Read full review at: http://thereadingarmchair.blogspot.gr/2015/08/review-funny-girl-by-nick-hornby.html
First of all, I loved the setting of this novel. The '60s for the British comedy fit perfectly the plot. Sophie Straw wanted only one thing: to make people laugh. But she was in a decade when they were all men. Tony, Ernie, Eric, Ernie... There was nobody called Lucy or Barbara in that lot. There were no funny girls. Even her manager wanted her to pursue a career as a model, not star in a comedy series. It felt like a miracle of some sort that she managed to do so well.
Although the title of the novel is Funny Girl, it's ultimately not only about Sophie. It's about five people getting together at the right time to create something innovative for television. Indeed Barbara (and Jim) was created when Tony and Bill met Sophie, their producer Dennis recognised the fresh idea and Clive saw his chance to become a tv star. Each one of them had their own lives and secrets, but they had found a point of communication that enabled them to reach success. As it usually happens in every relationship, this thing didn't last forever. Boredom, feelings of getting stuck, confusion of the fictional situations of the series with the reality were some of the things they all had to face.
The writing was the typical writing style of Nick Hornby. Quick-witted, funny, easy-to-read, but able to reach into the heart of the characters. Sophie wasn't as funny as I was expecting, but she was very likeable. The rest of the characters were also unique, each with their own history and choices they needed to make. But what impressed me the most is the fact that this could actually be the story of how a television series was created. Barbara (and Jim) was fictional, but I could imagine a pilot episode airing in Comedy Playhouse and then go on for several seasons.
Read full review at: http://thereadingarmchair.blogspot.gr/2015/08/review-dear-luke-we-need-to-talk-darth.html
I couldn't pick up Dear Luke, We Need to Talk, Darth a better time of the year. It proved to be a really easy and quick read, with a lot of pop culture references. In collections like this, everyone can find something to like.
But an essential condition for this book to work is that you have to be familiar with each reference. In my case, I loved Vader's letters, Captain Kirk's log and the engineer's notes from the recording of Rumours by Fleetwood Mac. The most hilarious part was The Exchange between Neal Hefti, creator of the Batman TV theme song, and the show's producer. Who hasn't heard Batman, Batman, Batman, Nananananananana Batman? It was really awesome to read how John Moe imagined how it came to be.
Moreover, I can't understand how the author acquired the Top secret British intelligence notes on the fates of Agents 001 through 006. It was enlightening about why Bond has this certain way of acting and why his face is constantly changing. Another shocking document in this book was the Note to Clark Kent from the maker of his new glasses. I mean, we all know that he looks like a certain superhero, but how can a pair of glasses distort his image so much that nobody recognises him?
It appears that the writer has acquaintances in the music industry as well. As I have already revealed we learn the whole story behind the making of the album Rumours through the eyes of the engineer. If you are a fan of Fleetwood Mac like me, then you'll love this part. But these are not the only documents concerning really popular musicians and songs. We read the Notes on "Sweet Child o' Mine" as delivered to Axl Rose by his editor. The lyrics were almost altered and the song would never be the same again. Finally, Leonard Cohen text messages Leonard Cohen whilst writing a new song gives us insight on how this songwriter created one of his most well-known songs. You can easily guess which one.
Throughout this book, there was a running gag of Rejected Superbowl Halftime Show Proposals. I have to admit that this was the worst part for me. Not all of them were uninspired, but most of them felt like it. But it was only a small part of the book, so it didn't really bother me. I can't really complain about anything.
Read full review at: http://thereadingarmchair.blogspot.gr/2015/08/review-whatever-happened-to-caped.html
Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? This is the question that this two-part comic is trying to answer. The very end of Batman. The title, as Neil Gaiman explains in the foreword, is a pun to Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?, which is the conclusion to the mythology of Superman. It feels appropriate and suits perfectly the feel of the story.
The plot is quite simple. Batman is dead and all of the characters, Albert, Joker, Riddler, Catwoman, attend his funeral. Each of them offers a different version of Batman's story and death. This way, this comic can work as the final Batman story in any given occasion. But the last few pages left me in awe. Both the art and the conclusion of the story were excellent.
