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Of Mice and Maltesers - Flying Monkey's book

25 replies

FlyingMonkey · 01/06/2009 14:52

I bought this book last year after reading another of the author's novels and it was also recommended to me by my brother-in-law.

It's not my favourite book but it's a great read and one which I think most of you will enjoy. I suppose it would be considered a 'literary' novel but it's very accessible and won't tax your mind too much (which is a plus, if, like me, your brain has been sozzled by night feeds, etc). It's also quite a masculine book in some respects but it's extremely moving and you would have to have a lump of coal for a heart to not shed a few tears by the end.

Anyway, I am going to shut up now and go to the Post Office.

Over and out x

OP posts:
Maria2007 · 02/06/2009 15:41

OK, just to say- FlyingMonkey- I received the book today & am planning to start reading it soon. Maybe not this or next week (because I'm just finishing up another book) but right after. By the way (without giving too much away!) I've read a book by this author a while ago, he's really brilliant, & I always meant to read another... so it's great that this arrived in the post for me today

Maria2007 · 16/06/2009 08:37

OK just wanted to say I've started reading this book & I'm sure I'll finish it very quickly because I'm finding it wonderful so far! Really well written & interesting. Thanks for choosing it (I'm sure the others will enjoy it too). Will chat more about it once I'm done, I think in a few days.

Maria2007 · 30/06/2009 11:44

Hi FlyingMonkey.

Thanks for sending me this book! So I've finished it & am about to send it on to artifarti... so thought I'd write a few thoughts. I expect that artifarti (and the others) will only read these thoughts after they've finished it themselves, so I can be open without being scared of spoilers etc.

First of all, just to say the main thing, it's a really good read, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It made me laugh a lot at the beginning (especially in the school years) & then gradually it made me sadder & sadder. At the end- as you had predicted- I cried a bit.

What was most poignant for me in the book was the relationship with Freya & Stella, and how there can be this moment / time of happiness in someone's life, only for it sometimes to end ever so soon. It was absolutely devastating when Freya & Stella died, & it wasn't made easier by the fact that so many people died in the 2nd world war. It still seemed tragic to me. I have to say, after that the book depicted Logan's life as going from disaster to disaster, just going downhill really. Especially the bit where he was living in London & was completely broke & living on dogfood... oh my god, that was so so sad especially after he had lived those happy years with Freya. I did think at that point in the book that this was quite disappointing; Logan went from an initially promising life, to a peak when he met Freya, to everything going downhill after that. And yet at the end Boyle actually 'saved' the whole thing, with Logan's last few years in France, which actually felt like a very good ending to a long & turbulent life.

The one thing that left me a bit puzzled- I didn't know what do with it!- was the fact that Logan kept bumping into famous people: Ernest Hemingway, Picasso, Joyce, Virginia Woolf, the prince of England & many others. That particular strategy felt a bit 'gimmicky' and Forest-Gumpy to me... but I guess the book was (among other things) trying to document what happened during the 20th century & not just Logan's life, so in that sense it made sense as a strategy.

Anyway, in general- very well written, very enjoyable. Thanks for sending it! Lets see what artifarti thinks...

artifarti · 20/07/2009 09:25

Hi FM and Maria

I loved this book! As I said, I had recently added it to my to-read pile and I always liked the sound of it. I love books involving travel and also that portray a certain 'Englishness' of early last century (if you know what I mean!) Initially I was a bit worried I'd be put off by the journal-style of the narrative but that actually didn't matter at all and obviously enabled us to cover (and miss out) large periods of history.

What a life! I know what you mean about the famous people, Maria. But I actually got used to it pretty quickly, although keep meaning to look up some of the events (e.g. was the Duke of Windsor really implicated in such a scandal?!)

I think I saw the death of Freya and Stella coming - the happiness just couldn't last until the end of the book. But it was still sad and such an honest portrayal of that kind of loss - that he went on the love other women/daughters but it was never quite the same again.

I think the ending was perfect and I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. I also loved how things slowed down towards the end - there were lots more scenes about nature, sunsets, birds etc. which reflected the fact that Logan's life was slowing down and he was obviously spending lots of time just sitting and watching, as opposed to his previous frantic incarnations! I didn't cry but then it takes a lot for a book to make me cry (except for Wind in the Willows but that's another story!)

So, in short, one of the books I have most enjoyed recently and I'm sad to have finished it now.

