Forbidden Fruit is the third fabulously entertaining book in Ilsa Evans' cozy mystery series set in the small fictional Australian town of Majic, feat Forbidden Fruit is the third fabulously entertaining book in Ilsa Evans' cozy mystery series set in the small fictional Australian town of Majic, featuring the middle aged accidental sleuth, Nell Forrest.
Forbidden Fruit picks up not long after Ill-Gotten Gains left off. Nell has moved into her newly purchased and renovated home, once the storefront for her absentee father's butcher shop, and is digging a hole to plant an apple tree in her backyard when she uncovers human remains. The body is eventually identified as a young wife and mother who once lived in the adjoining premises and disappeared in the early 1970's. The police suspect Nell's father murdered her, prompting his return from England where he has been living for over thirty years, but Nell is convinced they have it wrong and sets out to prove his innocence.
Nell has her hands full in Forbidden Fruit what with two of her five daughters about to give birth, new in-law's-to-be to entertain, her part time lover, Detective Ashley Armistead, demanding a commitment, and her ex husband parading his newborn daughter around town, yet she can't help but get involved in the investigation when her father is charged with murder. Aided by her sister, Petra, and with clues provided by the gossipy residents of Majic (including Grace June Rae - the character I won naming rights to), Nell uncovers some disturbing secrets about the early years of her parents marriage, and unmasks a killer.
The mystery is well plotted with a trail of red herrings and surprising twists. It was well over halfway before I figured out the identity of the real killer, though not their motivation until the final scenes.
I have loved the humour in this series, from the 'fan' letters (Nell writes a syndicated newspaper column called Middle Aged Spread) that preface each chapter, to the exasperated snark Nell mumbles under her breath. The barely restrained chaos of Nell's family life is a real feature in all three books, as is the eccentricity of the residents of Majic.
Forbidden Fruit, like the entire series, is a delightful blend of mystery, humour and domestic drama. Sadly this will be the final installment in the Nell Forrest Mystery series unless Nell finds a stronger audience. I implore readers whose interest is piqued to purchase a copy from your favourite ebook retailer.
* As of Nov 2014 the first book, Nefarious Doings is free to download from Amazon and both books 2 and 3 are just a few dollars ...more
The Bone Season introduced nineteen year old Paige Mahoney, a 'dreamwalker', fighting to survive in a world where possessing any clairvoyant ability i The Bone Season introduced nineteen year old Paige Mahoney, a 'dreamwalker', fighting to survive in a world where possessing any clairvoyant ability is considered high treason. Caught and arrested by the governing body, Scion, Paige was sent to 'The Tower' where she was horrified to learn that captured voyants are handed over to a enigmatic otherworldly race that call themselves the Rephaite, to serve them as slaves or food.
The Mime Order begins as Paige, along with a few dozen other voyants make their escape, with the help of a handful of sympathetic Rephaite, after a bloody rebellion. Though forced to lay low as the Scion, whom she now knows is controlled by the Rephaite, hunt for her, Paige is determined to alert the underground community to the truths she has learned, but no-one, including her Underworld boss Jaxon, seems to care. Paige is baffled and frustrated by the disinterest until she uncovers evidence that several of the Syndicate gang leaders are in league with the Rephaite, profiting by handing over their own people. To fight back, Paige has only one choice...to become the Underqueen of the Syndicate, and then convince the voyants to stand with her against the Rephaite.
I like Paige a lot, she is smart, resourceful, feisty and both her talent and her personality are interesting. She has a core of incorruptible humanity and cares even when it is in her best interest not to. She is faced with some difficult challenges and decisions in The Mime Order but handles them well.
Set in future London following a timeline that splits from ours in the early 1900's, Shannon's world building is intricate and vivid. The focus here is on the underbelly of the city, forced underground, London's clairvoyant's have formed criminal enclaves each led by a Mime boss and nominally lorded over by an Underking or Underqueen. Paige is a Mollisher (second in command) to Jaxon (also known as the White Binder) but after the events in The Bone Season their relationship is an uneasy one, and only worsens over the course of the novel.
