Monthly Archives: December 2009

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Penguin Books Ltd. 1992. 658 pages

The cover of this novel is very reflective of the overall mood of the book. Intellectual , cold and dark. Narrated in the fashion of a recollection, Richard Papen , a young student from Plano, California is desperate to get out of his bleak family and surroundings. He went the completely opposite path , landed himself a scholarship in Hampden College in Vermont. There he tries to reinvent himself and drink in his intellectual pursuits. He discovers an intriguing Greek class offered by a professor infamous for his unorthodox method of selelction and lesson delivery. Richard becomes obsessed when he finds out that the professor takes only 5 students, and he becomes a close observer of this group composed of reserved and solitary elite students.

He soon manages to befriend the group and is welcomed into the class. In awe with his new found friends,  he plays along the role of someone from a well-off family.

After a long, painful and arduous path to upkeeping his facade, he discovers that his friends are behind an accidental murder, and from there on, the plot gets into a darker pool of social and psychological consequences.

The story focusing on young and well off individuals, the novel reminds me of a vamped up classier style of Christopher Pike meets “Year of Living Dangerously” kind of behavioral story.

The entire work could have done with a faster pace (but yes the unhurried pace is what it is made of), it was too drawn out in my opinion, and though I enjoyed the manner of how it ended, it was hardly engaging–too much reflection killed the climax in the end.

Fans of ancient Greek and literature will enjoy.

the author, Donna Tartt.

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The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

2008. Pan Macmillan Australia,584 pages.

It’s been ages since my last book review, but I’ve read a handful of books since then. It’s a combination of : the books read weren’t really that memorable and I’ve just been swamped with work/social life, but I must confess that abandoning this book review site has been lingering in my mind for sometime now. I am just sometimes That busy that I cannot conjure up a comprehensive review of a book, and I am not one to go half-baked. Mind you I don’t get anything from writing these reviews. Just the sheer joy and satisfaction of getting feedback from other book lovers, (though most of the time it is from students who are searching for something (not to copy paste I hope) for their book report/review in school. I did get a helluva reaction from one author of a book I didn’t like though. I did not delete her comments to retain evidence just how spaz some people are. *snicker snicker*. Anyway, I have never gone into such personal thoughts in this site, as it has never been my intention. But I guess what I’m trying to say is — This book, has sparked that gusto in me to write these reviews again. it is THAT. GOOD.

My copy’s been lying on my bookshelf for over a year now (shame) waiting to be read. Now 3 days ago I went on a camping trip and hastily grabbed the first few books I could get my hands on. Let’s say I did more reading than getting down and dirty on that camping trip. And it left me feeling completely satisfied.

Last year, I wrote about my awe of Generation X writers. (Marisha Pessl and Jonathan Safran Foer)

I will now add Australian author Markus Zusak, and on top of the list at that.

The Book Thief is about Liesel Meminger, a young girl (the book starts with her at age 10 or 11 and mainly until she is 15) during World War II in Germany. She is literally a book thief, stealing books brought about by her love for reading. Yet times are dangerous and the novel explores her young, everyday exploits , the people around her, and how their lives are changed by the Fuhrer.

It is narrated by Death itself, which makes the whole storytelling altogether haunting, philosophical, and charming.

Most novels told in this beautifully unconventional manner have the “simple plot/beautifully worded” combination. In my humble reading experience, this has novel has to be the first of its kind that I’ve encountered: exquisite storytelling AND magnificent story.

A number of reviews say this book will be a future classic and I cannot agree more heartily. This is a quirky Anne Frank book that as you get buried further into its pages, the tighter embrace the words get into your heart.

It is magical, charming, sad, funny, and a definite page turner. This book’s storytelling and narration is such that I can see a movie version of it soon. In either a Quentin Tarantino form or ala Pan’s Labyrinth. Whichever way, I know it can be executed. That’s how extraordinary the book’s method of unfolding its story is. that I can already imagine it in the big screen. (I, who loathe most movie versions of books).

Markus Zusak has just given me more reason to be in awe of the rising impression Gen X authors are leaving. I am sure to read his other works.

Markus Zusak (b.1975)  lives in Sydney with his wife and daughter.