32 Before 32 ~ The Shawshank Redemption by Mark Kermode

It wasn’t until after I put this book on my library list that I realised it would count towards my non-fiction goal. I reserved it because I’ve been listening to Mark Kermode on the radio quite a lot recently, and knowing that he’d written a few books, thought I’d try a couple.

This is a really short book, more of an extended essay than anything else. Kermode runs through The Shawshank Redemption in chronological order, picking out the main themes as he does so. He talks a lot about the religious themes within the film, which are difficult to miss when you think of that famous image that appeared on the poster and on the front of this book; the Christ-like pose is not exactly subtle! But Kermode did point out a number of other things that I hadn’t picked up on, and he also touched on the idea of the prisoners worshipping the cinema too.

This book reinforced two things for me. Firstly, that I love The Shawshank Redemption. Secondly, Mark Kermode is one of my favourite film reviewers, and for all his hilarious ranting when it comes to films he hates, he really does know what he’s talking about.

Three down, seven to go on number two of 32 Before 32 – read ten non-fiction books.

Book Review ~ Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

Attachments is the second Rainbow Rowell book that I have read; I finished Eleanor and Park at the end of last year, and I enjoyed it enough that I wanted to check out some of her other work. I’m actually desperate to read Fangirl, having heard such good things about it, but as I can’t get my hands on it at the moment, I borrowed Attachments from the library.

Attachments is set in 1999 and tells the story of Lincoln, a young man who works through the night for a city newspaper, monitoring the emails of the newspaper’s employees. Beth and Jennifer, who work at the newspaper, take full advantage of the fact that they can sit at their desks in separate parts of the building, yet be in constant contact with one another.

The chapters of the book largely alternate between the transcripts of the emails between Beth and Jennifer that Lincoln is able to read, and a third person narrative of Lincoln’s life. The cleverest part of the story is that we are only able to see the emails that Lincoln sees – we only get to know Beth and Jennifer through the emails that happen to have a prohibited word in them. This works particularly well later in the novel when a major event occurs, but we don’t get to know about it as it happens, because Beth and Jennifer aren’t mentioning it in their emails. Lincoln has to fill in the gaps, and so do we.

For me, Attachments takes a while to warm up. Lincoln is really the only character that we have a hope of getting to know, because Beth and Jennifer are filtered through their messages to one another. Lincoln is not an unlikable character, but neither is he a particularly sympathetic character. He is evidently not happy with the way that his life has turned out, and yet he doesn’t really appear to be doing anything about it, and is very much still hung up on an ex-girlfriend who cheated on him. His character does improve as the book continues, as he begins to realise that he is the only one who can change his circumstances.

Overall, I enjoyed Attachments, mainly because I was very much taken with the format of half emails and half narrative; it is a clever way to align the reader with Lincoln, ensuring that we only ever know what he knows. But in terms of the two Rowell books that I have read so far, I would definitely say that I preferred Eleanor and Park, for the simple reason that I felt much more invested in the characters.  

32 Before 32 ~ My Life by David Jason

When I decided to read ten non-fiction books as part of my 32 Before 32 list, I was thinking along the lines of historical books, or biographies of presidents. I don’t read an awful lot of celebrity autobiographies, as they aren’t really my cup of tea. But I saw David Jason on the television talking about his new autobiography, My Life, and I knew I had to read it!

David Jason My Life

David Jason is one of those people who everyone feels as though they know, because of his prolific work on television. I doubt there are many people over thirty who hasn’t seen an episode of Only Fools and Horses, but he’s also known for his work in A Touch of Frost, Porridge and Open All Hours. Not to mention Dangermouse and The Wind in the Willows.

The best thing about this book is that David Jason’s voice really comes through while you are reading it. It feels as though you have sat down for a chat with him and he has decided to tell you about how he became an actor. The book is structured in a nice way too; sometimes he goes off on a tangent to give more than one example of what he is talking about, but he always brings it back to the original point, and the book is largely chronological, charting his life from his humble beginnings as the son of a fishmonger.

Throughout the book, he makes passing references to his mentor, Ronnie Barker, and then he devotes a whole chapter to talking about how much he loved him. It’s a lovely part of the book, because his affection for Barker really comes through. He obviously feels as though he owes a lot to him, and it’s touching to read.

David Jason isn’t a ‘celebrity’ as such; he just happens to be a famous actor. He doesn’t ever seem to have wanted to be in the public eye, he just knew from a fairly young age that he wanted to act, and after a brief stint as an electrician, he set about making that happen. I loved reading about all his early acting jobs, about his disastrous film debut and all his various stage roles. Although you might expect a large part of the book to be devoted to his most famous role, Del Boy in Only Fools and Horses, he saves it until the end of the book. He writes about it with a lot of affection, and it brought a tear to my eye when he described filming the episode in which Del Boy and Rodney bury Grandad, as Lennard Pearce had died in real life.

I managed to get this from the library after reserving it shortly after it was released. It took a while to become available, but was definitely worth the wait. I loved it!

One down, nine to go on number two of 32 Before 32 – read ten non-fiction books.