Review: Enon ~ Paul Harding

EnonThe next novel by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Tinkers, in which a father’s grief over the loss of his daughter threatens to derail his life.

Powerful, brilliantly written, and deeply moving Paul Harding has, in Enon, written a worthy successor to Tinkers, a debut which John Freeman on NPR called “a masterpiece.” Drawn always to the rich landscape of his character’s inner lives, here, through the first person narrative of Charlie Crosby (grandson to George Crosby of Tinkers), Harding creates a devastating portrait of a father trying desperately to come to terms with family loss.

3 Thumbs-Up

If you are looking for a read that is full of plot twists and turns, feel good characters and a happy ending, then you would be well advised to give this tragic book a miss.  If you are prepared to dive into its pages, you may be surprised at the emotions it evokes in you.

Without revealing spoilers, this novel is a journey into hell via the grief and anguish of one man.  We see how this duo enables his year-long addiction to alcohol and drugs, alienates those he loves and are trying to support him, and generally takes him on a downward spiral few of us could imagine going on. This novel takes the reader to the brink of the character’s madness, as we are trapped inside his head during his periods of hallucinations and flashbacks while he struggles unsuccessfully to come to grips with the destroying loss he has suffered.

To pull no punches, this is a grim and almost depressing book, but the Author has written it beautifully and with great assurance; bringing to the page something that needs to be read to understand that we, although of the same species, do not cope with grief in the same way.  The book is written in the first person narrative, and this style is  very effective in making this novel believable as we drift with the main protagonist further from his hold on reality.

I did find in some places that the book was a little disjointed and rambling, whether or not this was intentional on the part of the Author to play into the whole mind of the main character I don’t know, but it was a little distracting at times and pulled away some of my enjoyment in this read.  Also, not being a voyeur, I found this book to give me an uncomfortable feeling as if I were intruding in a place I really should not have been, and this again detracted from my enjoyment.  The unending flow of misery and isolation really began to pull me down in the end, and I was relieved when I finally turned the last page and was able to set this aside.

Although the book was definitely not for me, I gave it a three thumbs rating because of the way in which it is written.  It is rich in prose and the visual landscapes of settings and emotions the reader encounters as they ‘journey’ through the book, were written in such a way as to demonstrate the command of the pen this Author appears to have.

If you enjoy reading about another’s pain, be it self-induced or inflicted on them by forces beyond their control, this is probably a read you would enjoy, other than those in this area I really couldn’t recommend this novel to readers of any one particular genre.

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Happy Frankenstein Day.

Frankenstein - Mary Shelley

It’s the birthday of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, my all time favourite classic Author.  Born Mary Wollstonecraft  Godwin in London, England (1797), she is the author of Frankenstein ( published January 1, 1818), which is considered the first science fiction novel ever written, and the book that I read over and over again finding new angles in its pages each time I do.

After her marriage to the poet Percy Shelley, the couple went to stay in a lakeside cottage in Switzerland with the poet Lord Byron in the summer of 1816. One rainy night, after reading a German book of ghost stories, Byron suggested that they all write their own horror stories.

Everyone else wrote a story within the next day, but Mary took almost a week. Finally, she wrote an early version of a story about a scientist who brings a dead body to life. She turned the story into a novel, and Frankenstein was published in 1818. She was 21 years old.

There are many reasons that this novel has me returning to it time and time again, not least of all the fact that it was totally different from the works other Authors of her period were writing.  It was dark and haunting in a way that Dickens and Bronte weren’t, and led to many moments where I actually was made to think outside the box and beyond the words on the pages.  It fed my questioning mind, and still does, bringing up questions such as “Could the monster and Victor actually be different sides of the same coin?”

But why has this novel survived the test of time, in fact thrived over the 200 years since it was written?  Ronald Levao, co-editor of “The Annotated Frankenstein” (Harvard Univ. Press), “She articulated our desire for, and fear about, the transgression of fundamental boundaries,” he says, “between vitality and dead matter, the human and the inhuman, ideal aspiration and monstrous consequence.”  It seems he may be right as those monstrous consequences will be in play again this January with the release of “I Frankenstein,” a movie based on the graphic novel by Kevin Grevioux, who graduated from Howard University in Washington.  Although the movie has very little to do with Shelley’s novel, it is still keeping alive the premise she intended when she put a pen to paper.

I will be celebrating Frankenstein Day by pulling my copy off the bookshelf again and settling in to read it over this holiday weekend.  How will you be celebrating?

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Review: Frankenstein A Life Beyond (Book 1 of 3) ~ Pete Planisek

Frankenstein

Ten years after the loss of his entire family to madness and death, Ernest Frankenstein finds himself compelled to return to the city of his birth, Geneva, in order to discover if his elder brother, Viktor, might still be alive. Only Viktor can provide the answers to questions, which have long plagued Ernest. The quest for answers will force Ernest to confront demons, both internal and external, from his past, which refuse to be at peace and which ultimately will endanger both he and his new family. Hunted across Europe their only hope may lie with a French spy, Ernest’s childhood friend, and a mysterious gypsy girl whose people believe that Ernest will lead humanity to its salvation or final destruction.

 5 Thumbs-UpThis is not a rewriting of the Mary Shelley classic; it hasn’t been twisted around, given a new plot or new characters.  This book continues from the point Mary Shelley ended in Frankenstein, and does so in a seamless manner.

I’m probably like most lovers of the classics, when something like this is released, never certain of what is going to appear between the covers.  This book will really open your eyes and make you think. It is a compelling and very intelligently written book and it explores some new directions that hadn’t occurred to me whilst reading Mary Shelley’s work.   In many aspects it actually goes as far as to improve upon the ideas the original work ended with.

I have often wondered what happened to the remaining family of Viktor Frankenstein after his (supposed) death in the Arctic; this book explores that question very well, and in-depth. In building and developing the characters, the Author did an outstanding job of not straying too far from the original work when it came to their past history.  It was apparent that not only had the Author read Mary Shelley’s work, he had studied it in-depth to make sure his ‘sequel’ was credible and stuck to the basic premise of her original work, grafting it to his own writing but still managing to make his novel very much his own and, very much an original piece of work.

The dialogue is very well written, and stays true and appropriate for the time in which the book is set.  It fills each page with mystery and intrigue in an already dark and ominous world that truly transported me into the past.  The novel has a good pace, not too slow and not too fast, and there is a lot happening, oh boy is there.  Not too much that you become bogged down and lost, but enough to make you want to keep turning the page to continue on with the journey.    The end of the book is an opening for the next in this series of 3, but didn’t end leaving the reader with more questions than answers, so this could be read as a standalone, however, I defy anyone to be able to do that.

I was very intrigued as to how the Author would portray the first encounter with the ‘monster’, and I was not disappointed at all.  Not only the first, but all encounters, live up to that terrifying portrait that was painted in the original; a seemingly insurmountable challenge that the Author overcame with ease. It didn’t make me change my original thoughts on the ‘monster’ at all, only served to strengthen a possibility I had put forward during my ‘A’ level Literature class.

This is a must read for all lovers of the classics, and anyone who loves a good read with plenty of unforeseen twists and turns.  It is an exciting read one which I found very hard to put down and kept me up far later than it should have as I wanted to read to the end.  Once at the end, it left me with a need to plunge straight into the other 2 books.  Yes, it really is that good, and I wish it had been around when I was doing my English Literature ‘A’ levels.

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