When I think of The Crimson Petal and the White, I'm still unable to fathom how the lives of Sugar and those around her are fictitious. Both Michel Faber's characters and his Victorian London are so vivid, intricate, colourful and alive that, even in retrospect, it seems utterly incomprehensible for such pulsing life to be born from something as monochromatic as black ink on a page. If such an impressive feat is not the mark of a fantastic book, I honestly cannot tell you what is. The Crimson Petal and the White, flawed only slightly by its occasional tendency to meander off course, is a wonder. Faber's compulsively readable Dickensian epic offers the reader a tour through the Victorian London the real Victorian writers shied away from showing. So, to Michel Faber, I say thank you. Thank you for taking me to the real Victorian London. Thank you for introducing me to Sugar and the cast of indelibly wonderful characters her life entails. And, most of all, thank you for writing what one can fondly describe as a really, really good book.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle is quietly unsettling, bleakly written, brimming with pervasive unease, suffocatingly tense – and oh how I loved it! Shirley Jackson is a masterful storyteller, simple as. From the characters to the chilling climax, every aspect of this novel is decidedly creepy. It doesn't involve monsters or anything of the sort, but something far more disturbing. In fact, Jackson explores themes of insanity and the unhinged human mind. I won't say anything else (because this isn't a book you want to know too much about before beginning), but I'll share the opening – and what an opening it is!“My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all, I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in our family is dead.”
“It’s true, though: time moves in its own special way in the middle of the night.” When the reader begins this book they unknowingly enter a different realm; they cross the subtle line between reality and fantasy, and enter a surreal, dreamlike version of Tokyo – a Tokyo that's draped in darkness. After Dark, unlike many of Murakami's other books, does not have intricate and frustratingly complex characters. After Dark, unlike many of Murakami's other books, is not openly strange or fantastical. The strength of After Dark lies in its subtlety; its subtle character development, shown through the touching relationship between two siblings, and its subtle atmosphere, experienced through the haunting and bewitching narrative. In short, this book is exquisite in its execution. I have little else to say other than this: After Dark is best read at midnight, when your mind is most vulnerable to the allure of nighttime Tokyo and the wonders that lie within.