Monday, October 13, 2008

batten down the hatches

When I published this post I noticed I'd started it with the same complaints as I'd written in my last post regarding the poor selection of Booker titles this year etc etc.  So I'll cut the repetition and admit that I rather lost interest in the process.  I’d read all but two of the shortlist and couldn’t face trying to slog my way through the two giants that I hadn’t - although if either wins I might read it once it makes paperback.  My favourite read was the John Berger which didn’t make the shortlist, and from the short list I’m backing Linda Grant, but I’ve got a funny feeling that the judges will chose The White Tiger as their winner.

I finished Sea of Poppies and did enjoy it, but have learnt that I don’t really
 do epics, and its clearly that.  It obviously felt like the first part of a trilogy as the resolutions that were reached by the end weren’t large enough considering the build up.  I was also a little let down that it took till two thirds of the way through before all involved parties with gathered on The Ibis, and we only hit the sea at the very end.    

‘The wind had fallen off, so there was not a fleck of white visible on the surface, and with the afternoon sun glaring down, the water was as dark and still as the cloak of shadows that covers the opening of an abyss.’

It took me a while to get to grips with who was who, although when I was with any character I felt fully immersed in their story.  It felt like mingling at a giant party, where you soon get to know whose company you enjoy the most.  I most liked my time spent with Deeti and Paulette.  

Although there was lots of strange and inaccessible dialect words, slang and shipboard terminology that we couldn’t hope to understand I didn’t feel lost as many characters seemed equally baffled and there is a comforting lack of a glossary - so we are clearly encouraged to take it as it comes.

‘…beneath the surface of this farrago of sound, meaning flowed as freely as the currents beneath the crowded press of boats.’

Sea of Poppies also contained my favourite animal encounter of my Booker reading - the scene with the stoned monkeys hanging around outside the opium factory.

So, I’ve left the Booker behind for another year.  My papery boat is currently sailing me into mountainous territory courtesy of Robert Macfarlane - Mountains of the Mind.  I’m also planning a few spooky reads in a nod to the annual R.I.P. challenge.