Monday 4 January 2016

Bout of Books 15: Monday

Bout of Books

Much as I love the Christmas and New Year festivities, it's always good to get back to the calm and quiet of normality afterwards, and the Bout of Books readathon is a good cushion between the holiday (not that I had a holiday, I worked extra instead, but that's just part of working retail, and I'm used to it by now) and the rest of winter stretching out before me.

My Readathon Goals:
  • To read a minimum of four books from my pile.
  • To write update posts on the days I'm not working (Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Sunday) and to spend my free time on my working days not on the internet, but engrossed in my books. 
  • To write and schedule my long-overdue review posts, so that I'll update the blog with something every day this week. (I've had a half-written review of A Little Life in my drafts folder for about two months now!)
  • To spend time getting to know new blogging friends as well as the old ones. That's where I tend to fall down during readathons. 
  • Unrelated to the book-pile, I also have a comic to read, Jen Campbell's  latest poetry booklet from her 100 poem weekend of last year, and to read over the first-draft-so-far of my novel-in-progress, which I want to get back to writing after the readathon. 
Monday's Reading:

I've kicked off the readathon with Disclaimer by Renee Knight, the big thriller of the moment. It's Waterstone's Fiction Book of the Month, WH Smith's Read of the Week, and is supposedly "the new Girl on the Train," (which in turn was the new Gone Girl, which was the new Before I Go To Sleep.) 

The book opens when Catherine, a successful film-maker, discovers that the book she's reading is based on her own life, on a dark secret from many years previously. But who could possibly know these things she's kept hidden all this time, and why publish it now?

Disclaimer has a fascinating premise, a good hook that keeps you turning the page, and yet I'm finding it somewhat frustrating that the author is clearly withholding information. Naturally, withholding information is a crucial element of a thriller, but in this case, the point-of-view characters know all the facts while the reader does not; you don't get to find things out with them. You watch the story unfold but are unable to fully experience it with the characters. It's still successful in making me want to read on, and know more, but I feel the hand of the author through it all.

6PM Update: It's difficult to talk about thrillers without giving details away, but I'll do my best. I'm now about two thirds of the way through Disclaimer and have spent about the last seventy five pages getting rather angry with the characters and also the book. When we finally get around to seeing the secrets revealed in the book-within-a-book, I felt cheated and rather disgusted. The Big Reveal was no revelation at all - Catherine's secret was disappointingly obvious. And yet. We have to remember that the book based on Catherine's life was a fictionalised account reconstructed by a third party. An even more unreliable narrator than the ones we've encountered so far. With a hundred pages left to go, I'm coming to realise that things are be as we've been led to believe after all, and that our protagonist is more sympathetic than I had thought.

8PM: In the end, I can't say that reading Disclaimer was an entirely enjoyable experience. The final twist was shocking, brutal in its description when at last we find out what really happened twenty years previously, but also did not come as a surprise. It was an uncomfortable read,throughout,  a raw examination of the damage done to relationships by pain and grief, festering secrets, lack of communication and trust. And the last revelation on the final page will bother me for a long time.

I'm not sure I can pick up another book straight away; I need time to ponder and digest what I've been reading today, so I think I'll spend my evening in the company of the fabulous Agent Carter in her search for justice.

Monday's Stats:

Books read: Disclaimer
Pages read: 288
Running total for the week: 1 book finished (288 pages)
Today in six words: Gripping but uncomfortable book of secrets.
When I wasn't reading I was... cleaning, and later watching Agent Carter.


  1. I've been curious about this book since I saw it mentioned in a Guardian article last year about thrillers to watch out for. I think I'll be a little bit more wary about picking it up now! Although you do have me intrigued...tricky!

    I've been reading Station Eleven and I've finally started getting into it. I'm not completely sold on it as completely unique among dystopian fiction but it's clever and I'm looking forward to reading some more this evening! See you tomorrow :)

    1. I wouldn't say DON'T read it, and it was a quick read, a page-turner, so even if you do end up hating it, you don't lose much time over it. ;) I'm not sorry I read it. There is merit in the book - although I'm not sure it deserves all the high praise it's been getting. But that's just my opinion. I think my main problem was that I never lost sight of the author - I got angry with the narrative rather than the characters (and oh there were some unpleasant characters in there, though more nuanced than you're led to believe in places.)

      Station Eleven is another of those books that have been well-hyped, but which I've never quite felt inclined to read, as I think I'm a bit all-dystopia'd-out. Some reviews say "This isn't like the others," while others say, "...yeah, it kind of is." Maybe I'll get around to it at some point, but there are so many other things to read!

  2. BONJOUR! Hope you're enjoying the readathon so far! I'm trying to hibernate my laptop and read distraction-free for chunks of every day this week too; I just feel like I need to get in the habit of de-internetting myself for longer periods of time on a daily basis this year. It's too easy to fall down a rabbit hole and emerge four hours later having done absolutely nothing!

    It's a shame that Disclaimer is a bit heavy-handed on the author side. I love guessing and being able to discover things as the character does, and having THEM withhold information seems like an unnecessary irritation in a thriller. Like, part of the joy is that sort of bond between reader and character as they try to puzzle things out, if that makes sense? I might still read it at some point, but maybe I won't be in quiiiiite such a rush to find a copy!

    1. Yeah, the main mystery of the book was "what happened in her past?" more than "who knows and why did they write about it and what do they want with her?" There WAS that element as well, but you're at a disadvantage, and it's not the same as an unreliable narrator because you know right from the start that you're being kept in the dark. Frustrating.


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