‘Whistle in the Dark’ was really a beautiful surprise. The premise is interesting from the get-go - Jen is a woman dealing with the lingering threat of her fifteen-year-old daughter Lana’s disappearance. In the first few sentences, we learn that Lana has been found alive after four days missing alone in the Lake District. She can’t (or won’t) tell anyone what happened or where she was, leaving her confused family to consider the worst.
Chuck Palahniuk has a saying: “Be clever on someone else’s dime. Being clever will never make your reader cry, laugh and probably won’t break their heart.” And this was what I was thinking throughout this novella - really, there was just no heart.
Feeling very much like a novel of its time, with TV series like Skins into its 5th series by 2011, the storyline follows immature 17-year old Jasper, who believes his step-dad to be a murderer and lies to his therapist about being gay and racist. He spends every evening getting high, drunk or having sex with any girl he can. His best friend Tenaya is troubled; something Jasper only really understands after spotting the cuts down her arm.
This novel might have been the inspiration behind DIE HARD - but rid yourself of the idea that this is John McClane. Joe Leland is a much more three-dimensional protagonist, and the novel is darker, more gritty and surprising than its movie counterpart.
‘The Lottery’ focuses on the community of a small unidentified American town who come together annually to select a member by chance to be stoned to death. The story addresses a number of different themes in its short text; that of violence, of mob mentality, of conscription, of meaningless sacrifice and scapegoats, of men and women carrying out their ‘duty’ unquestioningly no matter the human cost.
The novel is painful to read; not only because it reflects the truth of oppression and racial division in this era (and the concern that many of us feel about Trump’s election and whether that shows a regression towards a more divisive society today too), but also because it expertly dangles hope in front of the reader.
‘Fear of flying’ has shown me that we - real women - are not the ones that are broken. It shines a light on how impossible it can feel to be a woman, and on how biased and constructed our points of reference against which to measure ourselves have been since we were children. As D. H. Lawrence says: “The real trouble about women is that they must always go on trying to adapt themselves to men’s theories of women.”
It isn’t the plot that makes this novel special. It lacks much action at all, in fact - but this is a deliberate attempt to direct us alongside Jernigan as he makes a series of bad or passive decisions to draw out the repetitive, unfulfilling life that he admits he would much rather not be living. Instead of focusing on drama, Gates spends the majority of the book focusing on the intricacies of his character, showing redemptive compassion for his introspective, self-pitying protagonist, as he tries to rationalize his own terrible behavior.
The first refreshing element of this novel is that Maya is unlike any other female narrator I’ve ever read. Not only is she wholly unlikable, confusing and exhausting, but she also thinks and says whatever she wants. Still, her raw honesty and humor means that you respect her, even if you don’t like her. Sharma smears foul language and imagery across every page, in ways that typically only male narrators have ever been allowed to do. Which is pretty fantastic.
This book contains more people getting shot than you can shake a stick full of black-tar heroin at, and all the reviews I’ve read about this ‘classic thriller’ are singing its praises - but once I’d read the first 50-odd pages, I got bored. And then I got more bored. And then I had to drink an energy drink to get through the last bit.