Several of my colleagues who were born/lived/worked in Africa have recommended Brazaville Beach by WB - have either of you you read that one?

Maria2007 · 22/07/2009 17:22

Aaah, I too wondered Artifarti whether the Duke of Windsor was really implicated in such a scandal! Fascinating how all these events were interwoven so naturally with the rest of the book (although as I said it did feel slightly gimmicky to me). Loved the descriptions of Hemingway in particular.

Yes, I did think the portrayal of Freya and Stella's loss was honest & done well by Boyle. But did Logan have to lose them both? That made it unbearable. If it were one of them, it could have been more bearable to me...

I agree completely Artifarti about the ending. Yes, it did slow down, and yes, it felt perfect. It would have been absolutely awful if Logan's life had ended during his dogfood-eating years in London (and it did seem at that point to me that that was where the book was heading, especially when he ended up in hospital... he just seemed SO close to death then). But thankfully Boyle had more sense than that & ended the book in a really really good way. We all know how difficult it is to achieve a satisfying ending to an otherwise good book, so this one was a success, I think.

Haven't heard of Brazaville Beach. Off to look it up on Amazon.

aristocat · 10/08/2009 11:11

Hello FlyingMonkey what a great choice!

Firstly, i want to say that i have never read anything like this before and found it very interesting and compelling.

Personally i thought that the diary/journal style rather monotonous and i definitely prefer books with real chapters. Although in this case; a diary is absolutely necessary.

I was also impressed with the amount of research that Boyd must have done to complete this book. However it was hard sometimes to remember that this is fiction because in parts it is so 'true'.

My favoutite part was the start of the book where Logan was at public school and forming his friendships. This really set the tone/pace for the whole book.

The saddest part was after the war had ended and Logan found out he had lost both Freya and Stella.
It seemed that for the first time he genuinely cared about something and it was taken away from him so quickly .

The way Logan kept meeting famous artists and writers was very clever and interwoven into the story of his life easily.

At first the size of the book was a little daunting but it was an easy read and the sort i would only read once - however i will look for more of Mr Boyd again.

Thankyou FlyingMonkey a super read, i am sure this will be a HIT !

Maria2007 · 11/08/2009 15:40

Glad you liked it aristocat: I did too

I agree with you that the diary style was absolutely necessary in the case of this book. Also, I agree that the initial phase of the book (at school) set the pace for the whole book. Although of course that initial part of the book was hilarious, while the rest of the book got progressively less so...

Dysgu · 30/09/2009 19:49

I have rather struggled to get through this book. That's not to say I don't like it just that life has been pretty hectic this month - back to work, new child care arrangements blah blah blah!

That said, I imagine if I had found the book really compelling then I would have found time to read. I don't think I have read any other fiction this month though as I have been trying to get through this one.

I have only reached the part where Lottie has visited the London flat and found out about Freya. I was hoping to at least reach the section about being a soldier and a spy and seeing what happened when/if Lottie confronted Logan about Freya.

I am not sure whether I am enjoying this book. I am not particularly finding Logan an especially attractive character although I have enjoyed some of the scenes he has described.

The footnotes do, on occasion, get on my nerves. I am tempted to ignore them but find myself having to read them and then scan to see where on the page they are linked. As for the scandal involving the Prince of Wales I thought that simply related to his relationship with Wallis Simpson and his decision to abdicate the throne before his coronation in 1936.

I think I will add this book to my list of things to borrow from the library and will come back to it another time when life is not so hectic.

whinegums · 08/11/2009 10:42

This thread hasn't been posted on in a while has it?! Adding it to my threads as I've got it this month, and I'm looking forward to reading it. Ta Flying Monkey x

FlyingMonkey · 08/11/2009 16:21

Hope you enjoy it Whinegums. Whoever had it over October maybe wasn't so keen

OP posts:
Maria2007loveshersleep · 10/11/2009 19:32

I loved was one of the best books in the swap so far (IMO). But I guess with the winter coming & everything people don't have the chance/mood/something to read as much? I've been very late with my book too this month (will post it to Arti, embarrasingly, tomorrow! )

artifarti · 10/11/2009 19:51

[taps feet impatiently]

mistletoeandwhinegums · 19/12/2009 09:13

Hello, I'm finally getting round to posting my thoughts. I think this has been my favourite book so far out of the swap, close second to Arti's choice. I loved it - even though I didn't like Logan a lot of the time, especially when he was younger. I was genuinely shocked by the death of Freya and Stella - when I began reading that section, I thought it was just going to be about Freya falling in love with someone else.

