Month: July 2015

Pumped Up Kicks

Today’s theme is school shootings. If you didn’t figure that out from the title of the post, please listen to this before proceeding.

Back? Okay.

Last week I read Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult. This is a drama-thriller-fluff book about a school shooting and the aftermath, focusing on the personal lives of the killer and victims, and the defense presented by the killer’s lawyer in court.

Quite a few Picoult novels have a similar courtroom setting. It’s quite interesting for a layperson because the role of the attorney in a case like this is to make the guilty seem less guilty.

Picoult handles this disturbing subject quite well. She tries to include several plot twists, though none (bar one) are shocking in the least. And alas, the interesting, thought-provoking twist comes right at the end and is not fully fleshed out. Which makes me wonder if I am giving the author too much credit, and the twist is not as clever as it seems…

The writing style is simplistic and filled with corny dialogues, which I began to sincerely record about 20 pages in:

“He tasted of maple syrup and apologies”
“Hope, Patrick knew, was the exact measure of distance between himself and the person who’d come for help”
“A loose handful of grapes scattered like gasps”

And all this was just the first 150 pages.

3/5. Read it if you want some timepass entertainment.

On the other hand, if you want an intense, chilling portrayal of a school shooting, We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver is my nomination. It is written in the form of a series of letters from the mother of a school shooter, and her analysis of what she might have done wrong. Neither the mother nor the son is a pitiable figure; but you can’t help but root for them, especially when you realize that the mom has become the town’s public enemy #1. And the tale only gets more horrific towards the end.

I couldn’t get through this book on the first attempt, and watching the movie gave my friends a couple of sleepless nights. Do read if you like psychological thrillers.

Why do we fall, Alfred?

This is my review of The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro.

I’ve never actually met a butler, or know anyone who has. Still, the stereotypes surrounding the profession are familiar to anyone who reads fiction. The ever elegant Jeeves, the wise Alfred, the impeccably trained Butlers of the Artemis Fowl series, they all fit the dignified, reserved image.

This novel is from the point of view of Stevens, head butler at Darlington Hall. Much to his disappointment, the mansion was bought by an American gentleman after World War II, and is being run with a fraction of its original support staff. He reminisces about the glory days of the Hall, when its influential owner held meetings of international importance under the guise of house parties.

Stevens believes that the foremost responsibility of a butler is to maintain dignity and composure. However, his facade soon cracks as he remembers his father’s death and the loss of a good ”friend”, Miss Kenton, while on a road trip through England. Ishiguro deftly reveals deeper layers of the butler’s character through the course of the novel (like peeling an onion?). Stevens is the definition of an unreliable narrator however, he is reluctant to speak ill of his employers, and rarely indicates his true feelings on any matter.

Kazuo Ishiguro usesĀ a slow, descriptive writing style, similar to his other hit, Never Let Me Go. The voice of Stevens is stilted, formal, and touching, and exactly what one would expect from a butler! It is painful to see him distance himself from Miss Kenton- though whether this is out of professionalism or sheer obliviousness is unclear. At under 200 pages, there is hardly an unnecessary word.

This book was awarded the Man Booker Prize for Fiction, proof that it is a true masterpiece. Read this if you appreciate books with subtlety and beautiful prose. This book is sure to become a classic, at least in English Lit classes. 4/5 from me.