Thursday, 20 October 2011

Bruce Duffy's Disaster Was My God

I have never read a semi-fictional biography before, nor have I read any poetry by the French poet Arthur Rimbaud. Bruce Duffy's Disaster Was My God has introduced them both to me. He states in his 'Note to the Reader' that while the book may be true to the character of Monsieur Rimbaud, the account is a fictional one; Duffy describes it as "more allegorical than historical, as befits a legend". Nevertheless, it is a compelling story and will certainly stir your interest in the man and his poetry.

The title of the book is derived from Rimbaud's poem, A Season In Hell, and his poetry is often quoted throughout the novel - the descriptive and dark language used by Duffy often seems a mimicry of the poet. His account of "the outlaw life of Arthur Rimbaud" draws you in from the beginning. Anachronistically, the prologue serves as an insight into the life of Rimbaud's mother after his death, revealing the contrasting views of Rimbaud's mother and the town of Charleville. Arthur is the bane of her life; Arthur is their hero and claim to fame.

The anachronistic treatment of the story does not mean you lose your way through the maze of Arthur Rimbaud's life; Duffy's skillfully crafted story merely keeps you on your toes. The past seems to serve as an explanation for the current actions of the characters, which suits the novel's prologue: In some ways the later chapters exist as a teleological explanation of Madame Rimbaud's attitude towards her son. Really, an excellent narrative hook. Why does this woman despise her son so much? Read on, dear Monsieur et Madame, read on...

The novel is to be released on the 17th November 2011 - and I'm very grateful to DoubleDay to be able to have this early viewing.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Back to normality, starting with the Monster

Hello, my fellow book-lovers. Everything has become more settled now I'm in my third week of my MA; back into the swing of things as it were. So I'm back to writing reviews biweekly, as promised. Also as promised, I'm reviewing A Monster Calls.

Patrick Ness's book is aimed at a younger audience, young adults and older children, than the books I have previously reviewed. However, I will argue most heartily that it is a book for all ages, so long as you have a decent-sized box of tissues nearby. This is a devastating story of a young boy coming to terms with the fact that his mother is dying of cancer. Adding to the distressing layers of the novel, the idea for the story was begun by Siobhan Dowd, who lost her own battle against cancer before she could write the book. Ness bravely takes on Dowd's final novel and produces something crushing and brilliant.