An American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

At times, American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld is a good and interesting read. At other times, the story-telling seems to drift. I found sex descriptions in the earlier sections of the book very off-putting — they were way too graphic and seemed to add nothing to the telling of the story. Arguably they even take away from the impact of otherwise powerful incidents. Admittedly, I may be in a minority on this point given the huge popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey. I felt that this could have been a better book if it had been more vigourously edited. That said, I found it for the most part a quick and easy read and is moderately entertaining.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

When a member of our book club first suggested that we read Life of Pi by Yann Martel, I was lukewarm about the choice. Although I had heard of the book, I did not know much about it.

For a long time the ‘Pi’ in the title made me think this was a book about mathematics and somehow that wasn’t enough to grab me.

In the event, I’m glad the book club prompted me to read it. And what a surprise and what a delight it turned out to be. After a slow start, albeit interesting and readable, the action kicks in when the protagonist, Pi, is marooned at sea with a Bengal tiger for company.

It is exciting, unputdownable, astonishing and truly entertaining. I strongly recommend it and defy you not to enjoy it!

A Week in December by Sebastian Faulks

A Week in December by Sebastian Faulks aims to be a state of the nation novel.

Set in London, the novel follows the stories of a number of different characters who are bound together by their connection to a dinner party being hosted by one of them. Some of the individual story lines are more interesting than others. The portrayal of, John Veals, the banker is one of the stronger elements and one where the author’s research genuinely adds to the telling of the tale. I also enjoyed the barrister character, Gabriel and his schizophrenic brother. Less appealing are the footballer and some of the others.

Distractions

The trouble is that with so many different story lines in the same novel, you never really get to know as much as you might like to and, in the end, the individual stories don’t really gel as a whole. There is also the distraction of some allusions to the virtual world – Parralax for Second Life, for example – that somehow get in the way without really adding to the tale.

For me, this was a staccato and ultimately disappointing read. If you have never read Sebastian Faulks, I would not suggest starting with this novel but, because he is a writer capable of great works, like Birdsong, I would definitely recommend that you have him on your list. If, like me, you are a fan, then I do think it is worth giving A Week in December a go and I’d be interested to know what you make of it.

See also A Possible Life.