The Only Story

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This was a story that reflected on the power of first love and its everlasting effect and presence it has on someone’s life, long after it has faded away; the way it impacts our views on relationships, happiness and trust. It spoke about the complexity of love but also about the nature of memory.

“Perhaps love could never be captured in a definition; it could only ever be captured in a story.”

The shifts in narration – from first to second and ultimately to third were used in a way to mirror the different stages of the relationship between Paul and Susan, depicting distance as time progressed. The narration would often go off on small unclear tangents – however, this technique gave it more of a conversional tone rather than feeling like you were reading a book.

“Most of us have only one story to tell. I don’t mean that only one thing happens to us in our lives: there are countless events, which we turn into countless stories. But there’s only one that matters, only one finally worth telling.”

The whole narration had been carefully crafted, providing some beautiful quotes, thought provoking musings with an undercurrent of emotion. There is absolutely no shadow of a doubt that Barnes is an incredibly skilful writer who is deft in his use of and command over language.

The plot plodded along at an excruciating pace, taking unnecessary roundabout detours along the way – it was drawn out to say the least. The characters were kept at a distance, especially Paul; his personality never came through despite being the protagonist. Character development was partly visible, although mostly hinted at by Paul’s own change in thoughts and perspective. Susan’s development seemed a little implausible (or perhaps it was never properly explained).

“Things, once gone, can’t be put back; he knew that now. A punch, once delivered, can’t be withdrawn. Words, once spoken, can’t be unsaid. We may go on as if nothing has been lost, nothing done, nothing said; we may claim to forget it all; but our innermost core doesn’t forget, because we have been changed forever.”

It was not made clear what the attraction was for Paul and Susan to embark on their relationship. It all seemed rather sudden and in a way rather bland – there was no initial passion or a sense of real intimacy.

In a nutshell, whilst the writing was exceptional, the plot was very much lacking – it meandered way too much and often lost complete focus. This was certainly a distinctive feature, albeit not a positive one. I was somewhat disappointed given the hype that seems to accompany any one of Barnes’ books (plus this was also my first Barnes book so the expectation was rather high).

Until next time,

Saz

P.S. As I get older and remember all the people I lost along the way, I think to myself… maybe a career as a tour guide was not the right choice 😋

Miss Buncle Married

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Spoiler Alert: This post contains mild spoilers for Miss Buncle’s Book. 

After devouring Miss Buncle’s Book, I was most eager to pick up Miss Buncle Married and immerse myself in that world again. Alas, I had to wait to revisit Persephone Books. In waiting for the fateful day to arrive, I picked up The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August. Anyways, that day finally did come (after what had felt like eons). And as soon as I had gotten home, burrito-ed myself in the coziest blanket I could find, I began reading at a furious pace.

This was a brilliant sequel to Miss Buncle’s Book. Barbara and Arthur have a bigger presence, which is a delight in of itself and inevitably led to a nice sprinkling of laugh out loud moments throughout.

Once again it was utterly impossible not to like the Abbots – both as individuals and as a couple. The way they were captured as the latter was just incredible; Arthur understood Barbara like no other despite her muddled up words and  ‘dubious’ antics/meddling in to other people’s lives.

A whole host of new characters were introduced, and Wandlebury provided the perfect setting for such an ensemble. Although most of the characters were lightly sketched and flittered in and out of the narrative, their personalities brightly shone through and subtle contrasts (some more marked than others) could be seen between them (e.g. Mrs Dance & Mrs Marvell – both in personality and the upbringing of their respective children). However, very occasionally, too much information would be provided about characters that weren’t gripping enough to be cared about (especially the Marvell children), which somewhat marred the enjoyment experience.

The simplicity of the writing style in some ways felt like a direct reflection of Barbara’s own simple, pure mind. The plot as well was kept relatively straightforward – some side plots were present, but these did not detract from the main arc. Jerry and Sam’s storyline was beyond cute and added a romantic element amongst all the other farcical shenanigans happening.

