February – Beloved

February has been cold, dark and dreary, the only joy of this is that it is perfect ‘snuggle up with a good book’ weather, but were the books this month good? That, as you will see, was very much a matter of opinion.

Beloved – Toni Morrison 

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I expected Beloved to be epic, I expected it to be powerful, I expected it to blow me away ( in a ‘the color purple’ kind of way), I did not expect it to make me want to throw it in the bin and read something just a little less dire instead. Yes, I struggled with this book, I struggled with so many things that I just wanted it to end, I’ll try to explain.

Firstly the copy of the book that I have is printed really badly, the typeface is a poor choice and it’s really dark, almost like it’s all in ‘bold’ type, so it wasn’t pleasant to look at. Secondly it was hard work, the language and the way it was written meant that reading it was slow, the number of pages in no way equates the time you need to spend reading to finish the book. I did get used to the style of writing after a while and was able to pick up my pace a bit, but I didn’t like how it was written, and found it over complicated. Yes it’s a pulitzer prize winner, a modern classic and highly rated, but I am really glad that I have finished reading it, it really dragged on.

The subject matter is depressing, and whilst I realise that slavery was depressing, this book is intentionally heavy and dark. Some of the imagery is good, and very effective in evoking sadness in the reader, some is so confusing and left open to interpretation, that the four of us who rated the book all interpreted it completely differently. The story lunges from one character to another, back and forth in time and goes from being really descriptive  to leaving huge gaps in the information given.

I feel I should address the whole ‘Beloved’ baby ghost/reincarnated teenager thing, but if I’m honest I cant be bothered, because this is the thing that bothered me most about the book. I love a bit of supernatural fiction, magical, mysterious, thought provoking as it can be, this was none of those things, it was unbelievable and just detracted from what could have been a really honest, heartbreaking story of life as a slave. For the wonderful imagery (there was some) and the sensitive and honest tackling of the tough subject of black slavery in America I gave this book 2*. The group were completely divided by this book, with ratings from 1.5* to 5*, and having checked online reviews this seems fairly normal for the book, you either love it or hate it, I’m just glad I never have to read it again.

Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell

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It is hard to explain just why I didn’t love ‘Eleanor & Park’, but I didn’t,  at times this book captivated me, at times it just didn’t hold my attention, but mostly it just didn’t annoy me enough to stop reading. I struggled somewhat with the fact that Eleanor was so obviously inspired by Andie from the movie Pretty in Pink, I rolled my eyes at the similarities between the two. I am not surprised that an american author born in 1973 would be heavily influenced by the movies of John Hughes, but I would have loved to see Eleanor as her own person, and not a second rate copy of a character that I know and love from one of my very favourite films.

The good: The development of the relationship between the pair was very sweet, I particularly loved Park’s turning the pages of his comic book more slowly to allow her time to read over his shoulder. The importance of music in the relationship and the inclusion of the mix tapes as a way of sharing music with each other, was very reminiscent of relationships that I had at that time, and made me feel nostalgic. I loved Park, and the way that he loved Eleanor, and yes I wanted life to be easier for them, but the complications of family were good, and it felt real.

The bad: To be entirely honest there was nothing really truly bad, but there were times when the writing was just trundling along, easy to read, but not compelling, for want of a better word a bit ‘meh’. On finishing the book I rated it 2.5*, personally I wouldn’t recommend it to people, but it was sweet and I don’t regret reading it. The others in the group rated it 4* so it might be worth a read when you don’t fancy anything too deep?

Happy Reading!
Mel x

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