The Old man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway is one of the most famous writers to have come from the USA and “The old man...” is one of his most famous works. As well as being an author Hemingway was famous for his passion for hunting and angling so its a wonder I didn't dip into his books years ago.
The 'Old man...' is the tale of a very old fisherman who is no longer interested in catching a lot of fish. Instead he is patiently setting his stall for the very largest fish, (something I can definitely relate to!) in this case a monster Marlin in the gulf stream waters off the coast of Cuba. Waters in which Hemingway himself often fished. We never learn the name of the old man but in becoming acquainted with him we learn he is a master fisherman and a knowledgeable seaman. He is also a man able to dig deep on reserves of strength, mental and physical.
This is a very short book which is easy to read and on the whole very enjoyable, especially if you are a fisherman. I do have a bit of a problem with Hemingway's writing style however. I've previously read his last book “True at first Light” which is another good read but at times Hemingway ignores conventions of English language, using 'and' repeatedly in the same sentence making it horrible to read. It's as if he's thinking “I'm Ernest Hemingway, I can do what I like...”. I detect an arrogance in his writing. There are instances of this in “The old man...” but it's not as prevalent as in “First light” and it didn't spoil the book for me.
A classic. Give it a go.
The Good man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ by Phillip Pullman
A few years ago I read Pullman's “Dark materials” trilogy and this is a breath taking masterpiece in my opinion. (Sadly the film of the 'Golden Compass' was awful!) One day I'll visit this book again, there are very few books I re-read but this will have to be one of them. With this in mind I dived into reading “The good man Jesus...” with high hopes.
This book is an alternative take on the new testament stories, with a clever twist. The title gives the game away, in Pullman's gospel 'Jesus' and 'Christ' are twins. A major theme of “Dark Materials” is religion and Pullman sticks the knife right in so he's obviously not afraid of controversy. It's very easy to read with moments of hilarious heresy and the irreverent part of me loved the fact that Pullman dares to re-tell the most famous story ever told.
It may sound odd, I enjoyed the book but at the same time I was disappointed, from Phillip Pullman I expected more. We all know how the story of Jesus ends but I wanted Pullman's ending to be more bizarre. In a way he's given himself scope to do just this, he could have been really anarchic but did he chicken out?
I've started reading the Harry Potter series to my children (more on this to follow...), this was straight after finishing “The good man Jesus...” and in all honesty I got more pleasure in reading the first couple of chapters of “Philosophers Stone” than I did the whole of Pullman's gospel.
Sitting on the fence, it's worth a read but it ain't great.