The Eye of the World – Robert Jordan

The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, an Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.

Admittedly, it’s not much of a synopsis for the book but what it does do is set the scene of long ages past, an established world, and a cyclical recurring of Shadow.  The beginning of the story does have a similarity to Tolkien’s, The Lord of the Rings, to give you some idea of the direction of the book, but soon opens out into something pleasingly different, once it gets going.

I savoured the beginning much more this second time around, knowing all that would happen in the next 13 instalments, it was good to appreciate the build up.  Straight from the off there are plenty of details fleshing out the land and its peoples, and a compelling legend of the local area.  The world building was one of the main reasons I came back to this series.

The burgeoning foundations are very solid, and also puts many important pieces in play for later books, something the reader won’t appreciate without the hindsight of latter entries, and a reread.  There is plenty of peril coming from all angles which keeps the story moving, and the atmosphere is heavy on the hunted feel, where anyone or anything could be masking  its own hidden purposes. Continue reading “The Eye of the World – Robert Jordan”

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Patty Lou Cutting: The Clive Cussler Conundrum

As we all know, odd little facts about a story can stay with the reader for years, so after last week’s team success in finding a book I had sought for years, I thought I would throw another wider ranging mystery your way to capture your imaginations.

I touched on this a few years ago in another aged post, along with some other various things. It comes from the book Inca Gold, a book of action, adventure, and a lost treasure, which always adds something thrilling to a story.

Towards the end of the book, protagonist Dirk Pitt comes across the grave of 10-year-old girl, Patty Lou Cutting, in the Sonoran Desert, Mexico, upon which the are the words:

The dark night some stars shine through.

The dullest morn a radiant brew.

And where dusk comes, God’s hand to you.

The significance of which is never expanded upon, it just hangs there cryptically, tantalisingly challenging the reader with its nebulous presence. Continue reading “Patty Lou Cutting: The Clive Cussler Conundrum”

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle – Haruki Murakami

In a Tokyo suburb, a young man named Toru Okada searches for his wife’s missing cat – and then for his wife as well – in a netherworld beneath the city’s placid surface.  As these searches intersect, he encounters a bizarre group of allies and antagonists.

Reading this novel is certainly an arresting experience. There is a cold aspect to the writing, a sense of detachment, which makes it nonetheless strangely compelling.   The relaxed tone of the narrator makes this a novel of normality and functionality of life, which heavily contrasts with the extraordinary and the imaginative (or is it supernatural?) rabbit hole it soon encompasses.

Murakami doesn’t always join the dots, or at least not in an obvious way. I like that.  Instead he encourages the reader to consider the bigger themes. It’s a thought-provoking piece of literature in many ways, crammed full with lots of symbolism and elusive connections, and one exceptionally gory scene which was a bit much, when it came to the details.

There is a rare insight into the Japanese people and their history, regarding the occupation of Northern China and the Manchurian campaigns of World War II.  The themes of how different types of power and pain that can drive a person, and how different spaces can affect the mind are a constant companion, the book is about the physical as much as the psychological. Continue reading “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle – Haruki Murakami”

Book Memory…or imagined?

A comment from Victoria – on recent post A Pound of Paperabout a book she was trying to remember the title of, got me thinking about my own quest for a book from yesteryear that remains an enigma.

Back when I was in school, I vividly remember reading a book about a patchwork quilt. The details still stored in my brain are thus:

A child is fascinated with a quilt and each square patch provides a mini adventure for the narrator.  I believe the adventures were completely in the mind of the child, as opposed to actually being trapped in the quilt.

One section fascinated me above all, a tunnel was the particular patchwork picture this time, and the child is walking through it.  It’s dark and footsteps echo loudly, they sound like someone following, paranoia strikes and some running towards the light at the end of the tunnels follows ensues.

As I remembered those specifics as well as I did, it must still be worth a reread just for that specific section, and so at every opportunity I trawl lots of charity shops, market stalls, libraries, and of course bookshops on a quest to enjoy my bit of nostalgia. Continue reading “Book Memory…or imagined?”

