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Hello crapness, my old friend...

I have had today off work, but I just got a bit fed up of the day at around 2pm and went back to bed until it was time for Spooks. I realise that this constitutes unacceptable sloth, but it is the sole advantage of living alone. I was fed up of dealing with conscious thought, and so read a Marian Keyes book.

*Warning: This is going to be about chicklit books I like and do not like, so could we all just assume that I also read challenging stuff (even though I mostly don't) so that I don't have to get defensive about you being judgmental that I don't read fucking Dostoyevsky in my spare time. Though it may be a bit late for that last bit. Ta. *

I am fond of Marian Keyes, a woman whose work is more traduced by the term chick lit than described by it, but The Brightest Star in the Sky is *cough* not her best work.

It's a bit like the film Love Actually, in as much as there are really good parts and some interesting story strands, but the whole is a sentimental, mechanistic mess. Also, I realised halfway through that one of the main plot points was a whole roaring orchestra of Do Not Want, but by then I had decided I was going to finish it. As the alternative was Conscious Thought About Work, I trudged through to the end.

The Brightest Star in the Sky is basically Marian Keyes does Ralph's Party, only not so good. Four flats in a house in Dublin are filled by disparate groups of people, from Polish immigrants to a record company publicist, to an indomitable old lady to a couple who are having severe mental health problems. Gradually, more is revealed about the nature of their lives, love lives and difficulties and we reach a (more or less) happy ending. That's the template for 80% of the genre and there's nothing wrong with that.

However, the framing device in this book is so twee, so noisome, so 'let's put it in a quirky typeface and be cute', that every time it appeared I wanted to hurl the book out of my site. Let me tell you how shite this framing device is -- I last came upon it in bad X-Files fanfiction. S7-8 fanfiction with that plot development. And it was done better there.

In short, should you ever wish to read a good novel about women and their lives, do not read The Brightest Star in the Sky, not even if it's only nine quid at WH Smiths. Buy This Charming Man, which is also by Marian Keyes, also has a serious theme but at least has the advantage of feeling slightly original and being very, very funny.

I've also read Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy in the past couple of months or so. The books are more compulsive page-turners than great literature, but they do have the advantage of being respectively, (a) good locked door mystery with horror elements (Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) and (b) a police procedural crossed with a conspiracy thriller (its two sequels, which are really one huge book). I don't think you learn a huge amount about Sweden from it, or get a glimpse of a different mindset as you do with Arnaldur Indriðason's books set in Reykjavik, but they are engaging.

The female characters in it are by far more interesting than the 'hero' Blomkvist, who is a kind of well-meaning cipher whose superpower is to be able to talk any woman into bed merely by being interested in her. I read a review in Prospect, which said that the heroine, Lisbeth Salander, was basically a witch in the same way that the fairies of eighteenth century fairytales became aliens in the twentieth, only because this was the 21st century, she'd become a hacker who could get into any computer.

As it happens, I have a spare copy of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. I was talking to a friend around the time of my birthday about books and mentioned that I'd really enjoyed piling through the Millennium trilogy. She hadn't heard of them so I described it a bit and recommended that she read The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. She asked what I wanted for my birthday and I just said "send any book you've really loved in the past year; I'd love to read something you enjoyed." Last week she sent me a parcel -- and lo and behold it was The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. This is, at least, better than two years ago, when she got me the same album by Stereophonics (a band I don't like much) for my birthday and for Christmas. It's very kind of her to send me something but even I don't need two copies, so if anyone would like one of mine, I'd be happy to send you it along with a Christmas card.

Anyway, if you fancy some sort of card from me this year, I would be more than happy to send you one. Reciprocation is pleasant but entirely unnecessary.

Poll #1493753 Would you like some kind of seasonal greeting?

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Comments

( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
violetisblue
Dec. 3rd, 2009 03:49 am (UTC)
What are these Arnaldur Indriðason books of which you speak? I'd been looking to start reading some Scandinavian procedurals and the Girl series didn't look like my kind of thing.
infinitemonkeys
Dec. 3rd, 2009 03:59 am (UTC)
The Erlender books, described below. I've only read two but I loved the way the mindset felt entirely different. I can't tell whether that's my brain seeing weird intimacy where there is none because I am unused to no surnames.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arnaldur_Indridason

My dad and a friend at work speak highly of Henning Mankell, though I have a pile of Ian Rankin stuff and a couple of Val McDermid's books to get through before I get to it.
violetisblue
Dec. 3rd, 2009 04:04 am (UTC)
Ooh, Ian Rankin. I got Let It Bleed out of the library solely because I liked the title (and because run-down urban heavy-industry Edinburgh sounded so similar to run-down urban heavy-industry South Chicago) and loved it.
angstville
Dec. 3rd, 2009 04:18 am (UTC)
As soon as you equated Keyes' book to Love Actually in the first sentence, I started laughing and said.."Oh, this isn't going to be pretty"...since I know how much you *love* that movie...heeheee!!!

Mwah!
infinitemonkeys
Dec. 4th, 2009 01:39 am (UTC)
Oh, well, it's possible I am a bit hard on Love Actually because the bit with Emma Thompson is amazing and the author could do so much better. Grrrr etc.

If you want to read fine chicklit, read her previous book. That one is grand
corianderstem
Dec. 3rd, 2009 05:45 am (UTC)
Oh, I do love me some Marian Keyes. Pity to hear her latest is crap. I didn't know she had a "latest." I just finally found a used copy of This Charming Man, since apparently we don't get her books here in the US stores anymore. :-(
infinitemonkeys
Dec. 4th, 2009 01:40 am (UTC)
Oddness. I thought she had some kind of publishing deal in the US. I really liked "This Charming Man" -- it was funny and sad and in places, even a little creepy. The latest one, not so much.
corianderstem
Dec. 4th, 2009 01:46 am (UTC)
This Charming Man was the first book I was unable to find in the bookstores, and when I went online, I didn't find any info about a US release. BOO.

Maybe it's changed now - I obviously stopped looking after I found a used copy online!
(Deleted comment)
infinitemonkeys
Dec. 4th, 2009 01:48 am (UTC)
You're right about Salander, she's a great character because she's believably unpredictable, particularly in the first book.

I think that Larsson's aim was to show the pernicious influence of misogyny -- in the second and third books that's explicit, occasionally to the point of bludgeoning obviousness. You're right about Blomkvist though. I hadn't really thought about it that way, but I do remember rolling my eyes when he went to bed with the older Vanger woman (can't remember her name). In books two and three (which are really one long police procedural/conspiracy thriller) it only gets worse.

Then at the end it just about gets better.
lilydale
Dec. 3rd, 2009 12:29 pm (UTC)
Because I am bringing laziness to a new height, I will not fill out the whole poll but just say that I always like mail from you. I will also say that you should write your own novel. JUST SAYIN' (AGAIN).
infinitemonkeys
Dec. 4th, 2009 01:40 am (UTC)
There will be mail from me (if you can send me your address again pls)
lilydale
Dec. 4th, 2009 02:11 am (UTC)
You got me to fill out the poll. :-)
franthewndrhrse
Dec. 3rd, 2009 09:36 pm (UTC)
Every time I see 'cromarty' I think, 'who the hell is that?' Then, after about a gazillion years, (my brain works slow, so sue me), I remember.
infinitemonkeys
Dec. 4th, 2009 01:41 am (UTC)
Actually, you and me both *g*
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )