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LIFE

E-books/audiobooks: fiction

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 November, 2014, 8:16pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 November, 2014, 8:35pm

Revival

by Stephen King

Faber & Faber

(e-book)

I found Stephen King's last two novels - Dr Sleep and Mr Mercedes - to be overblown, thinly plotted and utterly predictable exercises in genre mechanics: King's desire to publish more than one book a year seems to be taking its toll. Revival practically defies you to dislike it, while also declaring a return to form. So is it? On the whole, the answer is yes. Our narrator, Jamie Morton, is a typically Kingly everyman, whose happy childhood dissolves into an adult life of drugs, drugs and rock'n'roll. His saviour is Charles Jacobs, a Methodist minister. However, when a car crash robs him of his wife, young son and his faith, Jacobs enters on a typically King obsession to defeat death itself armed only with a Frankenstein-like fascination with electricity. Such Promethean aspirations never end well, and neither does Revival which plummets into genre clichés and some florid prose. But King's portrait of Jamie's family, his gift for menace and its place in the everyday carry you along. Revival is good, if not great King, but that is no bad thing.

 

Funny Girl

by Nick Hornby

(read by Emma Fielding)

Penguin

(audiobook)

Nick Hornby is a surprisingly weird writer. His populist gifts - he was onto football long before it became cool - have won him a major audience but also the respect of hip literati such as Dave Eggers. In Funny Girl, Hornby rewinds to the so-called Golden Age of British light entertainment - mainly fairly terrible variety shows and sitcoms heavy on innuendo and cosy familiarity. Our titular heroine is Barbara Parker, a beauty queen turned England's answer to Lucille Ball. Her dreams of stardom come to pass after she changes her name to Sophie Straw, and is hired as the titular lead on sitcom Barbara (and Jim). She quickly becomes the show's focal point, much to the envy of her co-star, Clive. Hornby creates a misty-eyed plot around the show's creators - not least the writers, Tony and Bill, who are trapped between mass appeal and the lure of art. Emma Fielding's cultured tones seem too pristine for Barbara, but she puts flesh on the bones of what feels like a slight work extolling the joys of slightness. Funny Girl is fond and sad, but oddly not all that funny.

 

Amnesia

by Peter Carey

(read by Colin Friels)

Faber & Faber

(audiobook)

Peter Carey's wonderful new novel is a tale of two criminals. First Felix Moore, a crusading left-wing journalist, is found guilty of slander. Rescue arrives in the shape of Woody Townes, a morally eel-like entrepreneur who commissions him to write the biography of a notorious computer hacker, Gaby Baillieux who is arrested after releasing a virus that opens prison doors in both Australia and the US. The pair are united, at least in Felix's imagination, by two historical confrontations with the US that have been all but erased from the Australian cultural memory. There is 1942's "The Battle of Brisbane", in which Australian and American soldiers rioted on the city streets. The second, graver clash is known simply as "1975". Felix contends that Labor prime minister Gough Whitlam's government was brought down by CIA intervention in Australian domestic affairs. Gaby's "radicalisation" intermingles with Felix's own story in this strange, angry novel about protest, nature, the truth and changing the world. Amnesia is a sobering but vital book.