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L.A. Confidential
L.A. Confidential
by James Ellroy
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 18.00
68 used & new from CDN$ 0.05

4.0 out of 5 stars The darkness steps lightly, Jan. 15 2007
This review is from: L.A. Confidential (Paperback)
In L.A. Confidential, James Ellroy has concocted a darkness that permeates every chapter of the story. This darkness is both oppressing and liberating, it is suffocatingly lethal yet embraces with a soft velvet touch, it tosses and turns in tormented souls or lies dormant in troubled minds. This darkness blurs the line between good and bad, conceals the past and distorts the present, and provides a backdrop that places in the limelight, the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles in the 1950s, the glowing light of the Nite Owl, the gaudy neon signs, the golden curls and satin gown of Veronica Lake look-a-like, Lynn Bracken.

James Ellroy's razor sharp wit carries the plot at a quick pace with his fragmented style of writing. The short sentences and omission of unnecessary words sets the tone of the story; there is no place for dilly-dallying in the cutthroat world of cops and robbers. The fragments are smart, vague and perfectly timed, often leaving the reader to figure out what is on the character's mind. Ellroy is somehow able to achieve elegant flow and continuity with curt sentences and short chapters.

Ellroy balances the graphic violence portrayed in the story with the subtlety of the storyline. He draws pictures of dramatic characters, in speech and gesture and in their actions. Yet, the story he spins is full of subtle twists and turns and you may be lost if you are not careful. The author likes to tease the reader by dropping clues long before the resolution, as if to say, "I dare you to figure it out." For example, we are introduced to David Mertens in one of the first chapters, long before we are able to perceive his significance in the novel.

Originally attracted to the book because the movie remains one of my favorites, I found that the movie does the book justice. Rarely has the book-to-movie conversion succeeded in capturing the essence of the book. The only other example I can think of is The English Patient. However, I must say that my image of the book was influenced by the performances of Russell Crowe and Kevin Spacey as well as the other outstanding members of the cast.

L.A. Confidential is a masterpiece on the workings of the human mind. The complexity of the characters makes it impossible to discern between good and evil. There is dedicated cop who resorts to extreme physical violence, the goody-two-shoes cop who will do anything for advancement, and the ex-hooker with a heart of gold. The finely interwoven web means that their fates are all intricately linked. Everyone is haunted by their ghosts, everyone has a history, and no one lives with a clear conscience.

Someone I Loved
Someone I Loved
by Anna Gavalda
Edition: Paperback
28 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Simple, truthful, and merciless, Jan. 15 2007
This review is from: Someone I Loved (Paperback)
There is something heartbreakingly simple about Someone I Loved. The novel follows the story of Chloe, whose husband had just abandoned her with two small children. Devastated, she is comforted by her father-in-law Pierre, who shares secrets from his past.

With this book, Anna Gavalda has demonstrated not only a unique style of writing but also a deep understanding of human character. Gavalda uses simple words, simple structure, and simple gestures that accurately portray and reflect real life human beings, and not merely characters a novel. The dialogue followed naturally and smoothly, allowing the reader to feel as though he/she was part of their intimate circle. However, a weakness is the transition of the dialogue, which makes it difficult for the reader to tell who is speaking next.

Gavalda's writing is mercilessly truthful, there is no room for pity or denial. She covers the idea of love from several angles: Chloe being left by her husband and Pierre refusing to leave his wife Suzanne for another woman who proved to be the love of his life. We feel the desperation felt by Chloe. We feel the unfairness felt by Suzanne whose husband is unfaithful. We feel the frustration of Mathilde who is with a man who refuses to give her the love she deserves. The characters experience varying degrees of helplessness, and varying abilities to take their lives into their own hands. Yet, we can easily picture ourselves as one of those women at sometime in our lives.

Some of the themes explored by Anna Gavalda strike very close to home: the impossibility of love lasting forever, the inevitability of parting, and the longing for those brief moments of bliss. Gavalda also introduces colorful supporting characters. I was especially touched by the cancer stricken Francoise stating that she put up a fight only because there was still much that she wanted to do and there was someone who needed her. I could identify with Mathilde who put forth the image of femme fatale dealing with life on her own terms but really wishing that she could meet someone who would allow her to be soft for once. The list made by Mathilde about all the things she wished she could do with Pierre was heart wrenching.

I had fallen in love with Anna Gavalda's writing after reading I Wish Someone Were Waiting for Me Somewhere. And Someone I Loved only reinforced that Anna Gavalda neither blames nor judges, but writes only with a knowledge of the human heart.

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