Monday 13 September 2010

"Rainmaker" and others

After an extended break, I’ve started reading fiction again. I’d like to share my thoughts about what I’ve read. As my blog is more about my writing journey than it is about reviewing books, I’ve decided to do a monthly, rather than individual, blog book review post. Each monthly book review will contain a short review of some of the more interesting novels or books I’ve recently read. Please remember these reviews are only a reflection of my subjective experience of reading. If you have read any of them, I’d be interested to know what you thought, so please feel free to comment.

RAINMAKER (Don Pinnock)

Short-listed for the 2009 European Union Literary Award, this simply written, yet beautifully told, tale of a young man’s spiritual journey from a gangster in the Cape Flats to a shaman in the Chameleon Mountains is a delight. Ky’s growth and mystical experiences resonate with both the discordance of the modern world and the mysticism and myths of the land that is the Cradle of Mankind. This is Africa’s heart – deep, mysterious and wonderful. The evocative images of the African bush and the San shaman’s trances, which transcend ordinary experience, contrasted with the confusion of a young boy caught up in the violence and emptiness of life in the worst parts of the Cape Flats had me alternatively laughing and crying. A wonderful read.

THE VINTNER’S LUCK (Elizabeth Knox)

This is a difficult novel to review. ‘Strange’ is the word that springs to mind. The premise – a lifelong friendship between an angel and a vintner – interested me, because I like surreal and/or paranormal stories. When I started reading, I couldn’t put it down because the imagery was beautiful and the philosophical discussions on religious beliefs interesting although, at times, too obscure. So, what was the problem I had with this story? I couldn’t get emotionally attached to any of the characters. There was enough in the novel to keep me reading, but not enough to make me really care any more than an occasional twinge what happened to the characters because I was disconnected from their motives and emotions. Both Xas (the angel) and Sobran (the vintner) were not easy to know, and this was to the detriment of the story. The style was also difficult: too often, the reader was expected to make conceptual leaps of logic and/or imagination that, rather than intriguing me, simply made me lose interest. For such a beautifully written book, it’s a pity that it only engaged my head, but not my heart. I may have read the book, but I didn’t “live” it.

THE SIEGE (Helen Dunmore)

In the midst of the bitterest winter, and under siege from the advancing German army, Leningrad starves. And love could so easily die in the appalling conditions of deprivation and suffering. This interesting book paints a chilling (excuse the pun) picture of life in Leningrad in the early 1940’s, when Hitler’s army tried to invade Russia. The descriptions of extreme hunger and extreme cold, and their effects on the human body are detailed and fairly gruesome, but are well contrasted with human nature at its best and worst. A sister’s sacrifices for her young brother; a lover’s vigil in an icy room covered in frost and a doctor’s dedication to doing what he can in appalling circumstances, make this story real and readable. This is a harsh story about a bleak historical event, but it’s also an inspiring story about the strength of human nature.


As I’m not a science fiction fan, I can’t remember why I bought this book. I struggled through technical terms and a vision of a future world that I fear may be all to real – isolated humans living in steel-cold domes on distant planets – and, when I realised that for four nights in a row I’d managed to avoid any reading rather than carry on reading this story, I eventually gave in about a quarter of the way through the novel. In between the high tech words, there were enough flashes of wit and glimmers of wisdom that make me think any sci-fi aficionados will find this a brilliant read.

That's it for this month! In October I'll select a few more books I've read and do another book review post. At last I'm making inroads into that huge "to-be-read" pile of mine! If I persist, and do not buy another book for a year, I may even finish the pile by, oh, about 2020!


Bish Denham said...

Nice job Judy! I must say I have a love/hate relationship with reviews because I'm given more titles to look into, more books to read! And gosh darn it, I've got so many on my list already I will NEVER in a MILLION years read them all.

But thanks. I'm interested in 1 & 3. Hubby might like the last one.

Tana said...

All of these reads sound excellent with the exception of the Divine Invasion. Where do you find these interesting stories?

N. R. Williams said...

Thank you for such a marvelous review.
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

Anita said...

Okay, the first one seems like the one that best suits my likes. I'll see if I can find it. Thanks for your wonderful reviews!!!

I told Husband I wanted to visit you and he showed me the most likely path...YIKES! May have to wait until the kids are out of the house, since the journey would be so long. Hope I am not frail by then...don't you love how I invite myself?!

Judy Croome | @judy_croome said...

BISH: A love/hate relationship with reviews is a good way to describe it!! And No 1 is a very interesting little book!

T. ANNE: I take so long to get to read my books I can't remember where I find them. Recommendations, book reviews, an intersting blurb, an uncontrollable urge to buy another book...the reasons I buy books are endless!

NANCY: Glad you enjoyed it!

ANITA: Click on the name of the book - I've linked it to a purchase site. It's in e-book as well. And your four gorgeous children may have to sleep on the floor but the spare bed is ready and waiting for you and the colonel when you finally get here for that visit!!

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Judy, Thanks for visiting my blog. :) The Vintner's Luck sounds very interesting.

On a personal note: My grandparents loved S. Africa. They visited it many times...and have many tales...

Judith Mercado said...

What an interesting, eclectic list. The good news is that it is obvious I will never run out of good books to read. The bad news is I'll never be able to read all the good books to read. By the way, I am enjoying The Thin Line. Interesting insight into women's pysche.

Judy Croome | @judy_croome said...

SHARON: If your grandparents loved South Africa, they'll love RAINMAKER by Don Pinnock. It's delightful story with a strong African flavour.

JUDITH: Ha Ha, I know what you mean about the good news and the bad news!! :):) Glad you're enjoying The Thin Line.

Helen Ginger said...

What a wide range of books you reviewed. I'm not sure any of them would really hook me, but I've thought that before and been wrong!

Robyn Campbell said...

Judy, great reviews, my friend. I'll have to buy these books now. They sound absolutely fantastic. And even number four. I have to crit Sci-fi, writing partner writes it. So off I go to buy me some lovely books. (While they still print them.)

Anonymous said...

The Rainmaker sounds like an amazing read. Thanks, Judy!!