Sunday, 7 February 2016

Look Who's Back ~ Timur Vermes

Pages: 352
Read: January 2016

This isn’t my normal genre of novel, but then again I’m struggling to put it in a genre.  Amazon has (at the time of writing this) gone with ‘Contemporary Fiction’ and I’ll go along with the vagueness of that.  This book made me laugh, it made me cringe and it made me think.  I picked this up after I saw it hauled in a YouTube video (yes, I am a marketers dream) Emma summarised the plot during that Waterstones haul and once I’d looked at it on Amazon for about the tenth time I accepted that I was going to need to buy it to satisfy my curiosity.

Trying to avoid any spoilers, the premise is that Adolf Hitler wakes up in modern day Germany and is mistaken for a scarily accurate impersonator who refuses to break character and quickly grabs the attention of a television producer.  With no proof to his identity Hitler tries to adjust to modern day life; from discovering the internet, social media and cash machines to Germany being run by a woman and he’s getting the attention of more and more people everytime he speaks.

Despite the time travel in the opening pages this isn’t a fantasy book, the hows and whys of those first few pages aren’t actually ever explained.  At first I found that quite irritating, I wanted to know! How has one of history’s most notorious characters just re-appeared, and why now and why only him?  The more I read the more I seemed to forget about my initial gripe and enjoyed the actual point of the book.  A fictional exploration of a human reaction, every character the book is unaware of the spontaneous and very selective time travel thing that’s suddenly possible and knows that Adolf Hitler died in 1945 so when the masses laugh at his speeches on the telly and share his Youtube videos all over social media they’re doing so believing it’s all being done in a humorous, satirical manner but ultimately, intentionally or not Hitler’s message is getting shared again and that made this not only an interesting read but a thought provoking one.

The film adaptation "Er ist wieder da?" (the original German title) was a massive success in Germany in October 2015 so here's hoping there's a DVD release with English subtitles at somepoint.

It took me a while to read this, at around 360 pages it’s not massively long at all but it became a bit of a secondary book for me. It didn’t hook me in a way that made me resent putting it down but I was enjoying it enough to keep picking it back up. I’ve mentioned it to so many people over the few months it took me to read it; the plot premise has been met with many a quizzical look and started several unusual conversation so if you’re after something a little bit different I’d defiantly recommend adding this one to the ‘to be read’ list.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

How To Build A Girl ~ Caitlin Moran

Oh Caitlin Moran, where to start? Your wit? Your humour? Your eyeliner?  All are consistently awesome. Though maybe I should stop before this gets a bit like a certain Dolly Wilde article (#spoilers) and just say I’m a bit of a fan.

This is my second delve into one of Moran’s novels, How To Be a Woman was *que slightly ashamed head tilt* the first real book or even article on feminism I’d ever read; it remains to this day one of my favourite books, massively thought provoking while being ridiculously funny but I digress; the point is I finally got round to reading the latest offering and was not disappointed!

So, how to summarise without ruining everything for you, Johanna Morrigan is a 14 year old who simply wants a little bit more than her current lot in life; sound familiar? I’d be surprised if most people didn’t relate to her even a little bit; but personally it almost creepy.  Johanna wants her life to be like a film; she wants to make something of herself but (let’s be honest) unlike most of us she decides to do something about it.  She becomes the character which inside her head she believes she needs to be and starts to live, professionally at least as Dolly Wilde.  Through Dolly and a shit-tonne of eyeliner she finds the confidence to start pursuing her dreams of writing and finds herself thrown into the new, exciting world she thinks she’s always wanted to be a part of.

More than the actual plot of midlands teenager becomes London journalist, this supposedly semi-autobiographically novel is about a girl growing up, about personal discovery and what I love the most about Moran’s writing is that she doesn’t fluff things up or round off corners.  The situations Johanna finds herself in throughout How to Build a Girl could be real and they’re written honestly, sometimes shockingly honestly.  As someone who was once a teenage girl and has subsequently become an adult woman there are so many things I look back on and wish I could have done differently; there were so many points through reading this I wanted to shout aloud at the book “Don’t. Just don’t.” and continued to read through cringey giggles.

Being fairly local to Wolverhampton the constant local references made me smile, but I imagine they’d be just as amusing and relatable to anyone outside of the midlands. 

I found it addictive from the off; if you’ve not read it I highly recommend heading down to your local book retailer and reading the first two pages.  I actually tried this with my boyfriend who’s summary of the start of the book was that it contained the best metaphor for the Berlin wall he’d ever heard – and no I won’t explain, just go find out.