I’ve got three little reviews for this month – one is an ARC I enjoyed a lot less than I thought I would, one is a ghost story set in the Arctic, and the last is a modern retelling of a Shakespeare play.
The Butchers of Berlin
Author: Chris Petit
Genre: Fiction (historical/thriller)
Release Date: May 1st 2016.
I was 100% convinced that I’d enjoy this, basically because of this line from the blurb: “Corpses, dressed with fake money, bodies flayed beyond recognition: are these routine murders committed out of rage or is someone trying to tell them something…” [Simon & Schuster]. Ok, so maybe ‘enjoy’ isn’t an appropriate word to use in the context of this book, but you get what I mean. Unfortunately I was left pretty disappointed.
The biggest problem I had, was trillions of plot threads and characters to keep track of. I spent the vast majority of the book trying to understand what was happening, which resulted in me not enjoying it and I would have abandoned it had I not needed to know who the killer was. I clung on and at about the 70% mark, things began to get a little clearer. It’s also at around 70% that the main character stopped drinking and popping pills, so maybe that helped lift the fog from my own head. Anyway, I can see how this could be an excellent book – it was kind of like a mix between le Carré’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Tom Rob Smith’s Child 44, both of which I have read and loved, but they don’t really work together in this case. Having said all of that, I think a second reading would be beneficial as knowing what the end is would help to make sense of everything that comes before it.
Author: Michelle Paver
Genre: Fiction (Horror)
Release Date: September 1st 2011
This is the book I won from Julianne at Outlandish Lit for Instagramming the weirdest book cover in her Month Long Weirdathon a while back (you can check out her blog and see my prize-winning photo here). I couldn’t decide which book from Book Depository I wanted, so I just sent a few titles through to Julianne and she picked for me so it would be a surprise when I received it. Julianne, you did good! Thanks so much (again)!
I actually couldn’t put this down. Well, I could, and I did. But I didn’t want to. IT WAS SO CREEPY. If you’re into the ghost stories of Susan Hill then you’ll probably like Dark Matter (I mean The Woman in Black level of good, not Hill’s more recent stuff). I found this book really suspenseful and tense. There were plenty of times when I was expecting something to happen and nothing would, but it just meant that the elastic band that was my nerves was pulled tighter and tighter until the moment when something did actually happen. The bleakness, desolation, and loneliness of the Arctic in winter added so much atmosphere to the novel, and it’s probably one of the best settings for a ghost story that I can think of. I wholeheartedly recommend reading this under a blanket at night with a torch. Or do the opposite of that if you’re scared of the dark.
The Gap of Time
Author: Jeanette Winterson
Genre: Fiction (literary)
Release Date: October 1st 2015
It’s been forever since I’ve read Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, and this was probably a good thing as it allowed me to read Jeanette Winterson’s retelling of it, The Gap of Time, completely on its own merits. Long story short: I loved this. My only negative comment would be that it got a little too literary at some points, and at these moments it was like I was reading something different entirely. But these moments were few and far between, and while they bothered me a little this issue is minuscule in relation to my overwhelming feelings of adoration for the rest of the book.
I think Winterson has done a fantastic job of updating a centuries old piece of literature and situating it in a modern setting. A ship wreck becomes a car crash, a pick-pocket becomes a car dealer (same thing really), and a king becomes a hedge fund manager (amongst other changes). From memory, The Gap of Time stays fairly true to the source material, but these changes work to not only modernise the original but to also emphasise how the themes that appear in Shakespeare’s work are still incredibly relevant to today, despite being written so long ago.