At 528 pages, The Mime Order isn't a quick read. The pacing can be a little uneven though Shannon tries to ensure crucial information and detail isn't simply dumped in the reader's lap. There is plenty of action, danger and suspense as the novel progresses, and the conclusion ends on another cliffhanger.
An action packed fantasy adventure, well conceived and well told, The Mime Order is a strong sequel to The Bone Season. This series is expected to be seven books long, at the moment I can't quite see how Shannon will manage to sustain the story for that long but I am eager to find out what will happen next....more
Laurinda is Alice Pung's first fiction novel and features a teenage girl, Lucy Lam, who is awarded the inaugural 'Equal Access' scholarship to the exclusive Laurinda Ladies College.
Lucy is the daughter of Chinese/Vietnamese 'boat' immigrants who live in a 'povvo' area of suburban Australia. Her father is a shift worker in a carpet factory while her mother, who speaks almost no English, sews in their garage under sweatshop conditions while caring for Lucy's baby brother. As an Asian-Australian scholarship student without a background of wealth and privilege, Lucy is an outsider at Laurinda in more ways than one, but wants to fit in and take advantage of the opportunities the school affords her.
Initially Lucy feels confident she will be able to hold her own at Laurinda but she soon realises that there is a cultural and social divide she is at a loss as to how best negotiate. In particular, Lucy is both fascinated with and horrified by the dynamics at the school which contrast sharply with her experience at Christ Our Saviour College. Laurinda is in thrall to three young women known as the Cabinet who wield a frightening amount of influence within the school with the tacit approval of the headmistress, Mrs Grey. Amber, Chelsea and Brodie are manipulative and cruel yet have cultivated an aura of power that none of their peers, and few of their teachers, are willing to challenge. As Lucy is absorbed into the school's insular environment she is caught up in the ethos of Laurinda, and nearly loses herself, but eventually finds a way to forge her own path.
The narrative is presented in the form of a series of letters addressed to 'Linh' whom we assume is a friend of Lucy's from her previous school (view spoiler)[ but we later learn Lucy is actually writing the letters to herself, Linh being her middle name (hide spoiler)] The author's portrayal of Lucy is compassionate, sensitive and achingly real. Lucy is smart, capable and strong, but she is also a teenager and as such is beset by bouts of insecurity and vulnerability. Though I do not share the same ethnicity nor background as Lucy, I found her, and several of her experiences, easy to relate to.
Part satire, magnifying the pretensions of private school and the aspirations of immigrant families, part poignant coming of age tale, Pung draws on her own experiences which gives the story a sense of authenticity. Privilege, racism, class, identity and integrity are all themes explores in the novel. Pung also skilfully captures the almost universal experience for teenage girls negotiating high school where a small number of students often have an inexplicable cache of power and wield it without mercy. While Lucy is not the only victim of the Cabinet's bullying, she also has to negotiate the additional stress of cultural discord and the expectations of Laurinda's principal who demands Lucy is suitably grateful for, and repays, the privilege she has been given.
The writing is sharp and witty with characters and scenes that are vividly portrayed. The pace is good and the structure works well to deliver an interesting surprise. Laurinda is a clever, entertaining and insightful novel, suitable for both a young adult and adult audience and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to either.
Authored by A.D. Garrett, the collaborative pseudonym of award winning author Margaret Murphy and renowned forensics expert Professor Dave Barclay, B Authored by A.D. Garrett, the collaborative pseudonym of award winning author Margaret Murphy and renowned forensics expert Professor Dave Barclay, Believe No One is the second gripping crime fiction installment to feature DCI Kate Simms and Professor Nick Fennimore.
