Category Archives: Literary fiction

Mrs Eckdorf at O’Neill’s Hotel

By William Trevor

Intriguing from the start, I slipped easy into reading this short novel. I didn’t realise it had been so long since my last entry. I have been reading, and thinking about posting again. This novel, Mrs Eckdorf at O’Neill’s Hotel, has inspired me to write again. It was a set text back in my first year or second year of university. I am not sure my 18 year old self appreciated it.

So why did I find Mrs Eckdorf at O’Neill’s Hotel compelling reading. Well, for me, it was one of those novels where I didn’t realise I was reading the words. The prose leaps straight into my imagination.

Ivy Eckdorf is a photographer who travels the world photographing people in poverty and hardship, turning them into coffee table books for the rich. We meet Mrs Eckdorf on a plane bound for Dublin. She has heard about a potential story in the once fabulous and now down trodden O’Neill’s Hotel. Ivy Eckdorf is sure a tragedy is waiting to be exposed and documented.

The seeker of truth snaps her way around and among the people associated with O’Neill’s Hotel. The silent and caring matriarch, the drunken son, the pimp, the priest, the daughter, daughter-in-law, the grandson, the hotel porter and his greyhound. But what is the truth? Will they care and will they share? Ordinary life goes on.

A good read. Feel free to disagree.

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Wake

By Elizabeth Knox

Well. Wrap your eyeballs around this novel. I finished reading Wake last night and it was a really unpredictable read. The novel centres around the 13 survivors (plus a mysterious 14th) of a strange madness/sickness that struck the small coastal settlement of Kahukura near Nelson. At first I thought it was really disjointed, that I didn’t know what was going on as it jumped from character to character, just like the characters in the novel … then had the well, duh moment! The reader doesn’t know what’s going on because the characters don’t know what’s going on.

It’s about death, it’s about survival, about how people cope or don’t cope in horrific situations. A word to the squeamish, it can be a bit grizzly in parts. So it’s like Elizabeth Knox’s novels in that it is set in ordinary, everyday settings where major other worldly things happen.

Would I recommend it. Absolutely. It was a quick read for me, and would have been quicker if I hadn’t been reading two books. I like to read a book on the train and something funny or “non-stressful” before bed … although I have been reading Terry Pratchett at night and he can be funny but deep. I belted through Wake as I have belted through all of Elizabeth Knox’s novels, except Black Oxen. I was at a Book Council event where Elizabeth Knox said that she was most (and I am paraphrasing here) proud of was Black Oxen. Didn’t really grab me … the different parts felt too different. Mind you, I haven’t finished it, and I was reading it when I was a very new mother during those early morning feeds, so I really should finish it before I pass too hard a judgement.

Elizabeth Knox talks about Wake in her blog.

The cover art actually depicts scenes from the novel, and was illustrated by Dylan Horrocks, the creator of Hicksville.

Cover art for WakeCover of Wake by Elizabeth Knox

Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore

By Robin Sloan

Yay! One of my Singapore finds. Clay is a designer who knows a bit about web, computers etc, and is also out of work. One night he stumbles in Mr Penumbras 24 Hour bookstore and lands himself a job as the night clerk. He notices strange patterns and goings on, and with the help of his friends sets out to uncover the mystery behind Mr Penumbra, his book store, and his special customers.

It is a book about books, about code breaking, about immortality. It brings together the physical, and then ups it with the power of Google! It’s about the love of reading.

Here’s one of my favourite quotes from this novel,

… I’m really starting to think the whole world is just a patchwork quilt of crazy little cults, all with their own secret spaces, their own records, their own rules.

To me it was a great and suspenseful read. A bit like a short and really approachable Foucoult’s Pendulum, without the real menace. Don’t get me wrong – I did enjoy Umberto Eco’s Pendulum, and thoroughly recommend it as a read. It’s suspenseful, but big, with lots of tight prose.

Feel free to disagree.

Heft, a novel

By Liz Moore

This was an exciting library find for me. I wasn’t even looking for a book for me, but the adult fiction is near check out and the cover caught my eye.

It is the story of two men … well one man and a boy becoming a man. Arthur weighs 550 pounds and he hasn’t left the house. Kel is 18, and doesn’t want to go home. They are connected through Kel’s mother, Charlene.

It is a novel about families, loss and love. It is about finding yourself. I read it in 4 days, and that wasn’t reading it all the time either. I found it compelling reading … and I stopped reading another book that was getting exciting because I had to keep reading this one.

I won’t say more. Feel free to disagree.

Fludd

By Hilary Mantel

This was a library find.   I was combing the shelves for some chic-lit trash, and coming up with nothing when my eyes fell upon this book by Hilary Mantel.  Now Hilary Mantel is the author of Wolf Hall, which won the Booker Prize in 2009.   Wolf Hall was also my “Book of 2010”.   I don’t always have a book of the year, but sometimes I read a book that just really appeals and it becomes “Book of yyyy”.   So I was expecting great things of Fludd.

Fludd is about alchemy, but the alchemy in this novel is about changing particular lives in a very depressing northern English village, Fetherington.   Father Angwin secretly has lost his faith.   His pompous bishop has ordered him to get rid of saintly statues that adorn the dark castle-like church, and now the bishop is sending a curate to him to spy.   The curate that arrives on a dark and stormy night is Father Fludd.   Father Angwin takes an immediate shine to the young curate, who seems to be weaving a kind of magic through parts of the parish.

But Fludd really isn’t a curate.   He is a very mysterious stranger, and possibly other worldly.   He gives Father Fludd, and a young Nun , Sister Philomena, the courage to and stand up to those who seek to repress them.

So.  Yep.   Some parts are funny, but I have said black humour, because some of the humour is very dark.   It is well written, as I would expect from Hilary Mantel.   The language is descriptive without being long and verbose.   I didn’t like it as much as I liked Wolf Hall, but it quick and easy to read.   The ending wasn’t jolly-hockey sticks happy, but it was happy in many ways for the main characters.   They had hope.   The minor victories made me smile.