Book Reviews: February 2015

book reviews, station eleven review, the secret live's of baba segi's wives, oil on water, dracula review

Station-Eleven Finally, finally, I got a chance to read this book! It was another one that I really wanted to read last year. There was a lot of praise and it was shortlisted for the National Book Award, so I was expecting a lot. I’d call this book speculative fiction- it explores what happens when a pandemic wipes out 99% of the population on Earth. It follows a few different characters and over time, you see how each of these characters is connected to the other. I don’t think it’s easy to weave together different narratives, but the author does it really well here. After the pandemic, there’s a group of actors and musicians who travel around performing Shakespeare plays. Their motto is “survival is insufficient.” To survive the pandemic is not enough- they want to keep sharing their art with what’s left of the world. A few other themes throughout the book are memory, society, artifacts, and celebrity.

I really enjoyed this. I thought Mandel’s writing was excellent and the whole premise really made me think. The great pandemic is just on the edge of plausible and I found myself wondering if I would survive if something like that happened. Also, I thought she was really skillful at jumping around in time and from character to character. I feel like it’s really easy to lose the reader when you have a non-linear narrative, but that wasn’t the case here. I’d definitely recommend this book and I’m looking forward to reading what she writes next. Out of curiosity, what do you think are your chances of survival if life on Earth as we know it ended?

The-Secret-Lives For Black History Month, I was participating in a project called #ReadSoulLit. My family is Nigerian so I thought it would be interesting to read more works by Nigerian writers. I wanted to pick authors that are lesser-known (so not Adichie or Achebe) and I heard about this book while I was looking for titles that fit into this category.

Baba Segi is a wealthy businessman in Nigeria and he’s married to four different women. At first I was really annoyed with this book. Baba Segi’s attitude towards women is from the Dark Ages- he believes that his wives only exist to serve him and cater to his every whim. I was having trouble understanding why any of the women would want to be married to someone who has multiple wives. However, as you keep reading, you get to know each of the characters a little better and you find out how they’ve come to where they are now. Each of them is in this situation for a different reason and once you hear about their backgrounds, it kind of makes sense. As the title says, everyone has secrets and those secrets bring tragedy and misery. In the end, I thought it was interesting to read a story that takes place in a different setting. It was good to read about a different life experience and I appreciate the way my opinion of that lifestyle choice changed as I was reading the book. I’m not saying I support polygamy, but I understood why the women chose that path.

Oil-on-Water This is another book set in Nigeria. When I went to the bookstore, I was actually looking for a different book by this author. They didn’t have the one I was looking for though, so I picked up this one instead. I feel like I lucked out because not only was it a good read, but I absolutely love the cover of this one.

In this novel, the wife of a wealthy oil executive is kidnapped. Now kidnappings are a regular occurrence in this part of Nigeria and there’s a procedure to follow. The husband pays a few journalists to meet with the kidnappers and confirm that his wife is alive. One of these journalists is our main character, Rufus, who’s young and idealistic and is hoping that this will be his first big story. He’s also working with another reporter named Zaq, who used to be really famous and is one of Rufus’s idols. The two of them take off in search of this woman, but the routine kidnapping goes awry.

Again, it’s really nice to read something that’s set in a different part of the world. One of the main issues in this book is the way that the oil industry is affecting the lives of the people in nearby villages. The oil ruins the environment and these villages collapse because they can’t sustain themselves anymore. I also liked the discussion of the role of journalists. Rufus comments that it’s his job to observe and report the truth, because if he doesn’t, it’s very possible that no one else will.

I thought it was an interesting and easy read, not just because it’s a short book and there’s a lot of dialogue, but also because the writing felt very natural and accessible. If you’re at all curious about books set in Nigeria, I would definitely recommend this one.

Dracula I’m surprised that I’ve never read Dracula before, considering that I’m totally into vampire novels (and TV shows). The story begins with the journal of Jonathan Harker, a young lawyer who travels to Transylvania to meet with his client, the one and only Count Dracula. Some very strange things begin to happen and Jonathan records them all in his journal. Slowly Jonathan realizes that Count Dracula is not exactly what he seems…

I thought this was great. I was delightfully surprised by the humor in this book. Maybe it’s because I’ve absorbed the story of Dracula through pop culture over the years, but when Jonathan’s like, “*How strange, this man never seems to eat or sleep and he has no reflection!” (*I’m paraphrasing here, these are not actual lines from the book), I’m like, “Hahaha, that’s because he’s a vampire!” I don’t know if that quite makes sense, but there’s a certain humor in knowing more than the characters in the novel do. There are also journal entries and letters from other characters, who eventually band together to hunt down Dracula. Like with most classics, it took me a bit to settle into the writing style, but once I focused my energies on this book, I read big chunks of it at a time.

  • I’m so behind with my reading, but I’m still adding these to my list!

    • Yay! I’m a bit behind on everything at the moment, but I’m hoping to make some time for reading this weekend.

  • I added Station Eleven to my to-read list ages ago and I’m hoping to pick it up at some point this year! It sounds so interesting, as does Oil on Water!
    ~Sara

    • I thought Station Eleven was really good. If you do like that one, I’ve been hearing good things about a book by Laura van den Berg called Find Me (which is supposed to be in the same vein).

  • Surprisingly, I haven’t yet read Dracula either! It’s one of those that just classic but I never got around to!

    xo,
    nancy

    http://www.adoretoadorn.com

    • Same here! There are a lot of classics like that on my list :)

  • I read Dracula back in high school. Don’t remember liking it but that could be because it was assigned lol

    I just got Girl on the Train after everyone raved about it.

    • Girl on the Train is on my library hold list right now. Everyone’s just been buzzing about it. I can’t wait to hear what you think!

  • I read Dracula in… I don’t know, but it was so long ago I don’t even want to think about it any more (10 years?) and was prepared to be totally creeped out. I remember actually being bored by it. Definitely expected it to be on the scarier side.

    Station Eleven sounds really interesting. Whenever I think about the apocalypse, I always think I survive, and then I would be living in whatever world is left. That would be totally scary.

    • Yeah, Dracula wasn’t really scary, but it was kind of funnier than I expected it to be. I was thinking about an apocalypse and I don’t know that I’d want to survive…

  • Eli

    Dracula is SO good! I actually really loved it and it’s correspondence writing style. I guess reading it has a bit of irony, because we do know so much about it. It’s definitely one of the better classics!

    • I had no idea that it was told through letters and diaries, so that was fun to discover. I agree- I’m really glad I finally read it!

  • oh your book posts! so great!! and i have never read dracula either. you have interest peaked!

    • Thanks so much Jane! :)