UK Detective Chief Inspector Kate Simms is on a six month 'method' exchange with the St Louis PD when her cold case team uncovers evidence of a serial killer dumping bodies along a 600 mile stretch of the I-44. For Professor Nick Fennimore, touring the Midwest promoting his latest book, it is a convenient coincidence that a case he has been invited to consult on in Oklahoma, concerning a murdered woman and her missing child, links with Kate's investigation. As the ad hoc task force involving Simms and the St Louis PD, Fennimore and the Williams County Sheriff's Office, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and an FBI Behavioural Analyst get closer to identifying the killer, they discover a link to a crime that happened more than two decades before, and a world away. Fennimore is stunned by the possibilities given his own tragic loss, and with another body of a young mother and her child missing, he isn't about to let this killer get away.
Part police procedural, part thriller, the third person narrative exposes the perspectives of the investigators, the killer and a young boy running scared.
I really enjoyed seeing the case come together through the hard work and persistence of the officers despite political maneuvering from a boorish local sheriff and the occasional inter-agency skirmish. I felt Kate got a little lost within the cast though I did like her colleagues, particularly the gruff Ellis. Abigail Hicks was an interesting character as well, and I was surprised to learn that deputy sheriffs receive so little training or support for their role.
The killer is suitably creepy with an interesting pathology and surprising motive. Some of the scenes involving the torture of his victims are disturbing, but thankfully are mostly light on details.
'Red' is the nine year old son of one of the victims who escapes the killer but is too afraid to go to the police. I felt both sad and afraid for him and I'm still not sure how I feel about the unusual situation he winds up in.
The personal lives of the feature protagonists, Kate and Nick, matter within the context of the story too, though it is Fennimore's history that is more relevant. Five years ago Nick's wife and daughter were abducted and while his wife's body was recovered in a marsh, his daughter has never been found. Fennimore is convinced she is still alive and the similarities between this case and his own tragedy has him on edge. Meanwhile Simms accepted the exchange in part to escape Nick and their complicated dynamic so she isn't thrilled when he involves himself in the investigation.
With a complex plot and interesting, well developed characters, Believe No One is an entertaining and exciting novel. Though it conceivably works as a stand alone I would recommend reading Everyone Lies first....more
Euphoria by Lily King is a fascinating novel about three anthropologists studying native tribes in Papua New Guinea in the 1930s. American Nell Stone
Euphoria by Lily King is a fascinating novel about three anthropologists studying native tribes in Papua New Guinea in the 1930s. American Nell Stone and her Australian husband, Fen, have decided to leave The Territory of New Guinea, abandoning their study of an uncooperative and violent tribe, when they meet Andrew Bankson the night before their planned departure. Bankson, lonely and frustrated after several isolated years studying the Kiona tribe, is desperate for Nell and Fen to remain in New Guinea and convinces them he can find a suitable tribe for them to integrate with. Eager to maintain contact with his colleagues, especially the enigmatic Nell, Bankson settles the pair with a nearby river tribe, the Tam.
The story is in part inspired by a real-life love triangle involving renowned anthropologists Margaret Mead, Reo Fortune, and Gregory Bateson, though it veers away from historical record. Bankson (based on Bateson) is the primary narrator looking back at the months he spent in the company of Nell and Fen, still trying to make sense of the intensely tumultuous period.
King explores the interpersonal themes of love, sex, desire, marriage and betrayal through the tense dynamics between her characters. While Nell is immediately excited by the new tribe, Fen is indifferent and ignores his responsibilities in favour of his own agenda. Nell, eager to share her findings, turns to Andrew, who is entranced by Nell's intellect and passion, but Bankson unwittingly fans longstanding jealousies and resentments, igniting intellectual and romantic competitiveness.
"Personality depends on context, just like culture....Certain people bring out certain trains in each other... You don't always see how much other people are shaping you."
