Saturday, September 27, 2008

Book Review: The Great Gatzby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is widely recognized as one the of the finest pieces of American literature. It is a narrative about high-living people in the "Roaring Twenties" and in particular it is the tale of a rich man, Jay Gatsby, obsessed with another man's wife and his pursuit of her just because he is able to and has more money than he knows what to do with.

The way this novel is written is similar to "Heart of Darkness" by Joseph Conrad in that it is one man's narrative about another man, one who is mysterious and draws others towards him and one who has a rather dark aspect to his personality. Gatsby and all the other characters are rather wasteful, idle people who continually gather for meaningless parties and other social meetings, none of whom, it turns out, are real friends.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Book Review: 1000 by Gavin Robertson

1000, by Gavin Robertson, is the story of how a couple of corrupt members of a corrupt system find their lives unraveling. Between them Simon Northcott and Buddy Martial have a brilliant scheme which hacks into the Foreign Exchange markets and extracts money in seconds. Unfortunately there scheme does not go undetected and they find themselves in a tough situation.

The premise behind this novel is reasonably interesting but the mechanics of it is so complicated that the author does not even attempt to explain properly what it involves, leaving the reader rather poorly informed as to what is really going on. Likewise, the structure of the novel is such that it takes four or five chapters before one is really aware of what these men do, and the beginning of the book is largely devoted to reconstructing a rather hackneyed back story for the main characters.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Book Review: The Story of Zahra by Hanan Al-Shaykh

The Story of Zahra is Hanan Al-Shaykh's novel about the life of a young woman dealing with her madness in war-torn Lebanon. She is sent to visit a relative in Africa as a rest cure but after electro-shock therapy she is worse than ever and returns to Beirut in the peak of the fighting.

Some interesting themes are touched upon in this book particularly how people deal with living in a war zone but the central theme of mental illness is rather poorly dealt with in my opinion. The subplot of madness seems to have been created to excuse the writer's inability to write in anything other than a disjointed style and many of the portrayals of madness appeared very cliched to me. In the Story of Zahra, none of the other characters are developed to any degree and this makes it bewildering as to why Zahra reacts to them in the way she does and what exactly fuels her mental state.