Saturday – Ian McEwan

Familiar with Ian McEwan’s work or not, Saturday is definitely one of consider.

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Saturday is the 2005 novel by Ian McEwan, and if you haven’t noticed, my university course has been riddled with McEwan’s work. So, it is no surprise that Saturday was a novel I was introduced to during my time at university. The novel focuses on the character of Henry Perowne, a neurosurgeon, and follows his life through a single day in 2003. Henry’s day does not start particularly well, having witnessed a plane ablaze flying past his window during the night. His day continues to be clouded with unease and uncertainty, finding himself amongst crowds of anti-war protesters, in a minor car accident, and having confrontations. So, you could say that this is not an average day in the life of Henry Perowne.

I find McEwan’s work to be very hit and miss, and the idea of a book of this size being set over one day, made me a little apprehensive as to whether I would get on with the novel. Surprisingly though, I enjoyed Saturday. This because I found, as I’d assumed, that the novel being set across just one day did not hinder my enjoyment of it at all. Rather, this approach challenged my previous perception of what a novel should be. I read so many novels that look at big events and choices and learn how these can change people’s lives. So, it was refreshing to experience how small, seemingly insignificant actions and choices can affect somebody just the same.

If you are looking to read a novel in hope of something mesmerizingly entertaining, then definitely avoid Ian McEwan’s Saturday. The same goes if you are looking for a light read before bed or to take away with you on a holiday This is because McEwan’s book is a thought provoking, multi layered piece of fiction, which provides you with a multitude of concepts to think about. Although some might consider this boring when compared to some action-packed thriller novels. I would argue that Saturday offers something interestingly different, something out of the ordinary and is not just going to blend in with the other books on your bookcase.

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The Wolf of Wall Street – Jordan Belfort

Seen the 2013 Scorsese film? Why not try the book it originated from?

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I have previously seen the Martin Scorsese film of the same name, starring Leonardo Dicaprio, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. So, when I came across Jordan Belfort’s book The Wolf of Wall Street, I knew I just had to purchase it. For the simple fact is, the films are never an accurate representation of a book, and this being a ‘memoir’, I felt there must be so much more to the story than what Scorsese could portray. I was one hundred percent right with my assumption that the book format of The Wolf of Wall Street would provide more information, and a more rounded picture. I did not think it was possible but Belfort’s book was far more shocking and disturbing than the story that Scorsese portrayed.

Though for a heads up if you have not seen the film, the books title will have you believe the book will predominantly be about the stock market. However, this is not the case. Belfort’s memoir is more focused on his drug and alcohol consumption, so much so that it leaves you questioning how he is still alive. – A question I believe he must ask himself. It is interesting that Belfort’s novel refrained from focusing on the struggles through the stock market, to reach his millions, like so many millionaires memoirs are. Instead, The Wolf of Wall Street gave us insights into the troubles and bad choices that can often be made once you have reached your millionaire status. The book perfectly demonstrates the excessive behaviour, the ungratefulness, and the constant need for more that comes with being a member of the super-rich.

I enjoyed The Wolf of Wolf Street, if only for the shock factor. The fact that it is a true story makes Belfort’s tale even more intriguing. Having said that though, the writing is very basic, it will not offer you a challenge and it will not take you on a journey of self-discovery. So, if you enjoy books that do just that, then maybe pass on reading Belfort’s book. Having said that though, this book did not take me long to read, and I found myself finishing it in days. This was even more of a surprise for me as I tend to struggle to read books that I have already half experienced through their film adaptations. So, if you are looking for something a bit different, something a bit shocking, or simply a true story, I would recommend you reading this book.

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Duma Key – Stephen King

A Stephen King fan? Have you read the 2008 novel Duma Key?

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Duma Key is the 2008 psychological horror by Stephen King. Although I have read a number of King’s short stories, Duma Key is only the second novel of King’s I have read. And again, King was proven that his work is worth the hype that surrounds his back catalogue. The novel centres around Edgar Freemantle, a self-made millionaire, who survives a horrific accident at work. The severity of the accident leaves him with an amputated arm, speech, visual and memory problems and causes him to have terrible mood swings. Following his accident, Edgar moves to a small island in hope an extended vacation will help in his recovery. This island is Duma Key.

