Novel

Character based, driven more by personal relationships than action, ‘Realism’…

 

 A+

 

HORNBY, Nick         

About A Boy        1998

Well written, often funny, nice balance of hope and realism, read in one session

 

 A

 

 

CALVINO, Italo         

If On A Winters Night A Traveller                     1979    Novel

Postmodern, self-aware, deconstructive – but also fun and engaging

 

GOLDSWORTHY, Peter     

Maestro    1989

Child prodigy in authentic seventies Australia

 

ELIOT, George

Middlemarch        1881-2

Clever, insightful, original, potent, engaging

 

HADDON, Mark        

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time     2003    Crime/Novel

Triumphant autistic fantasy. Authentic characters, engaging narrative and excellent structure

 

HORNBY, Nick         

High Fidelity        1995

Very readable, penetrating on commitment, honest, well plotted

 

How To Be Good            2001

Good characters, poignant without being preachy

 

ISHIGURO, Kazuo   

When We Were Orphans            2000

Black, very clever subversion of mannered detective novel to deliver stinging theme

 

LIVELY, Penelope

Moon Tiger           1987

Great mood, characters, and potent historical settings

 

 A-

 

HELLER, Joseph     

Catch 22   1955    Novel

Killer satire, hilarious but black humour, drunkenly uninhibited

 

IRVING, John           

The World According to Garp   1978

Funny, striking, constantly moving

 

KEILLOR, Garrison

Wobegon Boy      1997

Slow moving but warmly funny, and even some kick

 

LEE, Harper  

To Kill a Mockingbird     1960

Effectively following Twain’s tradition of dry narration from a child’s perspective to comment on America, community, morality and race

 

LIVELY, Penelope

Passing On          1989

Some good characters, patient story with a kick, a bit preachy

 

LODGE, David                      

How Far Can You Go?   1980

Perceptive case studies of how Vatican II, the pill, and changing social values affected adherents

 

STEINBECK, John

Of Mice and Men 1937    Novella

Stinging, poignant, bleak, insightful

 

TYLER, Anne           

Breathing Lessons                     1988

Insightful, humorous, sad, believable

 

 

 B+

 

BANKS, Iain 

Espedair Street               1987

Anecdotes, soul-searching and recovery of depressed fictional ex-rock star

 

The Business       1999

Hi-tech business woman moves between 1st and 3rd World

 

BARKER, Pat           

Regeneration       1991    Novel/War/Historical Fiction

Insightful WW1 profiles from well researched imagined psychological counselling sessions with the ‘shell-shocked’

 

ELTON, Ben 

Inconceivable      1991    Novel/Humour

Workmanlike realisation of a usable idea, engaging start and finish, but bogs down in cliché in the middle

 

GOLDSWORTHY, Peter     

Wish          1995

As ever well written but ultimately a deeply offensive theme (B+/F)

 

LEVI, Primo              

The Wrench         1978

Gracefully narrated stories of a tradesman’s jobs and values

 

LIVELY, Penelope

Judgement Day   1980

Clinical, able, honest, searching, manipulative

 

Heat Wave                        1996

Potent, capable, slow-moving, tragic, venomous

 

LODGE, David                      

Ginger, You’re Barmy    1962

Honest picture of the inanities of national service

 

Out of the Shelter                       1970

Semi-autobiographical coming of age story of English youth in post-war Germany

 

Changing Places 1975    Novel/Humour

A middle-aged daydream

 

Small World         1984    Novel/Humour

Second of the clever and funny Rummidge Uni series

 

Nice Work            1988

Industry meets academia: deft observation, articulation, organisation from a benignly humorous narrator

 

Paradise News    1991

Funny, touching, insightful, morally & thematically flawed

 

Therapy    1995

Standard Lodge: insight, humour, alternative forms, incorporated lecture (Keirkegaard), adulterous resolution

 

Thinks       2001

Standard Lodge, but less substance and more cheap stylistic and prurient tricks

 

Deaf Sentence     2008

Honest, articulate, fluid, and (refreshingly) not that seedy

 

McEwan, Ian

Amsterdam          1998   

Able, masculine, articulate, incisive (although events are sensational and finally twee)

 

MARTEL, Yann

Life of Pi   2001

Ably written surprising mix of survival story and deceptively persuasive theology

 

MARSDEN, John

Tomorrow, When the War Began                     1993    Novel/Action/Teen

Surprisingly workable war and teen romance hybrid; recognisable Oz kids

 

MOSLEY, Walter

RL’s Dream          1995

Original, engaging, confronting

 

Némirovsky, Irène           

Suite Française   2004 (trans. 2006)      

Established Jewish novelist sets and writes a story in Vichy France. Extraordinarily poignant. 

