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review 2017-08-18 12:13
Colin Dexter still at his peak!
Death Is Now My Neighbour (Inspector Morse, #12) - Colin Dexter

Book 12/13 and the penultimate novel in the series of murder mysteries confronted by Chief Inspector Morse of Thames Valley Police. And after the sombre tone of “The Daughters of Cain”, a more emollient and less emburdened Morse takes to the fray, centred on the race to succeed Sir Clixby Bream, retiring Master of Lonsdale College, Oxford.


There is something immediately intriguing about peering behind the dense curtain surrounding such elites and for the reader it is unsurprising to learn that superficial impressions will prove as important as academic substance. Indeed, for the only two candidates (Julian Storrs and Denis Cornford) the stakes could scarcely be higher, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for elevation and preferment expected to culminate in a knighthood. But, for such a prize, ambition and even ruthlessness may be required, to burnish reputations, curry favour with the electorate and suppress unhelpful information.
Both contenders also have the dedicated support of a wife, but a crude ‘SWOT’ analysis might conclude that the ‘strengths’ and ‘opportunities’ conferred by their respective partners are at least balanced by the attendant ‘weaknesses’ and ‘threats’. Certainly the vulnerability to be exploited from past mistakes/experiences looms large in this tale, extending even to Morse. However, notwithstanding the opprobrium directed at ‘blackmailers’, as abusers of power, there is also a dearth of sympathy for the disempowered ‘victim’, or the manipulated.


What endears Morse to the reader is his candid, but paradoxical unwillingness to defer to authority figures and yet clinging to his own superior status. Only DS Lewis, intermittently coveted as a friend, is thus protected, in spite of outbursts of insubordination and frank observations, intolerable from any other quarter. In this book, Morse also continues to experience deteriorating health and the two detectives are inexorably drawn closer together and in the ultimate, touching confirmation of Lewis’ favoured status, the enigmatic Morse shares his Christian name (via correspondence, of course).


Along the way there is the customary flawed hypothesizing, analysis, building and rejigging of the facts, before the final puzzle is expertly revealed. My favourite analogy of Morse’s thought process was of a train passing through a station, too fast to read the nameplate, but as the carriage slows the location may hove into view.
Again, Dexter has deftly juxtaposed the traditional façade of high academic establishment with base human behaviour. That the privileged miscreant can be humbled before the law is reassuring, even satisfying. Still, even Morse has limitations to his moral authority and contemptible characters slip through the net, but at least he makes a positive difference.


Notwithstanding the CWA daggers liberally awarded throughout this series of books, I think this may yet be my most enjoyable read. Perhaps, not the most complex or devious puzzle, but more for the development of the main characters and the masterful set up for the final book. Bring it on!

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review 2017-07-01 22:15
[REVIEW] The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante
The Story of the Lost Child: The fourth and final Neapolitan novel. - Elena Ferrante,Ann Goldstein
"I loved Lila. I wanted her to last. But I wanted it to be I who made her last. I thought it was my task. I was convinced that she herself, as a girl, had assigned it to me." (98%)



Actual review
Honestly, I don't even know what to think. This final book in the series was the one that to me, contained the wealth of Elena Ferrante's wisdom, and it is also the book that was quite difficult to plow through. Sometimes Ms. Ferrante fills us with so many details that I find inconsequential that it slows down the story nearly to a halt. 

Nonetheless, this book is powerful. Seeing Lenù and Lila go through a series of violent and terrible life events hits you in the gut. But Ms. Ferrante's masterful weaving pulls everything back together again, and you are brought to the beginning of the first book right as you finish the fourth.

But what is, as usual, the best part of these novels is the characterization. I know I've said this before in my review of the other three novels, but I truly have never read a more raw, honest and gripping tale of a friendship between two women. It's not black and white; it's not simplistic, it's messy and tangled in a web of loyalty and guilty desire for independence not only of each other but also their circumstance.

