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108. ‘Angelmaker,’ Nick Harkaway…

108. ‘Angelmaker,’ Nick Harkaway…

Angelmaker,’ Nick Harkaway

                    “You seem to have fallen into a well-educated personal crisis,”

a lawyer tells the protagonist, Joe Spork, about halfway into this 500+page story, and if that isn’t a perfect summary of the book then I don’t know what is.

I had come close to buying this novel several times in the past, mainly when they had signed copies on sale in Foyle’s in London last time I was home, (and you may or may not know how addicted I am to signed books…), and equally lured by the gorgeous, die-cut cover and the stunning ‘blurb’ quotes all over it, from every newspaper imaginable and some fantastic authors, too. When I finally picked it up last week, and read it soon after, those recommendations hadn’t led me astray.

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The US cover is just as gorgeous…

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…as the UK paperback cover!

Angelmaker‘ is a sci-fi influenced,  whodunnit-flavoured, loner-deals-with-his-murky-family-past-and-comes-good mystery, and a ripping good yarn to boot.

If that sounds complicated and layered, don’t worry, the tale is wonderfully paced and unfurls steadily, (at times perhaps a little too perfectly, but that is a small quibble given the scope and downright fun of the story).

Harkaway will have you either feeling proud of all of the subtle, fleeting references and quips which characters produce, (‘lions and tigers and bears, oh my!), or possibly rushing to Google every five minutes, (à la Tibor Fischer).

Now living in London, the author either went on one of my walking tours there or is one of the few people to know crazy trivia about his adopted home town, as there are some fantastic references to the English capital, (my favourite being a wonderful throw-away line on navigating between the former residence of the Duke of Wellington and the statue of Achilles at Hyde Park Corner that both are ‘a reminder of the importance of boots’).

The range of topics brought up are a sign of an author interested in everything, from Schrödinger’s cat and quantum mechanics, to Cartesian philosophy and questions of what constitutes the self. What is so much fun about the book is that it touches on so many subjects whilst plunging the world into James Bond-esque peril, only in more of a philosophically, scientifically and existentially fascinating way, rather than with the standard megalomaniacal nuclear-toting baddie.

I won’t even mention the actual plot: if you want a horizon-broadening page-turner for a beach holiday, give this a try. And during the interrogation scenes, I dare you not to be reminded of that scene in Marathon Man…

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2014 in BOOKS

 

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106. Books Bought & Read, February 2014…

106. Books Bought & Read, February 2014…

Books Bought, February 2014

Cadernos de Lanzarote: diario 1, (The Notebook, vol.1), José Saramago

Lisbonne,’ Fernando Pessoa

59 Seconds: think a little, change a lot,’ Richard Wiseman

Taschen Art Book: Diego Rivera

Taschen Art Book: Albrecht Dürer

Taschen Art Book: Fernando Botero

Poemas,’ Fernando Pessoa, ed.Eduardo Lourenço

A Jangada De Pedra,’ (The Stone Raft), José Saramago

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Secret Lisbon,’ Vitor Manuel Adrio

L’âme Secrète De Lisbonne,’ (The Secret Soul Of Lisbon), various

Poemas de Fernando Pessoa,’ Fernando Pessoa

Odes De Ricardo Reis,’ (Odes by Ricardo Reis), Fernando Pessoa

Poesias Inéditas, 1919-1930,’ (Unpublished Poems, 1919-1930), Fernando Pessoa

Cain,’ José Saramago

The Cave,’ José Saramago

The Year Of The Death Of Ricardo Reis,’ José Saramago

El Cuento De Lo Isla Desonocida,’ (The Tale Of The Unknown Island), José Saramago

Children Playing Before A Statue Of Hercules,’ ed. Dave Sedaris

Where The Wild Things Are,’ Maurice Sendiak

The Road Home,’ Mark Haddonsweet-tooth

Sweet Tooth,’ Ian McEwan

Angelmaker,’ Nick Harkaway

Eric,’ Terry Pratchett

Quarantine,’ Jim Crace

The Master Of Go,’ Yasunari Kawabata

Thinking: the new science of decision-making, problem-solving and prediction,’ ed. John Brockman

Scott Pilgrim: scott pilgrim’s precious little life, Vol.1,’ Bryan Lee O’Malley

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Books Bought & Read, February 2014

O Pátio Maldito,’ (The Damned Yard), Ivo Andrić  

Lisbonne,’ Fernando Pessoa

Cadernos de Lanzarote, (The Notebook), José Saramago

Autos,’ (Acts), Gil Vicente

A Lenda De São Julião Hospitaleiro de Flaubert,’ (Illustrations for Flaubert’s ‘The Legend Of St.Julian The Hospitaller’), Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso

Cain,’ José Saramago

59 Seconds: think a little, change a lot,’ Richard Wiseman

Grantland: the complete collection so far...

Grantland: the complete collection so far…

The Believer, issue 103

Where The Wild Things Are,’ Maurice Sendiak

Eric,’ Terry Pratchett

Grantland, issue 8

The Master Of Go,’ Yasunari Kawabata

El Cuento De Lo Isla Desonocida,’ (The Tale Of The Unknown Island), José Saramago

Lord Malquist And Mr.Moon,’ Tom Stoppard

Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life, Vol.1,’ Bryan Lee O’Malley

No One Belongs Here More Than You,’ Miranda July

Quarantine,’ Jim Crace

Angelmaker,’ Nick Harkaway

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I love round numbers, and I also love fractions: this month saw the latter, if not the former, when I managed to get through exactly 2/3 of the books I bought, (18 of 27), although the fact that I was one purchase away from exactly one-a-day in this foreshortened February left me, I’m sure you can understand, a tad frustrated..

I continued my love affair with the second-hand book shops and markets of Lisbon, picking up some of the fabulous Taschen art books, (which look great on the shelf above my bed as I continue kidding myself I will someday get around to reading them and learning more about art); am well on my way to owning something by each of Fernando Pessoa‘s heteronyms, (if that means nothing to you, check out my blog entry on my new favourite author from a few weeks ago); and almost at my goal of owning and reading everything ever written by José Saramago. There were a few wonderful surprises in there, too.

Mini José and Fernando

Mini José and Fernando

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The last book I read this month for example, (whilst recuperating from a trip back home to the UK with a 48-Miranda July + Short Storieshour stopover in the Algarve region of southern Portugal, where I flew through three books in just over two days), was Nick Harkaway‘s wonderful adventure-thriller-crime-novel-cum-history-of-London ‘Angelmaker,‘ a book which  I will be reviewing for you in the coming weeks; and that had come immediately after one of the funniest collections I have read for a while, (possibly ever), ‘No One Belongs Here More Than You‘ by Miranda July, which I think also deserves its own entry, so look out for it.

The comparative splurge on books was facilitated by the return trip to the UK. Books in Portugal are unfeasibly expensive, partly due to a government law preventing shops from selling new books at discounted prices: that’s why, upon my arrival in England, there were two parcels of books awaiting me, now happily nestled on the shelf in my bedroom here in Lisbon. Sadly, work is getting busy, (that’s not really sad, I love my job!), and the weather is great at the moment, (again, not really very sad at all), so it may take a while to get through these.

I hope you’re all enjoying my Portuguese adventure anywhere near as much as I am!

 

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Posted by on March 3, 2014 in BOOKS

 

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