The intensity of the relationship plays out against the fascinating backdrop of Nell's anthropological study of the Tam. King explores the issues related to field study, especially the unconscious, and conscious, ways in which researchers interpret what they observe, and the way in which they impact on the 'purity' of the tribe. Objectivity is a flimsy construct that shifts under the weight of even the briefest interaction, and collapses altogether with intimate contact.
The language and imagery of Euphoria is vivid, effortlessly evoking people and places. The pace and tension builds nicely to a rather understated, though shocking, end. There is a surprising subtlety to the text despite some explicit scenes of sex and violence. (view spoiler)[It is implied that Fen physically abuses Nell, that he has committed crimes in the past, and that ultimately Fen is responsible for the death of Nell. (hide spoiler)]
Euphoria is an intriguing story of personality and culture, darkly seductive and haunting.
Best known for his most recent novels, The Slap and Barracuda, Merciless Gods is Christos Tsiolkas's first published collection of short stories.
The t Best known for his most recent novels, The Slap and Barracuda, Merciless Gods is Christos Tsiolkas's first published collection of short stories.
The themes of many of the stories in this collection are strongly connected to Christos's life experiences as a gay man and as the son of (Greek) immigrant parents. Yet they also explore the universal trials of friendship, family relations, love, aging and death.
It is sometimes difficult to see past some of the cruder scenes and language in his stories, which are often unapologetically provocative, brutal and seething, yet it is important to note they are also rarely entirely devoid of tenderness, beauty or humour. I found several stories absolutely compelling including the titular 'Merciless Gods', 'Saturn Return' and 'Sticks, Stones' but 'Porn 1', 'Porn 2' and 'Porn 3' were a bit much for me.
One of the reasons I rarely read short stories is that narrative is often neglected in favour of theme, but that is not the case here. I admire the way in which Tsioklas constructs his stories, creating a complete narrative, with strong characters, in just a few pages.
Not everyone will appreciate, nor stomach, Merciless Gods, it is a collection that seems designed to challenge and shock, but for those readers willing to approach the stories with an open mind, there are rewards to be had....more
There would be few women who have never picked up a copy of The Australian Womens Weekly magazine during their lifetime, I grew up reading its mix of There would be few women who have never picked up a copy of The Australian Womens Weekly magazine during their lifetime, I grew up reading its mix of celebrity features, hard luck stories, recipes, and regular columns, my favourite of which was always Pat McDermott's 'Family Matters'.
For thirty years McDermott chronicled the chaos of her family life as the wife of the MOTH (Man Of The House aka Dennis) and as the mother of five children, Reagan, Flynn, Patrick, Courtenay and Rowen (aka Ruff Red), and more recently also as a mother in-law and grandmother.
Family Matters is a collection of some of her columns spanning the time from which her children were rambunctious toddlers to grunting teenagers, to adults who left to make their own way in the world, and then came back. Her anecdotes, and confessions, are warm, funny, honest and so easy for me, as a mother of four, to relate to. As it happens, I have a 'Ruff Red' of my own!
Family Matters is a wonderful, laugh out loud read for any parent in the trenches or those with fond memories of raising their family. Personally I was left wanting more of Pat's charm and humour and I hope there will be more collections from her column published in the future. ...more
The sequel to Candice Fox's stunning debut, Hades, Eden is a story about monsters, not the type that hide under the bed or in your closet, but those t The sequel to Candice Fox's stunning debut, Hades, Eden is a story about monsters, not the type that hide under the bed or in your closet, but those that walk amongst us, wearing the face of humanity. Murderers, rapists, pedophiles and cannibals shrouded in the guise of well dressed gentlemen, respected police officers, and restless children.
The narrative is a bit of a surprise, I was expecting, given the novel's title, that the story would unfold more fully from Eden's perspective, instead it is the first person voice of Frank, and a series of flashbacks illuminating Hades' past that dominate.
Frank is still reeling from the events that occurred in Hades and is drowning in booze, pills and sorrow, resisting Eden's attempts to get him back to work. But Eden doesn't take no for an answer and she forces his hand, first when she asks him to do some work for her father, Hades, and then when she accepts an undercover assignment in pursuit of a serial killer.
