Book reviews: Don Quichote & Night Film

As many of you may (or may not) know, I love to read books (fiction books that is, never really ventured into non-fiction territory to be honest). My pile of to-read-books has shrunk a little bit since my last update, so I thought I would share my thoughts about two books I’ve read the past couple of months.

There are some spoilers in these reviews, so if you want to read any of these books without prejudice, I suggest you skip these!

1. Don Quichote – Cervantes
This one is a lie actually: I haven’t finished it. I stranded on page 111 of this 785-page thick book a couple of weeks ago and I just had to put it down for a while. The story is about a Spanish nobleman who’s obsessed with tales of medieval chivalry, when one day he decides to take matter into his own hands and become the greatest knight of La Mancha. His new purpose in life is to fight injustice and to one day become very famous for his good deeds. Together with his squire, Sancho Panza, he hits the road fighting giants, criminals and joining armies in the greatest fight of their lives. Or at least he thinks so. In reality he’s fighting windmills, priests and tries to butcher a flock of sheep. Although this all sounds very promising, nothing really happens besides him and his squire getting beat up again, and again, and again and again. The repetitiveness of the story annoys me so much that I just had to take a break. I should maybe give it some slack as it is an almost 400-year old story and is in no way in compliance with ‘literature standards‘ these days, but with still a rough 600 pages to go, I was afraid I wouldn’t get much more out of it than Don Quichote, getting his ass kicked due to his brain gone insane. I know I should persevere and read that book to the last page, and one day I will. But for now I just have other interesting books lying around that don’t take me months to finish.

2. Night Film – Marisha Pessl
Oh how I’ve waited for this followup to Special Topics in Calamity Physics, basically my holy grail book in high school. You can imagine expectations were very high and, to be honest, weren’t entirely fulfilled. The story itself immediately got me hooked: disgraced journalist Scott McGrath investigates the death of Ashley Cordova, daughter of the infamous and mysterious director Stanislas Cordiva, known for his dark and macabre movies and adored by hundreds of fans called Cordovites. Scott and his two sidekicks are trying to figure out the truth, piece by piece, and get sucked into this world of demonic withcraft – and that’s where I got lost. I just couldn’t believe that this dark magical world, where Marish Pessl was leading me into, was true. I just couldn’t, not after reading Special Topics, which to me had a total different mindset than Night Film, one that, I believe, suited me better. So when at the end of the book, the reader got to choose between two different realities – the dark magical truth or the rational scientific truth – I chose 100% for the second believable reality.

This ultimatum reminded me of Life of Pi (one of the best stories I’ve read btw. If you haven’t seen the movie, don’t watch it and read the book instead), where, after the revelation that Pi’s story might not be the incredible journey he’s told you about, your mind is just blown and you can’t think about anything else or pick up another book after this huge bomb that has dropped and shattered your beliefs and everything you thought was real.
Well, I didn’t have this at all with Night Film, and this is why this book wasn’t such a hit for me. It put so much effort into trying to make us believe that his whole fucked up history about spells and witchcraft was true, that, when it turned out that there might be a different explanation to it, I was just like: oh, thought so. And that was it. No bomb, no minds that were blown, no disbelief.
Is Night Film therefore a bad read? No, it’s not. If you want to get lost and get carried away, you should definitely give it a try. Will it be the best thing you’ve ever and are going to read? Probably not.

Lastly, there’s actually another book that’s disappeared from my to-read-pile, and that is Heldere Hemel by Tom Lanoye. I don’t think it has been translated into English, so I’m going to keep it short: the story is based on an accident that occurred in 1989, when an unmanned Russian jet fighter crashed into a house in rural Belgium. The story is told from the viewpoint of different characters: the pilot of the jet, two people working at NATO and Vera, resident of said house and currently trying to separate from her cheating husband, and their hippie-son. With its 92 pages it is a short, but enjoyable read. I wasn’t a big fan of Belgian/Dutch author to be honest: based upon books I’ve read in high school, I thought of Duth/Belgian literature as mostly depressing, pessimistic and some of them were just oozing with sexual frustration. But this book surprised me and made me realize that I definitely have lived with a wrong prejudice about Dutch/Belgian literature for years and that I should give them another chance. Which I have btw! Started reading Post Mortem by Peter Terrin yesterday. – So proud of myself.

Any of you had any good reads the past couple of months? Any life changing or disappointing stories you absolutely want to share? Feel free to do so!

Talk to you next time!
Janice

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