Thursday, February 25, 2016

read | Shylock Is My Name

I'm giving Shylock Is My Name by Howard Jacobson two stars, but I want to be clear: I don't think this is a bad book. It's just absolutely not for me. I found it amazingly boring. Here's a plot summary: nothing happens. Okay, that's not strictly true, but this book is very slow.   Basically, a Jewish man is a) obsessed with how much he thinks everyone hates his race and b) profoundly against practicing his religion. But his daughter has to marry Jewish to keep the line going. The end. The last few pages were slightly redeeming, but not enough to affect my rating. I didn’t care about the plot. Or the characters. Or the writing style, which gets the job done but doesn’t make me want to run to the bookstore to find more by this author.

When I read The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson, the first installment in the Hogarth Shakespeare series, I didn't think the summary of the source material at the beginning was necessary. But having read this adaptation, I've changed my mind. I've never read The Merchant of Venice, but while reading this book I was definitely curious to know how much was original and how much it drew from the play. I skimmed the Wikipedia entry for the play afterward, andShylock Is My Name is a much less literal adaptation than The Gap of Time. And for that reason, and that reason only, this book is two stars instead of one.

The one thing going for the book is its physical appearance. I'm loving how they're doing this series, with a smaller than average book size and covers that clash nicely. I’m not sure how many of these books I’ll come to own, given that the first two have been disappointments, but I do want to read the adaptations of Hamlet(because of Gillian Flynn) and Othello (because it’s my favorite). So if you love The Merchant of Venice or Shakespeare or Howard Jacobson or mind-numbing boredom (just kidding) (kind of), take this review with a shaker of salt. I think there’s an audience for it, but that group doesn’t include me.

2 out of 5 stars

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

read | The Quality of Silence

The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton is about a woman who, when her husband is presumed dead in remote Alaska, takes her ten-year-old daughter (who's deaf, by the way) in an eighteen-wheeler on a perilous road trip to find him. I liked reading about such an unusual situation - I can say with confidence that this is the only book involving the Alaskan trucker scene I've ever read. The main story is a thriller/mystery, and it was more effective than I expected. I read the book in one day (not impossible since the book is under 300 pages) and it definitely kept me captivated the whole time.  

The main voices of this story are Yasmin in third person and her daughter Ruby in first person, which I appreciated because it made it very clear when there was a perspective change.We learn about the man they're trying to rescue, if he's even alive, through their memories of him. I liked this approach as a way to give a very contained story some variety, but I don't think the characters were completely developed. I feel like I have about eighty percent of a book. I need a little more time with the characters.

The ending really picks up, but the pacing feels inconsistent with the rest of the book. As you would imagine, Yasmin and Ruby spend a lot of time in the truck. They have ample opportunity to reflect on their lives, which they do, and in comparison the ending felt rushed.  It was interesting to have a deaf character, but I would have liked to see more of Ruby dealing with people other than her mother. I also don't think we learn enough about Yasmin to understand why in earth she would take a primary schooler on a life-threatening mission. We're told Ruby wouldn't want to stay with anyone else, but this still seems like a massively irresponsible decision on Yasmin's part. This is compounded by some subsequent moves, but they're kind of spoilery so I'll leave them out. 

What really surprises me is the quality of this book. My copy, at least, has a slipcover that's too big. I know that's not a huge deal, but for a list price of $26.00 I think it's strange. I'm really only talking about the things that bothered me, but overall I did enjoy the book, and if you can suspend your disbelief in a few instances it's worth a read.

3 out of 5 stars

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.