Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Human Croquet & Hogwarts Revisited

Although I sometimes enjoy writing reviews, it’s not always that I find the time or the energy for it. That does not mean I’ve not been reading (and thinking)…

I’ve dropped the ambition to catch up with everything; but I thought I’d try a summary post with “mini” reviews from my reading over the last three months (August – October).

But of course, once I got started, I ended up writing more than I thought I would. So I’ve just decided to split the result into two posts. (As much for my readers’ sake as for my own!)

This post will be about some “contemporary” books.
In another I’ll be reporting from my reading of some classics.

Bildresultat för alice in wonderland croquet
(Illustration from Alice in Wonderland, by John Tenniel)

Human Croquet by Kate Atkinson (1997)
I first read this book in May this year, on Kindle. I liked the introduction chapter; but the deeper I got into the book, the more confused I felt by the time warps and retakes and multiple alternatives. Quite possibly it’s all really frightfully clever (I did recognize references to the Bible, and Shakespeare, and Jane Eyre, and Alice in Wonderland, and…) – but personally, I have to say I felt sort of cheated at the end.

Still puzzled, I decided to give it a second chance a few months later, when also finding it as audio book from the library – but even after a that, I still felt I did not know how to review or rate it.

I also listened to two more books by the same author: Life After Life and A God in Ruins (those two in Swedish), but have to admit I found those equally confusing. I suppose I sort of get the idea (like, can there ever be a “true” version of a fictional story?) – but I think I still prefer it when authors make up their mind!

(If you are going to read them, I think I would recommend that you read them in text rather than listen to them as audio books. At least if like me, you listen in bed, and tend to fall asleep while listening… With an ever-changing story, it is very hard to find one’s way back the next day to where it last made sense!)

Bildresultat för harry potter and the cursed child

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by  J.K. Rowling (2016)
The Special Rehearsal Edition Script was released in book form at the same time as the play opened on stage in London. (I was able to buy it the next day in the local book shop in my town.) I’m sure that seeing it on stage must be spectacular; but for a play, I also actually found it surprisingly readable. (I’m not sure why I say surprisingly; as people have been reading Shakespeare for centuries…) The story picks up right at the end of the epilogue in the last book, with Harry Potter’s younger son, Albus Severus, as the main character. I think Rowling quite cleverly manages to tell a “new” story, while at the same time also linking it to the past. I liked it, and I think the play also bears a message in its own right: about how we relate to history, and family, and finding ourselves, and the delicate balance between learning from the past vs. making our own way into the future. (I can also see why she chose this format for it. As a book all the flashbacks would be too repetitious; and as film I think would also feel weird with different actors than we’ve become used to seeing.)

A month later, three collections of short stories from J.K. Rowling’s website Pottermore were also released for Kindle. I think all the individual stories can also be found for free on that website; but as I’ve not been following that, I did not mind paying a few dollars to get them neatly collected in the Kindle format.

  • Short Stories from Hogwarts of
       Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies
  • Short Stories from Hogwarts of
       Power, Politics and Pesky Poltergeists
  • Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide

I enjoyed the extra background info about characters and objects and whatnots from the books. In short, JKR is one author who does like to stay in control of her creation. Winking smile Even though she too plays around a lot with time and memories and alternative solutions, and even adds magic into the mix, she still sets limits for how far experiments can be taken – even in the Wizarding World!

Bildresultat för raising steam terry pratchett

Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett (2013) 
(Audio narration by Tony Robinson).
This was the last book in Pratchett’s Discworld series to be published before the author’s death (2015). It features the introduction of railways and locomotives into the Discworld, and belongs in the subseries with the character Moist von Lipwig – who in a couple of previous books was also involved in sorting out the post office and banking system in Ankh-Morpork.

I have actually listened to all of the 40 Discworld novels as audio books – but never read any of them in print. It was my brother who first introduced me to the series, I think back around 2000/1 – and has kept feeding them to me…  This last one, I bought/downloaded myself from Audible, though. (One more book has been published posthumously, but I’ve not read that one yet.)

There is a complete Discworld bibliography at Wikipedia; helpful if you want to read the books in order, or according to sub-series.

11 comments:

  1. I am not a big fan of Kate Atkinson's novels, for the same reasons you describe, and I have not read any of Terry Pratchett's books. I look forward to you next post on older books.

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    1. Thanks for reading the reviews, Terra. My Swedish friends rarely seem to be reading the same books I do (and especially not the English classics!) so it's very nice to be able to share reading experiences with a wider circle of online friends :)

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  2. I remember the human croquet in Alice! Anne Marie loves Harry Potter and has read all the books. I think this must be the first play Rowling wrote, so out of character for her.

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    1. Ginny, I imagine that JKR's experience with her books being filmed while she was still writing the next one may have been helpful...

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  3. I am a big fan of Kate Atkinson, her books are frequently not an easy read, but so worth the effort.

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    1. Hmmm... For my part, I think it will be a while before I try another by her (if I ever get round to it)!

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  4. "Human Croquet" is, in my opinion, Kate Atkinson's "worst" book. I really loved "Behind the Scenes at the Museum", "Life After Life" and "A God In Ruins". Yes, they can be a bit confusing and force me to have my mind fully engaged with the story all the time - it's not something I can read between soup and salad, so to speak.

    When I was in Yorkshire in August, I saw the new Harry Potter book but decided against it as I don't enjoy reading something in stage play format. Your review has made me rethink. Maybe I should put it on my wish list for Christmas.

    I am a more or less regular Pottermore visitor and have been reading stuff there on and off, but I think I'd much prefer getting the stories in a bundle on my kindle, like you have done.

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    1. Meike, I happened to see at Amazon that they're even going to publish the screenplay manuscript of her new movie Fantastic Beasts (in hardcover) as well!

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  5. "Behind the Scenes at the Museum" confused me and I keep thinking that I might re-read it but there is so much in the queue before it especially as I don't allocate time to read much these days. I've got, but not read, several of her subsequent non-Jackson Brodie books. I did enjoy the latter though. CJ has all the Terry Pratchet's in original hardback (I think I'm correct in saying) and he introduced me to Discworld. I've read the first couple. Whether I'll get any further probably depends on how long I live. I've never read and am never likely to read Harry Potter although I have seen all the films with the children.

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    1. Graham, thanks for mentioning Jackson Brodie, the name rang a faint bell and looking it up I realize I've seen the TV series based on those books at some point in the past, but had no idea (or had forgotten) that it was based on her books. I hadn't read anything by her when the TV series was broadcasted here. (I can't say I remember the TV series very well either, just a vague visual impression lingering in my mind...)

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    2. I haven't seen the TV series but I did enjoy the books.

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