Thursday, May 28, 2009

the Boy in the Striped Pyjamas 2

‘I expect you’re as unhappy about this new arrangement as I am,’ said Bruno
I don’t think a nine year old would have said this

‘Well, I don’t think you can have been very good at your job if it means we all have to move away from a very nice home and our friends and come to a horrible place like this. I think you must have done something wrong and you should go and apologise to the Fury and maybe that will be an end to it. Maybe he’ll forgive you if you’re very sincere about it.’
I doubt he would have had the guts to say this to his father as everyone including Bruno was scared of him and would a nine year old have phrased it that way?

‘Bringing us all the way out here, to the middle of nowhere, you mean? Is that taking care of us?’

Again, clumsy sentence structure, unrealistic dialogue.

‘It could be worse than it seems.’
‘It’s not,’ said Pavel, who barely seemed to be listening to what Bruno was saying, the carrots were taking up so much of his attention.
‘Well, how do you know?’ asked Bruno quickly, growing irritable now despite the fact t
hat this was the same man who had come out to pick him up off the ground and brought him in and taken care of him. ‘You’re not a doctor.’
Pavel stopped peeling the carrots for a moment and looked across the table at Bruno, his head held low, his eyes looking up, as if he were wondering what to say to such a thing. He sighed and seemed to consider it for quite a long time before saying, ‘Yes I am.’
Bruno stared at him in surprise. This didn’t make any sense to him. ‘But you’re a waiter,’ he said slowly. ‘And you peel the vegetables for dinner. How can you be a doctor too?’

This exchange typifies how slow on the uptake Bruno is and how we have to have his laboured thoughts spoken out loud really unrealistically. He’s either dim witted or not particularly nice. If he’s dim witted, I think the author has failed to make him believable. If he’s not supposed to be very nice then I don’t care about what happens to him in the end. Either way, he’s a poorly written character which makes me cross because this is a published novel and he’s making money from people like me when he really shouldn’t be.
These are just random examples taken as I flicked through the book. They're not comprehensive example. If Id've opened the book elsewhere I could have any number of other examples.
Wikipedia says that John Boyne wrote this in 2.5 days solid. I can believe this. It reads like he should have worked on it a lot longer and revised it drastically.
I love children's and young adults literature but this was very poor. Holes by Louis Sachar is a good example of a story written really well without compromise in language.
I'm sorry that my opinions may be controversial so please do tell me why I'm wrong and why it is well written if you think it is.


The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

This was quite a short book and easy to read but I do not recommend it. I first heard about it in the Autumn at my creative writing class. Apparently it is written by someone who studied creative writing at UEA. The woman who had read it really recommended it as a good read. Reading the first chapter I knew it was a poorly written, unbelievable book. Unfortunately. Unfortunately because the subject matter is what has pushed this book to fame, and rightly so. In theory, given the author's writing credentials and the fact that he's tackling in a book for children such a gritty story line it deserves to have the level of success that it has/will have when the motion picture is out. The truth is that the hero of the story is Bruno and he is written in such a clumsy and patronising manner that nothing could redeem it. The author in his bid to write simplistically and naively from the point of view of a nine year old has underestimated the powerful imagination of childhood. At most points he treats his hero Bruno as though he were an imbecile or have the cognitive powers of a five year old. At some points he has the child make observations or say things completely out of character for a boy his age, befitting an adult.
The end is harrowing (and good). I don't have complaints about the storyline. I'm sure this is the sort of book that will make it's way onto school reading lists and curricula. For it's story content, this is fine although I would love to talk to a child who has read it to see if they related to Bruno or thought he was a realistic character.
In case I haven't stressed it enough, this really is a terrible book. I would like to get my money back. Really.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Books and diets

I got a book yesterday from the library called Neris and India’s Idiot-Proof Diet. It’s a humorous and honest look at the food we eat, why we eat it and how to correct it. It’s a good easy read and much of it is what I know already written in an engaging way but it is too prescriptive. They are saying you have to do this or that, saying nothing will change unless you sort this out.
I have finished the Neris and India book and have thought quite a lot about it and other diet schemes. First of all Neris and India advocate an Atkins style low carbohydrate diet. Their commitment and weight loss as outlined by the book is impressive. I felt with such a massive boost to weight loss so early on, it's a scheme that is pretty hard to ignore. However, all the key components of Phase 1 for this plan are things I could live without pretty much- meat, cream and butter. Fruit is very cautiously held at arm's length and I'm not a great fruit fan but I know the benefits of eating it. Potentially on this style of eating plan I could never eat a banana, apple or drink orange juice again. Alarm bells started ringing in the first stage of the plan when I was told I would need to buy several versions of multi-vitamins and supplements. Hang on, surely a balanced diet doesn't need these things? No a balanced diet doesn't but this isn't a balanced diet. Your diet would never be the same again on this scheme. This is for life. Similarly, vegetables are recommended so long as they are the right vegetables. It could be a permanent farewell to peas, sweetcorn and carrots. And my heart really sinks that you have to phase legumes and pulses in cautiously, again with the proviso that if you start gaining weight once they're introduced, you must stop eating them immediately and never re-introduce them.
Basically although there's science to back up that wonderful things are going on in your body, it's a diet that ultimately limits food choice which in turn reduces the number of calories take in. It's a calorie controlled diet with strict rules. OK well put that way, it loses even more appeal, just a variation on a theme.
If I were to select a diet that met my needs as a consumer, it would be one that encourages the person to eat as many fruit and vegetable portions a day. I would also like high protein intake via vegetarian choices, pulses, dairy, nuts and tofu. I would aim to limit refined wheat products and eat smaller amounts of potatoes, rice and pasta. I would want to use olive oil but not want to indulge too much in fatty foods, so lower fat. So far to me it sounds like a Mediteranean diet. I could do without the fish but I will eat it weekly as I know it's good for me.
Another diet that looked as though it could be up my street would be a macrobiotic one. I know for sure that Atkins would not suit me. It suits some but not me.
The book though is light hearted and amusing. If you're considering a low carb diet this book would do a good job of motivating you and encouraging you.

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Saturday, May 09, 2009

The Time Traveller's Wife

I have just finished The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.
I really enjoyed it and wondered if any of you have read it? The story is about Henry who has a genetic predisposition to travelling in time, jumping forwards and backwards to visit significant events, places and people from his life. He travels with nothing including clothes and so there are funny and dangerous situations arising. He also disappears completely leaving a pile of clothes in the present time.
I felt that the characters were likeable, believable and the story was compelling. For all of the author's intelligence however, I felt the plot was a bit lightweight and if you were not so engaged in the characters you may never have finished the book because there was compulsion to. I also felt that two lesser characters Clarisse and Gomez were well formed but then poorly used. The whole "best friend's husband madly in love with you throughout his life" is a little lame. Having read some other reviews on Amazon I also agree with one that had issues with the use of language especially Colloquial Sexual language. It did seem incongruent.
But taken as an interesting take on a love story, it's one I thoroughly recommend.