While Eden searches for the murderer on an isolated farm housing runaways and petty criminals, Frank divides his time between watching over Eden and searching for clues to decipher the fate of a girl Hades once knew, in order to shake the attentions of her nephew who is convinced Hades killed her.
Flashbacks of Hades early years introduce the girl, Sunday, and provide insight into the formation of the man and underworld legend. Fox has developed a dark and twisted past for Hades, stained with violence and loss which is not always easy to stomach.
As dark and gritty as its predecessor, Eden is a riveting story, rippling with tension and barely leashed savagery. This is compelling reading....more
In Fiona Higgins' Wife on the Run, Paula McInnes has been married to her husband Hamish for 17 years and is the mother of two teenage children, fourte In Fiona Higgins' Wife on the Run, Paula McInnes has been married to her husband Hamish for 17 years and is the mother of two teenage children, fourteen year old Caitlin and thirteen year old, Lachie. The family lives an ordinary, comfortable life in the Australian suburbs which is irrevocably changed when first Caitlin is the victim of a Facebook 'sex' scandal, and then, when Hamish is injured in an accident, Paula discovers what her husband has really been doing during his late nights 'working' from home. Shocked and angry, Paula makes a snap decision to pull her children out of school and, along with her father Sid, embark on a three month caravanning tour around Australia, leaving Hamish behind. Freed from their structured routine, and with a ban on technology enforced, the family quickly embrace the pleasures of the journey - beautiful scenery, friendly locals, 'drinkypoo's' at sunset and for the teens, a growing sense of independence thanks to Grandpa Sid's 'life lessons'. With her guard down, Paula is surprised to find herself susceptible to the charms of a charismatic Brazilian they meet on the road. Meanwhile, after a ten day bender, Hamish decides his life is empty without his wife and children in it, and sets out to catch up with them, but ends up making a detour or two along the way. Both Paula and Hamish are on the run, but neither of them are exactly sure if it is from or to one another.
Told from the dual perspectives of Paula and Hamish, Wife on the Run unfolds at a quick, entertaining pace. Part social commentary, part 'road trip' farce, Higgins tempers the serious themes of the novel - the perils of social media, marital breakdown, aging and self discovery - with some slightly absurd plot twists including an ever obliging tour bus operator, an illicit rendezvous, a Brazilian (of both types), and a lucky bet on the Melbourne Cup.
Strong but flawed characters, and the complicated dynamics between them, should resonate in one way or another with most readers. There is no denying that Paula is a bit of a control freak but she is largely a sympathetic character despite the mistakes she makes. Hamish is often a boorish sleaze but not entirely irredeemable, Sid is a treasure, and the children are fairly typical teens. The supporting cast is rich and varied, including 'Doggo', Marcelo, 'Farken' Frank, and Lisel17, all whom offer surprises you probably won't see coming.
Natural, if often earthy, language and dialogue is spiked with 'Australian-isms' and more than one surprisingly explicit sexual scene. There is plenty of humour, both overt and sly, but also astute and serious observations. The landscape, as the characters travel through South Australia, Western Australia and up to the Northern Territory, is familiar with a hint of the exotic.
Provocative, sharply insightful and wildly entertaining, Wife On the Run is not what you may expect from the synopsis but it is an engaging journey through love, heartbreak and self discovery. ...more
In 1989, Samantha Platt, a nineteen year old American arts student, was traveling through Europe with her best friend, Tracey, when, on their second t In 1989, Samantha Platt, a nineteen year old American arts student, was traveling through Europe with her best friend, Tracey, when, on their second to last day in Paris they met two handsome young Frenchman, Jean-Luc and Patrick. Though their time together was brief, Samantha and Jean-Luc both admitted to feeling a strong connection, and though Samantha chose to continue their planned journey leaving Jean-Luc behind, she did so with no small amount of regret.