I felt Boyd was especially good at making Logan's 'voice' authentic all the way through, changing it as the years passed. I'd certainly be interested in reading some more of his novels, he's been on my list for a while, but I haven't got round to him so far - so thank you Flying Monkey.

stickylittlefingers · 29/12/2009 17:14

Two minds about this one. On the one hand, it was very easy to read, and I zipped through it. It did feel a bit Hello magazine in the way that he just kept on meeting celebs. And, while I'm not a Virginia Woolf fan (more of an Arnold Bennett girl!!), ascribing that very racist comment to her - did she make that comment in RL? If not, that just seems wrong to me - although it's fiction, it puts a thought in people's minds. I suppose I like my fiction more fictional and my history more evidence based.

I can see why others enjoyed it, though, and I sort of did myself, although it has left me with a "what was real and what wasn't" sort of feeling that I'm not entirely comfortable with. He was very uneven-handed with his characters too - some of them were very flat.

Maria2007loveshersleep · 29/12/2009 21:25

Stickylittlefingers: what was the racist comment? Remind me please because I've forgotten & am intrigued...

I have to agree btw about your thought that the book does leave the reader with a 'what was real & what wasn't' kind of feeling. I felt that was a bit frustrating too, a bit Forrest-Gumpy.

stickylittlefingers · 30/12/2009 10:04

hi (i'm not meant to be here!) - VW was to have asked had someone brought (to the best of my recollection) their little black baboon with them, and this was meant to refer to that someone's wife, who was black - LMS was able to tell them off for being out of order making a comment like that. A bit convenient I thought!

Have you read "The kindness of women"? it reminded me a lot of that in sections, particularly having killed off the "good" wife to whom he could be a loving and devoted husband, and going off with "naughty" women of the 60s!!

Itsjustafleshwound · 14/04/2010 12:34

I really enjoyed this book - it was a great read and the character of Logan was very well drawn.

I am still undecided as to the 'star' element to the book - he just seemd to rub shoulders with a large number of famous people and at times the narrative became rather clumsy.

On the whole, I really enjoyed the book - thank you Flyingmonkey!

(I read his book that was part of the R&J bookclub - Restless - and that was also a good read about spies in WW2).

FlyingMonkey · 20/04/2010 11:15

Yes, I loved Restless. I think it might have been the first of his books that I read. If you liked my choice, you could also try The New Confessions.

OP posts:
pooter · 28/05/2010 19:07

I enjoyed this book enormously even though i didn't like Logan or his friends much. Does NO-ONE have a monogamous relationship? I liked reading about the differences between the classes - and it made me think that despite the apparent widening of the gap between rich and poor these days, it's nothing like the separation of rich and poor back then - mainly in people's attitudes rather than wealth.

I found the ever present name dropping fairly believable - if you get 'in' with a certain set then you would mingle with their friends - and within your own class. I got confused as to whether it was fiction or biography - he even included a list of Logan's publications. It actually made me feel a bit stupid as it exposed huge gaps in my knowledge.

It was a very exciting read - so much packed into one life. I found it heartbreaking and mystifying that Logan didn't feel anything for Lionel as a baby- and cruel to have both his biological children killed off. The dog food years were rather distressing, and i found his involvement in the Baader-Meinhoff gang to be highly unlikely, but I was glad the ending wasn't bleak.

Yep - one of the best from the club IMHO.
Thanks FM

AgentProvocateur · 17/06/2010 16:35

I've just realised that I didn't post here when I had the book. I'd read it a few years ago for a RL bookclub and I loved it. I also heard WB reading from it at a book festival some years ago, which really brought it to life.

Good choice, and although I can't remember many details, I remember racing through it because I was enjoying it so much.

muddleduck · 19/07/2010 13:56

Hi All.

I think this has been my favourite BC book - but too late for me to vote for it.

thanks for the recommendation!

artifarti · 20/07/2010 20:05

Not too late to vote muddleduck.

muddleduck · 21/07/2010 09:28

so I can change my vote to this one?

tis a very close call as I loved several of the books.

artifarti · 23/07/2010 19:04

Vote changed.

artifarti · 24/07/2010 15:58

FlyingMonkey - just in case you don't check the thread now - your book was the clear winner!

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