Book Reviews: The Casual Vacancy & The House of Gucci

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
Genre: Tragicomedy

Following the success of J.K. Rowling’s world-wide sensational Harry Potter series, her long awaited new book understandably meets high expectations from fans and new readers alike. Readers’ reviews feature an even mix of glowing five-star reviews and ruthless one-star critics, suggesting that it is one of those hit-or- miss books.

The Casual Vacancy is set in a small English town, and touches on cruel realities like child abuse, drug use, self-mutilation, poverty, suicide, amongst others, weaving together a heavy handed social commentary. Although the preview presents it as a dark comedy, some of the issues discussed are plain depressing, even with the touch of Rowling’s witty humour. Quoting what some readers have said, Rowling has gone to the extremes to prove that she could write something outside her comfort zone.

Undeniably, Rowling is good at her craft. She brings the characters and the town to life with her sharp descriptions. If you appreciate her writing style, you will probably enjoy it regardless of the subject matter. Although dystopia and social issues have been done to death in other renowned literature works, The Casual Vacancy still comes out as an intelligent piece of work, with an ending that gives you room to reflect and ponder, yet addressing the essentials for readers who dislike tying up loose ends.

If you don’t mind gloomy books, this is a worthy read over the holidays. But let the children sit out on this one; exposing them to the profanity and delicate subject matters in the book may disturb your holiday.

The House of Gucci by Sara Gay Forden
Genre: Biography

Gifts of luxury brands make wonderful surprises at all occasions, never mind that they may be heinously expensive, or release the occasional hideous product. Ever wondered how these brands gain their much sought-after status and attain the fame they have today?

The House of Gucci provides a fascinating insight on Italian high-fashion epitome Gucci. The founder of the brand Guccio Gucci was an immigrant in Paris and London where he worked in luxury hotels. He was fascinated by the high-end leather products and fashion, and when he moved back to Florence, Italy, in the 19205, he decided to start his own line of leather goods.

The Gucci brand grew and developed with the Gucci family under the watchful eye of Guccio, who taught his sons the ropes of the business. The Gucci empire took America by storm and expanded rapidly. Alas, greed and power corrupted the minds of the Gucci family,  propelling them into a pool of debts, politics and court cases.

The House of Gucci sheds light on the lifestyle of a typical high-flying Italian family enshrouded in wealth, whereby having homes around the world was the norm and spending millions on interior designing was not considered a luxury but a must.

An easy and highly engaging read, this biography was told through the experiences of the Gucci family. Revealing the love lives, hatred, anger and vengefulness of each family member, this book is an eye opener on the life, culture and history of not only the Gucci family, but also immensely wealthy Italians who lead a life that many of us can only dream of.

– These book reviews first appeared in a lifestyle magazine

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