYNC. Praise is due to Noah Galvin for a competent narration.

Matthew Quick tells us how Leonard has got so screwed up by describing his closest relationships with four other people. He is an oddball who does not gel with his classmates. There are 1984 echoes of double-plus in Leonard's frequent use of uber, particularly uber-moron to describe High School bullies. I could have done without the letters from the future which were too coy. Otherwise the reveals of how Leonard has gone from carefree child to angst-ridden desperation are well-paced to maintain interest. The main characters are nicely done - Walt, Lauren, Herr Silverman and Leonard are very real although perhaps Linda is more caricature.

I didn't realise until posting my review in my Amazon aStore that Matthew Quick also wrote Silver Linings Playbook. I've not read it but enjoyed watching the film on the plane to New Orleans. That was in March 2013 which already seems a lifetime ago!

October Mourning: A Song for Matthew ShepardOctober Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard by Lesléa Newman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I downloaded October Mourning from AudioSYNC having previously not been aware of either the book or its tragic inspiration.
Leslea Newman was obviously profoundly traumatised by Matthew Shepherd's murder and hearing her words about meeting and speaking for his college friends and classmates is very moving.

The poems themselves are simple in form with many using, or perhaps overusing, repetition or listing to make their points. I liked the idea of the variety of viewpoints, human, animal and object and found myself having an unexpectedly emotional response to the poem of the fence. None of the poems stand strongly on their own, but as a collection I think this book is a meaningful memorial.

I was surprised by how many poems described more violence being the demanded result of the murder. The father's poem was obviously meant ironically, but comments such as the prison guard's 'bang their heads together' and the appalling behaviour of the Christians at Matthew's funeral made me nervous for the future. Treating violence with hatred and more violence is never a good answer.

Perfume: The Story of a MurdererPerfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I often catch up with books years after their first publishing and any hype has faded. I remember Perfume was huge for a while but, having now read it, I'm struggling to understand why. Perhaps the John E Woods translation I borrowed just didn't do the original justice?

I did appreciate the olfactory descriptions at the beginning. This is an unusual concept for a novel so it was nicely different. However our protagonist, Jean-Baptiste, is such a blank person that caring about his story was impossible and so my interest in the writing's other aspects faded as fast as one of his perfumes.

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  1. AJ Sterkel has a good review of Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock over at Read All The Things:

  2. I might have to look up the collection about Shepard. I am not much of a poetry reader though and I find myself impatient with it a lot of the time. Still, might be a good addition to the book I am going to be reading about him.

    1. I remember I didn't like all the poems, but I experienced the collection as an audiobook. Reading rather than hearing might be different.