I know that it's a common thing in comics for the heroes to die and then return again with a way or another. This version though felt different. Batman kept trying to fight crime in Gotham and his own demons, but he always ended up getting killed. It was the natural ending we all expected, despite the futility. Batman fell while fighting and it felt right. Besides every mythology needs some closure and we are offered one here.
Read full review at: http://thereadingarmchair.blogspot.gr/2015/07/review-diary-of-provincial-lady-by-e-m.html
There are many books that describe great adventures or have crazy and quirky characters. But then again there are novels, like this one, that focus on the everyday life, with completely ordinary characters. To be honest, it was refreshing to read The Diary of A Provincial Lady. The days passed and the entries of the diary described the life of this family around 1930. Moreover, the way of life that was described mustn't be far from the truth, as the whole novel felt partially autobiographical.
The need of the lady to maintain an excellent image for her social circle is something prominent on this diary. She tries to impress her husband's employer, Lady Boxe, which has everything that the lady doesn't (vacation on the South of France, first-class tickets for the train in London, important friends). This is also the reason why one of the things that always make her feel better is when she can gossip Lady B with the other ladies of the neighbourhood, like the Vicar's wife.
As you've probably guessed this isn't a rich family. In fact, their financial situation is grave. In many instances, the lady has to contact the bank and she even has to deposit valuable jewellery to a pawnbroker. A legacy from Robert's late godfather helps them a little, but the lady has a small tendency towards consumerism (there is always a new hat to be bought). The problem becomes more apparent when they have to search for a new maid. No-one is willing to go to the countryside with such a small wage they can afford. Nevertheless, they miraculously make ends meet.
The Diary of A Provincial Lady is a great read. The humour is dry and because of this the novel is a hit or miss. It worked for me and if you like this style of comedy then you're going to love it. Don't hesitate to give it a try!
Read full review at: http://thereadingarmchair.blogspot.gr/2015/07/review-go-set-watchman-by-harper-lee.html
Jean Louise returns to Maycomb, only to find it different from before. The faces of the people are the same, but she observes different attitudes. Even the town itself is changing, with new buildings. Go away the old buildings said. There is no place for you here. You are not wanted. We have secrets. Now this is a feeling a little familiar to me and everyone who happens to live away from their hometown. When you return you always observe the differences and you get lost in nostalgia and childhood memories.
But Go Set A Watchman isn't only about Scout's nostalgia. It's her journey towards the discovery of her own mind, her own conscience. And this is the reason why eventually I didn't mind the portrayal of Atticus in this novel. Yes, he is definitely racist, but he still believes that everybody should be treated by the law the same way, These views are the ones that passed down to Jean Louise and these views are what Jean Louise's generation will establish in the south at some point. I won't lie that he was the Atticus that I'd love to see, but he was definitely the Atticus the novel needed.
It would be unfair to compare Go Set A Watchman with To Kill A Mockingbird. Keep in mind that the first one is a manuscript, not a fully edited novel like the latter. But I found it more mature, maybe because we witnessed the story through the eyes of an adult protagonist and not a child. I like to think of both of those books as a part of a single work, which in fact, were created as one.
Read full review at: http://thereadingarmchair.blogspot.gr/2015/07/review-confederacy-of-dunces-by-john.html
The central plot of the novel revolves around Ignatius Jacques Reilly, who is forced by his mother to search for a job. But, there are numerous others subplots that in one way or another depend upon Ignatius' actions. These actions caused several turmoils and chaos and I was actually frustrated that in the end Ignatius managed to get away with them. I also felt that some of these subplots, like the one with Miss Trixie and Mrs. Levy, were unnecessary and didn't offer anything to the story. When I came upon these, I felt the urge to just pass those pages.
Ignatius is not a likeable character, but I'm not sure that he was ever intended to be one. He is a medievalist, who doesn't actually enjoy anything, constantly criticises society and has very firm notions. He is thirty years old, but he doesn't have a job. He's not even trying to get one. His mother tries to motivate him, but her endeavours are in vain. In his job interviews, it's like he's trying not to make a good impression. I felt that he was settled in a situation where his mother provided him everything and he was taking advantage of it. Actually, this happened in every situation he was involved and I was surprised how easily all the characters were deceived by him. Personally, I agreed with Myrna Minkoff, his sort of ex-girlfriend, who insisted that he needed human contact and a sexual relationship. But for me, the fact that he caused me such strong emotions is a sign of the effectiveness of Toole's writing.
