Commuter reads: Saturday – Ian McEwan

I chose to read this because I read Atonement and loved it, so thought I would branch out and try some of his other works.

I found the themes of the book, set after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, to be very current still and the internal monologue of the protagonist, Henry Perowne, provides a fascinating mix of the global and the everyday mundane life of a middle-aged surgeon on his day off.

This intriguing mix and meandering of his thoughts managed to keep me reading although at the same time, the technique made for some very long-winded sentences and wordy, descriptive passages that I didn’t exactly enjoy on the packed 8am commuter bus.

The story hooks you in from the start with Henry witnessing a plane on fire over London, presumably heading to Heathrow. His frustration is mirrored by the reader’s as he waits for the news story to appear on the morning bulletin to find out what happened. It is almost disappointing when he, and the reader, learn that the crash landing was only a cargo plane making an emergency landing and that the outcome was very mundane. Henry is clearly anticipating another terrorist attack, as is the reader.

The book continues in this way, with many ups and downs, seemingly leading to something exciting before it fizzles to nothing. However, the last 80 pages are like a shock of cold water as suddenly everything kicks off and the events of the day and the lives of every character culminate in one long scene. The uncertainty, threat of violence, presence of old age, terminal illness, disease and new life all come together to create a metaphorically cliché mix of themes and ideas.

While the whole book tries to act as a poetic microcosm and can get confusing, the finale really is enjoyable and I would recommend this book purely for those last 80 pages.


Commuter reads: Cecelia Ahern – Where Rainbows End

I need to clarify that I read this book by accident.

Firstly, I didn’t realise this was the book that the film, Love, Rosie, is based on. I hated that film, I think it was the only option playing on a three hour flight I took somewhere.
So I hate romance, rom-coms, happy endings and all the clichés that come with them but I was 50 pages in before I recognised the story and realised I couldn’t remember the ending. So obviously I had to read it to find out.

I skim-read the entire 566 pages in three days of commutes (for those counting, around 3-4 hours) which was very easy since the book is an epistolary.

Anyway, Rosie and Alex have a series of near-misses and get close to revealing their feelings for each other about 100 times in the whole story, it’s painfully drawn out until they finally get together in their 50s after several divorces/failed marriages/continent changes/career changes.

The only feature I found redeeming was the letter-writing format. I think that’s a really interesting way to tell a story which spans over decades.

I would whole-heartedly recommend this book if you enjoyed the film, as with most book-to-film adaptations I’d say the book is better. I’d also recommend it if you enjoy the frustration of secret love, drawn out over years, or if you are a fan of romantic, chick-flicks and if romances make you cry.

Maybe I should have guessed from the title, maybe I shouldn’t have let someone recommend it to me, but I wish someone had warned me!

Commuter reads: Hanging Hill – Mo Hayder

There’s nothing I love more than a gritty crime thriller, particularly if it’s by Mo Hayder (who I think is a genius in this genre).

Hanging Hill is one of her stand-alone thrillers, not one of the Jack Caffery thriller series. Although I like the Caffery series, I really enjoyed having a story that stood by itself and didn’t come with characters whose history is recorded in previous books.

I think my enjoyment of this book was increased by how vividly I imagined it. The small cottage that Sally and her daughter, Millie, live in reminded me exactly of a small country cottage my family owns, in the middle  of nowhere with winding roads, it even has a shed in the corner of the garden like the shed Sally and Steve work out of when they are disposing of the body.

Having somewhere real to image the story taking place added to the slightly unnerving and unsettling feeling that is always so well-crafted in Hayder’s stories.

Predictably, I also loved Zoe Benedict. Strong-headed, independent, no nonsense, no emotions, that’s always the kind of female protagonist I love to see and identify with. Although, also slightly predictably, she has to be given her own sort of happy ending, not a happily ever after, but a satisfactory one for those readers who love to find some love in any story they read.

My favourite part of the book is by far the ending. Hayder leaves you completely hanging in the balance, with the possibility of something awful happening and the killer is revealed but not caught. In 2012, it caused many fans to beg Hayder for a sequel. But her response was

“The ending is like that because I’m evil and because I believe YOUR imagination is better able to fill in the spaces than mine is!”

That’s what I really enjoy, the book clearly provoked my imagination and leaving the ending open is a perfect way to continue that. I would much rather an open, cliff-hanger shock ending than a neatly tied up happy ending, am I the only one who feels that way?

New series: commuter reads

So, since I’m now working a full-time 9 to 5 job, I get the joy of commuting into the city that comes with it.

Although, I am actually finding it a joy if I’m honest. My commute is 30-40 minutes in the morning and again in the evening, but so far that has been enough time for me to read about one book a week.

After having done a three year degree in English Literature, you have no idea what a relief it is and how exciting it is to actually read books that I want to read and just enjoy them for what they are, rather than thinking of them in terms of an essay I have to write!

But my problem is that I get through so many books that if someone asks me about one that I read more than three months ago, I have a real trouble remembering the details, I usually just have a general feeling of whether I enjoyed it or not.

By creating this new series, it’s not just for me to tell other people what I think about the books I read, but also so I can have some kind of record of what I’ve read and what I thought about it. I’ve got a few weeks to catch up on first, but after that hopefully it will be a book a week.

So without further ado, my new series “Commuter reads”.

I am now officially paid to proofread…

So the day has finally come, the hard work and sometimes long hours voluntarily working as the copyeditor of my student newspaper have paid off!

I’ve been in my new job for just under two months now and while it’s only a six month contract, there’s is the possibility for that to be extended or that the experience of proofreading for such an established company (and a government department) may pay off in the future.

While I’m still in love with the idea of publishing, this job has introduced the idea to me of going more towards the proofreading/copyediting route, maybe even freelance although I’m under no illusions how hard it is to establish yourself as a freelance proofreader AND make a living off it.

But for now we’ll see. I was always scared of ending up in a job that I dreaded getting up for every morning but, so far, signs are looking good.

Fingers crossed.