Marlene S. Lewis's Blog - Posts Tagged "review"

At Home With the TempletonsAt Home With the Templetons by Monica McInerney

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Growing up can be a confusing time even in the most regular of families. The Templeton household is far from regular. Having arrived in an Australian country town from the UK, the Templetons fit out their substantial colonial home as a tourist attraction, even down to the entire family dressing in period costume for the benefit of the tourists who visit on weekends.



At Home with the Templetons is a highly entertaining study in family dynamics. It is all about the ties that bind us to family, which are often in conflict with our own strivings toward independence. This is the major theme of the book - growing up and moving out into the world.



Monica McInerney has created an unusual group of characters to act out her story in that they all have ‘issues’. So many issues, in fact, that none of the Templeton family appears normal- or if they are, they behave oddly as a result of living in such a crazy household - a womanising, bankrupt (almost) husband, a doormat wife, a neurotic neighbour, a precocious daughter, another who stops speaking [for years] after an incidence of stage fright at school, a youngest child who never grows up and a first born who refuses to come home from school until the alcoholic aunt is sent away. The issues dealt with are very real to many families and although the setting is verging on unbelievable, it is easy to imagine that such a cauldron of dysfunction could, and probably does, exist in many households. What prevents the story turning into a farce, is Ms McInerney’s gift for developing solid, animate characters who we can’t help but feel connected to - we care about them, want them to be okay, and on a number of occasions I found myself shouting at them to do something or other. So, even if the plot seems a little fanciful, the characters dealing with the issues do not.



I enjoyed reading this book. It was an easy bedtime read and at nearly 600 pages was like having my own personal soap opera to enjoy each evening. It doesn’t contain page upon page of gratuitous sex or foul language so makes for pleasant, effortless reading. I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys well-developed characters, and isn’t looking for a quick thrill.





View all my reviews
 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on July 02, 2011 19:07 • 39 views • Tags: at-home-with-the-templetons, marlene-s-lewis, review
At 327 pages Ruth would be too long were it merely a love story with an interesting twist. However, this story of a young woman from her first sexual awakening to a new beginning in middle age is also the story of colonial racism in Australia in the fifties and the consequences of this racism that are passed on from one generation to the next. In addition to this major theme there are sub themes of classicism and sexism that come up in the stories of subsidiary characters Ruth encounters on her journey.

I’ve been known to say that while non-fiction makes us aware of social problems, fiction has more power to make us care about social problems. I should amend that to say that it is the stories of individuals more than statistics that create empathy and a passion to change what is wrong in our societies. So whether a story is fictional or real is not the issue here but whether it is compelling enough to inspire readers to want to do something about the injustices of racism, classicism, sexism as we recognize them around us in addition to helping us recognize them in the first place.

In Ruth, Marlene S. Lewis tells a fictional story that feels absolutely real and as a reader I feel like I could hear the voices of Ruth, Lindsay, Tommy, Joyce, Aggie, Stephanie, Ali, Lachlan, Josh and others as if I’d known them. The author has mastered the craft of creating characters with the particular idiosyncracies that make them believable individuals, each and every one. She makes us know them, care about them, hear and respond to what they have to say. There is the usual disclaimer at the beginning that the book is a work of fiction and any resemblance of the characters to real people is purely coincidental. I would add that such resemblance is due to the author’s gifts of observation and insight. The style is matter of fact. Because the facts themselves are dramatic the author has no need to overdramatize events, she simply tells them and we are moved, sometimes shocked, at the simple recitation of the realistically imagined facts.

Because the book depicts so many realistic instances of important universal social issues, Ruth is a book I highly recommend to bookclubs who are looking for spirited discussion of the social dynamics that affect us all, everywhere at some time and all the time somewhere.

Sandra Shwayder Sanchez
http://goo.gl/q7Dsq
 •  flag
0 comments
1 like · like  • 
Published on October 27, 2011 04:15 • 108 views • Tags: review, ruth, sandra-shwayder-sanchez
The Briny Cafe The Briny Cafe by Susan Duncan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


An unusual and light-hearted read with lots of good recipes.



A great story about two women who re-invent themselves as proprietors of a small cafe in a fictional coastal town in Australia. The characters are well done and the plot intriguing. Some parts did seem a little longer than they needed to be so I found myself flicking over pages to find out what happened to people. The only really annoying thing was that I was expecting to find out about the missing brother! I enjoyed The Briny Cafe and would recommend it to readers who want something a bit quirky without any sordid sex scenes or gratuitous violence.



