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Natasha Bernal

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book review

1000 before 30 #49: The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro

A gentle, beautiful tale about the end of an era. It's hard to say why you should read 'The Remains of The Day', except that it's excellent. Nothing really happens, if you think about it. The butler of a grand... Continue Reading →

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1000 before 30 #48: The Rotters’ Club – Jonathan Coe

The coming-of-age story of a group of Adrian Mole-esque Birmingham boys. It's a time of strife, it's a time of unions - it's the 1970s. The (T)rotters live in a bustling, industrial city, and their three children Ben, Paul and... Continue Reading →

1000 before 30 #47: Brighton Rock – Graham Greene

A chance encounter with a newspaper man on a sunny day turns into a mystery that leads Ida Arnold on the hunt for a Brighton gang. Pinkie managed to pull off the murder of the decade at just 17. As... Continue Reading →

1000 before 30 #46: Flowers for Algernon – Daniel Keyes

A study on how human experiments can both enlighten and devastate their subjects. What would you do if you knew you were going to lose your mind? This is one of the saddest yet most beautiful stories I have ever... Continue Reading →

1000 before 30 #45: The house of the spirits – Isabel Allende

A bizarre family history ties in with the tumultuous destiny of an entire country in this epic story by Isabel Allende It's true, I read this in Spanish. I have read some Allende before (see my 'Como Agua para Chocolate'... Continue Reading →

1000 before 30 #44: A Wild Swan and Other Tales – Michael Cunningham

Classic fairytales retold with a current (and often gruesome) twist.With little over 100 pages, Michael Cunningham's short story collection packs a punch. Reinventing fairy tales isn't anything new, which is why it's slightly hard to get into this book. For... Continue Reading →

1000 before 30 #43 The Enchanted – Rene Denfeld

A female investigator works to save a notorious killer who has decided he wants to die, while an unnamed prisoner on death row finds beauty in the heart of the jail's darkness and despair. First of all, this has to... Continue Reading →

1000 before 30 #42: Joyland – Stephen King

An enjoyable murder mystery involving a fairground (and a fair dash of fate), Joyland is a coming of age story with a supernatural twist. You wouldn't expect Stephen King to sit down and write a story about a 21-year old... Continue Reading →

1000 before 30 #39: Squirrel seeks Chipmunk — David Sedaris

Possibly David Sedaris' weirdest collection of short stories. Want to meet the freudian bear, the racist chipmunk? When George Orwell re-imagined human interaction in 'Animal Farm' I'm sure he never had Sedaris' take in mind. Having read it however, the... Continue Reading →

1000 before 30 #38: Into Thin Air – Jon Krakauer

An astounding tale of human endurance, horror and tragedy on Everest, written by a journalist who lived to tell the tale first-hand. There is seldom a successful book that starts off by telling you the ending. This is one of... Continue Reading →

1000 before 30 #37 Transition – Iain Banks

Iain Banks' whirlwind narrative transcends time and space as rogue agents trying to escape an all-powerful organisation jump through parallel universes to survive. It takes around four chapters to get into an average Banks book (whether science fiction or normal... Continue Reading →

1000 before 30 #36: Go Set a Watchman — Harper Lee

Harper Lee's prequel to 'To Kill a Mockingbird' certainly feels just like the fat that got trimmed off and discarded from her previous work. It's not that the book is bad per se, but it certainly isn't good either. If,... Continue Reading →

1000 before 30 #35: Trigger Warning – Neil Gaiman

These 23 stories and pieces of poetry may not be Gaiman's best work, but as it says on the tin: you've been warned. Have you ever wondered where all the scraps that writers don't end up using go? Well, in... Continue Reading →

1000 before 30 #34: Fathers and Sons – Ivan Turgenev

Arkady Kisanov has just graduated from university and decides to go back home, with his friend Bazarov in tow. What happens later changes both of their lives. The story, which follows the young men through philosophizing, falling in (and out... Continue Reading →

1000 before 30 #33: Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls – David Sedaris

There's something so special about reading a book by David Sedaris -- it's finished all too soon in an all-consuming one-sitting marathon. To me, David Sedaris' work produces the same kind of effect as a Netflix marathon. Suddenly you look... Continue Reading →

1000 before 30 #32: Mother Night – Kurt Vonnegut

Vonnegut excells with an exciting and dark memoir from a double agent during World War II. Howard W. Campbell Jr is, well, a bit of a Nazi. As the party's chief propagandaist during the war, he criticised Jews and justified... Continue Reading →

1000 before 30 #31: All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr

A hard start, languishing middle and tug at the heartstrings ending, 'All The Light We Cannot See' has rather sparse light moments within its pages. True, my expectations of a charm-filled read would have been dampened somewhat by a book... Continue Reading →

Six books I have to read right now.

