The Messenger, Book Review – Markus Zusak

My opinion on this book is pretty much what Ed thinks of himself – just alright.

I haven’t read The Book Theif yet although that is the reason I picked up this book. At first, I was shocked to find out that this was an Aussie story – which became quite evident with the repetition of meat pies and lamingtons being eaten. Also, because The Book Theif is such a classic, I kinda assumed that Markus Zusak’s style of writing would be way more formal than it is. So at the start, everything was a bit off just because it was not at all like I was expecting.

Once I got used to the style of writing and all that, the story was enjoyable enough. It took a while to get interesting but once Ed really started solving the cards I really liked the plot. The major downfall of this book, I think, is that personally I didn’t like Ed’s narrator voice, or him as a character. I get that the whole point of him was that he was ‘ordinary’/kind of a downbeat but, with the whole book being his monologue, I wasn’t a fan. Sidenote: the obsessing over Audrey did not help his cause at all.

The actual plot itself was my favourite thing. It was a touch confusing at times but I once I got into it, reading about all these snippets of other people’s lives was really interesting.

The ending. I literally just finished this book 15 minutes before writing this review so it is all fresh. Spolier: In the end, it is revealed that the person sending Ed the cards is in fact, the author, Markus Zusak himself. This broke the fourth wall and was generally pretty confusing. The whole reason behind it, I think, is to teach the reader a lesson – the last couple chapters of the book really hone in on all the moral aspects. I was disappointed with this ending. When it got to the bit about the bank robber, I thought maybe he sent the cards and I was satisfied with how that ties the whole thing together. But then, it turns out it’s actually Zusak and it creates a kind of paradox with how he wrote the book and so on. Spoiler end. Overall, the ending didn’t ruin the book, just continued the trend of “well this might as well happen.”

Conclusion: I didn’t like Ed, I liked the plot, I didn’t like the ending – fin.

Update: this review perfectly articulates everything I felt about this book!

3 stars.

Empowerment.

The best feeling is when a package arrives in the mail but you’ve forgotton what you ordered so it’s like a surprise gift from your past self. Today my book I forgot I ordered arrived – Greta Thunberg’s book. I feel so empowered by the young females, girls my age, changing and saving the world. Living in a society where there are literally so many problems: the Earth is dying, people are fighting, inequality is the way everything works; having heroes is just inspiring. I studied the women’s movement in modern history this year and the consistent thing was people were always fighting for change – no one was ever happy with the status quo and that fuels me to keep fighting too.

The Secret River, Book Review – Kate Grenville

 

This is a book I had to read for school and to me that’s probably all it will ever be.

I really didn’t enjoy it. The idea of the story sounds decent but I’ve never really been that into historical fiction like this (ironic since I love studying History). Right before reading this book my history class had just finished the unit on the Frontier Wars so I had a bunch of recent background knowledge going into this book. I thought the way it portrays Australian history was excellent. It was real and exposed the story of the past that no one talks about. However, as a fictional story, it was dull to me. My history class on this topic was so interesting! The book about the same thing never captured me.

Watching interviews of Kate Grenville in class has made me see that she’s very much a talented author. The style of writing in this book, though, was way too waffly for me. It was an English teacher’s dream come true. Excruciatingly long, vivid descriptions of the land and everything else. I can see that this was the tone Grenville was going for and in that sense, it worked great; I just found being forced to read it bored me due to the sheer length and detail she goes in to.
(Our assignment is to write a ‘Gap in the Text’, recreating her style of writing so that should be fun for me :/)

Another thing about this book was the timeline. I am a big fan of slice of life stories, books about a chapter of a character’s life that are in-depth for that particular period of time. The Secret River spans upwards of 15 years (I can’t remember exactly right now). Too much happens on a broad scale and nothing all that personal really occurs. Most of the events are about Thornhill’s Land. Intimate character issues are scarcely included besides Thornhill’s character arc which ultimately is about his pursuit of owning land. I think the whole thing is meant to be representative of Australia’s history which means a lot of the aspects of it remain general. I wish we got to go more in-depth about Sal’s personal struggle with leaving London behind or Dick’s detachment from his father or Blackwood’s Australian background. These storylines are just dot points under each character for my class notes whereas I’ve got pages on the symbolism about Will’s battle with the Indigenous – which I get it the main point of the story but it’s kind of all there is.