I usually get put off by long books, as I find that a novel has to work hard to keep my attention for a long period. Duma Key was around 611 pages and I was a little bit apprehensive as to whether I would successfully complete the novel before boredom stroked. However, I was pleasantly surprised that King was able to keep me interested and engaged throughout the entire novel. Which, I am happy to say, has made me far more open minded when it comes to other books that may be of a longer length.

Duma Key reminded me of King’s short story ‘Obits’. This was due to the way that Edgar was able to make things happen through his paintings. Similarly, in ‘Obits’ the main character was able to kill people by writing up their obituaries. I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Obits’ therefore I was more than happy to read an extended piece of work that had a similar concept. This was because the novel was able to explore the concept in more depth, and we saw Edgar using his new found ‘abilities’ in a variety of ways. This I found to be so much more interesting as we were not just seeing deaths. We were seeing also things like the erasing of a brain tumour, which for me, was far more intriguing of a concept.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed Duma Key, I do feel as though the ending was slightly anticlimactic. I simply felt that there was something missing from the ending chapters of the novel. So, upon finishing the novel I was disappointed. And there’s nothing worse than investing so much time into a novel to only be left disappointed at the end.  I do however realise that I am such a harsh critique when it comes to the end of a story. I am rarely satisfied with a story’ ending, usually because I have already realised where the author is taking me. To King’s credit though I did not guess where he was taking the story of Duma Key, so the ending was a little bit of a surprise.

Although this was the case, I would still recommend Stephen King’s novel, Duma Key. If anything, it is an interesting concept and will truly have you thinking about life. And if you’re somebody who may be put off by King’s work due to his famous psychological/horror approach to his stories, be assured this one will not give you too much of a fright. I believe it is one of his tamer works, though i’m no King expert…so don’t hold me to that.

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The Martian – Andy Weir

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The Martian is the 2011 science fiction novel by Andy Weir. The story centres around the astronaut Mark Watney, a botanist and an engineer, who with five others travelled to Mars for the mission called Ares III. On the sixth day of the team’s mission however disaster strikes, and the team are forced to make a quick exit from Mars. The twist of this story though is that Mark, who is impaled by an antenna is flung out of sight by extreme winds, as a result he is presumed dead and gets left behind. I say presumed, because it quickly becomes apparent that Mark does not die, he survives, though is stranded on Mars. The novel explores Mark’s isolation on Mars, and the fight for his survival and return to Earth.

If you don’t live under a rock you will be aware that Weir’s novel was adapted into a film starring Matt Damon in 2015. I watched this film prior to reading The Martian. Usually I try to do the opposite, as I find my motivation to read a book hinders when I already know what happens from a film. I was excited to find though, that this order of film then book, did not hinder my reading experience at all! I found myself just as intrigued and swept away with the plot as I would have been had I not seen the film adaptation first. – which I feel is a real testament to Weir’s writing.

First things first, you may be thinking that because The Martian is about space, botany, and engineering, that it is not a book for you. And, I must admit I had similar feelings. Having read sciency novels in the past that included a lot of scientific terms, I was a bit sceptical. This is because I feel that in these types of novels all the language goes over my head, and I simply do not connect with the story or the characters because I do not understand. However, I found that although Weir does include science talk, it is not something that dominates the novel, and the stuff that is there is very accessible. So, if the idea of science talk is the only thing putting you off about reading this book then you have little to worry about.

What I loved most about The Martian is Weir’s character Mark. The novel is by large written through diary logs kept by this character, so we really get a feel for him as a person. The logs are used to reflect of what Mark has been doing throughout the day, and what he plans to do as he continues his mission to survive. Though, they are not as serious and technical as you may imagine. The logs are humorous, thoughtful, and determined accounts which demonstrate the character perfectly. Mark is certainly a character who strives to see the positive in situations, and doesn’t let setbacks stop him. Alongside that though he is an extraordinarily smart and logical thinking individual, if only we were all more like him.