Is this the funniest story ever written? I wouldn't say so. The absurdity of the situations and the quirky characters were indeed funny. But in the end A Confederacy of Dunces was more a tiring and boring read for me, rather than a humorous one. The good parts were thrown aside by the fact that I didn't care about the characters and the story
After Pride and Prejudice and The Scarlet Letter, I was searching for a chance to read yet another adaptation from the Manga Classics series. So, I can't explain my happiness when I got this edition of Les Misérables, a novel that I'm particularly familiar with. In this novel, there are many important characters and I was curious to see if each of them would have sufficient time for development in the change of medium.
The story is one of the most beautiful stories ever written. It illustrates the human nature in the most suitable way. Humans are neither purely evil nor purely good. This means that a convict like Jean Valjean can do good deeds and be a good man all of his life. It also means that people of the law like Javert can become blind and have wrong judgment. Right and wrong, honour and treachery are all things that sometimes are hard to be distinguished.
The adaptation of this manga satisfied me. I was aware before I start reading it that it wouldn't be possible for every scene in the novel to be included. Besides this classic work is massive and it would take several volumes, in order to contain everything. But this adaptation managed to select the scenes in a way that the story was consistent. It also gave the atmosphere of 19th century France in an effective way. The dialogs were clear, although sometimes they were more modern than I would prefer them to be.
The portrayal of characters, as far as the writing is concerned, was very good. We learnt a lot of backstory for all of them, their motives were transparent and it was easy to connect with them. Fantine's story was very touching and it was saddening to read of her misfortunes. The character that was problematic to me was Cosette. In the end, she seemed almost ungrateful towards Jean Valjean and this wasn't the case in the novel.
The art style was for another time impressive. The scenes on the barricades and the revolution had an amazing atmosphere. The expressions on the faces of the characters are unforgettable. The pain in Fantine's face when she is forced to sell her body for a few francs, the stern expression of Inspector Javert and his inner conflict about his morality, are just a few examples. However, I didn't quite like the image of Cosette. Her face when she has grown up, is almost he same as when she was a little girl. I'd like to see her more mature, both in the face and in the character.
During the centuries, there have been many prophets, who foresaw the end of time. From all those prophesies the most accurate and nice (with the archaic meaning of precise) were the ones of the witch Agnes Nutter. The irony is that her book never became popular. So, no-one suspected that the end was very near.
Or the ones that were aware of the end of the world were only a few entities and perhaps a human. The descendant of Agnes Nutter, Anathema Device, had in her possession the only copy of Agnes' book. Also, Crowley and Aziraphale, a demon and an angel, knew very well that this was to be expected as a part of a bigger plan. Indeed, Crowley was the one that changed a human baby with the baby Antichrist. But, a little problem occurred: both Crowley and Aziraphale came to like the Earth and the people on it. As a result, they didn't want for it to end and to go into a war between Heaven and Hell.
This is one of the most interesting stories I've read about the end of the world. To have an angel and a demon be friends for many centuries and unite in order to save Earth was a brilliant idea. I liked the fact that every little action did matter for the outcome of the story. Even when a new character was introduced very close to the end, it was immediately obvious that he would make a difference. Eventually, the story was as crazy as I'd expected it to be.
The characters were a little problematic for me. Crowley and Aziraphale, as well as Anathema Device and Adam Young, were all very likeable and well-developed. But, there were also numerous other characters that appeared in a very small part of the story and thus I couldn't relate or care about them. Those, in fact, were the parts that I had difficulty to get through.
What I really liked about Good Omens is the idea that nothing is purely evil or purely good. This is the human nature and every single character in this novel proves that. Most of the great triumphs and tragedies of history are caused, not by people being fundamentally good ot fundamentally bad, but by people being fundamentally people.
Read full review at: Review: Napalm & Silly Putty by George Carlin, the comedy legend
George Carlin was a legendary comedian. Even before I started getting into stand-up comedy, which was actually pretty recently, I was aware of him. So when I started reading this book I was curious to find out what it would be like. Would his writing style be similar to the way he talked in his lives? Would his jokes be equally funny when they were written down and not performed? These were a few of my questions and I was delighted to find out the result.
