Tag: Kazuo

Longbourn by Jo Baker

Posted October 2, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Historical Fiction / 0 Comments

Longbourn by Jo BakerTitle: Longbourn (Goodreads)
Author: Jo Baker
Published: Knopf Doubleday, 2013
Pages: 368
Genres: Historical Fiction
My Copy: ARC from Netgalley

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Longbourn follows the daily lives of the servants of the Bennet house. Sarah is an orphaned housemaid who spends her day doing laundry, polishing the floor and emptying chamber pots. The house is blooming with romance and heartbreak, not just for the Bennet sisters. One day a mysterious new footman arrives and the servants’ hall is under threat of been completely upended.

A unique reimagining, this novel tells the story of Pride and Prejudice told from the people serving the Bennet’s. I get the sense that this book was inspired more by Downton Abbey more than Jane Austen but never really seems to live up to either. All the drama of Bingley, Wickham, Mr Collins and Mr Darcy play out as a background characters for the drama that is happening with the servants.

I only read Pride and Prejudice earlier this year and absolutely loved it so I was a little wary of trying a spin off novel. The idea of a novel in the style of Downton Abbey did interest me but I felt let down. I got nether Austen’s wit and humour nor the drama for Downton. Some of Austen’s memorable characters didn’t seem to line up too well in this novel either; Mr Bennet comes to mind, his sarcastic humour appears completely absent in this novel. This could be written off as the servant’s perception of the Bennets and other characters.

There are some redeeming qualities in Longbourn; the novel seemed historically accurate, and while I don’t know for sure if this is correct, it did felt like this novel aligns with what I’ve read in Pride and Prejudice. Also I have to admire the way Jo Baker wrote; she is no Jane Austen but the prose was still elegant and I found myself continuously being impressed with her style while always looking for ways she may have ruined Austen’s masterpiece.

I always felt like the Bennets were wealthy enough to allow Mr Bennet to be a man of leisure but not enough to stop Mrs Bennet from worrying. So when servant hall in Longbourn seem smaller than what you would normally expect, it didn’t come as a surprise to me. The arrival of a new footman means that Mr Bennet has finally given into the demands of his wife and in comes the mysterious James. While the servant’s seem pleased with the new addition, Sarah doesn’t and soon she becomes aware of his interests towards her. You can probably guess where this is going and I won’t spoil it for you.

I spent most of the book worried that Baker will do damage to a true classic and I think this did detract from my enjoyment but for the most of it I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome. I did how ever feel as if this novel dragged on in parts and the fact that this was marked as a book for Downton Abbey fans seemed completely wrong. If you are a Downton fan I would recommend The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro well before I recommend Longbourn.

My Top of the First Half of 2013

Posted July 4, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Top 5 / 0 Comments

top-5It’s that time of year, like most serious readers, we get to half way through the year and we start to reflect on what we liked most in the past six months of reading. I thought I might as well do a post about what I thought was great, but I always struggling with posts like this. Do you pick the best books you’ve read in the past six months or the best books released in that period? So normally I do a bit of both; a top five list of each to make a top ten list (which seems the norm).  When I started doing top five lists on this blog, I picked the number five because I thought I hadn’t read enough books to necessitate a top ten list, but it turns out maybe it was just easier, so I stuck with it.

Top Five Reads Released In the First Half Of 2013

5. TransAtlantic by Colum McCann

4. The Love Song to Jonny Valentine by Teddy Wayne

3. Tenth of December by George Saunders

2. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

1. The Son by Phillipp Meyer

Top Five Reads Of the First Half Of 2013

5. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

4. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

3. The People of Forever Are Not Afraid by Shani Boianjiu

2. The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

With honourable mentions to Black Vodka, Gentlemen & Players, Main Street, The Unbearable Lightness of Being and Seating Arrangements. Also some great rereads include Lolita, The Great Gatsby and Heart of Darkness (which I really got a lot out the second time around).

Now it’s your turn to let me know of your favourite books, the new releases and the older books. It doesn’t matter; just what you discovered and loved.

