Man vs Bookshelf: Silence

This entry is part 14 of 18 in the series Man vs Bookshelf

I’m not looking forward to writing this review, and the world knows it.

I have a routine. I like my routine, and it irks me when I am shaken from it.

Every morning I get to work forty-five minutes early. I open my mini laptop, I open Scrivener, and I do whatever stage of my Man vs Bookshelf review I’m on.

Today that would be writing the first draft of my Silence review. Okay, so that’s now Yesterday, but let’s leave it in as a nod to first draft Mark.

As I mentioned, I’ve not been looking forward to it, so I need everything to go right.

But the world doesn’t know from routine.

So it would have to be this week that my laptop didn’t charge meaning it ran out on Tuesday. By the way, I’m writing this on a Wednesday. (Now redrafting on Thursday)

I took it home Tuesday night but forgot to charge it. So now it’s under the desk behind me charging up and being of no use whatsoever.

I’m on my work PC, and I hate working on my work PC.

Yes, I know how that sounds.

I don’t have Scrivener on here, so I’m writing this review on Evernote, and that is ALL WRONG.

To clarify that point, I’ve nowt against Evernote. It’s just not routine. It’s not what I’m used to.

I can’t handle change.

So expect this review to be a teenager. Angsty, resentful, and pretty spotty.

Expect it to be these things, but don’t write it off because of it.

Hell, you never know, might make it better, right?

Shusaku Endo and Me

There should be a couple of accents in that name, but we’ll have to make do without because I don’t know how to add them.

That’s why he looks so put out.

Sorry.

Until last year’s (2016) adaptation of Silence was released, I’d heard of neither book nor author.

The film, starring Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, and Liam Neeson, did not appeal to me.

Unlike with I Am Legend I was not enticed to go and read more about the story or author. I would never have been tempted to pick up the book, had I seen it in a bookstore or on Amazon.

Even if I saw the words “ROCK BOTTOM PRICING ALL STOCK MUST GO.”

And that sort of thing usually tempts me.

But, the fates saw this challenge ahead and decided they’d like to have a little fun.

Last Christmas, they were giving out free copies of the book to promote the film.

Not knowing the damage it would cause, my grandma plucked up several copies and brought them to ours.

Despite the book being free (I love free) I still didn’t want to read it. So I left it at my parents’ when I returned home, hoping never to see it again.

As I said, the fates had other ideas.

Sometime later my parents returned the book to me, and I looked upon it with disgust.

I should have thrown it away.

I wanted to.

But I’ve never been very good at throwing things away.

So on my shelf it stayed, and there it would have stayed forever.

If not for this bloody challenge.

Silence

Read from 29/11/17 to 01/12/17

There are plenty of books on my shelves I’m not jumping with joy about reading, but only two or three I actively dread.

Silence was one of them.

It didn’t seem like my kind of book. It’s set in sixteenth-century Japan. It’s about faith and religion (if those are different things) and a lot of it is written in letter form.

But there’s no escaping any books in this challenge, and it’s not very long, so I picked it up, and went for it.

The Story

Silence is, at its core, a straightforward story.

Two Portuguese Jesuits named Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver (or something) travel to Japan in the hope of finding their old teacher, Liam Neeson (or something).

Rumours have reached Christianity that Liam has apostatised. (I.e. stomped on a wood cutting of Jesus and renounced his faith).

In disbelief, Andrew and Adam stow away with a Japanese coward and sneak into Japan.

Upon arriving they find Christian communities in hiding and become a source of hope. Lifting spirits while the Japanese rulers capture and torture Christians. Forcing them to renounce their faith.

After splitting up, Andrew and Adam are both captured. Andrew is chucked in prison, and the Japanese try to convince him to apostatise.

The rest of the novel deals with Andrew’s struggle over his faith and his decision over what to do. Give up his faith, or try to front it out at the cost of not just his own life, but the lives of others.

A situation that ends up being lose-lose.

Spirituality

Not much happens in this book, outwardly. Priests go to Japan looking for their old Father. They are captured, and our hero is kept in prison for most the rest of the book.