 

PROULX, Annie

The Shipping News        1993   

Redemptive city to country feelgood story with strong episodes and dialogue

 

SCHLINK, Bernard              

The Reader          1997

Modern German grapples to decide appropriate response to the holocaust

 

SILVEY, Craig

Jasper Jones       2009

Engaging coming of age story, rural 70s Australians amped up to Shakespearian proportions

 

TARTT, Donna                                 

The Little Friend  2002    Crime/Novel

Impressively textured characters, yet steadfastly misanthropic

 

TWAIN, Mark                                    

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn   1885    Novel

First half powerful, funny, striking, but then slides into farce

 

VOIGT, Cynthia        

Dicey’s Song       1982    Juvenile (Novel)

Capable young teen sequel to Homecoming

 

Tree By Leaf        1988   

Able meditation on choice and destiny (much better job than Cherryh’s Rusalka)

 

ZUSAC, Markus       

The Messenger    2006    Novel/Juvenile ((teen) and adult)

Good heart, engaging Australian expression and humour, oversimple

 

 

 B

 

 

ADIGA, Aravind

The White Tiger   2008

Able concept and writing, perceptive, but deeply cynical, and consistently unpleasant company

 

AUSTEN, Jane                     

Mansfield Park     1814

Atypical, censorious heroine and plot, less fun than usual (apparently)

 

BANKS, Iain 

Canal Dreams                  1989    Novel/Action

Ably realised genre hybrid, but I admired this book more than I enjoyed it

 

BROOKS, Geraldine

People of the Book         2008    Novel/Historical Fiction

Clever enough idea competently realised – but not really for me

 

CAMUS, Albert        

The Plague                       1947

Plague as a metaphor for German occupation of France

 

DONOGHUE, Emma

Room        2010    Novel

Competent realisation of a concept, but probably better as short story, or maybe a novella with a sequel

 

ELIOT, George

Silas Marner         1861

Not as engaging as Middlemarch, but interesting plot turns, characters and themes

 

 FOER, Jonathan Safran     

Everything Is Illuminated                       2002

Fails as much as it succeeds

 

FREE, David (OSHER, Mark)

A Dancing Bear   2005    (Online) Novel

Clever but ultimately empty/ugly satire

 

FRY, Steven              

The Liar    1991

Irritatingly constant seedy action undermines language drenched with wit

 

The Hippopotamus         1994

Able characters, style, dialogue and plot. Definitively gratuitous immorality

 

GALLICO, Paul        

The Boy Who Invented the Bubble Gun          1974

Dated but OK. Troubled teen overcomes angst amidst silly spy shenanigans

 

GOLDSWORTHY, Peter     

KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid)   1996

Read overnight, mid-life issues, authentic Italian-Australian soccer playing characters

 

GRISHAM, John      

The Chamber       1994

Original plot, interesting as legal/family documentary, flawed thematically

 

HESSE, Hermann    

Peter Camenzind            1904

Style a bit windy. Plot, action and dialogue are entirely secondary

 

HORNBY, Nick

A Long Way Down          2005   

Typically good characters and dialogue but wayward structure

 

JAMES, Henry          

An International Episode                       1878    Novella

Fascinating though less entertaining more modern foil to Lizzy Bennett

 

The Bostonians   1886

I must have liked it to have kept it but I can’t remember why - time for a reread

 

JOYCE, Rachel        

The Unlikely Pigrimage of Harold Fry 2012    Novel

Endearing, poignant aspects unravel in the last third

 

KAFKA, Franz          

The Trial   1925

Dim on why I kept it – pleasure or pretension?

