Over the last year or so I’ve been working through a series of occasional posts inspired by the excellent occasional series of interviews that The Guardian newspaper conducts under the title “Books That Made Me.” – So far I’ve talked about:
- What I was currently reading, and a book that changed my life,
- A book I wish I’d written, and a book that influenced my writing,
- A book that changed my mind, and the last book to make me cry.
It’s about time I answered a couple more of the questions on the list.
The Last Book To Make Me Laugh
I’m not one for humor or comedy books, but I do read a book that makes me smile and have the occasional unexpected laugh along the way. Such a book was The Ravenmaster by Christopher Skaife.
Who would have thought that a book about an ex-infantry squaddie who lives in an old castle looking after seven blackbirds could be so engrossing that I literally couldn’t put it down? This was an unplanned single-sitting read. Skaife has a simple honest prose style (and I mean that as a compliment) that immediately engages and entertains. He comes across as a consummate storyteller and educator as well as a highly empathic human. But the real stars of the book are the Tower of London ravens who emerge as distinct individuals with their own personalities and behavioral quirks.
A Book I Couldn’t Finish
One book that came highly recommended and that I was looking forward to reading was The Violent Century by Lavie Tidhar. I’d heard nothing but good things about the author’s other work, and the premise, what-if there had been superheroes during World War II, while hardly original, certainly appealed to me. I was hoping for a fresh new take on the idea.
The story I was hoping for maybe in there, but I couldn’t find it. This was mainly due to the use of a staccato prose style combined with what seemed to be a mix of an unfinished movie plot synopsis and half thought out author’s notes strained through one of Alan Moore’s infamously voluminous comics scripts. The result for me was an unreadable mess that left me unable to finish.
The one thought that kept running through my head was if the author wanted to employ a script-type approach then they should have gone that route and developed this as the graphic novel it seems to be struggling to be.
This book has got some great reviews and feedback and won several awards – so maybe it’s just me – but it just didn’t work in capturing my attention the way I wanted it to.