It has been a while since I’ve read ‘enough’ books in a month to do a wrap up at the end of it. I blame it on my reading slump because it was so bad that I haven’t read anything at all in October. Fortunately, November has been a little better. Want to see what I’ve read?
I’ve read three books this month: The Song of Seven, Three Men In A Boat and 1984. I have yet to write a review of The Song of Seven (I’ll add a link later), but the other two books are already on the blog. Click on the title to go to the blog post and click on the rating to go to the goodreads page. A quick recap!
After the great The Letter for the King and the even better The Secrets of the Wild Wood, I was looking forward to any other book by Dragt. As you may know, her books are originally in Dutch and I’ve read the above-mentioned books in Dutch first, before reading the excellent translations by Laura Watkinson. But I hadn’t read this particular book by Dragt before it was published by Pushkin Press. It is called De Zevensprong in Dutch (literally: ‘The Seven Ways’) and it was adapted for television in 1982.
I personally thought the book was ‘all right’, but came nowhere near the other two books. The Song of Seven reads like it was intended for a younger audience than the stories about Tiuri. The bad guy really isn’t that bad (more likely ‘troubled’), the quest isn’t that interesting or fascinating and the idea of writing the story around the old Dutch children’s song ‘The Seven Ways’ feels even more childish. It is just not very well worked out, and that’s a pity because Dragt has mastered the art of fantasy and imagination: The House of Stairs, for example, could just as easily have sprung from the mind of J. K. Rowling. So, I gave this a 3 out of 5 stars because it didn’t bore me and I love Dragt, but there were to many things that annoyed me that kept me from actually loving it.
The premise of the book is also hilarious: three men decide to go on a boat trip down the Thames because they are apparently in ‘desperate’ need of a vacation. They take their dog Montgomery with them. Of course the three men drive each other crazy in no time: they’re lazy, hypochondriac and quite ignorant and clumsy. Jerome was initially going to write a travel journal and decided it would be fun to fictionalise it. But it is confusing to be reading a paragraph that is apparently objective and straight out of a travel journal and then being ‘humoured’ with one of Jerome’s anecdotes or jokes. Perhaps it can be quite a nice combination, but in this instance the two story lines clashed every time. They do not intertwine, blurring their own genre’s borders, but remain two very different narrative threads.
Nevertheless it was not all that bad and therefore a confusing reading experience. While reading the book, I often wondered how this could be: the humour appealed to me but the jokes were tedious – the travel journal segments were annoying and unnecessary but some descriptions were absolutely stunning.
This was one of the best books I’ve ever read. Both Orwell’s prose and world building were extraordinarily gripping. I tried to read everywhere I could. Although you kind of know how the story will develop and eventually end, it was never dull. A lot has been said on the subject of Dystopia and whether or not Orwell’s horrific vision of the future was and is anything near probable (especially in comparison to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World), but I cannot deny that there were times that I thought: ‘this is exactly as it is now or will become’. Not everything, thank God! But a lot of things are strangely familiar – most obviously the Big Brotheresque way the NSA can ‘watch’ us all.
Orwell’s prose, as you might have guessed from the 41 (!) reading updates on goodreads, was one of the best things about the book. He writes in a very realistic manner – not plain, but truthful. At the same time he manages to evoke such a specific vision that I cannot but applaud him. In the hands of any other author, 1984 might have been ridiculous, but Orwell takes you by the hand and shows you the self-destruction mankind is capable of.
That’s it for this month’s wrap up. I hope you enjoyed it! I don’t think I’m going to finish my Reading Challenge this year, but we’ll see …