Archive for November, 2012

Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell

Title: Cloud Atlas

Author: David Mitchell

Date Finished: 17/11/12

Re-Read? : First time read

Challenges? : No

Overall: 5/5 – absolutely fantastic

I have had this book for just under a year, after it was recommended to me by the conductor of one of the ensembles I play in.  He said he had conducted the music that inspired the book, which in itself was fantastic and he subsequently read the book himself.  He was definitely right when he said it was a great read.

The novel contains 6 different narratives arranged in the structure: 1,2,3,4,5,6,5,4,3,2,1 with the 6th story being the only one uninterrupted.  Obviously this is already quite a unique idea and what’s more is that each story is set in a different time period AND each one has links with the previous story too.  Sound like Mitchell bit off more than he could chew? Well he manages to tie everything together perfectly.

My favourite stories were 2,3 and 5 which were a story of a broke aspiring composer set in Belgium, a murder mystery in 60s USA and an interview with a clone set in Korea in the future.  You can tell already that this book is an eclectic mix of plots but I was especially impressed by how much detail Mitchell managed to write into a relatively few number of pages.  It felt more like 6 short books – each plot was rich and completely unlike anything I had ever read before.

Now obviously nothing is ever perfect in a book and I did find it quite hard to get into the first story.  Also the sixth story really did nothing for me, especially the way humans have resorted to primitivism in the future.  That upset me a bit.  But these were just minor difficulties I had – I still rated the book 5/5!

The characters are quite hard to write about generally, as there were obviously more main characters than normal, due to the six different stories.   Adam Ewing was a bit silly but Henry Goose was a brilliant villain.  I thought quite a few of the characters weren’t particularly realistic, but then it didn’t seem to matter.  Timothy Cavendish and to be frank, almost all the characters in that particular story (number 4) were all totally unrealistic but I really didn’t care – they were hilarious!  Sonmi-451 was brilliant but my favourite set of characters have to be from the second story; I just found them all so memorable.  I really looked forward to reading the recapitulation of story 2 much more for the characters than the plot.

The settings are all vibrant and I loved the way we jumped all over the world and all over time too.  I must sound like a stuck record but this book is just so unique for this!  The way we were suddenly in Belgium after being deep in obscure Pacific Islands and then quickly into the US and then catapulted into modern day Britain followed soon by futuristic Korea and then Hawaii and back through them all again.  Brilliant.

I looked on Wikipedia after I had finished Cloud Atlas just to see what were the ‘official’ interpretations of the book and interestingly I didn’t really agree.  The main themes detailed on the website were: the number 6 and ascent and descent.  Now both these themes do feature but I was really shocked because the theme I observed most was struggle.  Adam struggles against his ‘illness’, Robert struggles with having no money, Luisa struggles against Seaboard, Timothy struggles against his imprisonment, Sonmi struggles against Unanimity and Papa Song’s and Zachry struggles against the Kona people and to an extent himself.  You get the picture.  You can understand how I was surprised that none of this even featured on the ‘linking themes’ section!
If any of you have read this book, I would be really interested on how you reflect on the themes!  Let me know!

Anyway, as you can tell, this book has become one of my favourites and I have put it straight on the re-read list (that doesn’t happen very often).  I am sooo excited to see the film when it comes out next year and I predict that in 10, 20, 30+ years, students may be studying this book for their English lessons – I think it’s a modern classic.  If you are looking for a really great read then seriously look no further; I cannot recommend this book enough.

This week has been very busy!

I know I say that every week but it seems that I have barely been at home since the holiday as I’ve had lessons, badminton, musical things and driving lessons after school every day.  (Not all on the same day of course!)  So I haven’t really had much chance to read, which is a shame, as I was on a reading kick during half term (last week) and I was reading a lot.  I have still finished one book – E = mc² by David Bodanis and I am making my way through Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell.

I didn’t write a post on E = mc² because I figured it was a bit too sciencey for this blog.  I don’t think I would be able to write about anything more than just how I learnt some new concepts in physics and science in general and so I thought it wasn’t really worth a whole post.  Anyway, I did enjoy reading it and gave it 4/5, but not as much as I enjoyed Fermat’s Last Theorem (5/5).  I would recommend only if you are actually interested in what E = mc² actually means and its applications over the last century or so because there is really nothing else in this book.  If you are interested in that, it is a great read.

Cloud Atlas is a very powerful book already (I am only just halfway through) and I can safely say I (almost) really love it.  There are  6 different stories and the first five, especially 2, 3, 4 and 5 were amazing but I am just not really connecting that well with the last story.  This combined with little reading time means that I’m not really progressing very much…but never mind; there is the weekend now so I may be able to read a decent chunk.  Have a good weekend everyone and do lots of reading!

October Wrap-Up and November Plans

Wow it is actually ridiculous how quickly these months are going by; how is it November already?  Anyway October was good fun for me – we had our school charity RAG week and a sixth form social (I think I am still recovering even now!) and this week’s holiday was definitely needed.

October was a pretty good reading month for me considering how poor September was!

Here’s what I read in October 2012:

Fermat’s Last Theorem – Simon Singh

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest – Stieg Larsson

Macbeth – William Shakespeare

This is good as I aim to read at least three books every month.  This is 2 more than I read in September!  It’s also a good variety as it’s one non fiction, one fiction and one classic.  Also, my target of at least one classic every month was fulfilled in October by Macbeth.

Challenge Progress in October 2012:

The Classics Club :  8/60 books read  (Macbeth)

The Victorian Challenge 2012:  4/6 books read  (None this month)

The Literary Classics Reading Challenge: 6/15 (Macbeth)

Need to read Middlemarch and Villette for The Victorian Challenge but I doubt I will manage both – Middlemarch beat me when I tried at the beginning of September.

Currently In Progress:

Currently in progress is Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, which I thought would be a bit of a struggle but so far I am really enjoying it and keeping on top if it.  Also I am reading E=mc² by David Bodanis as my current science book; his prose is not quite as good as Simon Singh’s so far.

November Plans:

Books: The next three books on my TBR shelf are The Visible World by Mark Slouka, Middlemarch still and Villette by Charlotte Brontë!  Cloud Atlas is pretty big and I am reading two books at the moment so I can’t see myself getting much past The Visible World after them.

Challenges:  If I do get round to Middlemarch or Villette, they would both count towards all 3 challenges.

September was such a dismal reading month for me that I didn’t even bother with a monthly wrap-up so I am glad that I am out of my reading rut.  I am just cautious of pushing myself back into it by forcing Middlemarch upon myself again.  It just seems too big and obscure (I don’t know anything about it and people don’t seem to talk about Eliot as much as say Dickens or Austen) for my life at the moment – maybe it will be something I adore but only if I get time to appreciate it properly; a holiday read next year?  Who knows but I don’t want to completely discard it yet as so many people love it.  Don’t judge a book by its cover size?