24 February 2012

The Secret History

Another big book. 600-something pages. I did read it quite quickly though. It was easy to read, cleanly written. So why is it that I finished it days ago and I'm only now sitting down to write about it? 

The Secret History by Donna Tartt. First published in 1992. Wow, I didn't know that until just now. I actually thought it was older than that. 

It was pegged as "the original American campus novel". Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying this isn't true, but I'm not sure I would have called it that as a selling point. It was set - partially - at a university, and the characters did, indeed, attend classes. But at times it did read more as a crime novel that was based in a college.

That said, I did enjoy the book. The main character is Richard, who changes colleges after commencing his studies in medicine and finding a, shall we say, lack of affinity for the profession. He stumbles across a group of students isolated from the larger student body, by their study of Greek, and their eccentric tutor. He makes friends with these students somewhat out of necessity, as the Greek tutor requires them to study all of their subjects with him and him alone. As Richard has come along after the original 5 had already established themselves, for the rest of the book he always seems just on the peripheries of the group. He narrates the book, sometimes more as an observer than an active part.

The book is an interesting study in behaviour, and how a major event can cause the group to come to rely and depend on each other, and the stress that can cause on those relationships. Fascinating stuff

As much as I didn't necessarily understand the choices these kids made, there was something about them I could relate to, sympathise with. 

I must admit, I like reading classics, novels that have stood the test of time. It feels like I'm in for something good before I've even started, just because it has managed to survive for so long. (Not that I've enjoyed EVERY classic novel I've ever read, but that's a topic for another post...)

Has anyone read this one? What's your opinion?

11 February 2012

A Song in the Daylight

I have just finished this epic, almost 800 page book by Paullina Simons. After reading a few bad reviews for this book, I have realised that I liked the fact that I didn't love the protagonist. Too many books have the 'perfect' central character, while all those around her are flawed. 

Larissa Stark had the perfect life. 3 children, loving husband, money. Through what you might call a twist of fate - or a plot - she meets a young man. And then proceeds to make conscious choices that will change the course of her life and the lives of her family. 

As she begins spending time with her young lover, her life falls by the wayside. She loses touch with her lifelong best friend, and her current friendships lose their shine. After a couple of close calls and over a year of hiding what she has become from her family, she leaves. 

I found the next part of the book difficult to read, possibly due to the fact that the author had this section set in outback Australia. And has clearly never been to outback Australia. So although I like Paullina's writing and find it easy to read, I did struggle with this content. Now, I've not been to Central Australia myself either, but little things such as referring to Western Australia as 'the Western Territories' did irritate me slightly. 

I liked the ending. I am glad that things weren't 'resolved' and everyone get their happy ending. It wouldn't have fit with the rest of the book. Life isn't perfect, people aren't perfect, and tying it all up neatly would have felt fake. I did find, however, that this book had similarities to one of her previous books - "Tully". 

As with her previous books, Simons delivers. Her writing is clean, her language is simple, and the story easy to read. She pushes your buttons, ensuring that - love the book or hate it - you have to finish it, and you'll definitely have an opinion! 

Have you read this? Have you read any other books by Paullina Simons? Favourites?