 

In the end, though, I feel numb. I have so many questions. 

Like, what really happened to Tina? Is she alive? Is she dead? What happened to Lila? Are she and Lenù never going to see each other again?

(spoiler show)

 

That's the thing about these novels. Though the novel (and by consequence the series) ends on a bittersweet note, you don't end up with a happy, hopeful glow. All you will have left is this overwhelming melancholy and a fierce wish that things were different in their world and ours.

After I finished reading
I don't know how to rate this just yet or even what to write for my review. I have been reading this book nonstop for 48 hours. I need a mental break to pick up my soul from the ground.

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review 2017-07-01 22:10
[REVIEW] Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante
Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay - Elena Ferrante
"The solitude of women’s minds is regrettable, I said to myself, it’s a waste to be separated from each other, without procedures, without tradition." 
(72%)



TW: This book contains SEXUAL ASSAULT, DOMESTIC VIOLENCE 

I need time for my heart and my mind to recover. And to think this isn't the last book of the series. Elena Ferrante is a master storyteller. How is it that she can truly capture the good, the bad, the despicable, the intimacy of female friendships? How can she effortlessly capture the impossibility of surviving in a patriarchal society? Her tale and her words have me utterly spellbound and also terrified. 

With each passing book, I find myself loving Lila's unbreakable and fragile spirit more. I wish I had her strength, her resolve. But if I had to choose whom I resembled the most, it would have to be Lenù. Succumbing to the pressure of who we need to be, trying to leave our hometown before it swallows us whole and erases our dreams, and makes us forget who we are.

What will happen to Lila? What will happen to Lenù? I'm scared of finding out.

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review 2017-07-01 21:58
[REVIEW] The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante
The Story of a New Name - Elena Ferrante
"[...] she was explaining to me that I had won nothing, that in the world there is nothing to win, that her life was full of varied and foolish adventures as much as mine, and that time simply slipped away without any meaning, and it was good just to see each other every so often to hear the mad sound of the brain of one echo in the mad sound of the brain of the other." (98%)



TW: This book contains SEXUAL ASSAULT, RAPE, DOMESTIC VIOLENCE 

What a rollercoaster. The thing is that these books are so intense and so emotionally exhausting, you end up feeling beside yourself when you finish. On hand you are marveled at the character development, the twists and turns of the plot, on another you are feeling so depressed and hopeless you might need to drown your sorrows into a cup of tea (or bourbon) just to feel like a human again.

This book is intense and so hard to rate. I hated it because of how desolate it made me feel. I also think it's a gripping story that ends with an effin' cliffhanger, again.

The character names are at times similar so you get confused or who is who. There are many nicknames and names to keep track of. It can make for a challenging reading experience, but a worthwhile one.

One thing is for certain, I have never read characters like the ones Ferrante writes about. Yes, they are fucking awful people but you feel for them. You identify with them, you try to reason or justify their faults, you want to believe the best in them. And when they disappoint you it feels like you're being gutted. 

I am all about happy endings but I'm seriously wondering if it's even possible that Lenù or Lila will get theirs.

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review 2017-07-01 21:51
[REVIEW] My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
My Brilliant Friend - Elena Ferrante,Ann Goldstein

TW: This book contains VIOLENCE and SEXUAL ASSAULT 

JFC WHAT A CLIFFHANGER.

My head hurts from reading this, from the feelings it has evoked, from the sadness that clings to me like a second skin because I cannot understand what has happened or why I feel that I'm aboard a train that will crash at any second.

What a strange, heart-wrenching read about what it's like to be a girl immersed in poverty and trying to claw out of it, out of the violent reality and ultimately, perhaps, failing. 

The friendship between Lila and Lenù is the best part of this confusing novel. Seeing how well Ms. Ferrante portrays the intricate, overwhelming, consuming, envious and loving reality of girl friendships has earned her a special place in my heart. I have never read a portrayal like this.

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