Friday, October 23, 2015

DIARY by Chuck Palahniuk

Chuck Palahniuk

            Chuck Palahniuk’s Diary is an interesting book. It’s a real downer – but, it is intriguing, weird, and, well, very interesting. Although I listened to the audio book, in my opinion, Diary is a “good read”.

            Misty met Peter at art school. They eventually married and returned to his home to live, on Waytansea Island, where she worked as a waitress and he as a contractor. As a child, Misty had been drawing fancy houses and other scenes from Waytansea Island, although she had never been there. This is just another oddity in this plot – just like the diary – just like the odd phone calls about disappearing rooms – just like Misty’s return to her art. The twists and turns that are revealed as the plot unfolds are intriguing.

            This is my first experience with Palahniuk, and I love his writing – from the book’s “weather reports” to his “creative” phraseology, such as “Bermuda Triangulated”. The writing shifts as the plot progresses: for example, Misty begins with “take a drink”; as the plot develops, she switches to “take a pill”. There are also shifts during the same time: for example, Misty might mention “Peter’s body”; then, she will repeat her comment, substituting “your body” and directing it to Peter.

            Diary includes interesting detail about art school – for example, how everyone wants to do something “new”, such as a teddy bear filled with poop. Palahniuk includes detail about the human musculature, facial features, and the like that art students learn early on. The relevance of this information becomes clear as the plot unfolds – and “unfolding” – or unfurling – is precisely how it feels as we experience this plot.

            I wish I had read Diary, instead of listening to the book. Although I enjoyed the audio, there are so many clever nuances and subtleties in Palahniuk’s writing that I wish I could go back and capture precisely some of his cleverness.

            This is a great book. Intriguing plot. Clever writing. Interesting characters. I am so glad that I discovered Palahniuk and look forward to reading his other work. I love Diary!




M. J. Rose

            Believing that her husband killed her beloved father, Sandrine Salome runs to her grandmother in Paris. Her grandmother, “one of Paris’s celebrated courtesans” (p. 4), owns an amazing home that Sandrine remembers from childhood, Maison de la Lune, a “four-story mid-eighteenth-century stone house….” (p. 3). But, she did not find her grandmother at the house; rather, her grandmother was living in an apartment, as the house was “under renovation”.

            Nonetheless, Sandrine kept feeling pulled by the house. While responding to this pull, she met Julien Duplessi, an architect working at the house. With Julien’s assistance, Sandrine “sneaks” into the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, where, disguised as a man, she becomes an award winning painting student of Gustave Morean. As the book progresses, we see the changes that Sandrine undergoes as she encounters the spirit of La Lune.

            The Witch Of Painted Sorrows is well written and a good read. It is, essentially, historical fiction, with a touch of the supernatural or paranormal. In this way, it reminds me of the works of two of my favorite authors, Deborah Harkness and Susanna Kearsley; however, whereas their works are historical with some paranormal that seems “normal”, the combination feels a little out of place in Rose’s book. The two genres just do not seem to “mesh” smoothly.

            Although I generally enjoyed The Witch Of Painted Sorrows, I did not understand the ending. After completing the novel, I had a “huh? I don’t get it” moment. Nonetheless, as a whole, it was an engaging novel.


Sunday, October 11, 2015


Tana French

            In The Secret Place, Tana French gives us an intimate look at the inner workings of an Irish girls private Catholic school, St. Kilda’s. The school has a Secret Place, a place where the girls can anonymously post private thoughts or secrets.

            Holly Mackey, daughter of Detective Frank Mackey, is a student at the school. She visits Stephen Moran, a detective whom she knows from a previous case, and brings him a post from the Secret Place that involves the unsolved murder of a boy that took place on the school grounds the year before. Moran, who would like the chance to join Dublin’s Murder Squad, takes the post to the detective who had been in charge of the unsolved case, Antoinette Conway. They join forces and take the post back to St. Kilda’s, where their investigation leads them in surprising directions.

            Although I listened to the audio version of this book, it is clear to me that The Secret Place is well written. We are not “told” about St. Kilda’s and do not “learn” about the murder (or figure out who is the murderer) as an outside observer. Instead, we acquire this knowledge as French has us live it, from the inside. The writing alternates between the investigation in the present and the events in the past that led up to the murder.

            The plot unfolds in a straight line rather than the twisting and turning road found in the plots of many mysteries. Nonetheless, there is so much complexity built, layered, on top of complexity. The plot begins looking as if it is a simple country lane. Suddenly, we find ourselves standing on a road that has become paved, has had lanes added, has become a major thoroughfare.

            The Secret Place is compelling. It draws you in and ferries you along this unpredictable highway. Once begun, however, secrets start unraveling.