 

KUNDERA, Milan                 

The Joke   1967

He’s good but it’s been too long for me to remember why

 

The Farewell Party          1976

He’s good but it’s been too long for me to remember why

 

Ignorance             2003

Insight or projection?

 

LODGE, David                      

The British Museum is Falling Down   1965

More broad comedy and less perception than usual, literary in-jokes, and bemoaning Catholic birth control

 

McEWAN, Ian

Enduring Love     1997    Novel/Thriller

Hitchcock(?) style focus on the psychological effect of a stalker on an everyman

 

Atonement           2001    Novel/Historical Fiction

Too much setup, evocative war scenes, dubious dénouement

 

OSHER, Mark (FREE, David)

A Dancing Bear   2005

Clever but ultimately empty/ugly satire

 

SATRE, Jean-Paul               

Nausea     1938

I kept it, but I can’t remember it and have no desire to read it again

 

SHERRILL, Steve                 

The Minotaur Takes A Cigarette Break            2002    Novel (Magic Realism)

Able ‘Of Mice and Men’ mood, characters, themes; mythic hook largely gratuitous 

 

SHIELDS, Carol                   

The Stone Diaries           1993

Undeniably able fictional autobiography, but not my thing

 

TIFFANY, Carrie                  

Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living                        2005

Detached narrative, effective historical setting, didactic moral

 

TÓIBÍN, Colm                       

The Blackwater Lightship                      1999

Well written, but depressing (and a bit preachy)

 

TYLER, Anne                       

The Accidental Tourist   1985

            Good movie, can’t remember if the book was as enjoyable

 

VIDAL, Gore 

Kalki          1978

            Hinduism and apocalypse in the US

 

WAIN, John  

Comedies             1990   

Real sense of 30s England

 

WALTER, Jess         

The Zero   2006

Deft enough satire ala Heller, able writing, but it didn’t grip or sting me much past half-way

 

Beautiful Ruins   2012

Flawless integration of characters over different settings and decades, but none that particularly resonated personally

 

 

B-

 

BADDIEL, David      

Time For Bed       1996   

Offensive static overwhelms talented signal

 

CAIN, James M.       

Mildred Pearce    1941

Mildred: heroine, or just as shallow as the men she supplants?

 

CARROLL, Steven

The Time We Have Taken           2007

All musing doth not a novel make

 

GUEDJ, Denis           2002

The Parrot’s Theorem                           

Not quite successful attempt to integrate maths history and theory into an engaging teen novel

 

MOYER, Marsha

The Last of the Honky-tonk Angels      2003

A midday movie daydream book – with pretensions

 

PICOULT, Jodi         

Salem Falls          2001   

Hooks for teen girls, but clichéd and a bit glib using difficult content salaciously rather than insightfully

 

ROBINSON, Marilynne                   

Housekeeping     1981

Well written, but cold, somewhat misanthropic atmosphere

 

 

 C+

 

FISHER, Carrie         

Delusions of Grandma   1994

Bad US sit-com gloss and introspective vacuity

 

 

 C

 

BANVILLE, John      

The Untouchable             1997    Novel

Engaging trip bloated to tedious journey

 

ELTON, Ben

Blind Faith           2007    SF/Novel

1984 template to hypocritically vilify facebook and religion 

 

HESSE, Hermann    

The Prodigy         1905

Utterly detached narrative, no humour, low action, little insight

 

LAXNESS, Halldór

Independent People        1935, 36

Highly praised. Highly tedious.

 

SABATINI, Irene                  

The Boy Next Door         2009

I could not handle the constant bland short sentences

 

TYLER, Anne                       

Searching for Caleb        1975

Disappointingly bland and loose intergenerational family drama

 

C-

 

GIMENEZ, Mark

The Color of Law            2005    Novel/Crime

Definitive stereotype, appallingly myopic

 

 D

 

WINTON, Tim           

That Eye, The Sky           1986

Dark, cynical, bleak

 

 

 F

 

GOLDSWORTHY, Peter     

Wish          1995

As ever well written but ultimately a deeply offensive theme (B+/F)

 

Three Dog Night  2003

Goldsworthy has jumped the shark