Monday, April 02, 2018

Books: That Smell, The Idiot, and two Will Graysons

That Smell and Notes from PrisonThat Smell and Notes from Prison by Sonallah Ibrahim
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I think I expected too much from this novella. While important in the context of Egypt's political history, there is little about prison life in this book, which was banned in 1966 immediately after publication. Sonallah Ibrahim is obviously a fan of Hemingway but when sparse prose meets stream of consciousness - and random people keep walking in and out of the narrator's life - it's no wonder I began to lose interest. The introduction to the novella did help me understand the context, but I am not sure if the autobiographical elements are enough to keep the readers hooked.

The IdiotThe Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Prince Myshkin, the protagonist of my first Fyodor Dostoyevsky novel, is a good-hearted simpleton. But he is a misfit in a society where no one can be trusted. The two women in this novel are conflicted characters who make life miserable for Myshkin. You start rooting for him to return to the Swiss sanatorium where he spent his formative years away from the world and its vices. His goodness is mistaken for his being an idiot. Dostoyevsky can occasionally be a tough read, but he has a profound grasp of the human condition. “The Idiot” could lose its 19th-century Russia setting and still resonate with modern readers.

Will Grayson, Will GraysonWill Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Two teenagers meet at a Chicago store at night. They have nothing in common except for their names. This novel unfolds in alternating chapters with the point of view of each Will Grayson, brought to life separately by authors John Green and David Levithan. This is an interesting experiment that works quite well, as the reader is drawn into how the lives of both Will Graysons intersect. A high school musical is thrown into the mix and I found it to be the only implausible element of this otherwise gripping young adult novel.

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