This follow up to the best-selling, book-of-the-decade-winning The Time-Traveller’s Wife was, in many ways, bound to disappoint.
However, even without due consideration of Niffnegger’s past achievements, this is a book that lacks internal logic and dances across the threshold between (fictional) reality and fantasy like a kid trying not to step on the cracks. In the former, there was no question that what you were reading could take place, and the fantasy elements were read as true, but here you are never sure how much you are expected to believe. Most of the reader’s initial questions are never addressed and the characters settle down in their world, leaving us uninvited.
Though very readable, the questions it raises make it difficult to suspend disbelief.
The best way to describe the ribald antics of Bertie Wooster, tempered by his ever-faithful butler Jeeves, is a romp. I’m constantly taught not to use that word but, like Wodehouse, it’s a lexical gift that keeps on giving. Right Ho, Jeeves is a love quadrangle sliced down the middle, a test of Bertie’s fashion sense, and a slap in the face for his asserted help and resulting mayhem.
Predictable as ever, there isn’t much to be gotten out of this book. But it’s as fun and as tongue-lashingly brilliant as only Wodehouse can be.
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz – #43, ★★★★★
The rules of my 50 book challenge have been relaxed a little this month. In a last ditch attempt to catch up I’ve given in and begun to re-read some favourites I’ve been dying to get back to. More on this later, but The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao definitely fits this category.
Revolving around a young Dominican boy named Oscar (nicknamed Wao years later for his Wilde-esque vocabulary and, er, mannerisms) and his painful adolescence. Narrated by a Dominican who knows his shit, it’s peppered – nay, heavily seasoned – with Spanish slang and a taste of Santo Domingo’s history. From Oscar we move on to his sister, Lola, and dying mother, tracing their history back while relating the “Fuku Americanus,” or “the Curse and the Doom of the New World” that all Dominicans fear and claim to have been rocked by.
Though trying at times, the Spanish flavour gives it a real kick and Díaz’s prose is fresh and oftentimes exhilarating. Having taken its author 11 years to write, it subsequently won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2008. If you read one book I recommend — please, make it this one.
For more reviews of books I’ve read this year, check out the 50 Books page. You can also add me as a friend on Goodreads.
What’s the best book you’ve read this year?