Tag Archives: epic reads

WBN 11: American Gods

I’m steadily working my way through the nation’s 100 favourite books according to World Book Night’s poll in 2011. Find out more about this challenge and check my progress here.

It’s a really good job I love Neil Gaiman’s writing – if it wasn’t my cup of tea, this challenge would be a complete nightmare. This is the third of the five on this list, and it’s by far the most ambitious and impressive so far. It’s an absolutely massive book, almost the American equivalent of Neverwhere in the way that it takes an average person and plunges them into an underworld they never knew existed.

Gaiman has written the story of the gods that followed their pilgrims to America, and then languished, forgotten and unworshipped. The Norse gods are the stars of the show, but some of the obscure Russian gods are by turns hilariously or ethereally diverting. The main character, Shadow, is unapologetically severe and aloof, but all the same he proves himself to be a man worthy of our attention. Despite the daunting length of the book, and the epic journey that Shadow takes, I remained engaged and interested in the sprawling narrative.

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WBN 70: Anna Karenina

Oh yeah, that’s right. I read Anna Karenina in FOUR DAYS! I’ve kind of ruined my speed reading by taking more time over shorter books since, but still, I managed it!

I read this for the first time last year (on my IPHONE, it was 4721 tiny little pages) and this time round I read it on my Kindle, setting myself percentage targets for each day. Because I’d read it recently, and the chapters are shortish, I found myself flying through it. I think Tolstoy has so much to say in this book, and despite the thoroughly annoying main character (Anna), there are tons of people completely worthy of your attention. You could really say there are two main characters, the other being Levin, and I find Levin’s story a lot more sympathetic.

This is essentially a domestic drama; if Jane Austen had lived longer, one might imagine she could have written something similar. Tolstoy really knows people and relationships, and once this challenge is over I can definitely see myself seeking out more of his books. What I’m not sure I’ll be doing is going to see the upcoming film adaptation starring Keira Knightley as Anna; Keira irritates me at the best of times and I don’t think her pouting and posturing all over the screen in search of an Oscar will be especially enjoyable. Plus, it seems that most of Lenin’s story has been cut, which is understandable as it mostly takes place in his head while he stares out onto his farmland or shoots game. And he talks about agriculture a lot. Still, they could have at least picked someone a bit older and more rugged to play him than Domhnall Gleeson aka Ron Weasley’s big brother. Right?

Anyway, that aside, I can’t help but recommend this even if only for the scene where Dolly receives a telegram from her husband and rolls her eyes because he always sends telegrams when he’s drunk. Reminds me of a few people I know who have to check their sent messages folder the morning after a night out…

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