Twenty odd years later, Samantha has been made redundant and her marriage is disintegrating when Tracey reminds her of their summer in Paris and the seven letters full of romance and longing she received from Jean-Luc after her return home. Wondering 'what if?', Samantha gathers her courage and decides to contact Jean-Luc, awkward emails soon became more intimate, leading to long phone calls which eventually results in Samantha accepting Jean-Luc's invitation to visit him in Paris. It is a chance Samantha feels she has to take...
Seven Letters From Paris is the true tale of an extraordinary second chance love story. Twenty years after their day long romance in Paris, Samantha and Jean-Luc are reunited, and less than 12 months later are husband and wife.
Samantha's story may have a fairytale ending, but it is a life and love hard won. She has dealt with an absentee father, a difficult divorce and bankruptcy to then moving to France with only rudimentary language skills, and becoming not only a wife, but also a full time stepmother of two young children.
Written in a friendly, almost conversational tone, Seven Letters From Paris is an easy read. Romantics will swoon over the seven letters Jean-Luc sent Samantha in 1989, francophiles will enjoy reading about Samantha's new life in France.
As my own love story is entirely prosaic - he was 20 and a co-worker of a friend, I was just 16 and still in high school when we got together, we married when I was 22 and next week we will celebrate 19 years of marriage - I appreciated the romance of Samantha and Jean-Luc's relationship and their almost too-good-to-be-true reunion.
My French is very rusty but: Je vous souhaite de nombreuses années de bonheur (I wish you both many years of happiness)
*Please note: I choose not to rate memoirs*...more
A sweeping saga spanning three generations, and two continents, Nicole Alexander's fifth novel, The Great Plains, is an absorbing tale of love, loss, A sweeping saga spanning three generations, and two continents, Nicole Alexander's fifth novel, The Great Plains, is an absorbing tale of love, loss, betrayal, belonging and freedom.
The story begins in Dallas, Texas in 1886, before moving to the plains of Oklahoma, and then to the Queensland bush, nearly fifty years later. It follows the trials of three generations of beautiful and strong willed women, Philomena Wade, abducted and raised by Apache Indians, her granddaughter Serena, claimed by her wealthy uncle, successful Texan business man Aloysius Wade, and Serena's eldest daughter, Abelena, whose fates are inextricably entwined with the obsessions of three generations of Wade men.
The Great Plains is a multi-layered novel with complex characters believable for both their virtues and their flaws. The major theme of the novel is the notion of belonging with Alexander exploring the bonds created by family, and within that the debate of 'nature versus nurture', the spiritual attachment to the land felt so deeply by the indigenous peoples in both North America and Australia, and finally the idea of belonging to oneself.
The story references some of the historical events of the time including the development of the Wild West, the abolition of slavery, the Great Depression and World War 1, as well as key figures, most notably the legendary Apache Indian, Geronimo. Alexander also explores several social issues and beliefs raised by both time and place.
The Great Plains is grand and involving fiction blending history and family drama, skillfully crafted by a consummate storyteller.
Jo Wheatley was the 2011 winner of The Great British Bake Off, a television series pitting amateur bakers against one another to win the title of BritJo Wheatley was the 2011 winner of The Great British Bake Off, a television series pitting amateur bakers against one another to win the title of Britain’s best home baker. Home Baking is her second cookbook and includes 100 recipes.
The recipes range from the simple to the sublime and the sweet to the savoury. Home Baking includes recipes for classic treats such as Shortbread, Pretzels, Cornish pastries, Chicken and Leek pie, Salmon En Croute, Rocky Road and Rasberry Red Velvet Cake as well as those a little more exotic like Parmesan and Pesto Fantail Loaf, Apple, Gooseberry and Elderflower Crumble, Goat’s Cheese and Fig Gougeres, and a Toffee Apple Croquembouche. There is a section devoted to cooking with kids which includes tasty recipes like Lemon and White Chocolate Muffins, Cheesy Mini Ketchup Scones and a Sweetie Spectacular Tray Bake.
