Archive for May, 2008

Then We Came To The End – Joshua Ferris

May 31, 2008

Joshua Ferris - Then We Came To The EndI’d heard a lot of hype about Then We Came To The End before reading it, but not much about the actual content of the novel.

C had bought it in hardback soon after it was published in the UK, so I had to wait until she’d finished it before delving into this widely-feted first novel by Joshua Ferris.

So what’s it all about? Well, it’s told from the point of view of a worker in an ad agency that is going through a tough time and beginning a series of lay-offs.

The action takes place almost exclusively in the office, and you meet all the different people who work there, with all their foibles and idiosyncrasies laid bare.

Anyone who works, or has worked, in an office will recognise the behaviour and traits of the novel’s characters, and how all of life is played out between meetings, emails, phone calls and lunchtimes.

Although all the characters have their faults, their strengths are also given an airing and ultimately all are given a human face, regardless of their standing in the company.

For me, the thing that was most evident, though, was that however many hours you spend with someone in an office, week-in and week-out, it’s rare that your work colleagues really know each other than well.

There are always private sides of people that remain hidden and office behaviour is often a cover for something far bigger going on in people’s lives.

The novel is funny, sad, poignant and very, very true to life. I imagine there are many people who think it’s their own office that has been portrayed.

One final note: this is completely unlike Ricky Gervais’ depiction of The Office (in both meanings). Whereas Gervais’ characters were drawn for comedic effect first and foremost, all the people who crop up, however briefly, in Ferris’ novel are well-rounded and highly believeable.

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Pig – Andrew Cowan

May 30, 2008

I took A to the park today which has a small city petting farm.

There are two pigs among the animals in the farm and watching them lounging in the sun, soaking up the rays reminded me of a book I read way back in 1995, after it was given to me by my boss.

Tim, my then boss, went to university with the author Andrew Cowan and took a writing course at UEA together – the same one that the likes of Ian McEwan and Kazuo Isihiguro took.

Pig was Cowan’s first novel – and Tim is mentioned in the acknowledgements – and was feted, winning the Betty Trask Award and the Ruth Hadden Memorial Prize.

So what’s it like? Well, it’s basically a coming-of-age novel about Danny, a 15-year-old who decides to take care of his family’s elderly pig after his grandma dies and grandad is taken to a home, much to the amusement of his family.

Danny has a girlfriend, Surinder, and together they have to cope with racism from the locals and discovering love and sex for the first time.

It’s been compared to Catcher In The Rye, albeit a British version, and is written so movingly and beautifully that it deserves a far wider audience.

Although set in a modern time, most of the characters attitudes and prejudices belong to a time hopefully long forgotten.

The novel has been reissued and I urge you to seek it out and enjoy a wonderful first novel.

The Old Man of Lochnagar – HRH The Prince Of Wales

May 29, 2008

Long before the likes of Madonna, Sarah Ferguson, Geri Halliwell and the rest of the current crop of ‘celebrity’ children’s books came The Old Man of Lochnagar from none other than Prince Charles.

I got this from my Dad and step-mum for Christmas 1980 and from what I remember there was quite a bit of kerfuffle when this was published.

Basically, Prince Charles had written this story for his younger brothers, Andrew and Edward, 11 years previously, when they were only 9 and 5, to keep them entertained during a voyage on HMS Britannia.

So what’s the book like? Well, it’s a fairly entertaining read about an old man who lives in a cave in Scotland and his adventures around the loch and all the other odd little creatures and animals from the locality.

Looking at it now, probably 20 years since I last read it, it seems quite quaint and old-fashioned and the language seems quite difficult for such a young age group.

Having not bought into the latest crop of celeb novelists, I can’t really compare, but it’s not that bad.

If you’re after a bit of history, then seek out a copy – just don’t go expecting a Jacqueline Wilson or Philip Pullmann.