When I began reading The Martian though I did worry that the novel would be one dimensional and would focus entirely on what was happening on Mars. However, after a few chapters, I was happy to see the inclusion of what was happening on Earth, and then further on what was happening on the spaceship that held the rest of the mission teammates. So, throughout the novel we are presented with a very rounded story, which was effective in building up the tension. It was also interesting to see three very different settings, we had Mars, the space stations on Earth and a space shift travelling through space between Mars and Earth. It is not often you get to discover settings that are so different yet so similar at the same time.

Whether you go on to enjoy The Martian or not, what is unarguably brilliant about this story is how everybody rallied around and wanted to help this one man. It truly demonstrates the best in humanity by showing how people come together when somebody is in trouble. Suffice to say, I would highly recommend Weir’s novel. It is a humorous, engaging, and thought-provoking story that is too brilliantly written. I struggle to find faults with Weir’s work on this novel, though if you feel differently, I would love to hear your thoughts.

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The Road – Cormac McCarthy

Here i review McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic novel

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The Road is a post-apocalyptic 2006 novel by Cormac McCarthy. The story focuses upon a father and son who are travelling through a burnt out America, with their sights set on reaching the coast. The duo have nothing but the clothes on their back, a pistol with limited bullets and a small supply of food to keep them going along their journey. The novel sees the pair scavenging through the derelict, burned out towns and cities whilst trying to avoid running into ‘bad guys’ who stalk the roads.

In The Road we are presented with a truly disturbing and terrifying scenario. There are few people left in the world, and some of those left are savage beyond belief. We are not explicitly told what happened to cause such a brutal world, though I believe this leaves for a much more haunting story as so many scenarios could have led to the ultimate downfall of humanity. In all the savagery that we witness though, it is clear that this is a book that acutely portrays the best and the worst of mankind. From the unbreakable, trusting and loving relationship of the father and son to the ‘bad guys’ who we witness keeping prisoners for their cannibalistic needs. With this McCarthy offers us a magnitude of characters that portray how far humans can be pushed.

I finished The Road in two sittings, but if I had had the chance I am certain I would have finished the novel in one go. McCarthy writes with no chapters and allows his novel to flow with the progression of the father and sons travels. So, you find yourself turning page after page with no thought of having a break. Usually, I am all for chapters, and cannot comprehend a novel that does not use them. However, I felt this style was extremely effective for this novel and I truly felt that I was a participant in the journey across America. Not only that though McCarthy’s language and imagery creates some fantastic scenes, so it is difficult not to picture yourself alongside this family.

McCarthy created characters and a novel in The Road that kept you routing for a positive outcome. So much so, that it is so easy to forget that such a terrible situation has already been thrust upon the father and son. Like most, the ending of a novel is something I always battle with. I rarely find that the finishing pages of a novel end in a good or satisfactory way. On the one hand, with McCarthy’s novel, I feel exactly this way. I feel that McCarthy has left so much unsaid, and left me wanting so much more from this world and his characters. However, on the other hand, the journey has been completed, the goal has been met, and in the end we are given a positive outcome. So, it is difficult to argue that The Road ends on a bit of a flat line.

The Road is a novel unlike any others that I have read, and I am a little annoyed at myself for letting McCarthy’s novel sit on my bookshelf for as long as I did. So, I would recommend it to you all without a doubt. Although if you’re currently looking for a light read, something to relax by the pool with on holiday, maybe try something a bit lighter than McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic novel.

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The One – John Marrs

Eager to find your perfect match? Well, here Marrs explores the idea of developing our perfect match through our DNA

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John Marrs 2017 novel The One is a story about finding your perfect match. In Marr’s world there has been a development in the world of love which can genetically match you with your perfect match. The novel follows the lives of six individuals who have applied to find their match. Each character takes us on a journey of the positives and negatives of the idea of a perfect match.