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

Posted March 17, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Historical Fiction / 0 Comments

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo IshiguroTitle: The Remains of the Day (Goodreads)
Author: Kazuo Ishiguro
Published: Faber & Faber, 1986
Pages: 272
Genres: Historical Fiction
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

England 1956, Stevens is a long-serving butler at Darlington Hall who decides to take a motoring trip through the country. Partly for work and partly for personal reasons, but this six day outing becomes a trip into the past as he remembers not only two world wars but an unrealised love between himself and his housekeeper. The Remains of the Day is an incredible novel of meditation, a changing England and missed love.

Stevens is an old fashion butler, always keeping to the rules and holding himself to a higher standard particularly when it comes to dignity. Throughout the novel he reflects on what it takes to be a truly accomplished butler; often referring to the Hayes Society, an elite society of butlers in the 1920s and 1930. The notion of “a dignity in keeping with his position” being the main ingredient to making a truly great butler. As he reflects on the idea of dignity, he also reflects on how he upholds himself as well as the changed world. Lord Darlington has passed away and an American, Mr Farraday is the new owner of Darlington Hall. This means a whole new way of doing things and as Stevens masterfully adjusts to the new way, he notices that he is doing too much as well as lacking in the ability to communicate the way his new employee wishes. Stevens takes his job too seriously so he struggles to be able to banter with his employee in the way Farraday wishes. He agonizes over his need to offer some witty banter and all attempts fail. He fails to realise that it is his delivery that is lacking and yet he keeps on reflecting on this.

The reason I wanted to talk about dignity and banter, is while Stevens’ is such a great character, he spends all his time reflecting on how he can be the best butler to his that he completely misses the opportunity of love. As this novel progresses and Stevens reflects on his time at Darlington Hall you can see a relationship blossom between the housemaid Miss Kenton and himself. The further you read, the more her feelings develop, while he is blissfully ignorant. Stevens does eventually realise but it is far too late.

The Remains of the Day is such a beautiful novel; while it does remind me a little of Downton Abbey (which I adore) this novel has other elements in it which make it worth exploring. It’s a book of loyalty and politics, love and relationships as well as memories and perspective. I don’t think I’ve seen the movie adaptation of this book but I’m struggling to see how it would work in that format. Does anyone know if the movie is worth watching?

I do recommend this book to fans of Downton Abbey, but I also want to recommend it to people looking for a stunningly elegant to read. Kazuo Ishiguro masterfully crafted this book and it paid off, winning the Man Booker Prize as well as Guardian’s “Books You Can’t Live Without” and the “1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die” list as well as a whole lot more. I’m so glad I picked up this book, it was short but it did so much. I would have to add it to a list of essential readings.

Monthly Review – January 2013

Posted January 31, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 0 Comments

As the first month of 2013 comes to a close, it has been amazing to see how much excitement people are having towards both The Shadow of the Wind and the Literary Exploration Reading Challenge. For those who don’t know about the reading challenge, there is still time to join in the fun, so check out my introductory post here.

I’ve been off to a flying start this year, I’ve read twenty books, a feat I’m not sure how I managed, but I’ve had so much fun doing so. Nine of those books go towards the Literary Exploration Reading Challenge and you can find my own record of the challenge here. I’m thinking about trying to read two books for each genre this year and I’m keeping a record of every book and which genre it best fits into on that page as well, just to see which genres need more attention in my exploring.

Highlights of the month for me include; the highly talked about Wool by Hugh Howey, the bittersweet Big Ray by Michael Kimball and the existential The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. But the one I really thought deserves high praise is Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day, a novel of great beauty, decorum and love lost. I haven’t reviewed these books yet but keep an eye out, they will come. So what have you been reading this month?

