Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights

By Salman Rushdie

Rating: 3 stars

Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights (or, if you prefer, 1001 nights) is the length of time that the Strangeness lasts. The walls between the worlds come tumbling down and the Jinni return to our world to cause mayhem and havoc. But before all this, before the cracks were sealed, Dunia, a Jinni princess, came to our world and fell in love with a mortal man, for his mind. Together they had many, many children before she returned to her world, and now, in its time of need, she must reconvene her descendants to help save the world. This unlikely group includes a gardener, still mourning his dead wife who wakes up one day to find himself levitating; a failing graphic novelist whose creation appears to him in his bedroom; and a baby who can detect corruption with her mere presence.

Even after a few days of ruminating, I’m still not entirely sure about this book. Rushdie’s grasp of language and myth is as strong as ever and this book has a very mythic feel to it (as, I imagine, it’s supposed to) but I was never able to just settle down and get lost in it, as I have done in other Rushdie books. The characters are mostly sketches, with really only Dunia and Mr Geronimo, the gardener, getting much filling in.

So, without being able to entirely say why, a difficult book to love, but definitely one to enjoy and find something worthwhile in.

Book details

ISBN: 9781784701857
Publisher: Vintage
Year of publication: 2015

Mythago Wood (Mythago Wood, #1)

By Robert Holdstock

Rating: 3 stars

It’s odd when something clicks and you go, “ah-ha”, followed by a cunning analogy for what you’re trying to figure out. For me, with this book, it was when we start to learn what are living in the depths of Ryhope Wood, I thought of the line “monsters from the id!” from the rock’n’roll musical adaptation of the rather marvellous Forbidden Planet. Although mythagos aren’t all monsters, it still felt appropriate.

The book, concerning the Huxley family, primarily younger son Steven, tells the story of what they awaken and what they have to deal with in Ryhope wood, a smallish patch of woodland on a large estate. But the wood is a remnant of the ancient woodlands that covered Britain in the ice age and beyond and within it time and space are warped, as avatars of mankind’s deep unconscious myths are created and recreated, one of which captivates George Huxley, and both his sons, and forms the tragedy of the family.

Mythago Wood has an epic, mythic quality to it. It feels less a fantasy story and more a retelling of stories and myths as old as our species. The book is told in the first person, by Steven Huxley, with a few interjections from a secondary narrator (in the form of his diary). Steven is a likeable chap, one of those fellows who went to war, came back and just wants to get on with his life (before the wood intervenes).

I’d say this was 3.5 stars, rounded down.

Oh, and considering how the myths that spawn the mythagos tend to go, I was pleasantly surprised that the ending was much more hopeful than I had anticipated.

Book details

Publisher: Gollancz
Year of publication: 1984

Saga, Vol. 6

By Brian K. Vaughan

Rating: 5 stars

Several years have passed since the end of the last volume, as this one opens with Hazel now an actual honest-t0-goodness person, not just a baby/toddler. Hazel and her grandmother spend these years in a prisoner of war camp on Landfall, and we see several new characters introduced to the cast, including the rather adorable Noreen, Hazel’s teacher and the slightly less adorable but very interesting Petrichor, a trans woman who Hazel befriends while in prison.

As usual, Vaughan’s twists and turns of plot keep me guessing and he drops a real bomb at the end of the volume, which the always brilliant Staples visualises magnificently, with the expression on Alana’s face. It’s not just that, of course, but the rest of the art, which continues to be stunning, as she renders both horrific violence and moments of true tenderness with equal vividness. Staples’ art is as much of Saga as Vaughan’s writing and it wouldn’t be the same without her.

So in case it’s not obvious, I continue to love this series and am impatient for more! Maybe I should ease the waiting time by picking up the rather gorgeous-looking deluxe edition. It’ll be an excuse to read the first 18 chapters again.

Book details

ISBN: 9781632157119
Publisher: Image Comics
Year of publication: 2016

The Moonstone

By Wilkie Collins

Rating: 4 stars

The Moonstone of the title is a magnificent, sacred Indian diamond, stolen by a soldier in the British Raj and later given to his niece as a birthday present, whereupon it immediately goes missing. Just under half the book tells the story leading up to the disappearance, and the rest tackles the consequences and efforts to recover it.

Stylistically, it’s similar to Collins’ other famous work, The Woman in White with a number of different first person narratives telling the story through time. My favourite narrator was the first, the inestimable Gabriel Betteredge, old servant of the family and devotee of Robinson Crusoe. He’s got a charming narrative voice and his frequent ramblings and asides are great fun to read.

Gabriel’s polar opposite is Miss Clack, a creation, in my opinion, to rival The Woman in White’s Count Fosco, and yet also hilarious (in short doses). She’s a mockery of the kind of holier-than-thou “Christian” who Collins probably did encounter more frequently than he would like liked. She starts of as a harmless old biddie but as her narrative goes on, I found her creepier and creepier, possibly because I found her complete lack of empathy and deep selfishness, disguised as piety, all too believable.

Lots of fun, very easy to read and (for readers of my edition, at least), not as intimidating as it looks: the paper’s just very thick!

Book details

ISBN: 9781847490094
Publisher: Oneworld Classics
Year of publication: 1868

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