Booker Prize

Book Reviews: The Handmaid's Tale

Book Reviews: The Handmaid's Tale
Author: 
Atwood, Margaret
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

This book is old school dystopian literature. Atwood nails it. It's likely the best dystopian novel I have ever read.

Offred is a handmaid, a woman set aside for breeding purposes. Her only desire is to survive, but her memories push their way up into her mind. She had a husband and a child and they are gone. What broke my heart were the memories of her beloved child. It's so softly touched upon that it shows itself as a raw wound that she can barely handle.

Well told and powerful, I give this book 5 stars.

Reviewer's Name: 
vfranklyn

Book Review: Lila

Lila
Author: 
Robinson, Marilynne
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

"Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer." Ruth 3:9

What happens when an old man, broken from years of suffering, looks into the face of a feral woman who has wandered into his church for shelter? In this moving story, he sees humanity in her face. He sees her loneliness and her sin-ravaged state, but he can see beyond that to a human being, near ruined, yet not beyond the hope of a redeemer. She is a person in need of compassion and comfort. He offers her a home for her world-weary frame. He marries her.

The story of Lila finds its poetic power in Robinson's unmatched ability to empathize with the human condition. Each page of this story is dripping with compassion and sympathy. The genius lies in how the very fabric of the story weaves a picture of the deepest desires of every human heart.

Lila, at her core, is a person in desperate need of protection and affection.
Here Robinson proves herself to be a master of symbolism. When a shawl was spread over the sickly, neglected, and dying toddler Lila, by a wretched woman overcome by compassion for an unloved child, this shawl and this memory become the defining features of Lila's life. And later, as a forsaken, hopeless, and forlorn grown woman, who has now lost the one person in the world who ever cared for her, Lila finds again someone spreading his dark suit jacket, the one he preaches in, over her freezing shoulders as they walk along the road. Lila says, looking back on that moment: "She thought it was nothing she had known to hope for and something she had wanted too much all the same." A covering, a home, protection. And again: "But if she had prayed in all the years of her old life, it might have been for just that, that gentleness. And if she prayed now, it was really remembering the comfort he put around her, the warmth of his body still in that coat. It was a shock to her, a need she only discovered when it was satisfied, for those few minutes." This story brings to life the theme that we often don't even know what to pray for and that mercy is so much bigger than our imagination.

Robinson is an author who truly understands how to express suffering, estrangement, loneliness, and courage in a breath-taking and lovely story of grace and redemption. She has a deep perceptiveness in the way she portrays the various motives that control the human heart and she writes with forthrightness and blazing accuracy. Read an be changed.

Reviewer's Name: 
Leslie Taylor

Book Review: The Underground Railroad

Book Review: The Underground Railroad
Author: 
Whitehead, Colson
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

I listened to this book on audio, so I'm sure I missed bits and pieces. Cora's life as a slave in Georgia and through her journey on the underground railroad was fascinating. The depiction of the underground railroad as actually being an underground railroad was odd to me, but I'm sure there's some symbolism or other literary device that escapes me. Probably the most interesting part of this book was the section that took place in North Carolina. It was so indicative of the Third Reich that it was chilling. I found the ending to be abrupt, but still overall an interesting read.

Reviewer's Name: 
vfranklyn

Book Review: Room

Room
Author: 
Donoghue, Emma
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Room is from the point of view of a five year old boy named Jack whose mother was kidnapped seven years ago by a man he only knows only as "Old Nick". They've been imprisoned in a shed in his backyard ever since. To spare Jack from the horror of the situation, his mother doesn't tell him Old Nick is actually his father and that some things he sees on the TV, his only link to the outside world, are real. As a result, Jack believes that the only true reality is Room. Their tried-and-true daily routine starts to change as Jack becomes more curious about the outside world and his mother starts to hope again. This book is an incredible and moving read that will make you rethink parenting and your perspective on the world and I would highly recommend.

Reviewer's Name: 
Mckenna R.

Book Review: The Remains of the Day

The Remains of the Day
Author: 
Ishiguro, Kazuo
Rating: 
1 star = Yuck!
Review: 

Alright, this book was even worse than Kazuo Ishiguro’s other book(Never Let Me Go). I didn’t know that that was possible, but it is. In this book, an old, traditional English butler takes a road trip along the English countryside. That is it. Oh, I forgot one thing: he does remember some of his dreadfully dull and pointless memories about his career. The main character (the butler) Mr. Stevens doesn’t even show character development by the end of the book. There is one thing that I liked about this book: that it finally got round to finishing.

Reviewer's Name: 
Jordan T.

Book Review: Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go
Author: 
Ishiguro, Kazuo
Rating: 
2 stars = Meh
Review: 

Kathy isn’t a normal kid, and neither are any of her friends. They were all cloned, and someday, their vital organs will be harvested until they die. But for now, they will grow up in a secluded boarding school nestled in a corner of England, called Hailshem. Hailshem is idyllic: creativity is nurtured, friends are everywhere, and there are supported teachers. Kathy retells her experiences as she looks back on her life in preparation for her organ donations. And…. that’s basically it. It sounds like a really interesting concept for a book, but the author completely butchered it! His writing drags on and on, and completely bored me to death. If he had written it better, or if someone rewrites it, the book would be fascinating. But the writing style is so dreadfully dull. I warn you-- do not read this book! You will seriously regret it if you do!
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: 
Jordan T.

