Michael Ende, the author of The Neverending Story, wasn’t happy with the film adaptation. The film was only adapts half the book, and in his view was made for commercial rather than artistic reasons. He called it ‘a humongous melodrama of kitsch, commerce, plush and plastic’, and even went to the extent of removing his name from the production. Although I’m a fan of the film, it’s not hard to see why. The book carries with it a sobering message of not losing yourself in fantasy, which the film not only ignores but puts across the exact opposite message instead. It’s a shame, because there’s a lot of ideas in the latter half that would be interesting to see in a film.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
From a world more full of weeping than you can understand.
So wrote Yeats in his famous poem The Stolen Child (this version of which by The Waterboys is one of the most beautiful combinations of words and music I’ve ever heard). It’s not a spoiler to say that Foxglove Summer, the fifth book in Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant series, centres around two children who may or may not have been stolen by the faeries. The action in the series normally takes place in London, but in this book our boy Peter has to brave the English countryside in his search for the missing girls.
On the 15th January 1947, a young woman was found dead in the southern region of Los Angeles. Her name was Elizabeth Short, but she soon became known as the Black Dahlia. Her murder has never been solved, although several theories have been put forward (which we won’t be going into here. This case forms the basis of James Ellroy’s novel, the first of a series known as the L.A. Quartet, simply titled The Black Dahlia.
Book Review: The Fiends in the Furrows: An Anthology of Folk Horror, edited by David T. Neal and Christine M. Scott (2018)
Folk horror is a term that’s been applied to films more than books. The so-called ‘Unholy Trinity’ of folk horror films (1968’s Witchfinder General, 1971’s The Blood On Satan’s Claw, and 1973’s The Wicker Man) were the first to codify the genre, though it’s since been applied retrospectively to a number of other works. More recent examples include The Witch (2015), Midsommar (2019), and Kill List (2011). The Fiends in the Furrows: An Anthology of Folk Horror is an attempt to redress this balance, collecting nine short stories that each have their own fascinating take on the genre.
I have an interest in the books that authors write after completing a masterpiece. Dickens wrote Hard Times, China Mieville wrote Kraken, and Haruki Murakami wrote Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. What these have in common is interesting. While not their best books, they are almost perfect examples of the authors’ own specific tendencies. This means that Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki features a listless male protagonist, strange quasi-magical incidents, pared-back writing style, philosophical dialogue, and much discussion of classical music. But to reduce it to a mix of the author’s cliches would be reductive, since there’s a lot more going on than that.
Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series is one of my favourites. The long-running comedic fantasy books are set in a flat world held up by four elephants on the back of a giant turtle, and feature a recurring cast of characters including the inept wizard Rincewind, the witch Granny Weatherwax, and the Grim Reaper himself. Small Gods is the thirteenth book in the series, and follows Brutha, a novice who finds himself destined to become the newest prophet of the Great God Om. The joke is that Om has, for the past three years, been trapped in the body of a turtle.
If The Witcher wasn’t an international phenomenon before the Netflix show, it certainly is now. The adventures of the mutant monster-hunter Geralt of Rivia has recently been renewed for a third series, and shows no sign of its popularity dimming. It was adapted from the book series of the same name by Andrzej Sapkowski, which were also made into the bestselling video games. The first book, The Last Wish, was published in 1993, and collected the 7 stories that introduced Geralt to readers. Framed as a series of flashbacks, they serve as a primer on the world of The Witcher as well as being good fantasy stories in their own right.
Under the Skin is probably better known as a film than a book. Released in 2013, it starred Scarlett Johansson as an unnamed woman who picks up male hitch-hikers. In the book, the character’s name is Isserley, who does the same thing, and gradually the reader discovers why. Though the film is disturbing, I found the book significantly more so, and the ideas and themes are very different from its adaptation. However, both are brilliant and compelling, and multi-layered in their explorations of ethics, the body, and loneliness.
Wizard of the Crow is the first book I’ve read so far this year, and it’s hard to see how anything’s going to top it. The epic story of the fictional Free Republic of Aburĩria has everything: drama, comedy, tragedy, romance, satire, and more than a little bit of magic. Clocking in at hefty 768 pages, it does require a certain level of commitment, but given that it’s such a richly satisfying novel, it’s worth every bit.
The People in the Trees is a challenging book. The author, Hanya Yanagihara is of Hawaiian descent, which undoubtedly informs her perspective on her subject. The story sees a group of American scientists travel to a small Micronesian island whose inhabitants seem to have found the secret to immortality. The main character is one of these scientists, named Dr. A. Norton Perina, and the story is framed as being his memoirs.
Atticus Book Reviews
Book reviews and reading recommendations written by volunteers and friends of the shop!