Daily Archives: November 18, 2013

A Complicated Kindness – Book review

I keep vowing not to read books that win awards. Then I go and pick up another one, read it and renew my vow. This was a classic example. As we know, I’m a slow reader. I’m also a reader who doesn’t like to give up part-way through. The result is that I wasted multiple hours of my life on this book. If you’re a fast reader, maybe it’s not so bad.

Warning: SPOILERS (if you can call it that for a book which has basically no plot).


It’s set in a Mennonite community, but with plenty of people who don’t seem to be Mennonites or at least don’t live in the way we might expect. I wish the author would make this a bit clearer, or in any sense clear at all. Oh, it was so frustrating.

One of the reviews on the back commended Teows for taking us so vividly into the Mennonite way of life. I think what they were trying to say is that the Mennonite way of life is evidently really boring (that’s the premise of the novel, I’m not imposing my own views here), and the novel is really boring too. It also encapsulates the life of a teenager-going-nowhere: also boring, and a bit depressing.

“Funny-sad”, comments another reviewer. The novel is definitely peppered with wry observations about the community and life of the narrator, but funny? It’s not what I’d call a comedy.

On the plus side, it is well-observed, the characters are believable and there are some touching scenes between the main character, Nomi, and her father. But they are not worth the hours spent on the rest of the book.

The précis on the cover claims that when Nomi discovers the truth about why her sister and Mum went away, she makes a bold decision that changes her life forever. In truth, there is no revelation about the sister, and the discovery about the Mum comes chronologically too early to be any sort of trigger for ending (we only discover it at the end of the novel, but Nomi has clearly known for a while). And that bold decision? Well the community decides to excommunicate her, her father decides to leave (or kill himself, depending on your interpretation) … Nomi pretty much bumbles along as she always has.


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Bridget Jones’ Diary – Book review

After reading a few award-winningly frustrating award winners recently, it was nice to settle down with something trashy. In spite of the time pressure (partly my fault, partly the stupid library’s stupid renewal policy’s fault) and the fact that I was supposed to be studying it carefully in preparation for my own foray into chicklit, I thoroughly enjoyed the romp through Bridget’s life.

I’ve seen the movie, of course, and even without it, could probably have guessed most of the plot by about page 4, but that’s not the point, is it? Nor is the fact that parts of the plot are brazenly copied from Pride and Prejudice and other ‘proper’ books. Nor is the fact that it’s short, or silly, or non-feminist, or any other quasi-insults we could justifiably lay at its door.

This is the best book I’ve read for years. And to prove that this doesn’t make me a soppy, romantic, uncultured ‘chick’, let me tell you why.


Heaps of it. Far more than the stupid Mennonite book, or Cloud Atlas, or any of the other award-winning nonsense I’ve read this year.

Chase your character up a tree: Bridget is single and doesn’t want to be.

Throw increasingly large rocks at her: Daniel Cleaver, various embarrassments on the family / lovelife / career fronts, Mark Darcy’s disdain…

Appear to let her down: Relationship with DC.

Pull ground out from under her: DC’s behavior in relationship.

More rocks: see above

Resolve everything: Oh yes, and some.


Bridget – loveable, believable, sympathetic, but far from perfect. Humorous… Bouyant…

Even Mark, Daniel and her parents are impressively 3D. OK, the supporting cast less so, but that’s a great show for a “trashy” novel and at least as good as Jane Austen ever managed.


Bridget’s parents and their relationship dramas are a great counter-story. Her friends, each with their own relationship issues make a colourful backdrop. And if the main story is Bridget’s lovelife, the episodes in her career and with her family / parents’ friends are far more developed subplots than most novels can boast.


You could open this book anywhere and know instantly what you’re reading. I found the lack of articles somewhat wearing at times, but it’s part of the character, of the idea that this is a diary, and most importantly, of the voice.


More than anything else, what I look for in fiction is a book that carries me along and takes me away. I don’t despise my real life, but I do like to escape it once in a while. A good book gets you so caught up in the lives of the characters, you don’t think about your own. And you don’t keep looking at the amount you have left and thinking “oh no. All that still to go?” like I have with the award winners.


So, am I shallow and uncultured? Do the judges of these awards see something I cannot? Or is this book like a beautiful woman in a cheap dress – infinitely preferable to the opposite?



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