Catweazle by Richard Carpenter

Richard Carpenter's Catweazle is a children's book that I used to love as a child and so thought I would revisit as an adult. 

It is the story of Catweazle, a 13th century wizard who manages to send himself into the future, landing at Hexwood Farm in the late 20th Century (the 70's to be exact). Here, he is befriended by Carrot, a young boy who hides him on and near the family farm until Catweazle can find a way of getting himself back to the time from which he came.

In the meantime, Catweazle has a lot of trouble adjusting to life in the 20th century. He thinks that most forms of technology are forms of magic and he is particularly interested in the magic he calls 'elec-trickery'.

I loved this book as a child. As an adult though, it really wasn't anything special. Its appeal lies in the slapstick humour provided by Catweazle as he bumbles around, all the trouble Carrot has to go to in order to keep his friend's existence a secret. As a child I found this slapstick humour hilarious, but as an adult its appeal has faded.

What I didn't realise before I started writing this post and went looking for a picture of Catweazle from the televised Catweazle, was that this was actually a tv series before it was a novel. The novel was written after the television series proved to be so popular. I have to admit that holding such find memories of the book from my childhood I was a little bit disappointed to read this - but in the end, what does it matter?

This might be a fun book to give to a primary school aged child, but I can't recommend that you read it as an adult (unless like me you remember reading it as a child and feel like a trip down memory lane).

4.5 / 8
Worth reading if you have a fondness for it already, otherwise give it a miss.

The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht

Before the publication of Tea Obreht's The Tigers Wife, I can’t remember the last time there was so much anticipation and hype about a work of literary fiction. But anticipation and hype there was about this Orange Prize winning novel. Although I hold some reservations about the book, I can honestly day that the praise of this beautifully written novel is well-deserved.

In The Tiger's Wife, Tea Obreht brings to life the cold harsh reality of the Yogoslav Wars in the 1990's, and the impact it had on the lives of the people of those regions. Her narrator, Natalia Stefanovic, starts out on a journey to discover what happened to her grandfather in the last few days before his death.

Woven around this main story are the stories of many others; the story of Luka who travels far to learn the Gusla, a traditional instrument of the region, and Gavran Gaile, the deathless man and, of course, the tiger's wife herself.

Underlying everything that happens in this book is the common idea that death is something we all have to come to terms with throughout our lives and that this journey is not always easy and not always what we expect – but it is a necessary one and one that can't be undertaken lightly.

Given this was a debut novel from a 25 year old author, I was surprised at how elegant the writing in The Tigers Wife was. It was skilled and creative and just… delicious. The way the fables weaved in and around the main story was done so well made me feel as though I was something truly unique.

Having said all that, although intellectually I was able to recognise a well written and well constructed book, my emotions weren't at all touched by the book. I wanted to be interested in the story of the tiger's wife and of course the story of Natalia's grandfather, but sadly I wasn't. I loved the writing, but in the end the beauty of the writing wasn't enough for me. I can't help but wonder if Obreht fell into the trap of spending so much time perfecting the craft of writing, she forgot to add that elusive element that really plays on the reader's emotions, helps them to identify with the characters and keep them interested in the story.

The Tiger's Wife is only Obreht first's piece of published fiction and so no doubt her future works will build upon what she has created here. I hope that there will be more of a balance between the beautiful writing and the emotional pull that a novel needs to have in order to keep it's reader's attention.

Read a recent review of this book in the Sydney Morning Herald here.

5.5 / 8
Well written and worth reading if you have the opportunity, but there's no need to prioritise it.

Did you get swept up in the hype and read this book? I would love to know if you loved it as much as you expected, or like me you felt like there was something missing. Do you like stories that include fables like the ones in this book or do you find them distracting?

It's Monday! What are you reading?

It's Monday! What are you reading? is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Here I am again, after a week of some wonderful reading. I have read two book in this past week that I have been completely unable to put down once I picked them up.

Hopefully this week I will find some other great suggestions for future reads out there.

Currently Reading

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

This is the story of a young boy ex-communicated from the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints after he is caught holding hands with one of his step-sisters because the "Phrophet" has decreed it is the will of God. Some years later, his mother (the 19th wife) is accused of killing his father.  

I only started this book this morning, but it is already clear to me that this will be the third book in a row that I will be completely unable to put down. 

Last Read

One Day by David Nicholls

My friends and I chose to read this for our book club and it was a wonderful choice. I can't remember the last time I read a book that kept me up reading till late. If I could have read this in one sitting I would have. I know that the recent hype about the book, especially with the movie being released, will turn a lot of people off, but don't let it get to you. Each July 15th, the book has a look at what is happening in the lives of Em and Dex, old friends who don't realise they are in love. This is a lovely and romantic book - very The Time Travellers Wife. When my friend finished reading it she sent me a message saying it was the first time in a long time she finished a book and could have gone back to the start and started reading all over again.

The Passage by Justin Cronin

This was actually a re-read. I loved this book so much the first time around, although I had some difficulty adjusting from the early parts of the book which are set in the near future, and the latter parts of the book which are set in the far future. Second time around, this wasn't a problem, and I actually noticed a lot more that I think will turn out to be important in the following sequels. I know a lot of people look down their noses on these types of books, but I really recommend it. Here is my review if you are interested in it. 

Up Next

What can I say? I like a bit of mystery in my life :-)