Company of Liars by Karen Maitland
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This was an excellent book and Maitland did a brilliant job of bringing the past to life in a way that was realistic without being overwhelming.
In parts the plot pacing was a little shaky as it could often be quite slow but I think this was more than compensated for by the great attention to detail which kept the reader hooked into the plot by all the eccentricities of medieval life. I absolutely loved all of the superstition and religious elements that were included! They’re the main reason I enjoy studying the medieval period and Maitland did a brilliant job of including them without it becoming overbearing or without it seeming out of line with our modern beliefs on what is and isn’t possible (view spoiler). Furthermore, the mysteries were very deftly done and I spent most of the book trying to second-guess what was behind them all. Though some were a bit of a let down, I do think this was more in part to the amount of suspense leading up to them rather than the plot itself – with that much suspense constantly building up throughout a novel most revelations would feel like a let down!
The entire theme of truth throughout the novel was a pretty unique take on a book like this and I thoroughly enjoyed how it was explored in most situations. It didn’t delve too far into challenging whether lying was necessarily a bad thing in every scenario but it did raise enough questions to make the book linger in the reader’s mind long after they finished a chapter.
A writing device used in the book I particularly liked was the way Maitland had the characters tell stories and, instead of repeating them to us parrot fashion, she voiced their content through the different reactions of the character’s. This really helped keep my interest up in the story as well as move the plot on very nicely while giving us more information about the characters.
The only criticism I would have of the novel, and a small one at that, is that the characters of Osmond, Adela and Rodrigo would’ve been better with more development. This is particularly the case with Adela as the fact that she was ‘tender-hearted’ was both shown and told to the reader repeatedly but there seemed to be very little else to her and this did get a bit irritating towards the end. A much stronger backstory for all three of those characters would have improved the book tremendously, I’m aware there is some extra material to accompany the novel so I hope I find what I’m looking for in there!
All in all this book was a fantastic read and I’d highly recommend it to anyone interested in either English history and/or myths and legends.
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Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
DNF at 63%
I tried so hard to finish this book but it’s been nearly 6 month now and I just can’t tackle how painstakingly dull I find it. Perhaps I read it at the wrong time but I really don’t see what the fuss is over this book and why it is considered such a classic – I really tried to enjoy it just for that reason alone but it just wasn’t enough to stick with it. For what it’s worth, I watched the film and was bored rigid by that as well so it could just be my dislike for the gothic/poetic genre (partly why I’ve given it two stars).
My main irk with the book is that it relies far too much on the idea of vampires alone to sustain the reader’s interest – I just don’t find that enough. It’s this curiousity that it expects the reader to have which lets it down because without it, there’s little to carry the plot as the entire drawn-out interview style becomes boring very quickly.
On a similar note, though the interview style was an initially interesting approach to writing, it didn’t do any favours to help the pacing of the plot. I found I was increasingly irritated by being thrown back to the interview scenes just when Louis’ past was starting to get my attention again.
Another big problem I had with the book was the characters – I found them all either distinctly dislikeable or I just didn’t care for them whatsoever. It made all of the focus on their pasts and all the implied mysteries about their actions just mind-numbing.
All of the above I probably could have put up with for the sake of not leaving a book (especially one with a reputation as high as this one!) unfinished. However, Louis’ constant whingeing about his feelings and his struggle was plain unbearable. If I wanted to read about a stroppy emotional teenager having an crisis over the human condition then I would’ve hunted out some low-rated YA fiction about first-love breakups or whatever. This was not what I expected from the book at all and I was so disappointed by it that it really ruined any enjoyment I could have otherwise pulled from it. I understand that this is quite a common feature of gothic fiction which gave me a little more patience for it but taking it to this extent just seemed unnecessary and as though the author was desperate to meet her word count.
The sole positive aspect the book had for me was the use of description and imagery; they really helped liven up the otherwise incredibly dull progress I made through the novel and there were some truly great phrases hidden in there. There is no doubt that Anne Rice is very talented with words but my initial impression from what I’ve read of this book alone is that this talent is wasted on awful plots and poor pacing.
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