Sometimes you walk past a shelf and realise that you just have to have a certain book.  These are the contenders that have been added to my 1000 before 30 list before August is up! Also worth a mention that I read three... Continue Reading →

1000 before 30 #30: Rosemary’s Baby – Ira Levin

The most annoying story about a demon baby of all time. Oh MY GOD Rosemary. If anyone were as stupid as this woman, I would be thoroughly bemused if the child that came out of her wasn't a demon baby.... Continue Reading →

1000 before 30 #29: Letter to my daughter – Maya Angelou

Beauty and captivating tenderness fills every sentence of Maya Angelou's intimate, secret sharings to the daughter she never had. Maya is a genius. After reading I know Now Why the Caged Bird Sings, I thought I had her style pegged. When... Continue Reading →

1000 before 30 #28: The Goldfinch – Donna Tart

A literary work of art, about a work of art. Possibly my favourite discovery of the year. I had been told to read The Goldfinch by several people, some of whom I work with, but had resisted because of the... Continue Reading →

1000 before 30 #27: God Bless You Mr Rosewater – Kurt Vonnegut

A brilliant story about a millionaire who develops a social conscience. Of course, he is totally insane. Mr Rosewater is the sole heir to a vast fortune, amassed throughout generations of Rosewaters. Unfortunately, he has gone rather mad. He has... Continue Reading →

1000 before 30 #25: The Luminaries – Eleanor Catton

'The Luminaries' is kind of like when a very drunk person at a pub decides to tell you a very detailed story, only to start at the middle, get confused, tell you a lot of shit you didn't want to... Continue Reading →

1000 before 30 #24: Requiem for a dream – Hubert Selby Jr.

A beautiful high followed by a crashing, gut-wrenching low. There's no sitting on the wall with 'Requiem for a dream'. It is one of the most spectacular, stick-a-knife-in-your-ribs kind of story where the characters speak with such personality and strength... Continue Reading →

1000 before 30 #23: Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

"It was a pleasure to burn". This is how Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 ('the temperature needed to set a book on fire') starts off. And it only gets better. Look into the future. There are houses with television projected onto... Continue Reading →

1000 books before 30 #22: Life of Pi – Yann Martel

There are very few books that live up to their hype. 'Life of Pi' is one of them. Essentially its main character Pi (short for Piscine) is in such a desperate castaway situation that, if swapping tales with Robinson Crusoe, the... Continue Reading →

1000 before 30 #21: The Buddha in the attic – Julie Otsuka

This is the story of hundreds women who leave their native Japan to meet their new husbands in America. The only thing they know is what they look like, thanks to grainy portraits they were sent beforehand. They all speak... Continue Reading →

1000 before 30 #20: The Rubicon – Edward Frederick Benson

"Melodramatic piece of literary garbage." Those are the words that some would use to describe Edward Frederick Benson's 'The Rubicon'. Unfortunately I am one of those people. It's not like it wasn't well written, it just sounded insincere and overtheatrical... Continue Reading →

1000 before 30 #19 The Book of Strange New Things – Michel Faber

In which Michel Faber single-handedly attempted to quash, nay exterminate, my love of literature on aliens. My friend Teresa instigated my re-exploration of Faber's work following a disappointing attempt with 'The Crimson Petal and the White'. The Book of Strange New... Continue Reading →

1000 before 30 #18: My friend, the murderer – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Just to clarify, this isn't about Sherlock Holmes. Because one encounters all sorts in the path of life, Sir Conan Doyle decided to write about someone who (like it or not) had been universally rejected, beaten, and on occasions stoned... Continue Reading →

1000 before 30 #17 White Teeth – Zadie Smith

The best way to start reading Zadie Smith is right at the beginning - at least that's what critics believe - so I started on her first novel, 'White Teeth'. What a giant and amazing beast it is. White Teeth... Continue Reading →

1000 before 30 #16: Night and day – by Virginia Woolf

Night and Day does exactly what is says on the tin. Of course, being Woolf you expect some degree of romance, but this Edwardian novel centres on the differences, rather than the similarities, between its two protagonists. He was a... Continue Reading →

1000 before 30 #15: The beautiful and the damned – F. Scott Fitzgerald

It's a tragedy when a young life is wasted - but it's hard to feel sorry for Fitzgerald's self-deluded, spoiled couple. What happens to a superficial and narcissistic couple when all their money runs out? This looks set to be... Continue Reading →

1000 before 30 #14: The water-babies – Charles Kingsley

It's the children's classic I never read - and believe me, it is a lot more sinister when you read it the first time as a grown-up. Although I read many of the old classics when I was growing up, The... Continue Reading →

1000 before 30 #13: Lady Chatterley’s Lover – by DH Lawrence

Hello steamy rain sex. If you haven't watched the film, read the book instead. It's saucier. The fling, which is said to be inspired by Lady Ottoline Morell's love affair with a stonemason in her employ, reportedly wasn't published in the... Continue Reading →

1000 before 30 #12: Lady Susan – by Jane Austen

Austen's short epistolary novel on a rich family and one scheming woman tries the 'dangerous liasons' style... and fails to hit the right notes. If people spent more time talking to each other and less time writing letters, this story would... Continue Reading →

1000 before 30 #11: North and South – by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell

Two worlds collide as a  factory owner and a vicar's daughter go head-to-head in North and South. Austen walked a fine line with difficult characters within Pride and Predjudice. Gaskell flattens that line with the force of a steamrolling engine.... Continue Reading →

1000 before 30 #10 The three musketeers – by Alexandre Dumas

The chilled out attitude that the musketeers have towards duels is a dangerous message to send to youths everywhere. Duels are cool, kids. That's what d'Artagnan and his fellows spend their days doing, when not daring each other to do stupid... Continue Reading →

1000 before 30 #8: Uncle Tom’s Cabin – by Harriet Beecher Stowe

The story, which follows kind-hearted Christian slave Uncle Tom, is a tale of disaster - and slave owners promising freedom and next thing you know, they are unexpectedly dead. Is that related? Apparently so. Uncle Tom, who lived on a... Continue Reading →

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