Flash Reviews (26th September 2013)

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki ***
I was warned that this would be heartbreaking holiday reading, but intrigued as to why, I began it regardless.  I really like the way in which Nao’s story converges with Ruth’s, but I found a lot of the sections which dealt with Ruth rather dull in comparison to those which focused upon Nao.  I understand why Ruth, living on a remote island somewhere near Canada, was used as a character in the book – she was essentially a vehicle to move the mystery of what happened to Nao forward – but she was still not overly necessary in the quantity of her sections.  Some of A Tale for the Time Being was incredibly difficult to read, and a couple of the scenes were almost heartbreaking in their violence and sadness.  The novel, for me, would have been far more powerful as a whole had it focused mainly upon Nao, who was a believably constructed character, with so many sides.

None Turn Back by Storm Jameson **
I would not have read this book at all had it not been on the Virago Modern Classics list which I’m working my way through.  I wasn’t sure what to expect from the novel, but after the rather promising first chapter, it began to read like a third rate South Riding.  The writing was nice enough, but the characters – and there were so very many of them! – were both dull and instantly forgettable.  Whilst the social context is interesting, I think Jameson loses sight of it a little.  In consequence, it is not overly clear what she has set up to achieve with this volume.

The Big Trip Up Yonder by Kurt Vonnegut ***
An odd yet rather clever futuristic tale, in which the concept of time is examined and reexamined.  I expected it to be a lot larger in size than it was, but it throws up some interesting ideas, particularly with regard to age.

Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan ****
Love is the Higher Law is very much a chilling tale.  It tells the story of three different teenagers living in the vicinity of New York City on the morning of 9/11.  Each perspective is linked by the event and by eventual frienships forged due to common ground.  Levithan has captured distinctive voices in each of his narrative perspectives, and has lovingly crafted the entirety.  The book is a sad one, but an incredibly important and worthwhile read.