Book Notes

RestlessRecent novel reading has slowed right down due to semester responsibilities. Nonetheless I have managed to read a couple of novels. I read Restless because the author, William Boyd, was recommended to me by a fellow passenger on a flight to Sydney. I had never heard of Boyd, but the superlatives on the cover, as well as the still from a movie dramatisation convinced that this must be just about the best book ever written. Alas!

The novel, like All that I Am, shifts between scenes set Theboyinthestripedpyjamasin World War II and the present, although this is not as good as Anna Funder’s novel. Its plot is forced in places and its characters are somewhat two-dimensional. Perhaps Boyd is “English fiction’s master storyteller,” but I wouldn’t say so, not on the basis of this book, at least. It is not a book I will keep because I want to read it again sometime.

My response to The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas was altogether different. Told through the eyes of Bruno, a nine-year old boy, this story, too, is set in World War II. Initially I felt the device of “Out-With” and the “Fury” was a little contrived, and then overdone, but as I continued reading it gained an ominous depth. There is a gentle humour and a disarming innocence in the story which drew me into the plot. I won’t say more for fear of spoiling the story for those who are yet to read it. The fly-leaf description on my edition is not a description. It gives no clues to the story but simply says, “We think it is important that you start to read without knowing what it is about.” I did that, was moved by the story, and highly recommend it. Irish novelist John Boyne has written a very beautiful and poignant fable.