Carlin in Napalm & Silly Putty had a great variety of themes that he explored, many of them very typical of him, like the government, religion and death. The chapters didn't have a thematical connection most of the times but throughout the book there were several chapters with Short Takes and The Evening News. From these, Short Takes were my absolute favourite ones that included short jokes, many times one-line long.
The writing style was unique. It resembled the way that Carlin talked, so almost all of the time I imagined him talking. Maybe I should try listening to the audio version of the book. But reading the jokes didn't take any of my enjoyment away, I was constantly laughing out loud. Besides, Carlin had this very characteristic way of expressing himself and he maintained it as it was, with all the profanities and the satirical comments.
After the shock of learning that he has a daughter in Algeria, inspector Jovert gets to know his neighbour Tadashi Omura. The Japanese man has to share an interesting story with the inspector, although he never explains the reason he feels the urge to do so. As Omura's life unravels we learn more about his childhood friend, Katsuo Ikeda, who has played a major part in the story that has brought the elderly man into the present. In the meantime, Omura's complicated story forces Jovert to face his own, buried memories.
The story of The Snow Kimono is filled with love and loss. Great emotions, as well as relationships that feel strong, lead to isolation. Secrets well-hidden eventually come to light and drive the lives of the protagonists into unexpected paths. Memory is a savage editor. It cut's time's throat. In the end, the lives of the people involved seem staged by this strange fate. It's like all of this happened in order to make Jovert and Omura do what they should long ago. But the story is not just emotional. At times, it's shocking and disturbing, making the crimes committed even more painful.
Jovert and Omura are both very likeable characters. The Japanese man at the beginning seems a little weird because he acts like a stalker. He waits for Jovert outside of his apartment, he invites himself in it and even makes an appointment for dinner without asking the inspector beforehand. But as we learn more about his life, we see that he is a man of principle. The French man, on the other hand, is someone that hasn't come to terms that he's retired. This is the reason why he feels that he's missing something from his life. He's offered, though, another explanation for this emptiness and this is the existence of his daughter. At first, he is sceptical towards Omura, but who wouldn't be? Lastly, Katsuo is a self-centered character. He has a way of looking down on everyone else and plays with their feelings. He is the reason for many of Omura's misfortunes.
The Snow Kimono is well-written. The narrative is poetic and this makes it a heartfelt read. Sometimes I lost myself between the stories because the author jumped from one character to another without an introduction or a transitional passage. At other times, I got the feeling that I was reading more Katsuo's story than that of Omura or Jovert. Indeed, most of the narrative concerned incidents from Katsuo's life that Omura was present. Nevertheless, the end was rewarding and I forgot most of my objections.
After reading this novel, I want to search the rest of Mark Henshaw's books. The writing impressed me and the story made me feel a variety of emotions. So, I would say that The Snow Kimono is a novel worth reading. I would recommend it to everyone, especially those who like deep, emotional reads.
Read full review at: http://thereadingarmchair.blogspot.gr/2015/05/title-manga-classics-pride-and.html
I was so excited to review Manga Classics: Pride and Prejudice! I'm basically a Janeite, Pride and Prejudice is one of my favourite books and I've read over the years many of its adaptations and retellings. So when I first learnt that a manga adaptation had been published I couldn't be happier. Some years earlier Marvel had released a graphic novel version of the story, but I was curious to see how this would work in the Japanese style. The result left me totally content.
Do you guys need me to say anything about the story and the characters? This classic love story, which turns out to be a study of the human behaviour as well, is so well known and so much loved, that I couldn't really say anything more. Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy have many obstacles to overcome before they can finally be together. But those obstacles come from themselves, like the pride of Mr. Darcy and the prejudice of Elizabeth.
But what's really important here is the adaptation, from which I was impressed. The story remained the same, everything was included, which was a fact that made me really happy. Even though I knew the story, the dialogue was witty and funny and I giggled and laughed almost all of the time. The illustration was also great and it suited all of the characters. It was amazing to see Mrs. Bennet's expression with sparkling background and hearts when she talks about a possible marriage for her daughters, or Mr. Darcy's awkward expression when he sees Whickham for the first time, or his blushing everytime he talks to Elizabeth.
