Books in Brief

Ben, in the World

Ben in the World by Doris Lessing

Five words from the blurb: troubled, teenager, restless, travels, malevolence

I loved The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing so was looking forward to reading the sequel. Unfortunately the two books were very different and Ben in the World failed to excite me. The Fifth Child perfectly captured the mixed emotions of parenting a difficult child, but Ben in the World focused on what happened to that child in adulthood. This story seemed much more predictable and failed to tug on my heartstrings. There was a tragic inevitability to it all and for much of the book I was bored. I wish I hadn’t read it; preferring to keep my memories of Ben as one of the creepiest characters in literature.


Geek Love (Abacus Books)

Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

Five words from the blurb: circus, freak, motherhood, gifted, strange

I’d heard nothing but praise for this weird book about a women who deliberately takes toxic substances during pregnancy in order create her own circus freak show. The premise was amazingly original and I loved some of the messages that the book was trying to convey, but I’m afraid I remained emotionally detached from the characters. The imagery was wonderfully vibrant and this book will appeal to fans of Angela Carter, but I struggled to maintain interest in the meandering plot. I persevered for as long as I could, but I finally had to admit defeat after 6 frustrating weeks.


Strange Telescopes

Strange Telescopes by Daniel Kalder

Five words from the blurb: sewers, Moscow, chases, secret, adventure

Daniel Kalder is a travel writer and this book charts his year-long quest to find the secrets that lie hidden in Moscow’s sewers. I found the beginning of this book fascinating and I loved learning about Moscow’s recent history, but as the book progressed it became less engaging. Kalder didn’t seem to care whether or not he completed his quest and this lack of enthusiasm began to permeate through the pages. I found myself losing interest and abandoned it after about 100 pages. It’s a shame because he’s a talented writer and I’d love to read about something he has a real passion for.


The Possibilities

The Possibilities by Kaui Hart Hemmings

Five words from the blurb: grief, son, divorce, emotions, decisions

The Possibilities concentrates on a woman who is grieving for her teenage son. It is beautifully written, but unfortunately I felt I’d read similar books many times before. It probably has a beautifully uplifting ending, but I’m afraid it was too depressing for me to reach it. I abandoned it after 80 melancholy pages.


Have you read any of these books?

Did you enjoy them more than I did?

12 replies on “Books in Brief”

I think I felt the same way as you about Ben in the World. I don’t remember it as well as I remember The Fifth Child, so it didn’t really stick with me. Haven’t read the others you mention, but I’m close to DNF’ing the one I’m reading now: I Think You’re Totally Wrong: A Quarrel by David Shields and Caleb Powell. It’s billed as a novel, but it’s more like the script for a “conversation” movie like My Dinner with Andre. Only not nearly as interesting to me as that movie was!

Laurie, I can’t see myself remembering much about Ben in the World, with the possible exception of the ending. It’s such a shame as The Fifth Child was so vivid I can remember many of the individual scenes.

I recommend moving onto another book – I’ve done just that and am LOVING the one I’m reading now (Into That Forest) Hope you find a great read soon!

Threegoodrats, I can see why people love it, but I prefer to have emotional connection with the characters. A fantastic concept isn’t enough for me. Demanding aren’t I?!

Ha! That’s why it’s so fantastic that there are millions of very different books to choose from, and why I feel strongly about just putting a book down if it’s not pushing the right buttons. There’s always something better to read.

I didn’t make it very far into The Possibilities. I’m not sure if it was me or the book, but if it ends up on any prize lists I may try again. Geek Love is such an interesting premise–I may have to give that one a try.

Carrie, It is interesting to know that you didn’t get far into The Possibilities either. I can see that it might make prize lists as the writing quality was good, but I won’t be trying it again. It just isn’t a subject that I want to read about. I’ll be interested to see what others make of it though. Perhaps someone will tell me how it ends one day!

I read Geek Love and absolutely couldn’t stand it. It was the same way I’ve felt about everything I’ve ever read by Angela Carter — I want to enjoy it, but I simply do not. Geek Love was, for me, too self-consciously strange. I found it off-putting. Alas!

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