Sunday, 21 August 2011

Solo book club

I've had a busy week travelling, but one that also gave me a lot of time on planes and trains to do some more reading. Here are the three I've devoured in that time...

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua - this is OUTSTANDING. Amy Chua is a law professor at Yale University and this memoir discusses her decision to raise her children using the "Chinese Method". For instance, she does not let them go to sleepovers, act in the school play, or get any grade lower than an A. At all. She drills piano and violin practice with them for at least three hours every day and makes sure they grow up speaking Mandarin (even though she doesn't). She raises them in the Jewish faith, even though her Jewish husband is non-practising. It's shocking and extreme, but she writes with such wit and a hint of self-parody that makes this book easy to eat up - and think about for a good while afterwards. Although the premise is simple - her method is controversial and she expects criticism - it's hard to dislike her. Her arguments cover everything from ethnicity and "Western values" to identity and self-belief. The book made me question what hard work is, where motivation comes from and the value of ambition - and whether or not everyone would benefit from a bit of tiger mother mentality!

The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell - I picked this up in Singapore Airport thinking it would be a bit of harmless fluff. Well, it turns out that the worse a book is, the longer it takes to read. Remember how I talked about disappointments? This was one of them. Candace Bushnell created Sex and the City (in book form), which remains one of my favourite TV shows to this day, and here she writes about one of the characters as a teen. Any fan of the series would be interested in reading this prequel, I don't doubt. But it's just terrible. Bushnell rolls out every cliché in the book, making Carrie completely unrecognisable to those who have watched the show. Even the details don't work; there is no continuity, no charm, none of the wit and intelligence of the screen version. The blurb even uses the words "coming of age". Barf. It's devoid of humour, love and characters you can relate to. A complete waste of everyone's time. The second SATC movie was bad enough, so let's just leave things as they are and remember the show as the classic it was, hmm?

A Paper Life by Tatum O'Neal - a random choice yes, but this actress, who was married to John McEnroe and remains the youngest-ever Oscar winner, is oddly fascinating. It's not exactly a ground-breaking memoir (drug addiction, check, horrid parents, check, growing up too fast in Hollywood, check) but it suffices and is, ostensibly at least, very honest.

PS. I know it's wrong, but I still think John McEnroe is really hot. That should surprise nobody.


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