Sometimes though I got the feeling that Mr. Darcy's and Elizabeth's way of talking was more intimate than it would be expected, especially at the beginning when Elizabeth stays at Netherfield Park. There were also some anachronisms, when for example Mr. Bingley entered Jane's bedroom when she was ill, but I can forgive those, because it made the story easier to understand for those who are not familiar with the ways of that society. What I really missed though is the complete lack of titles, like Mr, Mrs and Miss. During the whole novel everyone called the others either by their given name, or their surname and this is something that sounded wrong to me. These are all minor things that really don't take much out of the enjoyment this manga has to offer.
Manga Classics is a very interesting series and I'd like to read the rest of them too. If the adaptation is that good as it is in Pride and Prejudice then I believe that I'll enjoy them a lot. If you are a fan of Jane Austen, or want to read a different take on this classic novel, this manga is for you. Don't hesitate to pick it up, you won't be disappointed!
Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
Another Manga Classics of another amazing classic novel! After reading Pride and Prejudice, I just needed to read other adaptations that this series included. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a tragic novel and I was curious to see how it would work out. As it turned out, there wasn't any reason for me to worry, as the manga did justice to this touching story.
The adaptation of this novel was as good as the one in Pride and Prejudice. Every important scene was included, giving us the chance to witness not only the progression of the story, but the changes in the characters as well. Sometimes the dialogues felt less heavy than in the actual novel, but this fact made it easier to get through, so I wouldn't say that it bothered me. I also thought that some of the dialogue was transformed in a way that would be easier for the modern reader to digest. So, even if someone hasn't read the original novel would be drawn to the story. Of course, if you are a purist you may find this disturbing.
Judging only from the cover I suspected that the illustration would be beautiful. And I was absolutely right! The faces of the protagonists were so expressive that even without reading the dialogue I could guess what they were thinking. The expression Hester had on her face when she was holding baby Pearl, during her public shaming, was astounding. The angry and defensive face transformed into a tender one, just by looking at her baby. The change on Arthur's face, the husband of Hesther, from the beginning of the novel, also showed what he felt and how his need for vengeance transformed him into a different and malicious man, a fiend as he called himself. Baby Pearl was just so cute, and even a little older she was cute as well, with those big innocent eyes and the bright smile. Another aspect that I really loved about the illustration was the letter A. Most of the the manga are black and white, but in this one the A was always painted red. This not only underlined the letter that gave its name to the novel, but also stood as a constant reminder of the significance it had on the lives of the protagonists.
The Scarlet Letter confirmed what I thought about Manga Classics and now I seriously need to find and read any other adaptations there are in the series. If you are an old fan of the classic novel, or a new reader, I believe you will enjoy greatly this version. It's a different take on the story, but without losing any of it's essence.
Dracula was my lucky choice from the Classics Club Spin, in which I decided to take part for the very first time last April. I won't hide from you that I wanted to read Dracula for a very long time, and I had a copy just sitting on my self. For some reason, all of this time I was reluctant and this spin just gave me the right opportunity to open it and actually read it. It took me though an awfully long time to finish it, but I finally did it!
Jonathan Harker, a young solicitor, travels to Transylvania, in order to meet the respectable Count Dracula. The Count has decided to purchase an estate in London, so Jonathan will help him with all of his legal dealings. The trip though is turned into a nightmare for Jonathan when he discovers the true nature of the Count, and from a guest he finds himself a prisoner. When he manages to escape and at last returns to England, he finds out that Dracula is already there and there have already been observed several weird incidents. When Doctor Van Helsing reveals with certainty the identity of the creature they are dealing with, a group of men, who suffer a great loss from the vampire, decide to hunt Dracula and kill him.
