Together in Spirit

An online reading group ('TIS a reading group!) to bring together friends, and friends of friends, who aren't able to be in a conventional reading group due to constraints of time or geography.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Extra Large Mediocre

Have only just finished ELM, having been reading it on and off for the past two months or so. I found it a pleasant enough read, with an original concept which essentially kept the book going (loved the idea of heaven's waiting room and angels who ram the door on unwelcome visitors!). I warmed to the character of Annie and liked her complexity - unsettled childhood, weird 'disability', deserted lover and the succession of horrendous places she lived in.

However, I found the ending very odd. I got very confused with the number of characters that kept being introduced and who was dead and who was alive. By the last quarter of the book I was having to re-read chapters and check back to see who the person was and when they'd been introduced and their conection to Annie. This was most frustrating and made for a very disjointed read. Having said that I was reading the book in fits and starts so, in fairness, it may have been a more cohesive read at one sitting. I also thought Annie was too complex a character to have been 'tied up' so neatly by meeting Arthur and winning a million pounds.

I think the disjointed feel also came about through the third person's 'eye view'. I felt this only began to work once we got to relocating Evan Bees and reading his story in tandem. Thus the beginning 'eve views' were really surplus to requirement (e.g. did we need to see Brain the Giant's view on the death of Annie's mother?)

Overall I thought this was a good concept novel, nicely written in places but not amounting to a great deal by the end.

Emily, glad you and Val enjoyed the AK DVD. I was nervous at handing over a film with a scantily clad woman on the front but glad you were not put off by this to give the film a try. Even I felt that Russian adultery, when distilled to its essence by turning it into a film, could be palatable!

I'm afraid I can't join you for the last few books as I've got very behind and a friend has asked me to read Labyrinth by Kate Mosse with her. I'm not keen to read this but am desperate to encourage any face-to-face discussion on books so can't let this opportunity pass me by. Will report back if it proves to be of any worth.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Anna K

Hi. Profuse thanks to Helen for lending us the DVD, which we've just finished the final instalment of. Wow. I have to confess I wouldn't have watched it, left to my own devices, having spent so much of my life reading the book. Which was good, but long. So long. However, with the fait accompli of the loaned DVD and Val wanting to watch it too, watch it we did, and it blew me away. Without sounding like a cheat, I much preferred it to the book and would definitely recommend it more heartily (although obviously the book is a classic, etc, etc). I thought the casting amazing, the cuts bold but judicious and in fact the psychological narrative made a lot more sense in this shorter version. Bits that had seemed unconvincing or frustratingly oblique made compelling sense here to me (although obviously it's the director's take on what was going on). Certainly, Helen, don't read the book for more of an understanding of her character - there's less!

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Yes, I quite agree about the best bit of the novel. Amazing. I agree there was some hard work to get there, but my feeling some weeks after reading is definitely afterglow, and I'm wondering who else I can buy it for. Always a good sign! I especially enjoyed the characterisation, and the way that Chae and Long Rob grow on you, for instance, without the need for direct authorial comment. I'm a big fan of being shown rather than told.

I could strangle the writer of the introduction, which helpfully spoiled every surprise the author had for me with Chris' private life. I do so wish I had been able to experience the book as intended. I'd be very interested to hear what a mercifully less informed reader made of it. Were they indeed surprises but in a natural way? They felt credible enough to me, but of course I knew they were coming. Grrr!

I also particularly enjoyed it having such a strong sense of place. It seemed such a distinctive pocket in space/time that I felt the effort required to read it was only fitting since the experience granted to the reader was one of a kind. But that is nothing, of course, to the devastation wrought by the war on that community. So, so powerfully realised. Extraordinary.