Cecily's book reviews

In general I've written reviews of every book I've read since I joined GoodReads (RIP) in May 08, along with one or two I read prior to that. More recent reviews tend to be longer (sometimes a tad too long?). I always carry a book, though I don't get as much time as I'd like to get engrossed - life is busy, but in a good way. Too many of my favourite authors died without writing enough! Apart from reading, and writing about reading, I enjoy Scrabble, good restaurants, woodland, and attending the theatre.
The Character Of Rain - Amélie Nothomb Really 2.5*: it's not a bad book, but I didn't really enjoy it (fortunately, it's very short).

This describes Nothomb's life from her birth until her third birthday. The youngest child of a Belgian diplomat in Japan, she tells it with the Japanese assumption that children are gods until their third birthday: "at three... you see everything and understand nothing" because you don't remember the previous year (though she claims to). Unfortunately, I quickly found the gimmick of the omniscient and self-centred narrator rather annoying.

For the first two years, she is totally unresponsive and silent and is referred to as the Tube (feeding) and the Plant. Then she suddenly switches on and screams almost constantly for six months. She is calmed by her first taste of chocolate, and from then on remembers everything, observing "There isn't any point remembering that which has no connection to pleasure" - the sort of idea that is meant to be profound, but is actually fatuous. She becomes a model child, "The very idea of pleasure had set me into motion".

After that, even allowing for hindsight, she claims far more knowledge and intelligence than is remotely possible, e.g. pondering long and hard about which of the many words she had secretly learned would be the first, second and third that she uttered, weighing up the impact of each. She also taught herself to read before the age of three without anyone else realising. I'm not sure if this is meant to be serious, cute, funny or something else. She admits she "stands little chance of being believed. I don't particularly care". What a charming way for an author to address her readers.

The idea of being a god makes her insufferable: one of her nannies adores her, but the other detests her: "How terrible it must have been for her not to adore me"! I presume this is meant to be amusing, but by this point I'd already taken a dislike to her, so it merely confirmed my negative feelings.

Then, amidst such annoying writing is the odd gem: "When I finally reached the water [the sea], it turned out to be as afraid of me as I was of it. Like a timid child, it approached and then ran away. I did the same."

Unsurprisingly, turning three and no longer being thought of as a god was not a happy experience. "Turning three brought absolutely nothing good with it", and unpleasant realisations such as "eventually we lose what we love. That which is given you will be taken back" and "One of the most terrifying laws of the universe: what doesn't advance retreats, First comes growth and then decay, and between the two is a void". Frankly, Amelie, I don't give a damn.

The next stage of Nothomb's life, in a diplomatic compound in Peking, is described in slightly more realistic terms in Loving Sabotage: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/342140589.

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