Review: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz is a great book.  It’s like nothing I’ve read before.  A while back I came across a reading list for ‘The Practise of Fiction’ course at Warwick University which prescribes Díaz’s book Drown as a study for voices.  I haven’t read Drown yet but Oscar Wao was exactly that to me – a study in voices.  His is a The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Waostrong and unique voice that I really enjoyed.  All his characters had strong, different voices in the book.  This novel switches between the different characters’ perspectives and stories and they are never introduced – you recognise them from their voices.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is about Oscar de Leon and his struggles as a ‘nerdy’ bookworm writer who spends most of his short life a virigin.  It’s a kind of imperfect love story for many of the characters.  But it is also about the ‘fuku’ or curse that hangs over his family members, past & present.  It is set in the US and in the Dominican Republic of the present and the past.  A large part of the book is about the Trujillo era in the Dominican Republic and albeit gruesome it was interesting and well written.  I’ve mentioned in many of my reviews that books which take me to different places and show me different people and ways of being generally score highly with me and this one was definitely one of those.

There is a fair amount of Spanish throughout and a great deal of reference is made to sci fi and fantasy literature.  I enjoyed both.  I enjoy the sci fi and fantasy genre and the references were not lost on me, in fact I thought they brought humour to a story that is in part a dark one.  I also thought the Spanish was great because it lends itself to understanding the characters better, it really added to the story for me.  That said though, I do understand Spanish so how you’ll feel about it if you don’t understand the language I don’t know.  However, you won’t miss out on anything if you don’t so not to worry.  I read some reviews on GoodReads which pointed to the Spanish and the genre references as reasons why they disliked the book and I have to disagree with them.  Díaz has said that he included the Spanish to give English readers a real feel for the immigrant experience and I would agree that it does take you further into the world of Oscar much better than if everything was in English.  Also, Oscar himself is extremely well spoken so when everyone around him in his community is speaking with Spanish colloquialisms and you then hear Oscar’s choice of diction you really get an idea of how he must have been perceived by his own community.  It all worked really well for me.

There are footnotes which I read at the end.  Some people didn’t like this factor either.  I read the story first which does not require footnote reading to enjoy and then read the footnotes after which I found quite interesting.  I recommend reading them after finishing the story or not at all if you’re not interested.

All in all it was a great book and I’m looking forward to more from Díaz.


lilolia review rating 4 stars great


The TBR Chronicles – August 2015

TBR Chronicles August

Recently, the movie version of Lisa Genova‘s novel Still Alice came out.  I am very interested in the story and only just came aug still aliceto know of Genova’s novels upon discovering the movie’s book beginnings.  So, before I watch the movie I’d like to read the book. (GoodReads)aug rework

I read an article on Forbes in which founders picked their best startup book and the one that caught my eye was Rework by Jason Fried & David Hanson.  I’m looking forward to this one as its blurb on GoodReads has it as a very different business book from the norm. (GoodReads)

aug this is how you lose herI’m just about done reading The Brief & Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz which I have deeply enjoyed.  One of this book’s characters is the protagonist of Diaz’s new book This Is How You Lose Her.  I will definitely be reading this one.  Keep an eye out for my review of Oscar to hear more about the awesome stuff of Junot Diaz. (GoodReads)aug nothing is true

Earlier this month the Guardian 1st Book Award announced the 2015 longlist and from it I have 3 picks I’m hoping to be able to read.  The first is Nothing is True & Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev which looks very interesting. aug shore(GoodReads)

The 2nd is The Shore by Sara Taylor which spans 200 years and follows a family from the past into an apocalyptic future.  I’m dying to see what it’s all about.  It has been compared to David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas so that really sold me on it. (GoodReads)aug grief

The 3rd and final book is Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter.  A story about a family and their grief after losing their mom/wife.  This one just spoke to me personally and I do love Ted Hughs so hoping to read this one. (GoodReads)

See anything you fancy?  Read any of these? Share your thoughts with us.

Review: Langford’s Basic Photography by Michael Langford

Langford’s Basic Photography was first published in 1977 and continues to be updated with the most recent 9th edition published in 2010.  This photography book comes highly recommended and is the prescribed textbook for some courses.  Michael langford's basic photographyLangford is a well accomplished and respected photographer and teacher.

“Michael Langford, renowned author, teacher, and practitioner, is a legend because of his skill that balanced art and technique. He inspired and taught thousands as Photography Course Director at the Royal College of Art, London, UK.” (GoodReads blurb)

You would then, given the above, expect this book to be extraordinary and while I will say that it is in fact well written and jam packed with technical details, it was not the book I needed.  This book is much more for the absolute beginner.  I would recommend it for anyone interested in film photography and film processing since this book covers those areas in great technical detail.  I, however, am in love with digital photography and the digital darkroom.  Sadly, digital is covered only fleetingly.