That’s about it, but I suppose the point of the story is not so much what happens outwardly as what happens on the inside.

I’ve never been religious.

That’s not to say I don’t believe in ‘something’, but I don’t follow a religion (on Twitter or otherwise)

I remember being in school and wondering why people such as the Protestants during Bloody Mary’s reign didn’t renounce their faith and avoid a horrible death.

I still don’t understand now.

It’s okay to lie in such situations.

Like in Harry Potter when Dobby tells Harry all he has to say is that he won’t return to Hogwarts and Dobby won’t smash dessert.

Easy, just lie.

If I was God (a prospect I’ve considered many times) and I saw good worshipers being threatened with torture if they didn’t renounce their faith I would be screaming “just say what they want you to say, dickhead, don’t die!”

It’s ridiculous.

A lot of Silence deals with Andrew’s internal struggles. About faith, and the nature of renouncing. Whether it is okay. He also thinks a lot about Judus, and his (Judus’) purpose in the Bible, and why Jesus allowed him (Judus) to be such a dick.

Though he doesn’t phrase it like that.

I can see how, if the torment of spirituality and faith spoke to you, this would be a fantastic book. Martin Scorsese professes to have read it twenty times, and I’m sure that says a lot.

But it was never going to be for me because I couldn’t relate to the internal struggle.

I just wanted him to lie, get released, and get on with his new life.

Easy.

Letters from characters

The second half of Silence was better than the first.

This is primarily because of another device I never like in fiction.

The ‘letter’ narrative.

For the first half of the book, the story is told through letters from Andrew to someone back home.

This is something I’ve never liked.

Maybe that’s just me, but it didn’t help in a book I already wasn’t enjoying.

Sum up

I gave Silence a 2/5 on Goodreads.

I think that’s the first time I’ve done that, not only in this challenge but on Goodreads.

Part of this might be I was expecting not to like it and didn’t give it much of a chance.

I could see it’s appeal, in a way. But as a novel based around spirituality and on a period and place in history I have little interest in, I suppose it was never going to be for me.

Still, got to get it out the way, and on to the next one.

Next time

I spoke about Harlen Coben in my review for The Cuckoo’s Calling, and now I’m opening one up for the first time this challenge.

It isn’t a Myron Bolitair novel, but it is one of his most popular books and one I’ve never read before.

So next week we’ll be diving into Six Years.

See you then.

Man vs Bookshelf: Confessions of a Sociopath

This entry is part 12 of 18 in the series Man vs Bookshelf

I bought Confessions of a Sociopath on 25th September 2014.

That’s over three years ago at the time of writing so, yes, this was another one that sat on the shelf for a long time.

How do I know the exact date for once?

You may think something monumental must have happened on that day. I got my dream job or Emma Stone professed her undying love for me.

If only.

In actual fact, I know the date because I left the receipt in the book after purchase.

Super boring explanation but there it is.

I remember picking it up in the W.H. Smith at Reading train station. Grabbed by the interesting concept and not much else.

I don’t remember where I was going but assume it was to see my ex down Brighton way.

The receipt tells me I also purchased some Buxton water, a paper (the I) and some Max crisps.

Fascinating, right?

But I never did read the book on the train. Don’t know why.

Maybe there was a lot going on in the news that day or, more likely; I got distracted by my phone.

Whatever the case, the book stayed in my bag, returning to my shelf when I got home.

There it remained, unread until…

Doing this challenge I have to pick up something every few days no matter what. But Confessions was no random pick.

Come November, National Novel Writing Month began, and I threw myself into a new first draft.

Said draft involved a sociopathic character, and I wanted to get them right.

Usually, I don’t bother with things like this in first drafts. I write away and fix any and all problems in post.

Not so this time.

I’m interested in sociopathy anyway, so for my character, I began reading articles. Learning about the many traits of sociopaths and incorporating them into my character.

