Wednesday, 16 December 2009

We Are All Made of Glue by Marina Lewycka

Fig Tree
Glue? Really?
Our heroine, Georgie Sinclair, is a freelancer on Adhesives in the Modern World. But the glue thing is more about how we, like, bond.
Who’s Lewycka?
Pronounced Levitzka; she wrote A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian (a surprise hit) and Two Caravans (less so). Her million-selling books are hilarious, but about deeply serious subjects. In this case, that includes Israel and Palestine.
This is a stick-’em-up?
Of human bondage. Georgie, daughter of a gritty North of England Commie (“If they ‘adn’t shut all t’pits, they wouldn’t be so mad for oil now, would they?”) has split up with her nerdy husband, and needs human contact.
She finds a new man?
She finds an old woman. Mrs Shapiro lives in a spooky mansion with seven cats. “When you see a good man you just grebbit quick,” she advises Georgie.
Rock steady
But Mrs S falls on the ice and a social worker plots with an estate agent to sell the mansion and grab a profit.
Sticky situation?
She’s sending desperate messages from the ‘care home’ - but Georgie has fallen into the Velcro-handcuff clutches of devilish Mark Diabello, the estate agent.
A demon lover?
Things start to go suspiciously wrong in the absent Mrs Shapiro’s house, and Georgia calls in Mr Ali the handyman. “Jews live here?” he asks, looking at the mezuzah on the door.
You’re giving it all away!
Not. There’s much more - brilliant, funny, and you’ll learn about Israel and Palestine, the Holocaust, the Danish Jews who were saved -
And the pusscats?
Lewycka writes great animals. The rapist Wonder Boy, delicate Violetta, The Stinker and the other cats are as real as the Palestinians, the surprise Israeli, the Jesus-freak son, angry husband and the rest.
But is it good?
Better than good. Get the flu just so you can stay home, tucked under a duvet with a warm fire and a mug of spicy chicken soup and gobble up this book.

Under the Dome by Stephen King

Hodder & Stoughton

The dome in the tome?
‘Under the Dome’ is Americanspeak for happenings in Washington: Stephen King is symbolically writing about his government in this stonking great thing.
Tell the tale
A Maine town is cut off from the rest of the world by an invisible dome that clangs down, chomping off a woman’s arm, neatly halving a woodchuck and de-nosing a plane in midflight.
Yeah, it starts big. The US government sends in the army, as is its wont. But nothing gets through the dome: not missiles, not acid, certainly not troops.
And inside?
Inside, it’s like a speeded-up view of the onset of Naziism. The corrupt Selectmen (like county councillors) already have a giant meth lab running behind the Jesus is King radio station…
Surprising, all right. The police chief dies when his pacemaker explodes in the Dome’s electrical field, and evil used-car salesman and Selectman Jim Rennie hires thugs as policemen.
But there’s a hero?
Naturally. Dale Barbara - regretful Iraq veteran and short-order cook - is named by the President as leader. But Rennie ain’t havin any.
Rubbing my hands here
So was I. But after the first 200 pages, which rip along, it stumbles around for the next 700. Our Barbie isn’t MacGyver. A second crash - of an Irish jetliner - is desultorily treated. The characters are great and there are wild plot twists - Rennie’s son turns necrophiliac - but the story somehow doesn’t integrate.
Should I buy it?
The writer of Carrie, The Shining, Misery and a million other hits loses the plot here. I wonder if it’s because computers are so fast to write on. After that fabulous opening, the story is like an extended video game.
Best points?
Shows how easily totalitarianism can happen; how we’re all stuck on a planet with limited resources; how the powerful bully the weak.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

It’s Not Me, It’s You by Charlotte Ward

Oh noes, breakup time is here
It certainly is. When you scent the first mince pie and hear the tinkle of glasses at a staff party you know tears are not far behind. Christmastime is breakup time.
Why? Why?
What everyone asks herself after Mr Right turns out to be Mr Right Little So-and-So. But help is at hand - Mirror reporter Charlotte Ward has written a devastatingly funny account of some stonking great splits.
But why?
Lots of whys. Ward’s pal Anne was really into her new man, but the sex was too embarrassing - wake-the-neighbours yells. Olivia took an instant dislike to her boyfriend’s “little friend” - It was long and skinny and looked like a chipolata... or a severed finger.”
Severed? Ewww!
Verity’s boyfriend showered her with attention and presents and adoration - but when she came home from a Malaysian holiday she felt like her stuff had been moved.
A bit paranoid?
Then she found the superspy-type pictures on his mobile: everything she owned, photographed so he could store them while he had some nookie, then return them to their places.
Oh. So steer clear of them all?
The awful breakup stories are the most fun, but Ward gives good advice for the newly single, and reveals how men deal with breaking up too.
Actually, a lot of her revenge stories are girly ones - like Anna, who found steamy texts from women on her boyfriend’s phone. She told him she knew he was playing away because she’d caught an STD from him…
Any happy stories?
Stacy squeezed through a packed pub with drinks for herself and a man she fancied. “I thought this might be yours,” he said with a grin - holding up the wraparound skirt she’d been wearing. Reader, she married him, and lived happily ever after.
Most shocking thing?
A revelation in the “Truth About Men (by men)” section: “We don’t always pee standing up. There. I said it.”
Author's site

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

Simon & Schuster
Cowboys & Injuns?
And real cowboys, some of ‘em Native American. Jeannette Walls’ first book, The Glass Castle, was a memoir of growing up dirt-poor, daughter of homeless, wandering eccentrics.
But she made good?
Glamour-puss TV reporter. Glass Castle was a best-seller, and she followed up with this novel about her grandma - a convent girl and tough babe who ended up as a wealthy rancher.
What of these horses?
By the age of six, Lily is helping her crippled father break horses. He’s just out of jail - someone got shot, but it ain’t his fault, despite his ‘Irish temper’ - he’s the son of a Famine refugee.
She became a cowboy?
No siree. First her father’s helper and interpreter - kicked in the head by a horse as a child, he’s unable to talk clearly. Then a schoolmarm, but she keeps gettin’ fired for whalin’ on them young’ns.
Career-change time?
Sacked for pulling a pistol on a polygamous Mormon elder after telling the gals about wimmin’s rights, she decides to go to college.
She has to make the money, so she gets a factory job in Chicago, then, when her pal gets pulled into the machinery by her ‘long Irish hair’, as a maid.
Why do I think this will go wrong?
She marries a fast-talkin’ dude, but whoop-de-dee, he’s a bigamous hound dog who’s spent all the savings from their joint bank account. After that she swears off men.
But she’s a grandma!
Keep your shirt on. When she’s half-qualified she gets a teaching job. Her pretty little sister turns up pregnant - but when the priest finds out -
After the tragedy, she marries a big steady guy, deals bootleg from under the baby’s crib, teaches, runs a ranch, and brings up her kids with the strap always at the ready.
Some story
You bet your bottom dollar. And that’s only the half of it. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll chaw tobaccy.