Sinners, superheroes and comrades. It’s been another random month for the Bookshelf, filled with the kinds of books I don’t normally read but should definitely pick up more often.
Sin City: The Hard Goodbye by Frank Miller
I loved the first Sin City adaptation for its stunning visuals and it’s in-your-face-ness and reading the novels has been at the back of my mind for years – and I kept pushing it further to the back because I’ve never been very keen on comics. But my surprisingly enjoyable experience of V for Vendetta last month made me take the plunge into graphic novels and of course this seemed the best place to start. I was thrilled to find that the visuals and story lines from the film were basically taken directly from the books, making this a very familiar reading experience, but adding a level of intensity that – I think – comes from the reading rhythm and that the film can’t match. I loved the film for being gorgeous from the first frame to the last, and loved the book more for allowing me to linger on my favourite frames for as long as I liked. It’s a brutally beautiful graphic novel all around.
Pens: 4 out of 5
Watchmen by Alan Moore
What a blockbuster of a graphic novel! And there I was, thinking that, being a comic book, it’ll be a quick read and put me back on track for this year’s reading challenge. And so, a week of intense reading later, I emerged having learned a new book lesson: that comic books can be just as complex as a normal novel made only from words. This epic story, which chronicles the rise and fall of a group of superheroes in an alternative past, asks important questions about what it means to be human and superhuman, about the moral rights and wrongs of trying to create a perfect world. The story gets very complex in time, especially as the various sub-plots jump back and forth in time to explore each character’s history and the various alliances that form and unravel between them over the decades – so definitely not a quick comic book, but a rich and hugely enjoyable piece of literature that you can really get lost in.
Pens: 4 out of 5
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
This is Mikhail Bulgakov’s devastating satire of Soviet life, written during the darkest period of Stalin’s regime, according to Goodreads. I enjoyed the bits of satire that I understood, but overall I definitely know too little of Russian culture and history to really get this book. Which means it was a bit of a tough read and I probably missed out on a lot of the enjoyment a more educated person will get out of the book. It does have one of the coolest feline characters I’ve ever come across in literature, though.
Pens: 2 out of 5
Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov
A bittersweet little satire from Ukraine, Kurkov’s first novel deals with isolation and the pointlessness of life in a political system that doesn’t really give you much in the way of choice. An obituary writer who lives with his pet penguin sleepwalks through life until it dawns on him that his newspaper work is nowhere near as harmless as it seemed, and that he’s been drawn into an elaborately manufactured political trap from which he may not escape with his life. By far the best element to this book is the penguin, a silent and yet strangely expressive character who at the same time lightens the mood and adds a heartbreaking kind of sadness to the story.
Pens: 3 out of 5