View all my reviews
 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on November 16, 2011 03:37 • 99 views • Tags: review, the-briny-cafe
The War WidowsThe War Widows by Leah Fleming

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The War Widows is an enjoyable story about women's friendships and familial relationships. The driver of the plot arrives in Grimbledown in the form of two refugee women with their illegitimate offspring in tow. The story is set just after the Second World War when many women had lost the men in their lives. So much had been lost, in fact, that almost everything needed rebuilding - lives, towns, relationships, as well as the social and cultural structures that hold them all together. So this was a time of marked transition and people were questioning long standing beliefs and notions about many things, immigration, class, the role of women and their place in the world, as well as weighing up the social mores that determined what was and wasn't acceptable and nice...did it really matter anymore what the neighbours thought? Leah Fleming captures in The War Widows many of the forces compelling change at this time. She has a special talent for describing the dynamics of women's relationships with other women and how outwardly they might appear antagonistic at times but when it comes down to the nitty-gritty of life, and especially for the sake of their children, they are often able to bury the hatchet and pull together. The War Widows is an easy to read book with nothing too ghastly to get one's head round. It is enjoyable and fun and I'd recommend it to anyone wanting a light and entertaining read.



View all my reviews
 •  flag
0 comments
1 like · like  • 
Published on February 24, 2012 22:51 • 101 views • Tags: marlene-s-lewis, review, the-war-widows
I enjoyed this story. Colleen McCulloch’s Angel is an odd mixture of fantasy, the supernatural, coming of age and social history. Set in the 1960s it depicts some of the newly acquired freedoms for women during that era – getting a job that is paid at (near) male rates, moving out of home while still single, relationship choices and being able to choose one’s friends. I could say that once unleashed from her conservative family home, Harriet makes some incredibly unrealistic choices but as a child of the 1950s/60s myself, many people did make extraordinary choices. I guess that generation were the pioneers when it came to exploring these new freedoms and as such many weird and not so wonderful choices were made by otherwise ‘well brought up’ individuals.

Kings Cross in Sydney during the 1960s was a hotbed of vice, corruption, drug and alcohol excesses, crime and deviance in all its forms, which simmered away beneath an outwardly charming cosmopolitan way of life of trendy cafes, delicious delicatessens, alternative entertainments and theatre, artisans and eccentrics. In Angel, McCulloch captures it all right down to the lesbian couples, swankily dressed transvestites, tortured misfits and frustrated artists.

Alice is a fast moving story and one that maintains the reader’s interest throughout. It is also notable in terms of cultural history where the broader societal changes of the 1960s are played out within the subculture of Kings Cross.

Alice is an unusual story that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys unique settings and crazy characters.
Angel
 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on April 08, 2012 18:57 • 80 views • Tags: angel, colleen-mcculloch, marlene-s-lewis, review
What a delight it was when I received this book in the post from my mother in the UK. I had not come across Margaret Powell before in spite of enjoying the serials Upstairs, Downstairs and Downton Abbey. Ms Powell has a wonderful style, it is as though you are chatting over a cup of tea - very natural, matter-of-fact and with an 'as it happened' quality. It is after all a memoir and not a novel and the author has stuck to telling her story as it was, rather than portraying her experience in "Technicolor" as so often happens these days with many celebrity autobiographies. Below Stairs goes beyond what many memoirs achieve in that it is an historic record of women's' experience at a time when women had little voice. As we all know, it is men who tell the story of history and it is truly refreshing to gain a greater understanding of life for women during the early part of the twentieth century. I enjoyed Below Stairs and have just received my copy of Climbing the Stairs, which I am looking forward to reading. Below Stairs  The Classic Kitchen Maid's Memoir That Inspired "Upstairs, Downstairs" and "Downton Abbey" by Margaret Powell
 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on September 14, 2012 21:19 • 59 views • Tags: below-stairs, marlene-s-lewis, review
Jumping the QueueJumping the Queue by Mary Wesley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Apart from the brilliant writing, quirky plots and razor sharp wit, you never quite know what you're in for when you pick up a Mary Wesley novel...she is a master of her craft. When Matilda's plan to jump the queue was abandoned, I found myself thinking, how lovely, a mature woman's romance with a younger man. It wasn't until Folly went to meet his maker that I figured there was going to be an unexpected twist. And what a twist! No clandestine rendezvous in Prague, no Matricide returning with his tail between his legs proclaiming undying love, no brother confessing to murder and freeing-up Hugh to start a new life together with Matilda, none of the happy endings I had imagined. Instead, I was stunned and disturbed by Wesley's finale. It wasn't until I reflected on the story, after I got over the shock of the ending, that I realised why I felt so disturbed. Matilda was dealing with what many women have to face, the gradual loss of connectedness to life as we age. Children grow up - and these days, often move away, the husband dies (or maybe finds a new love interest), people we have known move on, or away...and we end up with pets for company. Admittedly, Matilda's solution to her predicament was extreme but it certainly wasn't far fetched. Mary Wesley was no stranger to loss and grief during her life and I suspect Jumping the Queue reflects Mary's own experience of grappling with matters of existential moment. I found this novel to be a brilliant read and certainly one that has provoked a great deal of thought and self-reflection. I would recommend this book to anyone brave enough to contemplate their later years.



View all my reviews
 •  flag
0 comments
like  • 
Published on October 15, 2012 04:21 • 48 views • Tags: fiction, marlene-s-lewis, mary-wesley, review