Thursday, May 14, 2009

Submarine, Joe Dunthorne

Posted by lea at 11:21 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Submarine is a classic coming-of-age story about a quirky 15 year old boy. Oliver is deeply preoccupied by his parents' personal lives (he judges their physical intimacy by the dimmer light in their bedroom and attempts to rectify prolonged inactivity by the use of feng shui) and, of course, like any hormone-fuelled teenage male, he's also deeply interested in sex.

Dunthorne makes a few references to Sue Townsend's Adrian Mole, which I found very fitting because Oliver is reminiscent of a slightly more switched-on Adrian. Perhaps because I'm not and never have been a teenage boy, I didn' t quite get this book, but what comes through clearly is the intense desire, inner conflict and self-doubt that mark the teenage years.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Village bride of Beverly Hills, Kavita Daswani

Posted by lea at 5:25 PM 0 comments Links to this post

Like a cleaned up Bollywood version of The Devil Wears Prada, The Village Bride of Beverly Hills is about a young woman thrust virtually unwillingly into a glamorous high-flying career in the magazine world. The hook in this novel, however, is that the heroine is a young Indian bride in LA - a genuinely nice person who, through a series of somewhat unbelievable events, is led to the career she's always wanted. Leaving her saris behind, Priya becomes a hot new name in the media world and is forced into a double life which she hides from her very traditional new in-laws and rather diffident husband.

Kavita Daswani does a nice job with this light-hearted story, but the lack of realism and extremely light attempt to portray Priya's emotional growth prevent it from being a work of any substance.

Rating: A passable afternoon read.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Cooking with Fernet Branca, James Hamilton-Paterson

Posted by lea at 10:45 AM 0 comments Links to this post
One of the first books to have me laughing out loud on public transport since the Asterix series back in high school, Cooking with Fernet Branca is (unlike Gerald's experimental cooking) a pure masterpiece. Its hilarity is in both the wit and humour of the language as well as the farcical situation the new neighbours, Gerald and Marta, find themselves in. Both have moved to Tuscany to pursue their artistic endeavours - Gerald to ghostwrite his latest celebrity book and Marta to write the musical score to famed director Piero Pacini's latest movie - with the assurance of the real estate agent that they would find peace and quiet. Instead, they find each other - thorn in the side, pain in the neck neighbours.

The narrative viewpoint shifts between the two main characters, giving the reader a perfect view of their imperfect relationship and a hilarious counterpoint to their misunderstandings of each other. Gerald, with his camp, fussy arrogance is a particularly tear-inducingly funny character. An excerpt from one of his chapters describing some part of their first obligatory neighbourly dinner together:

'And your work Gerree, what your work?'
'I'm a writer, Marta.'
'Ah Gerree, you and me artists.'
'But yes. I am songer.'
'A singer?'
'No. I am making songs.'

Later, as Marta brings out his specially (and spitefully) made garlic ice cream:

'And now, Gerree, we try your ice cream. Is very special fooding.'
'Cuisine,' I say curtly, ' We say "cuisine", not "fooding". 'Fooding" doesn't exist in English.' For I was reckless now, determined that my natural good manners shouldn't let me in for whatever designs she had on me. Still those very manners oblige me grudgingly to admit that she not only downed her garlic ice cream like a trooper, but promptly called for more. By that stage our taste buds were surely dead and between us we polished it off. Thereafter I remember nothing except an achingly Socratic sensation of coldness which was explained only when I woke myself with a series of awesome farts to find that I was lying on the ground by my front doorstep with dawn breaking all around.'

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