“The Infinite Book” by John D. Barrow

The Infinite Book by John D. Barrow, a Mathematics professor at Cambridge University is all about infinity, how the concept first came about, what we mean by it, and how relevant it is to modern science, mathematics and astronomy, plus some of the less obvious subjects such as mythology and philosophy.

Despite the fact that I love maths, Continue reading

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“Human Traces” by Sebastian Faulks

When I started this challenge to blitz my TBR shelf, I had three Sebastian Faulks books to read. The first I tried was A Week In December which I didn’t get on with, and so the other two are finding themselves moving further and further down the list, but there comes a time when all books on that shelf must be read, and Human Traces time had come.

The book follows Jacques Rebière and Thomas Midwinter from Continue reading

“The Hungry Tide” by Amitav Ghosh

The Hungry Tide follows Piyali, an American woman cetologist (someone who studies whales, dolphins and porpoises), and Kanai, an Indian businessman who meet on the train on route to a remote area of India called the Sundarbans which is a collection of many tiny islands in the Bay of Bengal. The American is on her way to study two rare species of river dolphins who are native to this area, and the businessman is going to visit his widowed aunt, and to collect the book his late uncle has left to him. The tide of the title moves miles inland every day, partially submerging islands and mangrove forests. There are also man-eating tigers, crocodiles, snakes and sharks to be wary of, making Piya’s expedition even more dangerous. Alongside the story of the present day, we also learn of the social and political history, mythology and more modern social issues, such as trafficking of women.

I feel like I’ve had The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh on my TBR for donkeys years, Continue reading

“The Hare With The Amber Eyes” by Edmund De Waal

The Hare With The Amber Eyes by Edmund De Waal is the story of how an inherited collection of netsuke (small ornamental carved pieces traditionally used to attached an object such as a purse to the belt of a kimono) originally came into the ownership of his family, but gradually becomes the history of his family from the last 19th century to date.

I received this as a Christmas present from Continue reading

“Ordinary Thunderstorms” by William Boyd

Can one chance meeting ruin your life? In Ordinary Thunderstorms by William Boyd, academic Adam Kindred finds himself the prime suspect in a murder and decides to go into hiding by not using his mobile phone, credit cards, etc., and living rough in order to avoid the police, while trying to find out why the man he’s accused of killing, was murdered in the first place.

Each chapter follows a different character in the story, Continue reading

“Pompeii” by Robert Harris

Pompeii by Robert Harris is the book for my local reading group this month and it tells a fictionalised tale of the last two days before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in the first century AD. Told from the point of view of the Aquarius (the engineer who is responsible for the aqueduct that carries water to the towns in the region), it describes the signs that led upto the point of eruption, and is a thriller of politics and corruption, and a love interest thrown in to boot.

I’ve only ever read one book by Harris before Continue reading

“The Children’s Book” by A. S. Byatt

The Children’s Book by A. S. Byatt follows a handful of families in the late Victorian period and through to the end of World War I. The mother of one of the families, Olive Wellwood, is a children’s author and throughout the lives of her own children, she writes them each their own personal storybook, and the stories develop as the children grow up.

I want to start by saying I did enjoy this book, it was fascinating with characters I was genuinely interested in, but, I have to say, I have a few gripes about it. Firstly, there are too many characters. I struggled to remember which children belonged to which family, and kept getting them mixed up, Dorothy with Florence or Griselda, Charles with Geraint, and could never remember where Hedda came in the family, and those are just a few of the children in the book.

Secondly, while I understand the author was trying to explain what’s happening in the world as the story develops, there were a few places where the author spent one or two chapters just explaining the history of that period, with no mention of any of the characters. When we discussed this at my reading group, I wondered if I was so irritated by this both because I’d recently read a few books set in the same period that integrated this information into the story of the characters rather than just simply stating it, and because I already knew the history because of my recent reads. The other members didn’t seem too bothered by it, but I felt for a 600+ page book, this could easily have been edited out without losing anything from the story.

Finally, just a couple of small ones, but near the beginning, the daughters of one of the characters are named and described, yet a few pages later when they arrive at the house of one of the other families, they are named and described again. Why do that when you’ve already described them? Also, one of the characters, Charles at times goes by the name of Karl, and is sometimes referred to as Charles/Karl, which I personally found really irritating. I know the times he’s choosing to be called Karl over the times he feels he needs to be Charles, so why the Charles/Karl moniker?

I feel like I need to go back to the good points, for a bit of balance. I loved some of the characters, particularly the girls. Dorothy, Florence and Griselda were believable and genuine, and I think the way she describes the various choices they make and the routes their lives take felt possible. I felt a real affection for them, particularly Dorothy, by the end of the book. Their stories alone would make the book worth reading, but there are others who are interesting as well, making me glad I had read it.