I enjoyed the first chapter, What Is Photography, because of the theory element and the references to notable professional photographers and their works.  The two chapters on the technicalities of light and lighting were also useful to me.  I particularly liked that each chapter had a summary and project section at the end.  All in all, though, the book isn’t for me.  Too much of a focus on film photography and not enough of a challenge to keep me going.  I think there are better books out there for the beginning digital photographer who has chosen the self study route like myself.

The Langford’s Advanced Photography book is the next step after this one and I’ll still have a look at that one to see what it covers because there truly is a great deal of detail in Langford’s style so I’m hoping my disenchantment with this Basic one is purely a matter of mismatched level.


lilolia review rating 2 stars ok

An Unnecessary Woman Literature References Reading List

rabih alameddine an unnecessary woman literature referencesRabih Alameddine’s An Unnecessary Woman tells the story of introverted literature translator, Aaliya.  It is a moving novel I enjoyed immensely (read my review).  It is an especially wonderful book for literature lovers because it is brimming with references to and quotes from many wonderful works of fiction, poetry, and some non fiction.  I mentioned in my review that as I was reading I couldn’t help but note down the works mentioned in An Unnecessary Woman.  Here is a reading list compiled of the works of fiction mentioned in this wonderful novel.  It is an interesting and diverse list from which I think you’ll find some reading gems.  This list, as long as it is, is but a crumb of what Alameddine gives us in his novel about the literature referenced.  I highly recommend you read An Unnecessary Woman to read his comments on these and other works as well as specific authors.

Austerlitz (2001) by W G Sebald

The Emigrants (1992) by W G Sebald

2666 (2004) by Roberto Bolaño

The Savage Detectives (1998) by Roberto Bolaño

A Heart So White (1992) by Javier Marias

Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me (1994) by Javier Marias

Your Face Tomorrow Trilogy (2002-2007) by Javier Marias

A Tale of Two Cities (1859) by Charles Dickens

Invisible Cities (1972) by Italo Calvino

Cinnamon Shops (1934) by Bruno Schulz

The Conformist (1951) by Alberto Moravia

Lolita (1955) by Vladimir Nabokov

The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007) by Mohsin Hamid

The Shipping News (1993) by Annie Proulx

The Magic Mountain (1924) by Thomas Mann

100 Years of Solitude (1967) by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis (1984) by Jose Saramago

Murphy (1938) by Samuel Beckett

Waiting for Godot (1952) by Samuel Beckett

Death of a Travelling Salesman (1936) by Eudora Welty

Giovanni’s Room (1956) by James Baldwin

Corydon (1924) by Andre Gide

Sepharad (2001) by Antonio Muñoz Molina

Sophie’s Choice (1979) by William Styron

Nightwood (1936) by Djuna Barnes

The Leopard (1957) by Guiseppe Lampedusa

Kaddish for an Unborn Child (1990) by Imre Kertész

Fatelessness (1975) by Imre Kertész

Crime & Punishment ((1866) by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The Brothers Karamozov (1880) by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Madame Bovary (1856) by Gustave Flaubert

The Waves (1931) by Virginia Woolf

Mrs Dalloway (1925) by Virginia Woolf

Anna Karenina (1877) by Leo Tolstoy

The Book of Disquiet (1888-1935) by Fernando Pessoa

The Fall (1956) by Albert Camus

The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1969) by John Fowles

Metamorphosis (1915) by Franz Kafka

The English Patient (1992) by Michael Ondaatje

Dubliners (1914) by James Joyce

Herzog (1964) by Saul Bellow

Hills like White Elephants (1927) by Ernest Hemingway

For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940) by Ernest Hemingway

The Encyclopaedia of the Dead (1983) by Danilo Kiš

Ransom (2009) by David Malouf

The Colour Purple (1982) by Alice Walker

This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen (1947) by Tadeusz Borowski

Alice in Wonderland (1865) by Lewis Carroll

The Vanity of Human Wishes (1749) by Samuel Johnson

Flight Without End (1927) by Joseph Roth

Hunger (1890) by Knut Hamsun

A Book of Memories (1986) by Péter Nádas

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961) by Muriel Spark

A House for Mr Biswas (1961) by V S Naipaul

Midnight’s Children (1981) by Salman Rushdie

Waiting for the Barbarians (1980) by J M Coetzee