The true university these days is a collection of books.
-Thomas Carlyle

Monday, 26 March 2012

Trick or Treat by Richie Tankersley Cusick

This book was one of the 3 titles that are part of my challenge from BD to read this year. The challenge is to read at least one of the titles but you can read all 3 if you wish. This one, part of the Point Horror series from the 1990's, was one of my friends favourites, and he was a fan of the Point Horror books when he was younger.

Sadly, being older, the whole Point Horror phenomenon passed me by. I hadn't even heard of them (I am about 20 years older than BD). In my day it was Armada Ghost Books and Nancy Drew. So this was my first ever encounter with Point Horror and I can see from the many fans on the net, they have quite a following. Even in work, when BD brought this in for me, there were others of similar age reminiscing about these titles and comparing favourites.

Trick or Treat is about Martha, whose dad has just remarried and she is to move in with her new step mum and brother Conor. The house, in the country near a small town, needs a lot of repair. Her step mum is excited by the challenge but Martha feels uncomfortable and unnerved by it from the start. It is not helped by the old graveyard in the grounds, and Halloween is only days away. At her new school she makes friends easily with Wynn and Blake, who she fancies. It is not long before the history of the house reveals itself. Obsession and murder are in its past. Then Martha and Conors parents have to leave for Hawaii suddenly, and the teenagers are alone in the house. Its mysterious past is replaying with terrifying consequences.

This is a entertaining read (even if some of the plot is implausable - parents leaving children alone in a house they have just moved into), with lots of jumps and starts in a multi-layered plot that is creepy and compelling. I can imagine loving it when I was young but even as an adult it was good fun. It is very straight forward to read and the writing style reminded me of books that I read as a teenager which was pleasantly nostalgic. I enjoyed the cheesy suspense and there were a few creepy moments. I can see why the Point Horror books were favourites of a whole generation of kids.

I read the book in a day, and enjoyed the fun of it and the nostalgia.

I found another Point Horror Fan Blogger and you can reminisce along with her by using the link.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

We Need To Talk About Kevin: Book to Movie Comparison

You may have read my review of the book We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver in my last post. The whole time that I was reading the book I had a strong compulsion to write to Eva, the mother, and narrator of letters to her husband, and tell her how I felt about what she was saying about her son after he had become a killer, hence the letter form of the review. You may know too that the book was made into a successful movie that was released last year.
As part of this years challenges I wanted to compare some books that had been made into movies. I totally loved the book and only read it after seeing the movie last October at the cinema. So I have to thank the film for encouraging me to read the novel at all.
I thought that the casting of Tilda Swinton as Eva was brilliant. An unusual looking lady, gangly, independent and strong, plus more European looking than American, perfect as Eva. I also liked the various incarnations of Kevin, good looking but with a slyness that matched his emotionless exterior. The part that I had a problem with was Franklin played by John C Reilly. It wasn't his performance which suited the all American dad, but his look did not go with the book descriptions of him. I thought (my apologies Mr Reilly) that Franklin was supposed to be extremely attractive, to explain why such a strong willed, unusual woman like Eva married him, and continued to love him while he became unsupportive and alienated from her as he became obsessed with Kevin. I couldn't imagine them having any kind of relationship.
The movie is dictated by Eva's point of view but without the letters. It successfully conveys all of her emotions that are in the book. The sense of unease is communicated by imagery dominated by the colour red. Conjuring disgust excellently in the viewer, this is one of the things that I took away from the film. The use of food in messy, served up in horrible ways, which added to this, as well as building tension throughout. There was a continual build up of nausea while watching.
I found the incidents of Kevins behaviour coupled with Swinton's passive face really had me wound up in a coil throughout. The screen was quite colourful, but the bleakness of the story and her situation clashes wholly with this. The discordance is felt throughout and is what I most enjoyed about the movie. A cleverly used device in this film.
The book has more detail than the film, and I was quite glad about that. It gives you enough so you can imagine the rest. It is easier to take when it is words on a page. The film is largely faithful to the incidents in the novel, including many details I recognised along the way.
This is a disturbing subject for any book or movie to tackle and I enjoyed both. I related to the Eva in the book more, but she is talking to you directly. It is this that I enjoyed more than the film. Tilda Swinton was in my head throughout though.
A brilliant book, and a very good movie adaptation with many strengths, intelligently made, and leaving a tangible impression after it has ended. Both are recommended, but especially the book.
You can read about We Need To Talk About Kevin - the movie, by using the link.
There is a Reading Group Guide to We Need To Talk About Kevin, use the link.
Also, there is an interview in The Guardian with Lionel Shriver about the book and film. Use the link.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

Dear Eva,

my friend lent me your book about 2 years ago and I have to admit I was unwilling to read such a dark story, especially when she herself had given up on it. I did however hang on to it with a view to reading it when I felt ready to, having heard great things about it.

It was the film that gave me the push (covered in the next post), and also a colleague at work reading it. It was finally time. I needn't have worried to be honest. I was sucked in from the start, and your story and your voice did not let me go until the last page.

Don't get me wrong, a lot of it was agony to read, horrific, a 'Thank God it is not me' kind of ride. A lot of your circumstances were not of your own doing. Did your son really turn out that way simply because you were not ready for a child? So many other mothers could say the same thing, but their children did not go on the rampage of murder.

I could feel your guilt, your despair seeping into the pages and through my fingertips. I heard your questions - 'Was it me?', 'Could I have caused this?' and, quite simply 'Why?' At least you tried to make an effort with a son who deliberately and systematically refused to co operate in any form. None at all.

Your husband, my goodness me, now there is a conundrum, chose to turn a blind eye. And what about his rejection, of your feelings, or any kind of understanding. What about his steady disregard, his slow annhilation of you and your personality, his lack of support, his obsession with his son representing the stereotype of American youth. He failed to comprehend who he was, a child who showed signs of cruelty in his rejection of others. I wanted to scream at him.

I did want to scream at you too.

Why did you put up with it all? You must have felt so alone, before and after. Your stoicism, your rigidity, your bloody mindedness, to take it all on yourself. Why stay in that town? You say it was for your son, who made it impossible to love him and then blamed you for not loving him. Your stubbornness let you down, like picking at a wound so it continues to hurt. Not many would have stayed, couldn't have. I know I would not have had the strength like you, blind strength of will and character. Only time will tell if your strength was your weakness.

I admire your honesty in all of this. I wish you well, you deserve some form of a small break, although I don't see one. I see the years of more of the same stretching before you, but not as clearly as you see it yourself. You have come this far which can be seen as a miracle, and you still haven't lost a sense of humour.

I thought this book was hailed because it tackled such a difficult subject, a woman whose son turns into a serial killer. This is only partly right. I am now sure it is hailed equally because it is written so brilliantly. Truly. I found your story moving and mesmerising, and I couldn't put it down.

Stop blaming yourself, the debt is not all yours to pay. I do not hope for your son, but I do hope for you.


Hay on Wye

Hay on Wye