American Psycho

9780330474115american20psychoAfter finishing this graphic and extremely disturbing novel, I felt quite a bit traumatized and somewhat confused.

I don’t mind detached protagonists that I cannot relate to nor empathise with. In fact one of my favourite books has that type of protagonist (‘1984’ – George Orwell). However, what does grate on me is a mind numbingly repetitive protagonist that dives in to the same sort of spiel during each chapter.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the point that was being made when Bateman would repeatedly go over what brands everyone was wearing; it was in essence portraying the shallowness of society and a loss of empathy. Admittedly it was clever and subtle the way it was done. Yet, after about the fifth time of the same point being made in exactly the same manner, the subtlety as well as the cleverness started to fade rather rapidly.

All throughout, I was desperately trying to find some semblance of an actual plot. Sadly my attempts turned out to be futile – no plot existed for me to find. It could be proposed that Bateman’s downward spiral in insanity and losing his sense of reality was technically the plot.* Then again, this was done right at the end, in a concentrated manner, which then begs the question,  ‘where was the plot for the rest of the book’?

Having said that, it was very interesting the way the narrative suddenly briefly switched from first to third person. This accentuated Bateman completely slipping from reality and losing his sense of self.

“I feel I’m moving toward as well as away from something, and anything is possible.”

The chapters jumped about in what can only be described as a disjointed and occasionally incoherent manner. I’ll admit that this could be said to mirror Bateman’s mind – how it slips from reality and often appears confused (which can be seen when he mistakes people’s identities) but this appears to be a tenuous link.

The ambiguity that came towards the end was fascinating. The question of whether he had even committed those crimes arose – something that didn’t even occur to me before. I hadn’t even considered the possibility of Bateman being an unreliable narrator until that moment. Further ambiguity remained regarding his childhood. Even though hints were dropped, no further explanations had been provided.

Additionally, it was amazing to get a proper in depth glimpse of Bateman’s character and inner thoughts towards the end during a conversation with Jean. Actually putting in to words the numbness and detachment he felt was well done.

“Is evil something you are? Or is it something you do?”

The graphic nature of the novel got a bit too much for me to the point where I felt queasy and shaken up. Obviously the title was a dead give away, but still I didn’t expect it to be that disturbing. All I can say is that this book is not for the faint hearted. Some parts of the book also seemed meaningless and rather dull. A prime example is the nine pages (front and back :O ) worth of telephone conversation about dinner reservations that in the end went nowhere.

In conclusion, the point that was being made about society at that time was a thoughtful one. Nevertheless, the book itself was dull and grotesque. I kept alternating between feeling bored and feeling nauseous. The parts that did catch my attention were far and fleeting.

Saz

*Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoevsky is a brilliant book that explores moral dilemmas and descending in to the realms of insanity.

P.S. The cannibal arrived late for the party. He was given the cold shoulder.

A Man Called Ove

a-man-called-ove-9781476738024_hr There was a time when I would see this book whenever I passed a bookshelf or anywhere where there happened to be books. Soon enough, after having the distinct feeling that this book was somehow haunting me, I decided to start reading it.

I want to start off by saying that this was an absolutely incredible book. In all honestly, I did not expect it to leave me with a warm fuzzy feeling. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised.

“He was a man of black and white. And she was colour. All the colour he had.”

Right from the first chapter, my curiosity had awoken. Before long, I was finding it next to impossible to put it down. The story moved at a good pace, combining small everyday kind of adventures to make an over-arching plot. Within this particular book, this approach of everyday life worked extremely well and took nothing away from its overall delightfulness. The story moved along seamlessly as each adventure linked up to the next one and held meaning behind it. The ending had been well thought out and tied everything together wonderfully.

The character of Ove had been very skilfully written – he was complex, relatable and memorable to say the least. Everyone needs an Ove in their lives. His sarcastic and cranky voice came through flawlessly. The narrative had been penned in a masterly fashion, weaving in between the past and present. Glimpses in to the past, helped in better understanding Ove’s behaviour and outlook towards life and people. It  soon became apparent that underneath his hardened, irascible exterior there was an overwhelming amount of sadness, heartbreak and loss.

“We fear it, yet most of us fear more than anything that it may take someone other than ourselves. For the greatest fear of death is always that it will pass us by. And leave us there alone.”

Other colourful characters had been depicted throughout. The interactions between them and Ove had been captured brilliantly, with an impeccable blend of humour and seriousness mixed in. However, it can be argued that sometimes what the book portrayed was a little on the unrealistic side, especially when it came to the cat. Yet even though this may be the case, it took nothing away from the book. Rather, it felt as if the behaviour of the cat was a little exaggerated in order to emphasize a point, nothing more.

Nonetheless, there was a slight issue that marginally dampened my reading pleasure.  Whenever Jimmy was introduced in a scene, his weight, or the stains down his top or the fact that he was in the search of food was always mentioned without fail. At first, it could be seen as slightly humorous. Not only did it soon become somewhat repetitive, but also started to feel offensive in some respects.

To conclude, this book had been beautifully written, especially the character of Ove. His story was a bittersweet one, brimming with emotion that tugged on my heartstrings. It’s one of those stories that needs to be read by everyone.

“All people at root are time optimists. We always think there’s enough time to do things with other people. Time to say things to them. And then something happens and then we stand there holding on to words like ‘if’.”

