It’s #20booksofsummer24 reviews 1 & 2, Rinder & Moshfegh

And I’m away, with my first two books in Cathy’s #20booksofsummer24. May into the early days of June I had so many blogtours, but I’ve really cut down on them for the duration of the challenge, so I can give it a good go, and join in some of the other reading themed events too, such as Paris in July hosted by Words and Peace and WIT Month of course.

The Trial by Rob Rinder

A highlight of the telly in recent weeks has been Rob & Rylan’s Grand Tour on BBC2, where Rylan taught Rob to loosen up a bit, and Rob taught Rylan to stand still and experience art, as they visited Venice, Florence and Rome, so Rinder’s debut novel, which I’d got in the supermarket last summer, caught my eye in my bedside bookcase pile. I’d been umming and erring over it for a while as, while Rinder has written a couple of non-fiction books, it’s obvious from his acknowledgments that he had help for his novel.

The plot, based on some of his own experiences as a barrister, is actually excellent (although stretched a little too far perhaps at the end) and the characters, if stereotyped, are fun. There is the rivalry between two trainees doing pupillage at these chambers, one posh, one not posh and Jewish – and there is supposed to be only one position at the end. There is the bastard of a pupil master!

Then there is the case that should result in a plea bargain. A hardened criminal is arrested for the poisoning of Detective Inspector Grant Cliveden, who was about to give evidence in a trial when he fell down struggling to breathe, dying within a couple of minutes. Cliveden had rescued the late Queen from a attempted assassination, and has an enviable clear-up rate – he’s a national hero. To pupil barrister Adam Green, it’s obvious that for Jimmy Knight to have managed have the expertise to source enough pure botulinum toxin to kill someone just two weeks after being released from prison is a tall order, in spite of Cliveden being the man who put him in the clink.

So we have the beginnings of a great legal drama. It’s pacy, it’s twisty, it’s engaging, it’s fun – I couldn’t have worked out how it would end! However, it’s also slightly ordinary – perhaps lacking a little in Rinder’s voice. The comedic aspects promised are limited mostly to the parody character of Adam’s so-called mentor.

It’s a quick, fun read, but not as good as Richard Osman.

Source: Own copy. Penguin paperback, 359 pages. BUY at Blackwell’s via my affiliate link.

Eileen by Otessa Moshfegh

I finally also got around to reading this marmite/cult novel from 2016. I have read Moshfegh’s second novel, My Year of Rest and Relaxation, which I loved and loathed in equal measure – so I sort of knew what to expect from her first book.

Eileen didn’t disappoint – I loved and loathed it too!

Eileen is a twenty-something, living at home with her alcoholic father, working in admin at the local boys correctional facility in New England. She spends her days primly, hating her colleagues, fantasising about prison guard Randy, and supplying her father with booze. Right from the start we are promised that she will run away to Boston or points elsewhere to escape her mundane life.

But 200 pages in, it’s in danger of never happening. Indeed, it takes over 100 pages for anything to happen at all. I nearly gave up several times, but read on, thinking somethng will happen soon…

We’re not meant to like Eileen, but by the end we do feel sorry for her, as she was taken in by the breath of fresh air to the prison staff that is Rebecca, the new counsellor whom she develops a strong crush on.

Moshfegh seemingly delights in taking on her reader. There is a challenging quality to her writing that makes it compulsive to read on, but you don’t have to like it!

Source: Own copy. Penguin paperback, 260 pages. BUY at Blackwell’s via my affiliate link.

12 thoughts on “It’s #20booksofsummer24 reviews 1 & 2, Rinder & Moshfegh

  1. MarketGardenReader/IntegratedExpat says:

    I still haven’t got round to Eileen, but I’m definitely intrigued. It’s on my TBR. I still can’t believe people in America are called Randy and nobody sniggers. I used to know a woman called Gay, before it was commonly used to mean homosexual. I suspect she may have changed her name since.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      Moshfegh is an interesting writer! I suppose Randy comes from Randall etc as Americans use horny as our randy equivalent.

      • Calmgrove says:

        When I was a student a bunch of us were confused when a Norwegian introduced his Norwegian girlfriend with “The is randy”. But I see from Wikipedia that in Norway, Randi is a feminine name from the 1400s, a short form of Ragnfrid or Ragnfríðr meaning “God-lovable” found on Viking runic inscriptions.

  2. Calmgrove says:

    I sort of enjoyed the Rob and Rylan programmes but I do get a bit fed up of TV celebs on an apparent jolly interposing themselves between us and the places they’re supposedly presenting to us. The only ones that have impressed me recently have been the Romesh Ranganathan pieces about Uganda and Rwanda where he took subjects like authoritarianism and anti-LGBT prejudice seriously amongst the humorous asides.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      I do have a soft spot for Rylan in particular though. I’ve not yet watched Romesh’s latest series – will do.

  3. Rebecca Foster says:

    I’m surprised you hadn’t read Moshfegh’s debut. She does a good line in unlikable characters! I read her first two novels but have heard such negative things about the following two that I avoided them.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      I bought a copy of Lapvona recently that came with a badge saying ‘I survived Lapvona’ !!!

  4. JacquiWine says:

    I couldn’t help but laugh and the following comment: “Eileen didn’t disappoint – I loved and loathed it too!” To be honest, I suspect that would be my reaction as well!

  5. Liz Dexter says:

    Well done on your first two, and clever of you to choose two that were easier to read and perhaps faster than the Ozeki I loved but got bogged down in (I’m doing OK now, on my fourth!).

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