Friday, 25 November 2011

What I've been reading

Image of the book cover

by David Simon

"The scene is Baltimore. Twice every three days another citizen is shot, stabbed, or bludgeoned to death. At the centre of this hurricane of crime is the city's homicide unit, a small brotherhood of men confronted by the darkest of American visions. David Simon was the first reporter ever to gain unlimited access to a homicide unit, and his remarkable book is both a compelling account of casework and an investigation into our culture of violence."
David Simon went on to write 'The Wire', one of the best TV shows I have ever watched. So I bought this for Mr A, and after he'd finished reading, it was my turn. It is a very fat book, following a year in the life of the homicide police teams working in Baltimore, a world of which I have little idea other than what I'd seen on 'The Wire'. It's well written and interesting enough to keep me reading, although there are few satisfying outcomes and obviously no trace of a plot, given that it is non-fiction written by a journalist.

Image of the book cover

The Secret History
by Donna Tartt

narrated by Donna Tartt
"A misfit at an exclusive New England college, Richard finds kindred spirits in the five eccentric students of his ancient Greek class. But his new friends have a horrific secret. When blackmail and violence threaten to blow their privileged lives apart, they drag Richard into the nightmare that engulfs them."
Quite a long book, and no long car journeys means a fragmented read, but sufficiently tight narrative meant that I kept up with the plot. It's an odd book, because the murder happens right at the start, and there's no mystery involved in who played a part, but the whole book serves to describe why it happened, and what happened next. You hear a lot about the participants, and I understood a bit about them by the end, but none is particularly attractive and there's little 'relaxation' when bad things aren't happening. Well written, a good read, but somehow unsatisfying.

Image of the book cover

by Mervyn Peake

"Titus, 77th Lord Groan of Gormenghast, is restless in his cobwebbed kingdom of crumbling towers and ivied quadrangles, dank passages and battlements elbow-deep in moss. The castle is instinct with spreading evil: Titus's father, his twin sisters and several castle officials have met terrible and secret ends and Titus feels that, if he isn't destined for a similar fate, his life can only ever be an endless round of pre-ordained ritual. Somehow he must cut off the evil at source - or escape into the unknown world beyond Gormenghast."
This is the second book of the trilogy, and much like the first, uses language like a bludgeon to beat you into submission. New word from this book: 'marcid', which means 'Lean, withered, characterized by emaciation.' This book is much the same as the first, quite a lot happens but very, very slowly until quite near the end, incorporating lots and lots of words, but evoking an inordinately vivid image of the action and the location. I have the third book ready to go, but I'll need to read something a bit lighter after these three hefty books.

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