With the month of July winding down, I’m thinking now would be a good time for posting an update. Instead of buying any new books lately, I’ve been working on clearing my bookshelves of books I haven’t read, and these are some of the picks from my unread shelves:
- Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding
- The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
- Dance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami
Bridget Jones’s Diary
Premise: In her thirties, Bridget Jones is feeling the pressure of societal expectations as she struggles to navigate the tricky world of dating and relationships.
Review: I haven’t watched the Bridget Jones movies, but I imagine this story would work better in movie format than in print. As stated in the title, Bridget Jones’s Diary comprises diary entries following the life of Bridget Jones. Some of her New Year’s resolutions include losing weight and dropping alcohol and cigarettes; she keeps a close eye on these numbers at the start of almost every entry. She struggles with finding a suitable partner, and it doesn’t help that her family and friends continually pile on the pressure in gathering after gathering.
This book is famous in the chick-lit genre and works best as a light, fun read. The story itself borrows elements from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, complete with a love interest named Mr. Darcy. There are some interesting insights on being single versus marrying, as well as an obsessive fascination with finding a boyfriend and dieting. This fixation with what everyone else thinks of you quickly becomes tiring, however, and as someone who doesn’t believe in conforming to expectations, I do wish there was less insecurity surrounding the idea of being single. This issue never really gets resolved, and there is really no progress made in Bridget’s self-image.
This edition is part of the Penguin Ink series collection, with illustrations in the style of traditional tattoo imagery by artist Tara McPherson. Like other Penguin deluxe classics, the Penguin Ink editions feature deckled edges and French flaps.
The Little Stranger
Premise: In postwar Warwickshire, Dr. Faraday is called to the historic Hundreds House, owned by the Ayres family for over two centuries. There, he becomes irrevocably tied to the house and its occupants, and ensuing events reveal possibly sinister forces at work.
Review: A hauntingly beautiful read, The Little Stranger is touted as a ghost story on the surface, but in actuality, it is not a conventional horror novel. Instead, it is an atmospheric, gothic historical fiction with elements of a psychological thriller thrown into the mix. At an almost agonizingly slow pace, the story unfolds gradually to reveal a series of seemingly supernatural events that creep upon the unsuspecting reader. In place of scares of immediate effect, The Little Stranger subtly weaves an intricate tragic story delineating the fall of a crumbling British way of life, as well as a family that cannot keep up with the changes of an evolving postwar society.
While Sarah Waters’s writing is wonderfully well composed, unfortunately, I never felt engaged with the story. I always found myself approaching it from a detached distance, and I couldn’t bring myself to feel invested in any of the characters. Moreover, the plodding pace seemed to exacerbate these issues.
Dance Dance Dance
Premise: Mysterious events that are somehow interconnected occur, and at the center of it all stands the mysterious Dolphin Hotel.
Review: I only realized that I probably should have read A Wild Sheep Chase before reading Dance Dance Dance after I had already read more than half of Dance Dance Dance, as this is a sequel to the former. However, I think this works well as a stand alone, although it does take a while to get accustomed to the story and the unexplained heavy emphasis on the Dolphin Hotel. There is also a character, the Sheep Man, that I have a feeling was introduced first in A Wild Sheep Chase.
Nevertheless, I very much enjoyed reading Dance Dance Dance, as it reminded me of my experience reading The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Murakami demonstrates his effortless blending of the surreal and real again here, pulling you back and forth between alternate dimensions fluidly. There is something comforting in the knowledge that you know what to expect when you’re getting into a Murakami book, as you’re familiar with his style.