Flash Reviews (23rd January 2014)

Diamond by Jacqueline Wilson ****
April very kindly sent me this beautifully sparkly book for Christmas.  I have adored Jacqueline Wilson since I was very small, and was lucky enough to meet her when she did a signing at my local bookshop whilst I was still in junior school.  Ever since, even though I no longer fall into the bracket of her young teenager intended audience, I have made sure that I read everything new which she releases.  Diamond begins in 1891, when Ellen-Jane, the book’s narrator, is sold to the circus by her poor alcoholic father.  As with all of Wilson’s novels, this is great in terms of characterisation, but there was one thing which did not quite ring true throughout – the dialogue.  It felt as though it was far too modern a lot of the time, and a few of the phrases within the narrative gave the same impression too, and consequently did not fit with the era.  As a whole, Diamond is a very enjoyable novel, and it certainly works well as part of the Hetty Feather series.

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‘The Call of The Weird’ by Louis Theroux

The Call of The Weird: Travels in American Subcultures by Louis Theroux ***
I originally purchased this as part of my boyfriend’s bookish advent calendar, not realising that he already had a copy.  It was given back to me, as he thought I would enjoy it.  I happily took it off his hands.  I began reading it on my way to Suffolk to visit family over Christmas, and was reminded almost immediately of Jon Ronson’s great The Psychopath Test

Throughout, and much like Ronson did, Theroux has gone in search of oddballs across the United States of America, as a follow-up to a television series which he brought out some years previously.  He meets a great range of unusual people, from those who refuse to pay their income tax in the belief that it is their right to do so, and porn stars, to neo-Nazis and those who hold cult seminars for the masses.  Theroux states that his aim was to ask ‘what “weird people” have to tell us about our own human natures’.  It was scary in part, and I am surprised that some of the beliefs which Theroux outlines exist in our twenty-first century society.

I really like the way in which Theroux writes, and the wit which he manages to weave into almost every single page.  I think I would have got more out of the book if I had a) watched the original programme and knew of its participants, and b) if I stopped comparing it to the aforementioned The Psychopath Test.  Nonetheless, it was an interesting book, and one which raises a lot of questions which we as humans really should be addressing.

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Cats by Delia Pemberton ****

‘The Cat at the Window’ by Utagawa Hiroshige

April sent me this beautiful little British Museum book for Christmas (thank you!), and it looked so adorable that I am surprised I didn’t begin it as soon as I parted it from its pretty glittering paper.  Such care has been put into its presentation, and as a result, it is very aesthetically pleasing.  The entirety has been so well considered, down to the use of images within to complement the particular text which it sits beside.

There are so many paintings and illustrations by a wealth of different artists which have been included – Leonardo da Vinci, Theophile Steinlen, Goya, Sir John Tenniel – and lots of feline artefacts housed in various museums too.  Many extracts from a host of different sources can be found within its pages too, from haikus and poems by authors like Charles Baudelaire, to the letters of Sylvia Townsend Warner to William Maxwell.  Cats is a gorgeous little book, which will grace the shelves of any cat lovers.

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