Top of the Pile #34, #35, #36: Wild, Dark Places, The Angel’s Game

Remember when I used to publish a Top of the Pile post every week? I’d take my time covering just one book, then moan about not knowing what to read next for another couple hundred words or so.

Oh how times have changed, my friends. These days, though I read more than ever, or perhaps because I read more than ever, and jump from one book to the next straight away, I don’t even get a chance to gather my thoughts on the one I’ve just finished, never mind put everything in writing.

So here I am again, two weeks and three books after my last Top of the Pile entry, trying to compile my recent, tangled reading adventures into something that makes a little bit of sense.

The LuminariesI know I’d originally predicted The Luminaries would be my last 2014 read, but clearly I haven’t got a clue about anything.

I finished it in less than a week (800+ pages, humanity!) and it was so gripping throughout that I actually took it with me in the bathtub once, which I don’t remember ever doing with another book in the 25 years I’ve been reading on this planet. Oh, and I was almost run over a couple of times on my way home. Reading while attempting to illegally cross the A4, not my brightest moment really.

So yes, I couldn’t put it down.

It’s an adventure/detective story set in the last days of the New Zealand gold rush, following thirteen men working together to unravel a tangled mystery affecting all their lives. The book is so superbly plotted, the cast so diverse and animated, that it was intoxicating.

At first I was really intimidated by thirteen different characters jumping at me all at once from the first hundred or so pages, worried I’d not remember their names and I’d have to plod through another 600 pages not knowing who’s who (this has happened to me before, and I’ve scribbled my share of cast lists and family trees on dust jackets through the years). But although I was right, and I probably never remembered all of their names, their voices were all quite distinct in my mind and I never had any problem following each and everyone’s evolution.

Catton is a wonderful storyteller. The Luminaries got her a Booker Prize last year, and I really can see why. It’s just a gripping, exquisitely told story. You won’t identify in it a glorious theme, or hidden, life changing meanings. It’s not philosophical and will probably not make it onto the list of “important”, literary-world-changing books. But I found it absolutely marvelous, and I think it has changed the way I look at everything I thought I knew about stories and how to properly tell one.


WildNext on my list was Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.

I’d seen the “based on the famous bestseller” Wild film preview before a screening of Nightcrawler (great, if very disturbing movie by the way!) V and I went to a few weeks back, and thought I’d give the book a try. I often do this, get reading inspiration from cinema previews, and after I’ve read the book I either go and see the film as well (Gone Girl, Into The Wild), or for no reason I can think of, even if I’ve really liked the book, forget about it or decide not to bother (The Railway Man, The Perks of Being a Wallflower).

Now, I don’t know if I’ll be watching Wild – the movie anytime soon or at all, though I hear there’s quite the Oscar buzz around Reese Witherspoon’s portrayal of Cheryl, but as far as the book goes, I loved it!

It’s the autobiographical story of a twenty-something troubled woman hiking the Pacific Crest Trail on her own for three months. It’s not a Long Distance Hiking Guide by any means, on the contrary. If you ask me, this girl is completely unprepared, both physically and mentally, and more than a little bit insane. But her story is extraordinary and her voice is very poignant, even when she touches on things I can’t really relate to or I don’t particularly agree with.

It probably helped that I was once a very troubled twenty something woman myself, and though I didn’t have a Pacific Trail of my own to embark on, I attempted and hopefully somewhat succeeded to fix myself in a similar way.

As I was reading Wild, I actually dug through my shoe closet (Can’t believe I haven’t blogged about this yet, I’ve actually got a walk in shoe closet now. Living the dream!) and got my hiking boots out to make sure they’re in good shape, just in case I feel like taking off on short notice. (They’re great, I can’t possibly imagine them turning my feet shapeless like Cheryl’s did hers, but I’ve never hiked for 3 months weeks days in a row!)


Dark PlacesAnd my final read this November was Dark Places, my second Gillian Flynn novel in less than six months, after Gone Girl this August.

I’m new to her writing, and she doesn’t deal with themes I normally enjoy too much (except for my all time favourite, Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, I’m not much into murderous lit), but I kind of like her style, and the fact that it’s rarely obvious (to me, at least) where the story is going.

Dark Places was no exception. It follows thirty something Libby Day as she is trying to come to terms with her family’s massacre 24 years prior, for which her then 15 year old brother is serving life in prison. The plot develops into a full on mystery/detective story (I seem to have had a taste for them this month), as it alternates from present times to the day of the crime, and across different characters’ perspectives.

It’s a story about imperfect, horrible characters doing horrible things to each other. I didn’t particularly liked Libby, but I understood her, she seemed like a real, fully formed human being, and that’s what I always expect from a properly built character. The writing as well was really good and the mystery prevailed until the very last pages, which I count as a big plus in works of this type.


The Angel's GameNow I’m reading The Angel’s Game, my second Zafon book after The Shadow of the Wind a while back.

The reason behind this pick is the same bookpile cleaning craziness I’ve been mentioning in these posts before. My new commute has helped in making a tiny dent into the mountain of books piling up by my nightstand since we moved in, but only barely.

So I’m just picking whatever’s next at the top of the pile, and I’m rarely discriminating. The Angel’s Game it is then. I’ve read about 50 pages and I’m discovering the same magical atmosphere from The Shadow of the Wind, but that’s as much as I can say for now.

Wishing you an amazing, book-filled start of December, everyone!

6 thoughts on “Top of the Pile #34, #35, #36: Wild, Dark Places, The Angel’s Game

  1. I am so ashamed, but I have to admit that although I thought for a minute that I should look for these books and read them, the main image stuck in my head, is your walk-in shoe closet!
    That is utterly decadent! I want a walk-in closet too!
    All I have is a pass-by, ex-bookshelf, sitting in a dark hallway, near the bathroom.


  2. Wild sounds pretty intriguing. What I want to know is, how on earth did you read 800+ pages in a week!!!??? I’ve been hesitating to start Steinbeck’s East of Eden. I’m 40 pages into its 600 and while it seems promising, I’ve never read a book that big. I mean, what if I get distracted halfway through and start another book? (My life story)


    • Haha, I’ve always been a fast reader I think, which is as good (I’m able to brag about 800+ pages a week for the interwebs to see! :D) as it is bad (my mountains of read books will surely take over my place soon enough and I’ll have nowhere left to sleep). I’m sure you’ll make it through East of Eden with flying colours! While it’s not my favourite Steinbeck book, it’s really good and those 600 pages will fly by in no time.


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