This is a large format hardback with matte pages with full page colour photo’s of the dishes. The recipes are well presented with a short comment to introduce the dish, often offering a tip or two, a bolded list of ingredients and clear prep and cooking instructions. Missing from most recipes however is a an indicator of serving size.
I have marked several recipes I would like to try including the Lemon, White Chocolate and Macadamia Bombs, Easy Italian Soda Bread, Chicken, Chorizo and Potato Frittata, and Portuguese Tarts. During the week I was in need of something to share at a committee meeting and didn’t have a lot of time, so I decided to try Wheatley’s Chutney and Cheddar Palmiers. They were quick to prepare, baked in 15 minutes and were absolutely delicious. Recipe HERE You can find more recipes from Jo Wheatley on her blog: Jo’s Blue Aga...more
The Dead Wife's Handbook by Hannah Beckerman is a story of love, grief and letting go. Rachel was just thirty six years old when her heart stopped bea The Dead Wife's Handbook by Hannah Beckerman is a story of love, grief and letting go. Rachel was just thirty six years old when her heart stopped beating. She was happily married to Max and a loving mother to five year old Ellie, now she floats in a void of white mist given intermittent views of her husband and daughter struggling to live without her.
The idea of a ghostly narrator is a not a new one and the story offers no real surprises. It begins to feel a bit repetitive after a while, for Max and Ellie it's one step forward, two steps back, for Rachel - endless longing and a predictable cycle of guilt, resentment and despair.
I think it was just that characters were all just too perfect - Rachel was the perfect wife and mother, Max the perfect husband and father, and Ellie, who is just too perfectly adorable for words. Oh and Eve, Eve is perfect too. Their grief often seemed too neat, too contained and Max always seemed to be able to find the right words to comfort Ellie.
I did empathise with Rachel, after all I am a mother and I would be horrified to be in her place, but for the unwary reader, particularly one recently bereaved I don't think The Dead Wife's Handbook would offer much comfort. The lessons she learns about love, life and death are true enough but cliched.
The Dead Wife's Handbook has received a plethora of positive reviews, I just wasn't feeling it....more
The List is the debut novel from Scottish freelance writer, Joanna Bolouri and was long listed for the 2014 Guardian’s Not the Booker prize.
Though it' The List is the debut novel from Scottish freelance writer, Joanna Bolouri and was long listed for the 2014 Guardian’s Not the Booker prize.
Though it's been a year since Phoebe Henderson found her boyfriend in their bed with another woman, she is still an emotional wreck. Desperate for something to change, on New Years Eve she decides to make a list designed to add excitement to her life - and comes up with ten sexual experiences she wants to try, from watching another couple have sex to mastering the art of dirty talk. All Phoebe needs is a willing partner to agree to a 'no strings attached' year of sexual experimentation, and luckily her best friend, Oliver, is willing to oblige.
Told in the first person, in a diary-like format, The List has a story that follows the classic arc of modern chick lit, but with a heroine that channels her angst into her sex life instead of finding romance. At thirty two, Phoebe is working in a job she hates selling advertising, living in a tiny flat, is still in love with her cheating ex-boyfriend and hopes completing The List will both re-energize her and exorcise the ghost of Alex. It all seems like a lot of fun at first but it quickly grows complicated when both hearts and minds become involved.
The List isn't a story for anyone who blushes easily, the language is often lewd and the sexual interactions are described with candour. These things I don't mind, but I have to admit I am a little uncomfortable with the idea that sex is the answer to Phoebe's emotional issues. Personally I find it difficult to divorce sex from intimacy so I found her adventures to be a little sad and tawdry, even though I also admired her willingness to put herself out there.
A fast paced, witty and raunchy novel, The List is a feel-good read, in every sense of the phrase....more