Monthly Reading

  • Big Ray by Michael Kimball
  • Black Vodka: Ten Stories by Deborah Levy
  • Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis
  • Gangster Squad: Covert Cops, the Mob, and the Battle for Los Angeles by Paul Lieberman
  • In the Midst of Death by Lawrence Block
  • Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
  • Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding
  • Revenge: Stories by Yoko Ogawa
  • The Big Nowhere by James Ellroy
  • The Dark Winter by David Mark
  • The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke
  • The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists by Gideon Defoe
  • The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • The Silver Linings Play Book by Matthew Quick
  • The Sins of the Fathers by Lawrence Block
  • The Toe Tag Quintet by Matthew Condon
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
  • Wool by Hugh Howey

Dystopian Fiction; A Brief History

Posted September 12, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Dystopia, Literature / 0 Comments

This post was originally a guest post that appeared on blahblahblahtoby; big thanks to Toby for allowing me to get involved in his Dystopian fortnight and for letting me share this post with my readers too.

Dystopian fiction has been around for a long time; interesting enough, it was an offshoot of utopian fiction which started growing in popularity in the 1900’s. I’m a little surprised that utopian fiction seemed to be the predominate genre but if you look at the history of dystopian literature you can see why. The spikes in popularity seems to have started from the lead up to the world war two and the cold war and then as a result of 9/11 and the war on terror. Escapist fiction; as a way to substitute the problems with the world with a more nightmarish world.

I thought it might be nice to have a quick look at the genre over time and highlight some essential reads (which stick out to me) for people that haven’t experienced all the joys of this genre. While there were dystopian novels before my first choice, I thought I would start with the one book that may be called the first purely dystopian novel.

We by Yevgeny Zamyatin (1921)

A highly influential novel based on the authors experience of the two Russian revolutions (1905 and 1917) and the First World War.  While this book is considered to be an influence for Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932), George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) or even Kurt Vonnegut’s Player Piano (1952), it’s one book that is unfortunately often overlooked.


Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932)

Huxley refers to this book a “negative utopia” and looks at the idea of the government making a world so perfect and controlled that it really has the opposite effect; or does it? Are you really unhappy if you don’t know you are unhappy?


 Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell (1949)

No dystopian list would be complete without this novel; actually these three novels could make up the definitive influences of every dystopian novel to follow. Big Brother is watching.  Orwell writes a satirical novel of what he sees as the dangers of totalitarianism.


Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953)

It’s a pleasure to burn; this novel looks at book burning, mass media censorship and the importance of books. Fahrenheit 451 is set in an unspecified time in a hedonistic anti-intellectual America.


Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (1957)

Set in the not too distant future this brick of a book has a look at the disappearance of innovators and industrialists and a collapsing economy. I’m not going to lie, I’ve not read this book but I couldn’t give a list of essential dystopian novels without this book.


A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (1962)

In a culture of extreme youth rebellion and violence, how can the government gain back control? Mind control and the removal of free will seems like a good idea, right?


The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985)

In this dystopian novel Atwood takes a look at a totalitarian society and the issue of woman’s rights within it. While I thought this was more like a social critique than a novel, it is still an essential read.


Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (2005)

Sheltered from the outside world these children were brought up to believe they are special and need to be protected, but they are only protected from the truth. This is more a book of love and friendship set in a dystopian environment.


Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart (2010)

Super Sad True Love Story is a novel set in a very near future—oh; let’s say next Tuesday—where the world is dominated by Media and Retail. The story is centred on a thirty nine year old Russian immigrant, Lenny, and what could likely be the world’s last diary. The object of his affection, Eunice,  has her side of the story told by a collection of e-mail correspondences on her “GlobalTeens” account.

If you look at this list you can see the changing of the dystopian genre; what started as satirical looks at the fears of the world gradually changed to lighter stories of love and friendships. This brings me to the rising popularity of Young Adult Dystopian fiction. This seems to deal less with the social aspects made famous in dystopian fiction and more about friendships and endless love triangles. The lack of freedom, obsessive governments or biological issues have been replaced with post-apocalyptic romances. Not that there is a problem with this new wave of dystopian fiction (I’ve read a few good ones), I just find that the books with more social aspects offer so much more than a good read.  What are your thoughts and what would you call essential dystopian reading?