Book Reviews – August 2018
by Elizabeth Kay
Elizabeth Kay offers Sussex Living readers her thoughts on recent reads that have caught her attention. She gives her views on a selection of books from different genres which may capture your interest.
by Katherine Roberts
This weaves together the scant historical information we have about the young Genghis Khan, and a thirteenth century text. The culture and beliefs of the people of Mongolia of this time is very different to the way we view the world, and it is generally accepted that shape-shifting is fact, shamans have real powers, and killing people is normal. Nevertheless, this is the story of two boys’ obsession with the same girl, and the havoc it creates. His father arranged his marriage to the beautiful Bortë, but he was poisoned by the Tartars. His friendship with his blood-brother Jamukha turns sour, and the two become enemies raising huge armies. The book is written from three different viewpoints – Khan’s, his wife Bortë’s, and Jamukha’s. Although this might sound repetitive it isn’t, because all three have distinct characters and see things very differently. The music of the Mongolian people is still important to this day, haunting and atmospheric, and the fiddle that Bortë makes from the skull of her beloved pet deer has strange powers. An intriguing and unusual read for young adults.
MY NAME IS LEON
by Kit de Waa
Leon has an inadequate mother who simply can’t cope with parenthood. When she has a second child, Jake, by a different father, it all becomes too much. Nine-year-old Leon manages as best he can for some time, but eventually the neglect becomes all too apparent and the two boys are taken into care. They go to a motherly woman called Maureen, but as time goes by and it’s clear Leon’s mother isn’t coming back any time soon, Jake is put up for adoption. The trouble is, Jake is white and a baby, and Leon is black and nine years old. This is the 1980s, and no one wants Leon. And then Maureen is taken ill, and Leon has to go and stay with Sylvia. Eventually he finds friends among the elderly allotment holders, who introduce him to gardening. Leon is a bright boy, and his observations of the people around him are perceptive and moving. All the characters are rounded and complex, this imbues the book with an authenticity that makes it compulsive reading. Funny, heart-rending and sad, it was short-listed for several awards.
THIS IS GOING TO HURT
by Adam Kay
A wonderful book about the life and times of a junior obstetric doctor, full of dark humour that will make you laugh out loud. The sheer exhaustion of the job comes across very clearly. It’s a career full of catastrophes and miracles, with a lot of sheer grind in between. Nevertheless, it is one of the funniest books I have ever read. For instance; “Down in A&E around 11pm to review a patient, and thumbing through Twitter while I work up the strength to see her. There’s a big news story breaking. ‘Oh Christ,’ I gasp. ‘Michael Jackson’s dead!’ One of the nurses sighs and stands up. ‘Which cubicle?” It’s not a book for the faint-hearted, as there are plenty of graphic descriptions of medical procedures. And just as you’re coming to the end of it, and wishing you weren’t because your ribs are aching from laughing, the title of the book becomes a reality. You find out why Adam Kay decided to leave the medical profession altogether, and it isn’t a feel-good story. This is a book with a kick in the tail, which makes it a worthy winner of the many awards it has received. The best book I’ve read in a long time.