Aya De Yopougon by Marguerite Abouet, drawn by Clement Oubrerie. Graphic novel about a group of young people in Youpognon, Ivory Coast in the 1970s, originally French-language. Pretty domestic plot involving dating and young love. Fairly light, heartwarming stuff.
Drawn in what I'm beginning to think is the French comic style (after The Rabbi's Cat for instance), with kind of rough, askew lines; which I'm gradually getting more used to. Nice bright pastel colours. Seems to work well here, with cute depictions of the youngster in glorious Seventies African dress.
Bit too domestic for my taste, so not sure I'll bother with subsequent volumes: there seem to be a couple more. But quite a decent read.
Finished the audiobook We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. Got quite a bit of attention a while back after winning the Orange fiction prize. It's about the mother of a high school massacrer Kevin, written as a series of letters by her to her ex-husband, documenting the history of their relationship and his upbringing.
Very well written, with mother Eva as an utterly convincing character. Has very realistic domestic detail. Captures their claustrophobic married life very well, with a remorseless inevitability to its slow destruction by their offspring.
Eva is a classic unreliable narrator. Found it a little frustrating that it's never clear exactly how bad Kevin is. Eva attributes an implausible level of evil to him, and there are strong hints that she's overstating how calculatedly sadistic he was at a young age: it's not really plausible for a baby. However, from the killings and some of the events he's obviously abnormal: it would be nice to know how abnormal he is.
Whether it's Eva or the author's view of Kevin, it's a bit blank and unconvincing, except insofar as he's a surly adolescent winding up his parents. The psychology depicted doesn't seem to make a lot of sense academically. In some ways he shows signs of psychopathy, being ruthlessly manipulative in achieving his own ends. He also displays flattened affect, appearing to experience few emotions. While that can occur in psychopaths, it seems hard to believe he could manipulate other people's emotions so deftly without experiencing them himself.
The plot is very carefully constructed. While the middle section of the book gets a little dull as patterns recur, towards the end the patterns break and it reaches a superb, riveting emotional climax.
Overall, well worth a read if you can tolerate domestic emotional drama. Some people seem to have taken a dislike to the unsympathetic narrator: while a little bit whiny, she didn't seem particularly bad to me; but apparently she's supposed to be emotionally cold.
Not sure whether to buy somewhere now. Just in the last month, local prices seem to have dropped into affordability. This looked tempting, but while the location is walking distance from my current job, I'd rather be closer to an actual Tube stop in the long term.
On the other hand, if prices are really going to drop 25% in the next year, it makes much more sense to wait and snap something up at £150k rather than pay £200k now. Or pay £200k and get something better.
It feels unlikely to me that they'll drop that much, but in price/income terms it makes sense. Even in London average income is only £30k, so 5x average income for a small house doesn't seem unrealistic.
It seems if you think of ability as an intrinsic quality you have, you refuse to risk failure, refuse to learn, and stay safely in a comfort zone where you can feel clever.
So, I wonder what the consequences are of the current trend to think of I.Q. scores as something genetically determined? People who believe that are likely to either stay smugly within unambitious limits, if their scores are high; or abandon all learning if your scores are low.
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