Book Review: A Horse Walks into a Bar: A Novel

A Horse Walks into a Bar: A Novel
Author: 
Grossman, David
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

Somewhere along the line, I saw that this book won the Man Booker International Prize this year and put it on my “to read” list on Overdrive. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, other than perhaps a little bit of comedy, considering the title is a basic setup for a joke’s punchline. In that sense, the book delivered on that premise by being about a stand-up comedian in a nightclub giving his routine to the audience. I did not expect, however, the deeper subtext about the character and his relation to the narrator. It’s in this subtext where we find the meat of this story.

It has often been said that “Sometimes all you can do is laugh to keep yourself from crying.” A Horse Walks into a Bar epitomizes this statement by blending serious subjects like cancer, death, and the Holocaust with a smattering of jokes, physical comedy, and anecdotal monologues. It’s in this contrast where we find how uncomfortable society is when dealing with the difficult subjects of life. I know I usually use comedy to cope with challenging situations, often in an inappropriate accommodation to the dour mood. In the end, we’d rather not address these facts of life because they don’t bring any joy into the world.

Partly due to a lack of explanation, as well as a somewhat jolting and meandering storytelling method, the plot of this book felt a little light, if not downright confusing. I’m sure if I had paid more attention to the words spoken by the ill comedian (who himself was kind of weird) I would have pulled more out of it and understood it better. Unfortunately, my mind always clings to the jokes, of which there a few good ones, and tends to ignore anything else that might be significant.

A bit uncomfortable, but poignant nonetheless, I give A Horse Walks into a Bar 3.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin M. Weilert

Book Review: Atonement

atonement
Author: 
McEwan, Ian
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

A metafiction novel documenting the struggles of a young misinformed thirteen year old, Atonement by Ian McEwan provides an intense glimpse into the power of lying and the consequences resulting from deception. Briony, a British girl in the early twentieth century witnesses a crime she twists in order to fuel her intense jealousy. Her eagerness to fulfill her own desires corrupts and destroys her sister Cecilia and Robbie’s romantic life and Robbie is whisked away into World War II. Within the last chapter of the book, current Briony reveals the truth about her manipulation of the book in order to immortalize the love between Cecilia and Robbie, both who die as a direct result of Briony’s lies. I would recommend the book to anyone willing to read deeper and not take everything written on page as the truth.

Those who enjoy deep, complex, twisted plots would be captivated by Atonement. The seriousness of the crime and depiction of the same scene from multiple perspectives limits the prospective audience to those high school and older. Despite the book’s intriguing start, the ending infuriates many as Briony lifts the curtain to reveal her distorted depiction in order to repent for her guilt. Atonement fortifies the pang of a guilty conscious and the powerful repercussions that result from lying.

Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: 
Alex K.

Book Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
Author: 
Haddon, Mark
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

One night, Christopher Boone is walking around his neighborhood when he finds his neighbor’s dog dead, in her front yard, with a pitchfork sticking out of it. Christopher is now determined to investigate and write a book about who killed the dog. Unfortunately, Mrs. Shears, the dog’s owner, accuses Christopher of killing her dog and he is sent to jail for a few hours.

Eventually, Christopher’s dad comes to get him, and tells him not to investigate the incident of the dog’s death. Keep in mind, Christopher has a disability similar to Asperger syndrome and it is somewhat omitted at the beginning, but eventually, it’s obvious he has a disability even if it's not directly mentioned in the book. Christopher defies his father’s orders and continues to investigate the dog’s death, asking neighbors about the dog, questioning Mrs. Shears. His father constantly restricts him from doing so, but Christopher is determined. As the investigation goes on Christopher is able to find out that his supposedly “dead” mother is alive and also he finds out who the killer is. Haddon’s work is amazingly written and I recommend the novel to those who enjoy subtle mysteries with rising conflicts.

Reviewer's Name: 
Joe T.

Book Review: A Brief History of Seven Killings

A Brief History of Seven Killings
Author: 
James, Marlon
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

A very heavy, difficult book to get through, in part because it was written in dialect, which always takes some getting used to, but largely because it was so relentlessly depressing that I couldn’t read it for too long of a stretch. A Brief History of Seven Killings tells the fictionalized story of the (factual) 1976 assassination attempt on Bob Marley, referred to throughout simply as “The Singer”. Told from a staggering number of different perspectives, ranging from the young would-be assassins themselves, to the unemployed daughter of a middle-class family pretending to be pregnant with Marley’s child in an attempt to get out of the country, to a CIA agent assigned to keep communism from spreading to Jamaica, it’s a grueling, violent read, but there’s a lot worth hearing. The story begins with the assassination attempt, then jumps forward to sections set in the 1980s and 1990s, with close attention to Jamaica’s changing political scene and the lasting mark that violence leaves on the characters. The writing is strong and Marlon James does an excellent job juggling the huge cast (though if you’re like me you’ll probably have to refer back to the character list provided at the beginning of the book at least a few times). I don’t know if “enjoyed” is the right word, but I felt like I got a lot out of it, and it was certainly a deserving winner of the Man Booker Prize. I will say that the word “brief” in the title is a bit of a stretch -- it weighs in at 688 pages. Highly recommended for fans of historical fiction.

Reviewer's Name: 
Lauren
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