Book review

I mentioned in a previous post, on readable doorstep-sized books, that I’d started reading Don Quixote.  I’m not any more.  Not because I finished it.  Having read about 200 or so pages I decided to give up and read something more enjoyable.  A lot of people love DQ and it’s regarded as a classic.  I got quite bored with what appeared to be an endless cycle of events in which:

  1.  Don Quixote identifies an opportunity to demonstrate his chivalry as a self-appointed knight errant;
  2. His squire, Sancho Panza, recognises that the ‘opportunity’ is best left alone because it will end in tears;
  3. The opportunity is seized and it ends in tears, e.g. DQ and SP being beaten to a pulp, etc.;
  4. Go to 1 and repeat.

Perhaps it got a lot better after 200 pages but I’d had enough. I’ll probably go back to it at some point but starting on page 200!

a-visit-from-the-goon-squad

I jumped right into A Visit from the Goon Squad (2010) by Jennifer Egan and which won her the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.  The novel explores the lives of Benny, an ageing record executive, and Sasha, his PA, either directly or indirectly, e.g. through the lives of mutual acquaintances.  The map below, produced by a fan, shows what you’d be getting into.  Though it’s not as complicated as all that.  It’s really quite a simple book, well written, with good characters.  In fact it feels like a book of short stories.  It’s not the strongest of plots but that’s not really the point of the book.  It’s a book about time and relationships and I think it’s worth a read.

goon-map-updated-may13

There’s a sentence in Robert Harris’ Imperium (2006), which I’ve just finished, which reads:

‘I sense that I am dawdling in this narrative, having already reached my eighth roll of Hieratica and need to speed it up a little, else either I shall die on the job, or you will be worn out reading.’

If Cervantes had taken a leaf out of Tiro’s (the narrator of the story) book then perhaps I could have finished Don Quixote.  Anyway, Imperium is the first of a trilogy of novels about Cicero.  Based on real events in Rome in the period 70 BC, the novel is written from the perspective of Cicero’s secretary, Tiro, and follows the former’s rise up the greasy political pole.

imperium

I’d previously read Harris’ Fatherland (1993) and The Ghost (2007) and enjoyed them.  Harris writes gripping, plot-driven books – perhaps at the expense of strong characterisation.  Imperium is no exception and is far more exciting than you might think.  It’s a real page-turner, full of political intrigue and suspense and I’m looking forwards to reading the other two books in the trilogy.  Highly recommended.