What can I say about the story? It's one of the most well-known stories, that basically put the foundation on the vampire's modern image in later literature. What made this novel really difficult to get through was the narrative. The whole book is written as diary entries, memoranda, or newspaper clippings. This would be great if it helped the story go forward, but the greatest part of these entries was taken by the descriptions of the locations, or repetitions as to what has already been said. I would like to read a scene when the Count take action, to know how he lures his victims, not just the result of him feeding on them. Another problem I had while reading this book, is how some things didn't really match. For example, when Mina started to get paler each day why wouldn't any of the two doctors in the house examine her throat for possible bite marks? This has already happened with Lucy and they were both witnesses to her mysterious illness, death and her becoming undead, so I believe that it would at least be prudent to examine this possibility first. The last thing that disappointed me was that in the end the story was a little anticlimactic. The group travels to Transylvania, finds the Count and it doesn't take long to kill him. I felt that it was a little rushed, especially for a book that was very descriptive up to that point.
Apart from these problems the Count is a character you were afraid of. He was menacing, manipulative, and you never were sure as to what his next actions would be. He was the right image a vampire should have. Even Lucy, when she became one, her characteristics changed and it was great to actually see a difference between the living person and the undead. From the rest of the group Van Helsing was the one I liked the best. He was not afraid to acknowledge the existence of those creature that logic dictated otherwise, he didn't reveal it though very early to the others, because he was aware of how they would react. Also, Renfield was a complex character, because he acted mad, although in the end he was as sane as any man could be. The rest of the group, Jonathan Harker, doctor John Seward, Arthur Holmwood and Quincey Morris, were likable enough characters, but I didn't really cared for them that much. Mina proved to be a key character to the story, although I believe that she was depicted much too perfect a woman to be realistic.
It's not a secret that Puella Magi Madoka Magica is a deconstruction of the magical girl genre. Indeed it's nothing like you would expect it to be. Contrarily this is a manga that not only isn't targeted to a young female audience, but also feels very mature, almost heavy at times. ／人◕ ‿‿ ◕人＼
Madoka Kaname and her friend Sayaka Miki are approached by a magical creature, Kyubey, who urges them to become magical girls. In exchange they will have one wish, whatever that is, granted. But the mysterious transfer student Homura Akemi tries to stop them from making a contract with Kyubey. So, in order to help them a veteran magical girl, Mami Tomoe, takes Madoka and Sayaka with her to watch whan their responsibilities will be. When things start to go wrong another magical girl appears, Kyouko Sakura and things get really complicated, while the truth is slowly revealed. ／人◕ ‿‿ ◕人＼
The story starts off really nicely, but the pace picks constantly up. In that way, things go forward quickly but luckily never rushed. In the beginning there isn't any indication as to what this story is all about, just some girls that thinking about becoming magical girls. But, it becomes quickly obvious that this is a perilous job and sadness is part of the deal. For what wish would anyone be willing to risk losing everthing they have and everyone they love? By the time the final chapter is finished so much has happened that it's sure that no-one will remain unaffected. ／人◕ ‿‿ ◕人＼
The characters in Puella Magi Madoka Magica are all well developed. Each of the five magical girls has its own personality and the way she sees the world. Madoka is a sweet girl, the perfect child, as her mother declares, Sayaka tries to fight for justice, Mami is similar but feels terribly alone, Homura is distant and tries to protect Madoka no matter what and Kyouko seems to care for nothing else than herself. There is also a significant difference on what each of them wished, and each wish has brought equal amount of pain to all of them. Kyubey at the beginning is a cute creature that the girls are consulting, but by the end the hatred towards it is just too much. Indeed, from the second volume and onward I just couldn't stand it! If I could, I would be violent against it, so much hatred! ／人◕ ‿‿ ◕人＼
The illustration is absolutely amazing! These two pages are just a small part of the manga, but you can see how unique it is. All the characters are slightly different from their anime version, but what I really liked is the change in Kyubey's design after we begin to hate him. The witches, the creatures that magical girls have to kill, are very stylish, some of them are even cute. The only thing that I missed from the anime version is the change of atmospere in the mazes, the places where witches live, they are some of the best visual scenes I've ever come across. Oh, and the music! ／人◕ ‿‿ ◕人＼
Puella Magi Madoka Magica didn't disappoint me at all! To be completely honest, I made a significant effort not to sound like a fangirl in the review. But I can't help it, it's amazing! During the third volume I didn't stop crying and at the end I was saying only one thing "It's such a good story". I would recommend it to everyone without any exception. It's only three volumes and if you need a specific reason to read it chapter 10 is one of them. ／人◕ ‿‿ ◕人＼
Full review at http://thereadingarmchair.blogspot.gr/2015/05/review-puella-magi-madoka-magica-by.html
When I read the summary of this book, I thought that it would be weird. Nothing prepared me though for this bizarre journey it turned out to be. Kafka on the Shore begun as a coming-of-age novel, but by the end of it I was not actually convinced that it was.
