Monday, 12 April 2010

What I've been reading

Not much really. Haven't been in the best form. Life isn't going exactly like I wanted, and that has affected my reading habits big time. As usual, when I feel down, books are not what I look for. I just can't concentrate long enough. I need mindless jobs like knitting, or cleaning the house. Or even movies, although they can lead to even more tears so I'm avoiding them for now as well.
But anyway, I hope everyone who's participated in the Dewey's Read-a-thon last weekend has had a wonderful time. I know I did when I took part last year. Maybe I'll be in better form in October.
So, what I'd like to talk about now is the two books I've read recently.
One is Piggy Monk Square by Grace Joliffe
Set in Liverpool in the 70's, it's the story of 9-year-old Sparra who lives in one of the toughest districts in town, and is used to play in the streets with her best mate Debbie. Their favourite place is a bombed-out square called Piggy Monk. Of course it's dangerous and of course it's forbidden, but that is exactly why they love it so much. One day a young policeman patrolling the area discovers their secret hidey-hole and warns them to keep out. Then an accident occurs and the two girls are faced with something bigger than them and can't think of anything but run away.
As usual with the best books I've read, this is not just about the story. There's much more going for it. There's Sparra's parents who are struggling to hold together their marriage although they love each other. There's the witchy mad auntie Mo who likes to stir up trouble, and Sparra's mother's cool best friend Josie who takes care of Sparra when her parents need to sort things out.
Then there's school. Where beating and abusing the kids for being late or giving the wrong answers is still acceptable. Especially in a working class area like where Sparra lives, in which children's rights are not a priority that concerns the authorities.
Piggy Monk Square reminded me a lot of Paddy Clarke Ah Ah Ah by Roddy Doyle, in a good way. It enters the mind of a 9-year-old child perfectly, showing us what the world looks like at that age: there's the monsters, which can take the form of coppers with handcuffs, or of imaginary psycho-killers, or of school principles with anger-management problems. There's the delights of sudden trips to the beach, or of getting tons of your favourite sweets with the change in the shop. And then there's the adult world, which can be so confusing and complicated. The coppers who are supposed to protect you, are abusive and scary and your parents who are only supposed to be together and love you, are splitting up and there's nothing you can do about it.
The book also does a good job in giving a feel of the time. Of what it meant to be a working class family in the 70's in Liverpool. And more importantly, it is written in this deceptively simple way which is so easy to fall in love with. It's a shame is not more well-known, it deserves to be read.

The other book I've read (finally!) is The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale.
I can't imagine anyone not liking this book. It's just one of those which are just too good to find something that can be said against them. I for one wasn't familiar with the original fairy tale, so I also had the unknown factor working on my favour. But what really got me was the writing. So beautiful, and original, and at the same time so perfectly in tune with the fairy-tale atmosphere. Shannon Hale uses the original story as a canvas to paint her own imagined world for princess Anidori. The storyline is something like a guide around which the author as let her imagination flow wonderfully.
I was drawn into it since the beginning. The writing won me over immediately, but then it was the characters which I longed to return to. Ani's journey is not only physical. She leaves her kingdom as a frighten child, and she becomes a confident, smart and brave young woman by the end of the book. She's just the perfect heroine. And then there's all the minor characters which make the book so special. I'm talking about the Forest born, Enna, and Finn, and Gilsa, and all of them really. I almost didn't want Ani to leave her geese and achieve her destiny. I loved the part where she slowly becomes a part of that community the most.
I'm sorry if I'm gushing about it without even an hint of an introduction to the story and the characters. I sort of assumed everyone else has read it except me, which is of course not true. But if you haven't by this stage, I think you should definitely go and read it, and after that, my review will make more sense to you, that's all I can say.
Now I'm in the middle of its sequel, Enna Burning, which features one of my favourite characters, so I'm expecting a lot from it. I don't think it'll disappoint.


Nymeth said...

I've actually seen negative reviews of The Goose Girl, mostly on the grounds that it's a shallow and brainless book. Which I completely disagree with :P I can't wait to hear your thoughts on Enna Burning!

Debi said...

I absolutely, positively adore The Goose Girl!!!! :D

And wow...but you have me so eager to read Piggy Monk Square! I'd never even heard of it before, but it sounds wonderful!

And Valentina...I really hope things start looking up soon. *hugs*

Darla D said...

I'm sorry to hear things have been rough lately - I hope they get better for you soon. I loved The Goose Girl too - but I haven't heard of the other book - it sounds gripping.

mariel said...

So glad you loved The Goose Girl, and I do hope you enjoy Enna Burning just as much! Sorry to hear that you are having a rough time at the moment. I hoep things improve soon.

valentina said...

Ana, I can't imagine what goes on in those people minds, seriously!

Debi,thanks, things are still pretty crap that's why I haven't been reading at all, let alone blogging:(

Darla, I don't know if Piggy Monk Square was released in the States, but if you do come across it pick it up!

Mariel, I'm still half way through Enna Burning, but tbh I haven't read a page in days. Hope things will come back to normal at some point!