Monthly Reads | Part 2

As promised, part 2 of my monthly reads, a follow on from July. Enjoy!

The Rum Diary – a very masculine book and in places, difficult to swallow. ‘Man’ comes through every word; there isn’t a touch of feminine to it. But that’s who he was. I think Thompson’s writing is decent, if not a little disjointed at times. When I think back on the book, I see it more a patchwork of fiction, like some parts could actually standalone as short stories, rather than something with a sustained thread running through, but it is enjoyable; atmosphere is conveyed and sustained very well, to the point where you do feel like you are in the Caribbean sweating on the beach, and even if you don’t like the characters, they do feel well developed.

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The Rum Diary is a book very much of it’s time: the moral, the corruption, the treatment of women. A feminist could really go to town and unpick every little nod to the depiction of women and write a book of itself. It is a very typical 1960’s middle aged male viewpoint, touched with alcoholism. Even the writing itself is incredibly masculine. But despite all this however, it works.  That’s not to say I support it all, but it’s very cleverly crafted.

After reading I watched the film, and as usual was disappointed. There was something they didn’t quite capture about the book – some essence. It’s missing a Thompson touch. There’s some irony however in the abuse depicted in the book and the alleged abuse that followed in real life…

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I love black literature. Absolutely love it. I find it enthralling and magnetic, completely different to books by white people it’s unexplainable. In fact during my degree it was a module we covered for a whole year and one of the ones I scored the highest on over the three years. However Americanah and I just could not get on. I really tried but it was so slow. Barack Obama had recommend it on his Summer reading list and I managed to source a copy in my local library; two weeks later it was back on the shelves. It wasn’t anything in particular that I disliked, rather I couldn’t get into it. The writing was fine but I found the pace slow. Usually I have to be hooked within the first few pages to continue but by the third chapter this felt like a battle, so I gave up.  I couldn’t confidently tell you what it was about other than a man and woman once in love, now apart, being reunited.

I’m sure there are plenty of people who love this book, and rightly so; she’s a respected author in her own right, but it wasn’t for me.

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‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.’ Tell me there isn’t a better iambic pentameter than that. Even as you read it you feel yourself pulled down the driveway with open gates on a dark night.

Raise a hand if like me you enjoy Daphne Du Maurier.

I stumbled across her short story collection by mistake in the library. They were published before Rebecca in magazines and some have been revised again since. What I liked is that none were quite the same as the other, as you can sometimes find with short stories. Each was unique. Du Maurier had a knack for bending the Gothic structure to fit her writing. For example sometimes, as with the Gothic Genre, she depicts women as the weaker sex forever in need of saving. However in the story The Doll, there is a stereotype role reversal and it is the man who is driven mad by the woman and needs to be rescued.

Likewise in East Wind a husband and wife living on an isolated island share a relationship where it’s believed sex is submission to man’s pleasure. As the line goes ‘She put away his cold hands from her, and gave herself to her own dreams, where he could have no entrance.’ Life on the island is plain and uncomplicated. But a change is brought by an East wind; lewd sailors arrive and change the islanders lives forever. Partying, sex and desire are introduced to sheltered people and it is the very same woman who at the end of the novel, stands on top of the cliff and allows herself to be pleasured by a stranger while her husband drinks himself to blackness. Her journey from green housewife to sexual freedom is complete.

Some of the stories are clear she was early in her writing career where the plot is a bit slow or not as engaging, and there’s even hints in some parts that unconsciously Rebecca was brewing in the back of her mind. But she is a good story teller and her short stories are comparable to Roald Dahl’s.


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