Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Petty Details of My Latest Read

I'm not doing a good job of writing about what I've been reading so am hoping to slip in a few more reviews over the next few days.

Most recently finished, Camilla Gibbs second novel The Petty Details of So and So's Life.

The novel explores much of the same territory as Mouthing the Words, centering on a dysfuncional family, an abusive father, a withdrawn mother, and the ensuing psychological after-shocks in adulthood.

Twins Emma and Blue are so close that they communicate in an invented language and are almost telepathic. They huddle in the basement from the rages of their unpredictable father, who drops out of paid work to become an inventor - gradually withdrawing from the family to live a reclusive existance in the garage, until one day he disappears, taking with him the family's life savings.

Although Gibb never uses the term, the father is clearly manic-depressive - his moods swing unpredictably, he's full of grandiose schemes and ambitions to change the world (and scorn for those who lack the same vision), yet unable to complete even the simplest of tasks.

The twins react differently to their father's disappearance - Blue becoming obsessed with finding him, while Emma defects to a new family and sees academic success as her ticket out of chaos, while their mother Elaine numbs the pain with alchohol and anti-depressants and becomes increasingly withdraw.

Again, as in Mouthing the Words, Gibb handles painful material (and I must ask her how much is drawn from her own life) but the book never feels heavy, and is tempered with humour and people with characters you care about.

Highly recommended. (I like it even better than Mouthing the Words.)

The book is avalable at 20% off at Kinokuniya (and no, I don't have shares!)

Also available at 20% off is Tan Twan Eng's The Gift of Rain, here at last!

And by the way, since it seems only polite to ask, what are YOU reading?

21 comments:

animah said...

Gift of Rain is out? Yay!

I'm reading the memoirs of Khatijah Sidek (in Malay). Doing it for research but was amazed how much I'm enjoying it. Found the Malay very readable. So far, I've only got to her at age 20, but the tenacity and the amazing will of a young girl in the 1930s and 40s shows through. I highly recommend this for anyone interested in memoirs, women's issues or history of politics, Independence of Indonesia and Malaya, as well as how people lived at the time.

Sharon, I remember you had read an autobiography/story about someone who was manic depressive. Can you name the book and author.

bibliobibuli said...

yes, i've heard that khadijah sidek's memoir is very good. would live to see it translated.

the best writer by far on manic depression is kay redfield jamison. start with her autobiography "an unquiet mind: a memoir of moods and madness". can lend it to you.

KayKay said...

Decided to add some local flavour into my reading diet so (finally) picked up Xeus' Dark City, it's short story format a perfect fit for my hour long bus commute to work. All other serious reading to commence after my exam at the end of this month.
Will buy The Gift Of Rain this weekend yayy!

bibliobibuli said...

kaykay - would love to see YOU writing this kind of thing too. there's a fiction writer inside you! your review in strmag at the weekend was very nice. you're on a roll now!
any news on the payment yet?

lil ms d said...

i'm reading hans christian anderson's fairy tales, the penguin edition. lovely. purufications of the heart by hamza yusuf - beautiful book on how to get the world out of your system!

erm. do they count?

sympozium said...

Didn't William Styron write about it as well?

bibliobibuli said...

'cos they count ms d. the hamza yusuf sounds interesting.

just bought "tell" magazine ... so that's your baby!

bibliobibuli said...

sympozium - about what? dysfunctional families and mental illness? you know am guilty as i haven't actually read styron ...

animah said...

The Memoirs of Khatijah Sidek is (are?)available in English.

I couldn't bear to read Sophie's Choice. The movie was heart wrenching enough, and I wasn't even a mother then. I could never read it now. I remember my mom reading it when I was a kid and she really loved it. Hmmm...

I don't want to read the depression book, I want to recommend it to someone. But thanks for the offer.

My mantra at lunch time was "I shall not go to Kino. I shall not go to Kino. I shall not go to Kino. Ahhh Kino". Found Gift of Rain at eyesight level (for people taller than I) sitting next to a beautiful hardback of Kundera's The Curtain - essays about novels and novelists. I read a few lines of The Curtain and was hooked. I would pay for the Kundera, but for a fiction - The Gift of Rain - I might wait till the paperback is out.

Kenny Mah said...

Lydia Teh's Life's Like That --- a gift from the author herself when I interviewed her at her Borders book talk. I'm enjoying how brutally frank she can be about Malaysians and the way we really are... ;)

sympozium said...

No, Styron had a book about about his mental problems...can't remember the title at the moment. Could be Darkness At Noon but that sounds like the title of Arthur Koestler's book...

bibliobibuli said...

i googled - "darkness visible"

thanks. want to read this now.

Chet said...

I just finished The Alchemist. I know you wrote about not being able to get into it.

The book started off brilliantly for me and kept shining most of the way until the last page. Now I feel disappointed and let down.

Back to The Memory Keeper's Daughter. I am dying to start Amitav Ghosh's The Glass Palace, but one thing I've taken from The Alchemist is one book at a time. We are spoiled with the financial means to buy books, but what if we are only allowed one book at a time? This is all the shepherd boy in The Alchemist had - one book to read and complete and exchange for a new book at the next town he arrives at.

bibliobibuli said...

i could get into "the alchemist" just didn't like it, chet

one book at a time would make life simpler, wouldn't it?

KayKay said...

Sharon, Malini from Starmag FINALLY replied. Apparently the check will be in the mail soon Yayy! Xeus' tales are a nasty pleasure and the seed of something twisted is germinating in my wicked imagination. Just need to find the time to put them on paper as something half way coherent.

bibliobibuli said...

kaykay - i KNOW you have a nasty mind too! if you can make it to MPH for that saturday event w. xeus i think you would find it useful. anyway, if you need a second opinion on anything you write ...

glad the payment is on the way. i did chase too. but it always takes a long time at the beginning.

animah said...

Sharon, Tried to send you an e-mail re an event that Camilla Gibbs will be at. Can you clear your Streamix box, please.

KayKay said...

Sure thing girl! It's in my neck of the woods! And thanks for your offer. I will definitely take you up on it when the time comes!

bibliobibuli said...

animah - cleared! resend please

am meeting camilla for an interview. think you would love "sweetness in the belly"

Jacqueline Tegjeu-Martin said...

Hello Sharon, I have just set sail in the ocean of bloggers. So far, I like what I have read in your blogspot. Looking forward to reading more of your thoughts. By the way, I am going to start reading The Templar Legacy by Steve Berry tomorrow... or not. I have a DVD movie titled "Y Tu Mama Tambien" staring at me too. hmmm... the choices in life. To read about religion or to embrace the raging hormones of two teenage boys.

bibliobibuli said...

hello jaqueline! nice to meet you and welcome to the blogosphere. nice to hear what you are reading too.