Monday, July 9, 2007

A Mixed Bag (The Virgin's Lover, A Sense of the World, The Eyre Affair)

In the interest of my new goal to write at least a blurb about every book I read for the rest of the year, I'm combining a very random selection of books. Bear with me. :) Oh, and in case it isn't obvious, I decided to read The Eyre Affair first; I started and finished it last night (up waaay past my bed time!).

The Virgin's Lover by Philippa Gregory

I'd heard a lot about Gregory but never read anything. So when I saw this in the library, I thought it'd be as good a time as any to check her out; I love good historical fiction. Unfortunately, I wouldn't classify this as good historical fiction. First off, a quick plot summary: Elizabeth is on her throne, but it's a very shaky throne. Her childhood friend Robert Dudley sees Elizabeth, and the love that grows between them, as his way to ultimate power in England. But, Dudley is already married. What will happen? I'll give Gregory this: she knows how to write a good yarn. I read this very quickly, and even when I realised I didn't like it I was already two-thirds of the way through it. So, why did I only give it two stars? Well, first of all I didn't like any of the characters. It's difficult to enjoy a novel when you dislike all the people in it; I didn't really care what happened to any of them. Secondly, it didn't feel like authentic historical fiction; the narrative voices of the different characters (Gregory switches pov) sounded contemporary. That annoyed me. I know that a lot of people really like Gregory, and I think she'd be a good fluff author. This just wasn't my style of fluff. :)

A Sense of the World by Jason Roberts

I saw this in the library's new non-fic section, and since I'm trying to up my non-fic reads, I grabbed it. It's a biography of a late eighteenth-century/early nineteenth explorer James Holman. Holman travelled through the world more than any of his contemporaries, and he was blind. Roberts (the biographer) came across a reference to The Blind Traveller in the course of other research and became fascinated with Holman. Unfortunately, not many papers survive. Therefore, although this is non-fiction, Roberts fills in many of the blanks with his imagination. The book was very well-written; I enjoyed following along with the story. However, from a scholarly point of view, Roberts takes astonishing liberties. Fortunately, history isn't my field, so the liberties didn't bother me. :) Instead, I loved going with this blind man across the Russian Siberia, through the Brazilian interior, and around the rest of the globe. I'd recommend this to anyone who enjoys biographers or armchair travel. In fact, I think it'd make a good selection for Lesley's new challenge!

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

I read this book a couple of years ago, and I distinctly remember wondering what all the fuss was about. However, I've heard so many good things about the series in the blogging community that I decided to give it another chance. So, I mooched the first two Thursday Next books. Last night, I cracked open the first one. And I loved it! I don't know how I've changed in the three years since I read it last, but obviously I have. The series takes place in an alternate universe where England is ruled by the Goliath Corporation and literature is a governmental concern. Thursday Next is part of the Literatec, the special ops people who are concerned with any literary crime (forgery, etc.). It's small peanuts compared to other special ops units; however, Next finds herself upgraded when an oddly powerful sociopath who used to be her professor is on the loose. He's decided to begin holding literary characters for ransom; it's up to Next to save Jane Eyre! The story is full of hilarious literary references, as well as just enough romance to satisfy my girly soul. :D I can't wait to read the sequel! If you haven't read this yet, I'd give it a shot. much for the marathon reviewing. I'm working on more in-depth reviews of Dangerous Liasons and The Woman in White. Blogging can be tiring sometimes!


Gentle Reader said...

Thanks for the get some sleep! No, just kidding..but there is something great about staying up late reading; it takes me back to my childhood when I had to sneak a flashlight under the covers! I'm considering reading The Eyre Affair--it's one of those books I first heard about on blogs, and it does sound good!

Sarah said...

I felt the same when I first read The Eyre Affair- I couldn't see what the fuss was about. I suspect the problem was with me rather than the book, so I'll have to try it again.