June – The Universe Vs Alex Woods

Summer is coming and I can’t wait, with lots more time for reading, I should be able to get through some of the immense pile of books that I have already bought this year.

The Universe Vs Alex Woods – Gavin Extence


I must admit that although I loved this book the first time round, I was not particularly keen to re read it, luckily I soon got caught up in this great story again. The book begins with the ending, something that can work well, but often falls flat. Extence writes the beginning/end in a way that intrigues, without going overboard, and it certainly didn’t ruin the story at all. Having started with the ending, with a 17 year old Alex being detained at Dover docks, with a glovebox full of marijuana, the book then goes back in time and we see his life from the age of 10.

10 year old Alex is being raised by his Mother, who is a new age hippy who reads tarot cards and owns a shop selling all manner of mystical tat. He seems to struggle with friendships, and is a lonely boy, who shares his life with only his Mother and their cat, and he spends his time studying science and maths. A geek, with a very sweet temperament, and a love of classical music, Alex finds himself the victim of the school bullies.

A very unlikely accident results in Alex’s life being even more insular and his Mother helicopter parenting him to the maximum (though who can really blame her). There are a lot of references to Kurt Vonnegut in this book, and this made me want to go and read some myself, I chose slaughterhouse 5 and didn’t love it, but that’s another story. The book takes an interesting turn when Alex meets Mr Peterson, the archetype grumpy old man, and their relationship forms the basis for the rest of the story.

The Universe vs Alex Woods is a lovely book, I laughed, I cried, it was heartbreaking, it was touching and it was written beautifully. As a group we scored this book 4.5*, and I agree with that entirely.

Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov


Aaaargh…. this was my choice and I am so sorry, particularly to Karen, who took it as a personal challenge and ploughed through it, determined to finish at any cost. I rarely ever completely give up on a book and I hate doing it, but having read 50 pages of this, in my opinion, incredibly over rated ‘classic’, I decided that I value my time too much to keep going.

I messaged the group to say I was struggling, all who were reading it agreed, but Karen refused to be ‘beaten by it’. I can only assume that achieved it’s status as a classic because of the shock value, and not because of the writing, which is honestly pretty dull. In the 50 pages that I did read it went nowhere, and not in a good way like ‘Stoner’ which was so beautifully written that the ‘nothingness’ of the story was not only forgivable, but gloriously unique. Lolita went nowhere in an ‘I can’t even be bothered to retain this’ way. 

So to the meeting: I said pretty much what I have written here, and the other clubbers who had given up on it agreed, but I also asked Karen whether or not she was glad she had stuck with it, and also whether it came to anything, she answered simply “no” but added that she was glad it did not defeat her, I think perhaps in a way it did, as it took hours of her life that she could have spent reading something worthwhile, but kudos to her for sure!!

We did not score this book as a group, sorry!

Happy Reading!