I don’t deliberately choose to read books with a common theme, but nearly every time I put together my Book Bag posts there is a connection between the latest batch. This time the connection is unusual brains. Three different books with three protagonists that in one way or another have something a bit different in their inner mental workings. One was a thriller, one a horror and the other, well I am not sure, comedy, romance, drama? Kind of hard to define.
Before I go to Sleep – S J Watson
‘Memories define us.
So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep?
Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love – all forgotten overnight.
And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story.
Welcome to Christine’s life.’
It’s a cliché I know but I really could not put this book down. It really hooked me to the point where every free ten minutes were spent trying to squeeze in another few pages.
Because Christine loses her memory every time she goes to sleep, her whole life is a mystery to her and to us. Which means there are plenty of mysteries to solve throughout the story, the most pressing one of which is; ‘can we trust Ben?’
Ben is Christine’s husband, he is the one who explains to her everyday who she is and that she has a memory condition which mean she can’t remember the last twenty years of her life. He looks after Christine, comforts her, makes sure has everything she needs and reassures her again and again that he loves her.
But he is also hiding things from her, parts of her past that are too painful to remember. And Christine is hiding things from him too, like the fact that she is seeing a Doctor to help her regain her memory and the journal she is writing in each day to piece together the truth.
I really enjoyed this thiller and even thought at one point; ‘this would make a great film’. Others must have thought so to as a quick search shows that yes they are making this into a film with Nicole Kidman as Christine and Colin Firth as Ben. Would be quite interested to see Colin Firth play someone a bit creepy!
The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick
“Pat Peoples knows that life doesn’t always go according to plan, but he’s determined to get his back on track. After a stint in a psychiatric hospital, Pat is staying with his parents and trying to live according to his new philosophy: get fit, be nice and always look for the silver lining. Most importantly, Pat is determined to be reconciled with his wife Nikki.
Pat’s parents just want to protect him so he can get back on his feet, but when Pat befriends the mysterious Tiffany, the secrets they’ve been keeping from him threaten to come out . . .”
I picked up this book on a whim at the library, and read the whole thing without realising that this was the book that I’d read so much about on the internet! There are reviews everywhere for this as well as for the film version with Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Laurence.
Anyway, it is a great book, very human. And although there are some characters that are frankly bizarre they all seem real.
I think the most heart breaking part of the story is about Pat’s parents. His Mum is trying to hold the family together, but his Dad’s focus is fixed on the Eagles’ football success. All of his relationships go through a football filter, if the Eagles win he is filled with happiness and affection but if they lose he has nothing but disdain for his family and will withdraw. He has surrendered all power over his life to the ups and downs of a football team over which he has no control.
Compare him to Pat, who is doing all he can to reach the life that he wants and be reconciled to Nikki. Pat exercises, he filters his words and actions as best he can to please his friends and family. He tries so hard to ‘be kind to people’. And he makes lots of mistakes on the way, lots and lots but he keeps trying.
When you compare father and son it looks like Pat is more mentally balanced than his Dad, although his Dad would appear like the ‘normal one’ from an outsiders perspective.
Anyway, it’s a great book and, hype or no hype, I would happily recommend it.
The Dead Zone by Stephen King
“If any of King’s novels exemplifies his skill at portraying the concerns of his generation, it’s The Dead Zone. Although it contains a horrific subplot about a serial killer, it isn’t strictly a horror novel. It’s the story of an unassuming high school teacher, an Everyman, who suffers a gap in time–like a Rip Van Winkle who blacks out during the years 1970-75–and thus becomes acutely conscious of the way that American society is rapidly changing. He wakes up as well with a gap in his brain, the “dead zone” of the title. The zone gives him crippling headaches, but also grants him second sight, a talent he doesn’t want and is reluctant to use. The crux of the novel concerns whether he will use that talent to alter the course of history.”
I have said before how much I love Stephen King, but I struggled a bit with this one. It didn’t hold my attention the same way as his other books have. I think the problem was that the focus swapped around a fair bit so at the beginning it’s about Jonny and the girl he missed out on because of the coma, then it’s about him dealing with the press hounding after word of his psychic touch gets out, then it’s about catching a serial killer, then finally it’s about stopping a politician’s rise to power before he has the chance to singlehandedly start World War Three.
Each section is great, but it didn’t always feel like a progression of the same story. And by the time the set up was in place that Jonny would have to go and take on this awful politician I felt tired. In little snippets between chapters we had seen this politician kick a dog to death, threaten a teenager, blackmail fundraisers and hire thugs for his private security.
When it becomes evident the Jonny must stop this character I felt tired for Jonny. He had been through so much that I really didn’t want him to face another fight. That made it hard to pick up the book and keep going but in hindsight that is pretty much exactly what Jonny felt too, so maybe I connected with this book more than I thought.
Anyhow it was worth persevering with because the ending is fantastic. So I guess I would say start this book with caution because it is a long slog, but once you’ve started keep going to the end. It’s worth seeing through!