I think a novel like The One is very current in where we currently are in the dating world. From apps and websites, to unique dating events like being matched through a scent, it’s safe to say that the dating world has progressed majorly. And, with science continuously moving forward, it’s not difficult to imagine a world whereby we could be matched with a significant other through our DNA. It seems like an easy solution, right? Avoiding any time wasters, eliminating the anxiety of meeting new people, saying goodbye to potential heartbreak because you are not actually suited and you get all this for just a small fee. However, if you’ve ever thought something like this would be a good idea, Marrs novel will surely prove you wrong – or at least question your views. This is because she fantastically emphasises that you never know what somebody is really like, and what is really going on behind closed doors. Therefore this ‘perfect match’ could be exactly what your genetics requires, but they could be the opposite of what your morals and mind wants. – which you will see evidence in this novel.

When I found Marrs novel The One online, I was immediately drawn in by its concept. So, I was very excited to get my claws into this novel. However, it is not just the idea that I loved, the structure and style is something I really enjoyed too. Each chapter focused on a different character, but also some of these characters could be paired off as couples. For example the chapter’s focusing on Amy and Christopher, demonstrate the two sides of a matched couple. This enabled a more rounded picture regarding the matches, as we were seeing both sides of the match, and their feelings and thought processes towards it. It was interesting to read the two sides as one would try to keep a secret from the other, and we are able to witness first hand these secrets ruining the matches.

I found Marrs novel to be a real page turner, but I think this was solely because I enjoyed reading about some character’s stories more than others, so I wanted to get to their chapters quickly. That being said though, I did find the novel to be an easy read, each story flowed well, and the jumping between each character was pretty smooth. So, even though I was drawn to some characters more than others I did not struggle to get into all of the separate stories. The only thing that I would mention about this style of writing, whereby Marr focused on different characters in different chapters, was that at times I found myself having to go back and double check who I was reading about. Because there is so much going on in The One, I found that when you start reading the novel it can be a little complicated to keep up, though with perseverance you get the hang of it!

I would a hundred percent recommend this book, read it if you like a suspense novel, read it if you like the concept of having a genetic match, or read it if you like a quick read. Because if you like any of those things you are sure to get on well with Marrs The One

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Hidden Figures – Magot Lee Shetterly

Here i review the book based on the true story of the female minds behind the early days of space exploration

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Hidden Figures is the novel by Margot Lee Shetterly, based on the true story of the women behind the space programs in the mid twentieth century. The novel focuses upon the efforts of America to get a man into orbit around the earth, as well as the mission to get the first man on to the moon. Shetterly uses this novel to tell us this previously untold story of a group of black women who were behind much of the maths and calculations that made these missions happen.

Hidden Figures is a true but untold story, so it is difficult to dislike, as it is so unique. It was great to read about how these women fought both racial and gender struggles in order to do the job that they were doing. And what was also fascinating was reading about how some of these women were thought of as being ‘computers’. At a time when we are surrounding with technology it’s hard to imagine a time when computers and calculators did not exist to carry out our work and mathematics. But the reality is, of course there was a time like this. And at this time it was people with ridiculous maths skills that would be in charge of making these calculations – often they were calculations that would mean life or death.

So, from the perspective of Hidden Figures being a big eye opener and a reality check for somebody who takes technology and pretty much life for granted, Shetterly’s novel is a great read. However, for me, I simply felt there were too many scientific and mathematical references. I felt because I am not somebody from that world and I don’t have a real grasp on space and maths, that I struggled to keep track and follow everything that was happening. Obviously for a book that is telling the story of these women in the space program it would be impossible to not include the science and maths, as that is the story. However, unfortunately for me, I did struggle with the novel a little bit.

I feel that Shetterly did a great job in bringing this story to the forefront of many minds, and it was great to learn that a program such as NASA, which most would associate with white males, actually had so many strong and powerful black females at its core. So, I would recommend this book for anybody who is after a book with something a bit different happening and something whereby you can learn from. However, if you’re like me and get a bit bogged down with terminology and references that you don’t necessarily understand, I would not recommend that you read Hidden Figures. Simple because I feel, like myself, you might find reading this book a bit more of a chore than a pleasure. That being said though, in 2016 Hidden Figures was adapted into a film. This I found to be so much more accessible, and allowed me to come to grips with the story so much more. So, although I am not here to recommend films, this is one I would recommend.

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