Archive for September, 2009


Ludmilla’s broken english by DBC Pierre
ludmilla If you are looking for a book in which every sentence contains a surprise, this is the book for you. every sentence contains a surprising adjective or a noun used as a verb, or a comparison between things any reasonable person would never have thought to compare.

It is remarkable how consistent the linguistic fireworks are, they go from page 1 to the end, and don’t let up.

I loved it for this reason and the Bookgroup agreed, but i had to agree with those groupers that thought the plot was a long way from believable. If you a looking for realism this is not the book for you.

The book is set in a version of the 1990s closely resembling the historical period but not exactly. It’s three central characters are
– Blair and bunny. two conjoined twins surgically separated in their 30s, after living all their lives in an institution in north England, and then released into London; and
– ludmilla. A beautiful young woman living in a warring ex-soviet republic, in about the most dysfunctional family and community known to literature.

It is clear from this set up that the world of the book is going to be strange and that getting these characters together will require a bizarre and probably unbelievable set of circumstances – and so it does.

But that’s not the point. The point is the language. The bizarre characters and plot are an excuse for the fresh and exhilarating language, they are just a device to justify outlandish phraseology.

Blair and bunny speak to each other in a particular way – gin isnt gin for example, its ‘a juniper infused restorative’. Similarly, in ludmilla’s family nobody says please or thank you – its all ‘cut your hatch and stopping gassing to the front of my face, your cleverness and bravery is only outdone by this clod of earth beneath my boot.’

i found the settings, characters and language very entertaining, but the bizarre settings also serve another purpose. they provide an opportunity to comment on globalization and privatization as it was back in the 90s. Blair is a kind of naive booster for the coming age of of opportunity, whereas bunny is a cynical recalcitrant, naive in his own way believing they will be taken back to the institution any minute. Ludmilla likewise has naive visions of the west and escape from her poverty and war devastated ex-soviet family.

So if you want to be surprised and delighted by remarkable words, with a dash of politics, this will be for you, but if you can’t get past a plot driven by one unlikely event after another then stay away.


September 8, 2009 at 11:56 am Leave a comment


mandolinCaptain Corelli’s Mandolin is an archaetype of the perfect modern novel. It tells the story of grand historico-political themes through the eyes of beautifully rendered individual characters.

It starts with short pieces told from different viewpoints seemingly unrelated, but you know because so many novels are now written this way, that eventually these stories will come together. And they do with devastating effect.

It’s a great achievement. This is because it manages to both present a lot of historical scholarship, in the form of detailed accounts of what occurred in the second world war between Italy and Greece and fascinating pieces on Greek history and culture, and at the same time provide interesting characters that undergo beliveable changes and struggles like love and unlove.

It’s so good that at times I got a bit bored. It almost seemed like a cliche of the perfect novel. The kind of novel all readers dream of writing – a grand historical story told through the eyes, loves and lives of a series if quirky characters in a remote little village with a cute and bizarre, but comforting culture.

The bookgroup was unanimous that it was really good but I sensed a lack of real passion for the book, and that is the feeling I had also. Everything about the book is so great I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t more enthusiastic.

I think it was because we were reading it 15 years after publication. In that time there has been a flood of tv shows, movies and books based on quirky little towns and bizarre characters – so we kind of knew what to expect.

Nevertheless it is a wonderful book and if you don’t read many books this is one that is worth the effort. It’s got the horror of war, the beauty of first love, the heartache of parenting, the mystery of music, and most of all the struggle that each of us must face. The choice of what is best to do right now, in the circumstances.

September 6, 2009 at 11:03 am Leave a comment


September 2009
« Jun   Nov »

Posts by Month

Posts by Category