Novels Inc. is one of the groups meeting in Hillhead Library; they recently had two sets of books from Reading Groups for Everyone to review, and here’s what they thought:
Down the Rabbit Hole by Juan Pablo Villalobos
The general feeling was that the book was highly original. All the horror of life in the compound of a Mexican drug baron was seen through the eyes of a 7-year-old boy. People felt it had been very well translated from Spanish as it read well, was very humorous at times and was a short, easy read. Because the story was told by the boy, it left the reader to make his own judgements about the guns, the politics, the women (prostitutes) the boy’s father brought to the compound etc. The horror of the situation was not known to the boy because to him it was normal everyday life that some people were mute (because they’d had their tongues cut out but he didn’t realise that). His innocence will be short-lived as the book made clear that he was being groomed to follow in his father’s footsteps which everyone found disturbing. No one had anything particularly negative to say about the book, most people had quite enjoyed it because of its originality. So a thumbs-up for this novella.
Alas, it seems that Novels Inc. members are not Ali Smith fans at all and a few could still remember reading Hotel World and not liking it. The general consensus was that the book was very frustrating as it has no real beginning or end and at times seems like a lot of random thoughts thrown down on paper, like a kind of stream of consciousness. We never find out why Miles locks himself into the room, what he hopes to achieve or why he decides to finally leave. A couple of people thought that Ali Smith had tried “to be too clever” with all the puns etc. in the book. Most agreed that it did deal with some complex contemporary issues like the media circus which results nowadays around every big event. It also deals with people profiting from other people. People liked that there was a very tentative connection between some of the characters which they hadn’t been aware of at the beginning. One of our new members said that the dinner party scene was a parody of the banality of middle class dinner parties and all the pseudo-intellectual nonsense that is spoken about. Everyone to a man thought that the superb reviews that the book received (according to the blurb on the cover of the book!) were not deserved at all – a bit harsh perhaps but we wanted to be truthful!
Remember it’s worth keeping an eye on Reading Groups for Everyone for free books and other offers. If your group would like to read either of these titles, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org as we have a few copies to lend.