In a nutshell, just like its predecessor, this was a cozy lighthearted read that depicts a wonderful ensemble of characters within a perfect setting.

Laters Alligator,

Saz

P.S. What do you call a nut with facial hair? A mustachio 😁

 

 

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

91noclnl8llSo it’s pretty evident by now that I simply cannot resist a book that involves a bit of timey wimey wibbly wobbly stuff in it.

The premise in of itself was intriguing enough foe me to pick this one up – hell the title was the first thing that caught my attention. The idea of why and how kalachakras exist was one that had been explored, with different theories discussed but an air of mystery remained as no definite answers were provided.

“…You are alive today. That is all that matters. You must remember, because it is who you are, but as it is who you are, you must never, ever regret. To regret your past is to regret your soul.”

Harry himself was a bit of an odd character, in the sense that for three quarters of the story he was rather distanced; there was a lack of emotion – a lack of connection and personality in a way, despite being written from a first person perspective. However, towards the end, his personality started to seep through more – sometimes his words dripped with sarcasm, other times with a sense of excitement flavoured with underlying anticipation. Rough outlines of other characters had been provided, but were nothing more than just that.

The plot at first was rather slow to the point where, admittedly I did start to question the book (and yes, the opportunity cost). Additionally, the narrative appeared to be somewhat written in a haphazard way, jumping from one life to another (not in a linear order) with no apparent link. Nonetheless, the lives Harry led were interesting beyond doubt and he was definitely clever, picking up skills along the way and expanding his knowledge base but also reflecting introspectively; these attributes made him likable and to some degree relatable. Yet (as I realised later – thanks to hindsight), the slowness and haphazardness were needed for the actual plot line to make sense. When the main arc began, it was simply amazing. The relationship between Harry and Vincent was far more intricate than at first glance; a nuance of deeper emotion existed.

“God, but he lied beautifully; it was a masterclass. If I hadn’t been concentrating so hard on my own deceit, I would have stood up and applauded.”

If nothing else, some thought provoking questions centred around what is morally right were raised through the actions of Harry and other kalachakras. The climax/ending was brilliant – neatly tied up, making it a more than satisfying conclusion.

The way the narrative had been written was a point of interest. The detail was there but was rather simple – the scientific elements were presented in layman’s terms, which made it an enjoyable read.

Happy Reading,

Saz

 

 

Miss Buncle’s Book

21payavvzbl._sx365_bo1204203200_I discovered this gem of a book in Persephone Books whilst out on the Book Crawl (just on a side note, this is an amazing bookshop so if you’re ever in the area, it’s definitely worth a visit). The light heartedness of the synopsis enticed me straight away, and without a second thought, this book became the first of my haul.

This was the epitome of delightful. The characters were lightly sketched but with a flourish of skill; each was distinctive in personality, some more relatable than others. Upon first reading it, there seemed to be a lot of characters to keep track of, which was slightly overwhelming. However, after some time, this did not seem like the case. Barbara Buncle was by far one of the most captivating characters; she was insightful, observant and sincere.

The plot was kept relatively simple, with small side plots coming together to form the main arc. The writing was downright clever, subtle and humourous. There was a bit of a satirical feel to it. The way reality and art were entwined, both imitating each other was incredible and fascinating, giving rise to many amusing adventures and gently poking fun at the characters’ various idiosyncrasies. A handful of proper laugh out moments were scattered across the book. The ending was simply perfect – a dash romantic and happy, with everything neatly tied up.

 “…it was like a recurring decimal, he thought, or perhaps even more like a perspective of mirrors such as tailors use, in which the woman and her novel were reflected back and forth to infinity.”

In a nutshell, this is a cozy read – one to be read with a hot chocolate whilst wrapped up in a blanket on the weekend. The whole book was witty and charming. Cannot wait to pick up a sequel and revisit the immersive world so skilfully penned by D.E Stevenson.

Until next time fellow bibliomaniacs,

Saz

P.S. As I suspected, someone has been adding soil to my garden. The plot thickens.