Wednesday 7 January 2015

A good week's reading......

Three rather enjoyable books this week, all quite dark and all confronting issues of mental illness in one way or another. Part of me thinks I really need to dig out some books that don't deal with mental illness, but there you go.

So I started my week by reading I RememberYou by the wonderful Yrsa Sigurdardottir. Her books have always been somewhat more bloody than your average bit of Scandi crime, but they have also been getting increasingly spooky as they have moved through the group. This is her first proper horror/spooky book, one that you will find in the Horror section. Ignoring the 'Don't read after dark' tagline I read this alone, after dark and was suitably freaked out by the disturbing story of haunted islands, dead children and malevolent spirits. I think I enjoyed it and as a spook-fest it certainly works VERY well.  

My next read was The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones by Jack Wolf, I'd been keen to read it for a while. I love a good bit of Gothic noir and that's what I was expecting. Having read it I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand it is a wonderfully gothic story of madness, murder and 18th century medicine. It has a feeling of 'Perfume' or 'De Sade's Valet' about it, in it's descriptions of Sado-Masochistic and Sadistic sexual preferences, half imagined supernatural beings and medical teachings of the period. As a depiction of the 18th Century through the eyes of a Manic and probably Psychotic gentleman medical student it works brilliantly. However at times the descriptions of the world, as seen through the eyes of Tristan Hart, become simply too bizarre to deal with. His 'meetings' with demons and faeries while suffering from his bouts of madness, make the distinction between fantasy and fact difficult to make and hampered my reading of this at times. This is also a book that contains some very dark sexual practises, often graphically depicted. 50 Shades has nothing on this novel which evidently owes much to Jack Wolf having presumably read and reread the writings of De Sade. There were moments here which seemed to have been drawn almost directly from De Sade's 120 Days of Sodom. The style is wonderfully authentic in it's 18th century, gothic debauchery, however this really does not necessarily make it an easy book to read. It's certainly not one for the squeamish or prudish.

Now Alice and the Fly by bookseller James Rice. A friend of mine had been so freaked out by the start of this book that he had been unable to finish it, so it was with some trepidation that I started to read. This is a very dark and disturbing book. 'Fly' is the weird kid at school, the one who mutters away to himself, the one who stares at other kids, the one who has a fit if confronted with a spider (real or imaginary). Fly is messed up; but then so is his family, and his neighbourhood, and in fact the whole town where he lives. Then again we can't be 100% confident that anything is as it seems as he does not make a very reliable narrator for this story of his break from reality. The novel's suspense builds towards a very disturbing and horrible conclusion.
Having now read three books about mental illness of one kind or another this year, I'm off to find something a little more cheerful....

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