A Pound of Paper – John Baxter

In rural Australia of the fifties where John Baxter grew up, reading books was regarded with suspicion; owning and collecting them with utter incomprehension. Despite this, by the age of eleven Baxter had ‘collected’ his first book The Poems of Rupert Brooke.  He’d read it often, but now he had to own it.  This modest purchase marked the beginning of an obsession that would take him all over the world…

This is the book to devour. It has inspired my many forays into mass purchasing, the impact of which had waned somewhat, but has now thankfully been reinforced on rereading this.  A Pound of Paper, is not only a call to read, but to read widely; to gather, and appreciate the book as a whole, not just for the words therein.

It’s always a delight to discover how a fellow reader started, and carried on their journey. Details of their collection, and their escalation is both an encouragement  – as if any were needed – and pure literary porn. This reader ate up Baxter’s enthusiastic retelling of his adventures, which range between  comic and cringe with alarming regularity.

One of the best things about A Pound of Paper is the forays into, and finding beauty within, the obscure, even the badly written.  There is an element of snobbery here, one could argue, but it doesn’t spoil anything, and I for one enjoy the jaunt into the arcane passageways of literature that I would have  otherwise missed. Continue reading “A Pound of Paper – John Baxter”

Book Memories #3 The Eye of the World

After the obligatory reading of all the Middle Earth literature, there came a hankering for another Big Fantasy, and perusing the pages of the Waterstones Quarterly magazine back in 2001, I came across a review for the paperback version of Winter’s Heart, book nine of the (then) ongoing wheel of time series.

The bite sized paragraph review spoke of convoluted quests, many characters, and wanderings on a vast map.  Naturally, I was sold on this.  Not only for the amount of words to read (the overall total for the series being 4,410,036 according to Wikipedia) but the word convoluted appealed, greatly too.

Almost two decades since I picked up that first entry, and I again plucked it from a bookshop’s shelf home, due to a hankering for the series.   The covers in the UK are now a fancy black but this cover (as was my original) is of a quite unimpressively realised depiction of some of the main characters.  Thankfully only my original books one and two were these hand drawn creations.  Although I imagine many fans were annoyed by the mid series change of cover that came about before book ten (and if I remember rightly the lone prequel New Spring).

Having read a few things in the glossary whilst in the shop, I was eager to delve straight into its 782 pages, there were so many characters and events popping back into my head.  It’s good to return in this world, I enjoy being there even if nothing happens (not an exaggeration) in book ten. I am just happy to relive the adventure in Jordan’s world. Continue reading “Book Memories #3 The Eye of the World”

Ironweed – William Kennedy

Francis Phelan, ex-ballplayer, part-time gravedigger full-time drunk, has hit bottom.  Years ago he left Albany in a hurry after killing a scab during a trolley workers’ strike; he ran away after accidentally – and fatally – dropping his infant son.  Now, in 1938, Francis is back in town, roaming the old familiar streets with his hobo pal Helen, trying to make peace with the ghosts of the past and the present.

Having never heard of this melancholy tale before, it now seems like a bit of a travesty on my part to have gone so long without doing so.  Although it’s the third book in the Albany Cycle, it can be read as a stand alone (as I read it), and will probably be followed by a wish to read the rest.

A (pleasing) mention of the infamous H.G. Wells radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds sets the time of the novel in late 1938,  a few years before America would enter the soon to start World War II.  A time when opportunity would present itself in an unprecedented scale, the irony of which will not be lost on the reader.

Likeable Francis, a drifter returning home, is the central focus of a story that encapsulates, poverty, the failure of the American dream, guilt and the consequences of his actions.  Francis undergoes an unlayering of personality – almost archaeologically so – throughout the book,  as circumstance teases out his recollected memories of both his high and low points. Continue reading “Ironweed – William Kennedy”