The articles were a great start, but I wanted something longer. It was this that led me to remember Confessions and pick it up once more. Adding it to my list of the next few books I’m going to read.

So it was interesting going into this book. It was the first one I picked up not for enjoyment alone, or for the challenge. It also served research purposes for my writing.

This led to me reading the text a little more critically, and probably contributed to it being a slow read.

That and the fact I took two days off in the middle of reading it.

Not a good idea.

But I still finished it in the seven days I allow myself, and was left with a new perspective on sociopaths.

Here is what I thought of that.

M.E. Thomas and Me

M.E. and I don’t have a previous relationship for obvious reasons.

She is a successful U.S. Based lawyer, and I am an unsuccessful English based author.

Having already outlined my reasons for picking up this book, there’s not much more to stay here.

This section’s only present for form’s sake if I’m honest.

So, uh, moving swiftly on.

Confessions of a Sociopath

Read from: 22/11/2017 to: 28/11/2017

Confessions turned out to be almost as interesting as it was useful shaping my own sociopath. Character that is.

It offered a unique perspective on sociopaths (from inside the mind of one), and that was a real draw.

I gave it a three out of five on Goodreads.

It was a good read (ha), but it was not mind-blowing. It had its issues (the main one of which I will discuss below), but I think it nailed what it was aiming to do.

The book has two main aspects, the psychological analysis of sociopathy in general and the memoirs of our hero, M.E. Thomas.

I’ll look at each of these in turn, before going into my big negative of the book and my summary.

The Psychology Stuff

M.E. has spent a lot of time looking into the psychology of sociopaths. Covering the last 100 years or more to give a real depth of opinion.

For example, she shows people used to link sociopathy with homosexuality. A biased opinion driven by a predisposition to assume the gay community was evil.

But even as the research grew less biased it always seems to have leant towards a negative view of sociopathy.

This is understandable in many ways.

Sociopaths share many traits society recognises as ‘bad’. The inability to relate to other people or feel guilt, for example. Or their inherent narcissism and self-interest at the cost of all others.

However, what M.E. Seeks to show is that just because these traits are present, doesn’t make sociopaths bad people.

I won’t go into the research in great detail here, but with case studies from her own blog and plenty of official research papers, M.E. Shows that sociopaths can be good, useful, and downright successful, and are not predisposed to becoming psycho killers, as the media might have you believe.

This look into sociopathy really did make me reconsider my own preconceptions of people afflicted with this disorder and what it means for them.

The Memoir Stuff

M.E. frames her research within a memoir of her own life. This ranges from her difficult childhood to her struggles as an adult, coming to terms with her condition and later overcoming it.

As with the research, the stories from M.E.’s life made me reconsider my thoughts on sociopathy.

Yes, she comes across as arrogant, conceited, manipulative, and hurtful. But she is upfront about all these things, and it is not the be all and end all.

What surprised me was her discussions on how much she struggled with her condition before she understood it. The way it ripped her life apart, leaving her to fight to get it back on track.

It showed a level of emotion I had not thought sociopaths capable of. Something added to by her revelation that she does feel love. Especially for children.

So the memoir was fascinating, and the anecdotes often exciting, but there was one big caveat.

Repetitivey Repetitiveness

Throughout the book, M.E. had a real problem with repetition.

A real problem.

See what I did there.

Many passages I felt like I was reading the same story or message again, rephrased.

Don’t get me wrong, the stories and information were interesting the first time.

But I didn’t need to hear it again.

And again.

And again.

This repetition held the book back, I thought.

I ended up flicking through pages, skipping the same out stuff. It made me think the book could have been quite a bit shorter, without impacting the quality.

In fact, it could have enhanced it.

Summary

This book was a three out of five on Goodreads.

I think that’s fair.

It was interesting and original but suffered from retreading old ground too often.

If you have the slightest interest in the subject matter (or if you think you might), I’d recommend giving Confessions ago.

I wasn’t disappointed.

Next time

Next up, a book I couldn’t wait to get out the way.

But was it as bad as I thought?

Find out in a few days with my Silence review