Happy Reading,

Saz

P.S. I got my friend an elephant for his room. He said thanks. I said don’t mention it. 😉

The Best of Poirot

It seems like yonks ago when I was first introduced to the Belgian detective. Little did I know that Hercule Poirot was soon to become one of my favourite literary characters and ultimately someone who I measured all fictional detectives up against (including the legendary Sherlock Holmes). I read the Poirot books intermittently throughout the years. Many of them, I reread a number of times –  they were simply that good. However, I can say (rather proudly) that I’ve finished all the full-length novels featuring Poirot and have managed to pick out my favourites. By no means was it an easy task considering what an amazingly captivating writer Christie is.

So without further ado, here’s my list, in order of publication, of my favourite Poirot mysteries.

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The Mysterious Affair at Styles  

An absolutely wonderful introduction to the plethora of Poirot mysteries out there. Hastings’ voice was fresh and amusing. He is definitely my favourite narrator when it comes to Christie’s books. Unbeknown to me at the time, his descriptions of things (especially of Poirot himself – I absolutely love his twinkling eyes) were always going to make me smile appreciatively. To say the least, this was a quaint introduction to both Poirot and Hastings.

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The Murder of Roger Ackroyd 

Ingenious. I cannot think of another word that encapsulates this book so perfectly. Everything was simply flawless and the ending was just the icing on an extremely delicious cake. It’s incredibly unlikely that anyone could possibly guess the murderer. Yet looking back on it, rereading it, it makes perfect sense; all the clues are there from the beginning, literally waiting to be pieced together. This is a true testament to the cleverness and subtlety of Christie’s writing.

91qf5ack2bcl The Murder on the Orient Express

A train stuck in a snowdrift, with the murderer still aboard – is there a setting more cozy and enticing than that for a murder mystery? The suspense was amazingly done and literally kept me turning the pages avidly. The range of characters portrayed was brilliant – different nationalities and diverse personalities all came through the vivid dialogue. Although you could probably take a wild stab in the dark (haha) and guess whodunit, (it is rather obvious in some respects) you wouldn’t be able to guess the motive behind it. This didn’t bother me in the least, mainly because of the sheer suspense present.

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Three Act Tragedy

Daring would be the word I would use to describe this murder. The way the murder had been planned and then put in to action completely threw me off. Although Poirot was absent for a hefty chunk of the narrative, I still found this to be a highly enjoyable read. The words ‘choose your poison’ have never had a more significant (and deadly) meaning prior to this book.

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Death in the Clouds

This one I was a tad hesitant to put on the list. The hilarity around the supposed murder weapon was what made this book, as well as how the murder was carried out. The dialogue was also rather entertaining. What made me a little hesitant was the narration – I prefer Hastings’ narrative style and wit. But perhaps I’m just being overly bias. The actual plot was enthralling. Like with all the books, the main clues were there right from the start.

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Dumb Witness  

Hastings, I find is always an amusing narrator, especially when it comes to his own thoughts regarding Poirot. And because of that, this book was such an enjoyable read. There was only one real clue that stood out to me as a reader; the other clues weren’t so obvious or easy to explain. The motive behind the murder was also a little tricky to suss out. But it was the narrative, far more than the mystery that kept me reading. There’s just something about Hastings and the way his voice comes across that is instantly likable. I honestly wish Hastings had appeared in more of the Poirot novels.

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Death on the Nile

I have to say I rather do enjoy the mysteries where everyone is practically stranded with the murderer so there’s no escape; those are the most atmospheric ones for sure. The diverse personalities of the characters portrayed and their interactions were absolutely amazing and made this one of my favourites to read. Each character had been written skillfully and thoughtfully. The intricacies of the murder, the variety of well defined characters and the reveal at the end is what made this one a pleasure to read (and reread on several occasions).

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Appointment with Death

The way the personality of the victim is painted is very skilful. Christie certainly had a knack of understanding the intricate psychology behind human nature, and this book definitely showcases this. The clues had been laid out in quite a methodical manner, which if paid attention to, the murderer can be figured out. I also found there to be a lack of coincidences present to guide Poirot to the culprit. Thus, the explanation of the steps taken was extremely satisfying.

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Evil Under the Sun

There was something about this book that I found was utterly fascinating. Perhaps it was the angle it took towards the murder? The mystery was certainly a head scratcher, as everyone seemed to have an obvious motive to commit murder. In contrast, the clues that were scattered about were not so obvious in their significance. The actual motive behind the murder is actually a little questionable, however this didn’t dampen my enjoyment in the least. I found the comments made by Poirot about the assumptions people of beautiful women being ‘evil’ thought provoking and applicable even in this day and age.

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Curtain

Saying goodbye to both Poirot and Hastings broke my heart. Yet, Christie gave Poirot the most perfect swan song. Returning to Styles certainly brought up memories and it only seemed fitting that this is where Poirot and Hastings’ last adventure should take place. As always, the writing was clever, as was the mystery and reasoning. Everything had been tied up beautifully.

It’s been utterly delightful to sit back and solve all those mysteries with Poirot (using those little grey cells). Saying goodbye and never having a ‘new’ mystery to solve is somewhat bittersweet. Perhaps it’s now time to get acquainted with Miss Marple? However, it’s definitely a given that I’ll be visiting Poirot and Hastings again over time.

Until then, au revior mon ami 😀

Saz