April Miscellany

April may have been short on reviews here on 746books, but it hasn’t been short on reading.

Here are a few books I read that weren’t part of a challenge, or from my towering TBR!

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Looker by Laura Sims

I picked up a complimentary copy of Looker at the launch event for Noireland earlier in the year. It is a sharp, smart little thriller that I think suffers slightly from being marketed as a page-turning thriller.

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Looker is a taut tale of a woman whose life is unravelling. Following unsuccessful fertility treatment and the breakdown of her marriage, our unnamed female narrator is struggling to keep control of her career and her life. As her life starts to unravel further, she becomes obsessed with a female movie star who lives in her neighbourhood and who has everything that our narrator doesn’t. Her obsession begins with a need to become friends with the movie star, but has devastating consequences.

On paper, this sounds like a thriller, but is in fact an incredibly interesting character study – an exploration of a mind in breakdown and a painful examination of loneliness and dependency. It is well-paced, insightful and at times difficult to read, with a shocking ending that is as fitting as it is surprising.

I would recommend Looker, but only if you ignore the marketing blurb. When will publishers realise that not everything has to be the ‘next Gone Girl’?

  Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Daisy Jones and the Six seems to be quite universally adored. The tale of a Fleetwood Mac-esque band in 1970s LA certainly has all the ingredients for a real hit book – a great setting, interesting (if slightly clichéd) story, music, drugs and passion. Yet, it missed the mark for me.

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Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed it, it’s a fun read. Where it excels is in the narrative form – written as a series of first person interviews with members of the band and their entourage, it leaves the plot enticingly vague and open to interpretation. I felt however, that some of the characterisation was poor – some of the male members of the band did not come to life for me and I felt that the character of Camila was just too good to be true.

Female characters are to the fore here, which is good to see, but for me, the most interesting character was Karen, keyboard player in the band, whose story was by far the most compelling, but was often relegated when the narrative needed to focus on the predictable love triangle between Daisy, Camila and Billy.

Would I recommend it? Yes, it’s a fun evocation of a very particular time and Jenkins writes incredibly well about the process of creating and performing music and deserves kudos for writing all of the lyrics to these imaginary songs, but I wasn’t blown away I’m afraid. I am very aware though, that I am in the minority on this one.

 

Francis Plug: How to be a Public Author by Paul Ewan

Oh, how I loved Francis Plug – alcoholic gardener, thief of first edition books and stalker of Booker Prize winners ! This hilarious novel is written as the journal of a wannabe writer, who gate crashes readings by famous authors in order to learn what it takes to become one himself.

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Plug is a wonderful comic creation – as horrifying as he is hilarious. Rather than put the effort into writing his own novel, he spends his time scouring book festivals (including Hay) and readings to drink the free wine and learn what it takes to be a ‘public author’.

The wonderful thing about this book is that Paul Ewan really did attend these readings, in character and has signed books from AS Byatt, Howard Jacobsen, John Banville and Peter Carey to show for it and to open each chapter.

From being manhandled out of the London Book Fair, to starting a rumour of Ruth Rendell’s murder at the Hay Festival, Francis Plug is a man you would cross the street to avoid (particularly if you’ve written a book) and yet, Paul Ewan writes his character with such affection and brio that it is hard not to root for his hapless creation.

How can you not love a book that culminates in our hero drunkenly taking to the stage during the ceremony for the Booker Prize? By the end of this fantastic jaunt, you will find yourself totally rooting for Francis and looking forward to the follow up – Francis Plug: Writer in Residence, which would suggest that Francis has had a bit more success than this novel would have you believe!

 

 

 

 

Monthly Miscellany The 746

Cathy746books View All →

I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!

28 Comments Leave a comment

    • Looker is a really interesting one – it never descends into full on thriller territory – it’s much more subtle than that. I liked it for that but others might be disappointed. Francis Plug is a scream. If you’ve ever been to a reading or lit festival you will love it!

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  1. Ah, yes, April Miscellany. A friend of my mother’s, I think she was . . .
    Reading your account, I promptly ordered Looker from the library; it sounds fascinating. As you say, it’s depressing how publishers are slapping “the next Gone Girl” on everything at the moment. I’m sure it’s on some reprints of Alice in Wonderland by now.

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  2. I keep meaning to write a blog post about literary character studies that are marketed as thrillers and whose ratings suffer when readers fail to be thrilled by them. Sounds like I need to read Looker before then!

    I know what you mean about Daisy Jones – I think it worked for me more than you on the whole but I had the exact same criticisms, the male members other than Billy all blended together and I rolled my eyes practically every time Camila was on the page.

    Francis Plug sounds like Maurice Swift’s precursor, I definitely need to check that out!

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  3. Francis Plus sounds great, just the kind of humour I enjoy. I don’t think I’ve heard a bad word against that book, so maybe it’s time I picked it up. Thanks for the reminder as it had totally slipped my mind!

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  4. Camila was interesting for me because, actually, it has been a very long time since I read a book where a character was *good*. You know what I mean? It’s surprisingly rare in modern fiction, someone who knows what the right thing to do is, and then does it, no matter what the personal cost – and it costs Camila a lot. To read a character with that kind of ethos in the twentieth or twenty-first century is a different experience, I think, than reading such characters from earlier centuries. Also, Jenkins Reid sows tiny seeds of doubt about Camila’s perfection; she knows, I think, that a forcefully good person is frustrating to live with, and in some of the dialogue, band members hint at the occasional misuse of Camila’s strength of personality. Perhaps it would have been a more satisfying choice to show us more of that, but I felt there was enough of it to complicate her characterization.

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  5. The first person to market a book by drawing a parallel with Gone Girl was being creative. Every other person is just being lazy….

    How to be a Public Author sounds like a hoot

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  6. Ooooh, thank you for sharing your honest thoughts on Daisy Jones & The Six! I’ve all but decided not to read it, because I’m just certain there’s NO WAY it could possibly live up to all the hype. Hats off to their marketing team, though – that book has been EVERYWHERE, whatever they’re doing has worked wonders!

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  7. Hi Cathy – I’ve also been so busy that my blogging presence has been suffering. I see Daisy Jones and the Six every where I turn! It’s great that you keep on reading, despite not posting as many reviews right away. I don’t know if I could do that – I feel a pressure to stay on task. I think I need to break out of that. I think I would like Looker, based on your comments. I do get tired of what book marketers do to promote the next thing. Hope you’re enjoying a lovely May weekend!

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