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