[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
It's a shame the book title isn't the other way round, because then I could have given my thoughts on Crosses and Noughts.

Okay. Shut up with your stupid jokes, littlerdog, and talk about the book.

Noughts and Crosses is an engaging, enjoyable book. It's also something of a challenge to a reader like myself who's always lived in an environment where domination by whites is pervasive. I had enormous difficulty visualising the Crosses as black. I'm not sure I even managed it. And that in itself makes me hesitant to offer any criticism. I had problems with the book, but for the most part those problems lie within myself, not within the book. And that's a hard admission to make, especially as a Guardian-reading bleeding heart white liberal.

The book is light on description, but that wasn't a problem as I often find description bogs a story down. It focused on what I like to focus on: the interactions between characters, their thoughts and feelings. At times it was a bit repetitive, perhaps not surprising for such a long book. Callum comments more than once on how his sister Lynette relieved his anger and anxiety, but I don't recall a scene in which we're shown this actually happening. Less tell and more show would have suited me better. But I'm not the target audience here, so my preferences are perhaps irrelevant.

Sometimes the book seemed to pass too lightly over major life events that I can't help feeling would have had far more impact on the characters than we see. This is a tricky balance to keep, in my experience--no life events and the story feels flat, too much emphasis on a particular event and the story bogs down. Blackman works hard to keep the story moving along so perhaps that's why the two protagonists aren't as twisted out of shape emotionally as I'd expect them to be.

The book's approach to the protagonists works well: we hear from Sephy, then Callum, then Sephy, then Callum, sometimes going over previous events from the other POV, sometimes progressing to new events. It's well paced and holds the attention.

Overall, a damn good book.

(Oh, and I did read the prologue, which I don't usually. And it was completely unnecessary.)
[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
It struck me when I was reading more of Noughts and Crosses that an apparently healthy fourteen-year-old girl who's drinking one glass of wine (admittedly according to her own report) at night before sleeping shouldn't be waking up with hangovers. Either she's drinking a lot more than she's admitting to (likely) or the author's writing from the experiences of adults whose livers can no longer cope (also possible).

It's always tempting to attribute something you trip over in a book to a mistake by the author. As a writer myself, I find this infuriating when it's done to me. As a reader, I do it all the time.

Eh.
[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
Out of the books acquired recently, I decided to read Malorie Blackman's Noughts and Crosses next. This book was mentioned a lot during the Save the Pearls debacle of recent memory and so, even though it's for kids, I decided to give it a look.

The book's basic premise is an inversion of the current situation in the West of white oppression of non-white people. The Crosses (black people) are in charge, and the noughts (whites, who don't even get a capital letter much of the time) are the sub-class. God isn't for them, but only for the Crosses, and they do the scut work, live in the sub-standard housing, and have limited opportunities.

The book's two principal characters are Sephy (short for Persephone), a Cross whose father is a cabinet minister and whose mother is a drunk, and Callum, a nought whose mother used to be housemaid to Sephy's mother. The story explores the attempts of the two young people to sustain their friendship, and budding romance, in a world that is strongly opposed to their having any association at all. Callum's sister has been viciously attacked for dating a Cross, and when Callum joins Sephy's school among the first-ever nought intake, a near-riot ensues that indirectly leads to the sacking of Sephy's family's chauffeur, and to Sephy herself being beaten by her classmates.

The writing is sparse and generally clear, although sometimes I was a little confused about dialogue attribution. My main criticism would be the extensive use of saidbookisms, which make me squirm. As I'm not the intended audience, however, I'm not sure how much that matters. One of the book's biggest strengths is its use of alternating POVs, which allow us to gain insights into the thinking processes of both the young people, and understand how much they understand and misunderstand each other's thoughts, actions and motives. The relationship between Sephy and Callum is the core of the book.
[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
Yes, there's been a lot of acquiring lately. Went with husband to the dentist today and got a book in a charity shop, then popped out with husband and my dad to a local Christian charity book shop, where Dad kindly bought us all books. Woot!

The Soldiers' Tale by Samuel Hynes;
Bad Science by Ben Goldacre;
HMS Beagle by Keith S. Thompson;
Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman.

A cornucopia of books has landed upon us.

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