Book reviews covering war, violence and the blurry line between romance and the ridiculous

book review, new release book, Toby's Room, Pat Barker
Today's cReview departs from newspaper literary sections and samples book reviews and literary articles from popular book review blogs and a think-tank site.

Toby's Room by Pat Barker was reviewed by Jon Page at Bite The Book (also of Pages & Pages bookshop, Mosman) who thought the book paled in comparison to Barker's Regeneration trilogy, which was also First World War fiction. Page found it difficult to connect to the characters and wrote, “you don’t feel satisfied or engaged with what the novel was attempting to achieve.”

Sharp Objects by Gllian Flynn was also reviewed by Bite The Book's Jon Page who was inspired to read Flynn's earlier work after enjoying the new release, Gone Girl.  Page found Sharp Objects, a crime mystery novel, to be disturbing, “but disturbing in an interesting way.” It was mostly the psychological and self-inflicted violence that got to him, Page reveals, with the novel set in small Missouri town which it is festering in generational violence.

Book review, new book, The Burial
Crossing the Bridge, we find The Burial by Courtney Collins,  reviewed by Annette Hughes at The Newtown Review of Books. In what I find to be a helpful touch, the review begins with this in bold: “A book of dark humour and beautifully polished prose.” This gives readers a quick insight into the book's content and the reviewers opinion of it. Hughes then proceeds to praise this “story of a more desperate ‘drover’s wife’” and doesn't have a single bad thing to say about it.

A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar
by Suzanne Joinson was reviewed by Kylie Mason of The Newtown Review of Books. The bold blurb is there at the start again, but this time it's a one sentence synopsis with no reviewer opinion expressed. It's a good synopsis though: “The unlikely story of 1920s lady missionaries in exotic Kashgar entwines with the tale of a modern woman in contemporary London.” Mason found the construction of these parallel stories dissatisfying, but thought the portrayal of the women's respective quests to be compelling.

The Centre for Public Christianity (CPX) is a not-for-profit media company that offers a Christian perspective on contemporary life, including literature.

The Vivisector by Patrick White was reviewed by Greg Clarke of CPX who found it to be a novel worth celebrating. “It is one of the unsung works of genius on the relationship between art and spirituality.” Clarke appreciates its suggestion that God is involved in the nitty-gritty of the world.
book review, new book, 50 Shades of Grey
Justine Toh's (of CPX) article which appeared in The Punch, 'Fifty shades of selfish desire in the twilight of fantasy' is not so much a book review but a commentary on the "romance fantasy" of the Twilight books and the "romance porn" of Fifty Shades of Grey. She says the books "blur the line between romance and the ridiculous" and, Fifty Shades' (sex aside) and Twilight, are really offering "guilty pleasure... for they are unapologetic about telling a story geared towards women’s romantic needs and desires."

The CPX literary page also provides content beyond book reviews such as Greg Clarke's interview with Paul Fiddes, the Professor of Systematic Theology at Oxford University and a leading Baptist scholar. In the interview, posted on the website in video form, they discuss the links between theology and literature and how Fiddes handles teaching both topics when the average student won't necessarily know much about either.

- Josiah Hallett


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