Wednesday, 8 June 2011


 Solar begins in the year 2000 where Michael Beard is on the verge of divorcing his fifth, and in his mind, last wife.  His career has stagnated, having become a figure head for a few companies without ever really contributing any ideas to their work.  It is when he discovers that his wife is having an affair that the story really begins, and the repercussions of this not only influence his personal life, but his professional life too.

Ian McEwan's magical power is making a brainy subject matter, that in another writer's prose would read as a foreign language, and a seemingly unlikeable character- in this case Nobel prize winning scientist Michael Beard - accessible to stupid people like myself.  Don't get me wrong, it took me a while to read, and yes some parts went straight through my eyes and out of my ears not even bothering to bypass my brain, but there's more to this book than the science.  There is a human quality to the novel, which provides an equilibrium, and there lies another of McEwan's magical powers: he makes the unlikeable readable.  Michael Beard is a horrible person, and I did wonder how he managed to attract so many women, but I still wanted to follow his story even when I wanted to hit him.  So don't be afraid, give it a go and you may discover something unexpected.

Are you Dave Gorman?

How far would you go to win a bet?

If you're Dave Gorman, then you'd go all the way.  After a drunken 'lock in' with his flat mate Danny Wallace at his local London pub and a couple of adventures to Scotland later, it is decided that they have to find 54 other Dave Gormans.  This adventure takes them all over the country and abroad, while pushing them into obsession and has almost disastrous consequences for Dave's bank balance and for Danny's relationship.  

What I gathered from this book, and what I probably already knew, is that I don't really like Danny Wallace.  I think in that sort of situation I would be the Danny Wallace who was a complete downer on the whole process and not enjoying the moment up until the end, but I don't read a book to hear my inner thoughts - I read to escape my lunacy.  On the other side I love Gorman's writing style.  He had me when I watched America Unchained, as that type of journey is exactly what I love to do.  Maybe not the unchained part to the full extent but still a road trip where you shouldn't encounter anything to do with Mormons.

Back to AYDG? This book is fact that could perfectly have been concocted by a superb fiction writer (the only reason I believe it happened is because photos are included in the book) and it's bonkers.  Brilliant if you want to escape your own lunacy and enter the mad world of another.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Alone in Berlin

I took my time with Hans Fallada's Alone in Berlin.  I kept seeing it on the quick choice table in Waterstones and so decided to reserve it at the library.  Unfortunately I had quite a few other books to get through and so I've been reading snippets of AOB for about two months and last night I finally finished it.

The book has a large number of central characters, and it wasn't entirely what I expected.  The blurb describes the book as a thriller following a man who defies Nazi Berlin by dropping anti-war postcards throughout the city.   However, it's about all different kinds of people who just happened to be living in the same building or knew the people who lived there and showcases the different effects that the war, and this one act of defiance which snowballed out of control, had on them. 

In my case, reading it slowly enhanced the overall mood that I gathered from the pages.  At first I was disappointed that it wasn't just a 'straight' story but Fallada has something in common with Steven Moffat in that he can take all the pieces of a jigsaw that you think would never go together and by the end turns it into something that is perfect.  There's moments of horrible violence, and an overall sense that things aren't fair, but life isn't fair.