On one side, Kafka Tamura is a fifteen year old who runs away from his home and thus from his fate, as he believes. On the other, Nakata is a man in his late sixties who can't read or write, but can talk to cats. Both of their lives are bound to intervene, as the events that occur seem more and more predestined. The final act is the one that can restore the balance in the heroes' lives.
The story in Kafka on the Shore, at least in the beginning, is nothing out of the ordinary. A teenager, who has no mother, runs away from home because he cannot go on living with his father. So he plans it very carefully and leaves the day of his fifteenth birthday. A few blocks away from him lives Nakata, who with his special ability to talk with cats, he helps to find lost ones. But as the story slowly progresses, both of the protagonists find themselves into complicated dilemmas, especially Kafka, who has a tendency to overthink things.
There is a definite analogy of this story to the ancient greek tragedy. Indeed, the book focuses on the theme that man cannot choose his fate. Just like Oedipus the King, Kafka is prophesied (or cursed as he considers himself) that he will kill his father and be with his mother and sister. Along the way he meets both a young and an older woman and he believes that they are his sister and his mother, but metaphorically. In fact, most of Kafka's theories are based on metaphors, but does this fact makes them truth? In dreams begin responsibilities, is a quote by Yeats that the young hero often repeats, but are dreams sufficient enough to become reality?
There is a great variety of characters in this novel. Kafka is a very troubled youth, who has various issues. This journey is for him a way to realise and come to terms with them. Nakata has a really lovable way of looking to the world. Because he is simple he cannot think of abstract terms, time is very relative to him and his way of talking is unique. But the characters I loved the most are the ones that helped the main protagonists, Oshima and Hoshino. They couldn't be more different than those two are, one is an intellectual library attendant and the other is a truck driver that feels the need to help the old man without an apparent reason. Apart from them there are also Sakura and Miss Saeki and cameos by Johnnie Walker and Colonel Sanders.
Kafka on the Shore was a weird and a little disappointing read for me. It took me almost half of the book to start to connect with the characters, and near the end I often felt the urge to skip the chapters concerning Kafka, because I was more interested in Nakata and Hoshino. But I have to admit that this book is the one I took the most notes from lately and I'm quiet sure that it will continue to torment me for a long time. For all these reasons I would recommend Kafka on the Shore to all those who like demanding reads and don't really mind the general bizarreness of it. I wouldn't recommend it though if you haven't read any other work by Haruki Murakami before, it might seem a little overwhelming.
Full review at: http://thereadingarmchair.blogspot.gr/2015/05/review-kafka-on-shore-by-haruki-murakami.html
How can such sort stories be filled with so much emotions? This was the first thought that came to mind when I finished reading Kitchen and indeed this book was an emotional rollercoaster. Both of the stories were deeply touching and heartfelt, although they were short and concise.
Kitchen, the first and longest story included in the publication, is about a young woman named Mikage, who has lost her grandmother. She struggles to get over the grief, but it's too difficult for her, because she's left alone in the world, without another blood relation. But she finds hope when she moves in with a young friend of his grandmother, Yuichi, and his mother Eriko. After that she slowly gets closer to both of them, she finds a job and a new apartment. When tragedy comes to Yuichi she has to make an important decision, if she will stand beside him or let him deal with it alone.
In its core Kitchen is a love story, although death and loss and how to go on living after such a difficult situation are present all the time. But there is not a great dramatic gesture or a confession, or even sweet loving words. The feelings develop under the surface and the understanding comes from little gestures, like sometimes happens in real life. Sometimes to bring a takeout is enough, in order to convey the feeling of wanting to be together even if everything is so uncertain.
Full review at: http://thereadingarmchair.blogspot.gr/2015/04/review-kitchen-by-banana-yoshimoto.html