The Gilt Kid by James Curtis

The Gilt Kid by James Curtis

“Even native English speakers might struggle to read this book”

The Gilt Kid by James Curtis is a crime thriller set in 1930s London that deals with working-class themes in a Social realism style. 

Written in 1936 - and containing a cast of criminals, dossers, prostitutes and down-and-outs - this is an incredibly vivid and authentic evocation of a side of London seldom depicted in fiction during this era. 

This was a really interesting book and I was forewarned by my English friend that there would be a lot of English slang and he was not wrong. 

Among the many 1930 British slangs include these gems:

  • “Irish janes were good to fellows on the bum and to the boys on the gagging lark.”

  • “And the worst of kips was better than being properly on the ribs”

  • “You berk. You gone and dropped the bloody glim.”

The book did a good job of painting the scenery and the emotions that the main character felt when committing a crime or facing the judge in court. It was almost like you were right there with him. Also, you don't need to be fascinated about London in the 1930s to get something from this book. The ending was nice, almost coming full circle but not quite, which now doesn’t make sense, but after you finish it, I’m sure you’ll be inclined to agree. 

Something that stood out in the book was the way in which the author highlighted the food and drink of the time. The main character is often in pubs, ordering food, and drinking dark, thick, foamy ale. 

For a debut novel, Curtis killed it and I look forward to reading more of his other works, especially now that I’ve brushed up on my British slang. 

Dune Messiah - Frank Herbert

Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert

“Sequels are hard if the first one sets the bar”

After I finished the original “Dune”, a coworker picked this up at a flea market and I thought, why not? The problem with these books is that while reading them, there are many awkward and convoluted sentences that I often won’t understand a scene until after it’s over. At which point I’m fascinated by Herbert’s ability to do that, but also wish I felt more immersed in each individual scene.

Dune Messiah is the 2nd book in the Dune Chronicles, was half the length of the first one and less exciting. I still enjoyed it, and it was fun to read, but I didn’t feel like it was on as grand a scale as the original. I’m now stuck at a weird point where I don’t know if I want to read the other 4+ books in the series or move onto something else.

Overall, I’m impressed that Herbert was able to write Dune in the first place, and then to bang out several other books, all in the same writing style that combines epic scenes with philosophy - it’s clear why these books have sold millions of copies. I think for now, I’m going to read some other stuff and then inevitably make my way back to the Dune Chronicles. Each one ends on such a cliffhanger, it’s almost like it was intentional…

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami.jpg

“There is never a right time to fall in love”

The novel is a nostalgic story of loss and burgeoning sexuality. It is told from the first-person perspective of Toru Watanabe, who looks back on his days as a college student living in Tokyo.

This was the second Murakami book I read this year and similar to the first one, there’s an ease with his style of writing that puts you right in the middle of every scene he’s describing.

The story is about the life of a Japanese university student in the late 60s and his relationships with different women as a student. At some points, I thought, “Why am I so invested in the characters of an angsty romance novel?” But having thought about it, Norwegian Wood is so much more than that. It’s about life, loss, love, and everything in between. The ending caught me off guard, but I felt complete with it - sort of thinking to myself, “well of course that’s how it had to end.”

Reading Murakami, as an aspiring writer, is challenging. Part of me loves his works, and the other part of me thinks, “Well, this Japanese author is as good as it gets, there’s no topping it.” Despite the internal jealousy and unrelenting fascination with how he uses his words, I look forward to reading more Murakami in the future.