I admit, the fact that I read this for school certainly brings some negative bias to the table, and I certainly never would have picked it up on my own accord. That is most likely the main reason I didn’t enjoy it – simply because it’s not my kind of book.

Speaking of, I’d say my favourite part was the London chapter where we got read the story of Will growing up in lower class London. This chapter I enjoyed because it was all about each of the little moments in the characters’ lives. However, this section of the book was an entirely different story to what The Secret River is really about – The Frontier Wars.

This was a book that needed to be written and it was done so extremely well – just not the type for me.

2 stars.

About a Boy, Book Review – Nick Hornby

Nick Hornby is defintely one of my favourite authors. Which is ironic because I’m probably the exact opposite of the target demographic. All three of his books I’ve read are mainly focused on middle-aged male characters. Somehow though, I really enjoy reading them.

One of the great things about reading is that while you are in that book you get to live an entirely different life. So when I read this book, getting to live the entwined lives of both Will and Marcus were really fascinating.

Whenever I finish one of Hornby’s books I’m always left with the feeling that I really enjoyed it. When thinking back, though, I realise there’s nothing spectacular about his writing – at least that I’ve managed to notice. It’s just that the slice of life stories about the characters are so intriguing. They’re written in such a way that you become invested into their lives and how they change over the course of the story. In this book especially, and also his others, the way he builds up and develops a small yet decent ensemble of characters just completely makes the story. His books just seem like real life and all the connections between the characters are so interesting and so believable: nothing feels forced.

With this book, the fact that it was written with the alternating view points was awesome. It eliminated the need to have to listen to Will, who comes across as really entitled (rightfully so) for a good majority of the book. Adding the view point of Marcus, whose personality is pretty much the opposite of Will’s really balances the story out. The pairing of these two characters works perfectly; as the story progresses they each slowly become more like the other. There is a part of the book where they are really on the same page for a while – and then Will becomes like Marcus at the start, and Marcus like Will. The ending of the story has a real ‘life-lesson’ kind of feel to it, and it’s alluded to in the blurb even. Can Will teach Marcus how to grow up cool? And can Marcus help Will just to grow up? Pretty much the answer is just yes.

I can’t think of anything extraordinary that made me like this book: it’s just that I always walk away from Nick Hornby’s books really enjoying the time I spent reading them.

5 stars.

Catcher in the Rye, Book Review – October 2017

Honestly, I didn’t like this book all that much. I still think it’s a good book, I just didn’t enjoy it.

I suppose I can kind of see why it is a classic with it’s different way of writing but, as for the actual story, I didn’t really like it.

This suprises me as it has exactly the kind of stories I love to read; mainly character-based and nothing focused moreso on a character’s general life rather than some BIG! EXCITING! LIFE CHANGING! thing happening to them. For some reason though, it just didn’t work out for me.

I didn’t dislike the book but found that it was kind of boring. My preference for books with nothing too exciting going on only stretches so far and this was just too unexciting.

The main reason I believe I didn’t like this was because of the main character, Holden. He was an extremely well-written character, as do I believe all the characters to be. He was just plain annoying. I couldn’t stand to read about him because I just hated him. He is extremely pessimistic and pretentious. He has the ‘i’m superior to everybody else’ mindset that he hates ironically. Also, he judges people HARD. This was an important part of his personality and I fully believe that it should’ve been included as it was integral to the story. The thing I hated with it was, he called everybody and everything ‘phony’ and it just got on my nerves as someone who likes to think of themselves as a positive person.

A part of the story I really liked, though, and was really well-written was Holden’s relationships with people – specifically with his sister, Phoebe, and Stradlater, the guy in his dorm. The way these were written were the types of things I like; the thing about big! exciting! stories and such I mentioned before.

Another thing I find really interesting about this book is it’s lack of blurb. I don’t have much to say on that subject but it just suprised me upon picking it up to find that there was nothing to read about it before-hand. The only reason I did read it was because I recognised the name and knew it had a reputation for being a classic – it makes me question just how it became a classic before it had a reputation without a blurb.

Overall, this was a Good Book. It deserves to be a classic, I think. I just didn’t enjoy.