Reading Corner

26 07 2007

I have finished a few books lately and I wanted to share some of my thoughts about them. I am not very good at in depth analysis (unlike the brilliant Litlove) so I will keep this fairly brief:

The Outsider by Albert Camus

I read the translated version (the book is actually called L’Etranger) because I tried the French version several times and found it was beyond me (although I may give it another go now I know the gist of the story). The Outsider is a fable-like story about a young man called Meursault who feels no great grief when he loses his mother. He commits a murder in a crime that is completely devoid of passion, cold-blooded murder in the truist sense but he not just judged for this act, he is judged for his lack of grief. His lawyer tries to prompt him to use his loss as mitigating circumstances which he refuses to do and as such, his honesty is his downfall. The protagonist is a difficult character for the reader to relate. His calm demeanour and his cool collection seem cold and heartless in the light of his actions. And yet since the story is told from his point of view, we can see that there is not real hatred or malice. His actions seems to be down to a detached state that he has put himself into. It is left to reader to decide whether we should pity him or revile him; whether he lacks a soul or just is suffering some deeper loss that he has not yet acknowledged.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

Every now and then, you read a book that lingers. It dances around your mind for days, weeks, years even.  It makes you think hard.  It makes you feel hard.  One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was such a book for me.

Within the cold, sterile walls of the psychiatric ward, one of the patients, Chief Bromde, narrates from his own skewed perspective the story of what happened when Irish, loud, gambling fun-lover McMurphy crashed into ward life to change everyone’s lives forever.  There to avoid the workhouse but decidedly sane, McMurphy instantly starts to push the boundaries and the rules that have been imposed by Big Nurse, both terryfying and terrified in equal measure.  Sadistic and cruel, she also is desperate to maintain the hold over the patients lives, to be needed and in charge.  Chief is believed by the rest of the ward to be deaf and dumb but only because he was ignored for so long that he simply stopped talking.  But he hears all – more than he should since the staff think he is deaf – and eventually is encouraged to speak again by McMurphy.

Even thinking about the denouement of the novel makes my eyes prick.  Despite the hope and positivity that is brought into the patients live, there is still sadness.  I am, however, so happy to have finally read this book which I have been meaning to read for so long.  I have avoided seeing the Jack Nicholson film for the simple reason that I wanted to read the book for myself first and create my own pictures to go with Kesey’s words.  Of course, just knowing the Jack Nicholson plays McMurphy influenced how I thought about that character although I do think the casting was spot on for this character.  I definitely want to check out the film now.

Bareback by Kit Whitfield

In a world where werewolves – or lycos as they are called in this debut novel – are the norm and barebacks or ‘nons’ (in other words people that do not turn at the full moon) are considered disabled or crippled, born with a birth defect that means they come out headfirst and different, Lola May is a social outcast.  As a non, she is forced to work  as a dog-catcher for DORLA, the organisation responsible for policing the activity of lunes (lycos during full moon) for the two days of the month that they become wild animals who will attack and kill anything.  For the rest of the month, she is a lawyer dealing with, for the most part, tramps and homeless people who have not managed to get themselves locked away in time before changing.

This all sounds very sci-fi, very Buffy the Vampire Slayer but this book is so much more than that.  By turning the werewolf tale on its head, we are put into the shoes of the persecuted, the outcasts – a place where I, as a white, middle-class girl, am not usually placed.  It is well written, exciting, interesting, thrilling and you really care what happens.  It is intriguing and I would highly recommend it.

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4 responses

26 07 2007
One Way

Just thought I’d warn you… although the One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest film is very good, in my opinion it’s nowhere near as good as the book. Sorry to spoil your anticipation (but you might diagree with me anyway). Mark

26 07 2007
kate1976

Thanks Mark, I kind of had a feeling after reading the book that it would not be as good – I didn’t see how it could be. Thanks for the warning – I will still watch it but I won’t have high expectations!

26 07 2007
Jen

Oh, no, I NEVER watch films if I’ve already read the book! The other way round is ok though.

I need to read more ‘proper’ books. Am a pleb, good ‘n’ proper 😦

28 07 2007
litlove

Kate – what a sweetie you are! I have to confess I have never read One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, although it is one of THOSE books. Now your lovely review of it makes me feel I really must get hold of a copy. Meursault is the strangest character, isn’t he? I never like him until right at the end when he’s about to die and he launches off into his great speeches about loving life. Then somehow, he gets me.

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