The World According to Renee

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Review: The Kite Runner

Rarely does one find a novel so beautifully written but such a simple tale. Welcome to The Kite Runner, the story of… Well, there are many stories within this novel. There’s stories of atonement, survival, redemption… How can one man play so many roles in his own life story?

On the surface, The Kite Runner is about a refugee from war-torn Afghanistan in the 1980s. What is he really running from? Painful childhood memories, sins of the father or his own cowardice? I was completely engaged in the novel from the very first page. Just when I thought the novel had nowhere else to go, it twisted into another tale, another role to play. When you look deeper, everything is a subtle revelation of life. The words take aim and capture the reader to a world barely known. If not for the political decimation, Afghanistan would be the top of my list of places to visit. The imagery created is worthy of film-making, yet I cannot see how it could be done (although it has; the film was released in 2007 and I plan to watch it in the very near future). The protagonist, Amir, almost pokes fun at the essence of writing yet it’s so beautifully woven into the novel that I think most readers would miss it.

In any case, I cannot speak highly enough about this novel. It’s a wonder, a masterpiece. I almost wrote “a joy” but it is not. This is a tale about the horrors of living in a warzone, a country where your home and roots are but you are not. It’s worse than watching a dog rip apart your favourite childhood toy, its stuffing thrown about to lie where it falls and no one cares enough to pick it up.

The themes of guilt, atonement, redemption and family are woven through the novel and it never falters. It’s truth spilled onto the paper without shadows; this is a real person and not a character in a book where they will overcome all.

Take this journey with Amir. Let him show you the beauty and the horrors of life.

9.5 out of 10 bookmarks.

February 13, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Review: Life After Death

Damien Echols is infamous for being part of the so-called West Memphis 3. Convicted of murders he didn’t commit, Echols spent eighteen years behind bars, including several years on Death Row. Echols and his two mates who had also been convicted of murdering three young boys were released late 2011. Life After Death reveals what it’s like behind bars and how Echols came to be there.

The book is pieced together from a previously published memoir plus journal entries, essays and letters Echols wrote from inside. This gives the book a disjointed narrative, culminating with inconsistent tense; in one paragraph he’ll be writing in the present tense even though he’s now out of prison, while in the next he’ll be writing in past tense about the same thing. This gets quite confusing, especially in later chapters when he seems reluctant to talk about his last months in prison, instead just copying-and-pasting earlier writings. This in itself isn’t a bad thing; as Echols repeatedly tells his readers, he is tired of being thought of just as that guy, the one on Death Row (or used to be on Death Row) for the murders of those little kids. I wouldn’t want to keep rehashing it either, so sure, it’s acceptable to c’n’p previous writings… just change the tense.

Having said that, the book smacks of “I’m not the guy you think I am”. He’s spiritual, spending most of his time reading everything he could lay his hands on, talking to spiritual leaders, learning and practicing meditation and generally keeping to himself. He writes about his childhood but skirts around much of his teenage shenanigans. For example, he writes that the detective for juvenile problems was “obsessed” with Echols for no reason. Further investigation reveals that this detective had reason to believe Echols was part of a Satanic cult; which is never mentioned in his book. Echols himself has admitted (though not in this book) that he once drank blood from a living human’s arm. Echols’ insistence in his memoir that there was no reason for the cops to be on his tail just doesn’t ring true.

Taken with a grain of salt, Echols’ story is hard to put down. He perfectly captures the feelings of loneliness and depression that so many teenagers suffer. As yet, the murders of the three young boys remain unsolved, and if you’re looking for a theory as to what happened to them, you won’t find it here. Instead you’ll find a regular guy caught up in a whirlpool of injustice and the need to lay the blame on someone. Definitely do your own research though, the bits he omitted often fill in gaping holes in his narrative plus add an interesting alternate viewpoint.

8 out of 10 bookmarks.

December 24, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 1 Comment

The Other Hand aka Little Bee

The cover of this novel says only one thing about the plot: two women’s lives collide one day when one has to make a terrible choice. Two years later, they meet again. This is where the story starts.

This is a novel which doesn’t want you to know about it before you read it. That’s somewhat difficult- how do you know you want to read it? (My tip was the Staff Recommendation from my local bookstore). I can say this: You do want to read this novel. It’s powerful, provocative, mesmerising. There are moments when your breath will hold and your heart will beat in anticipation. You know this novel is not going to end the way you hope it will, yet you cannot pull away…

Without giving anything away, this is the story of two women who are strong in every way you can imagine. Little Bee is a Nigerian refugee; Sarah is a British journalist and mother. ‘United they stand, divided they fall’ is the phrase that springs to mind when speaking of their relationship. Fate brings them together in unimaginable ways.

There is so much I want to say about this story yet I won’t. You need to discover the intertwining secrets for yourself. The cover describes this as “magic” but it is far from any definition of magic I know; perhaps the magic of the human desires for freedom and survival?

I cannot praise this book highly enough. It weaves the story around you until you are but a witness to your imagination. I will say this though: if anyone out there has a book club- read this book. Form a facebook group and let me participate!

The Other Hand (known as Little Bee in the US) by Chris Cleave. You won’t want to put it down.

September 22, 2010 Posted by | Reviews | , | Leave a comment