Well it wasn't a comfortable read throughout. Sometimes the hardest stories to read are the ones that need to be told the most.
Grace Williams is intrWell it wasn't a comfortable read throughout. Sometimes the hardest stories to read are the ones that need to be told the most.
Grace Williams is introduced to us as a profoundly disabled baby. We hear her voice from a very early age. We see her view of the world, which at times is so cruel & heartfelt, it's difficult to read through each sentence. She lives in a world where it was commonplace for the authorities to pressure parents to institutionalise ineducable children. I found the description of her years at The Briar mental institution harrowing, but I couldn't abandon her. I needed to find out what happened to her.
Her relationship with Daniel was in a way ordinary & also magical. They loved, teased and had a sexual (often inventive) relationship like any teenager. Yet the magic was how they managed to forget about the harsh reality around them when they were together. They got through appalling abuse & treatment at the hands of fellow inmates & nurses/doctors/carers.
If all this sounds too much to bear, you may be surprised to hear that the ending left me feeling uplifted and contended about how Grace's life of supported independent living panned out. I also would like to believe that the author, who based the novel on her sister's similar situation, experiences and upbringing, did see as happy an outcome for her sister as she portrayed for Grace....more
I'm rubbish with best seller, over-hyped books. They have too much to live up to usually.
I think The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo fell into this categI'm rubbish with best seller, over-hyped books. They have too much to live up to usually.
I think The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo fell into this category for me. It was good, I liked it, but gosh it took some getting into. It was only because a trusted friend assured me that it would have me hooked that I persevered through the first 100 pages. That and I kept picturing the protagonist Mikael Blomkvist as he has been cast in the recent film aka Daniel Craig.
Daniel, sorry Blomkvist is a journalist, who at the start of the novel has just lost a court case against an industry mogul Wennerstrom. He takes the judgement quietly and prepares for his short stint in jail. Whilst letting all the dust settle, he is contacted by Henrik Vanger, head of a rival industrial corporation to Wennerstrom. In return for helping Vanger solve a family murder nearly 40 years earlier, Blomkvist is promised Wennerstrom's damaging secrets on a plate.
The story is really slow to get going, you have to wade through a huge amount of background narrative on all the history of the industrialists. However, once Blomkvist starts to tackle the murder mystery, it picks up a pace. He enlists the assistance of Lisbeth Salander, and their working and personal relationships are fascinating. The technology she employs is a fine match to his attention to detail, and slowly but surely they make headway into a case which has been shelved for decades. There are no pretty bows to be tied around the final outcome of the murder enquiry, but at least the aged Henrik Vanger has some resolution.
The novel then continues on, covering the Wennerstrom revenge, but I'd quite happily have enjoyed the novel without this saga at the beginning and finale of the story. A lot of it just felt over complicated.
I'm going to duck back down below the parapet now, as I have a feeling I'll be in the minority with regards to not being completely blown away by this. I think I might just like to have a peek at the film though, just to see how closely the script resembles the book, obviously. Not to ogle DC.
I think the one star says it all. I haven't read any of Faulks other novels but know he is held in high regard, particularly for Bird Song & CharlI think the one star says it all. I haven't read any of Faulks other novels but know he is held in high regard, particularly for Bird Song & Charlotte Gray. Perhaps A Week in December isn't typical of his work?
It had the potential to be so much better. The premise of intensely examining seven people's imperfect lives over the course of a week, set against the backdrop of bustling London sounded like it would be quite gripping.
The seven main characters were less character and more stereotype than can really be permissible, I'm sure. The hot shot foreign footballer, the obnoxious city banker, the obnoxious city banker's spoilt drug taking teenager, a book critic with not much personal success (or charm), an under utilised scruffy lawyer, a student being lured into terrorism and for good measure a female Tube driver.
I found the constant satirical references to real life material very annoying, the girl band - Girls from Behind, the Big Brother take off - Barking Bungalow, where the 'contestants' were mentally ill patients trying to win a years worth of treatment and a Facebook equivalent (I cant even bear to look back through to see what it was called, but it talked of jabbing instead of poking) to name a few examples.
The hedge fund banker was a vile, greedy character who allowed Faulks to show off his knowledge or the amount of research he had done into the underhand dealings that the bankers have been playing at which has led to the collapse of the whole industry & it's contribution to the recession. This could have been quite enlightening to the lay person, but to be brutally honest I found it boring, too detailed added to my couldn't care less attitude to the book. I wondered if his financial research was the reason behind the book. He wanted to put it out there, and have a dig at the banks.
My other thoughts on what was behind the book was the character of the literary critic, he hated modern fiction & couldn't bear to see his contemporaries be successful, even going to a reading of a new novelist to heckle. Is this the reason Faulks painted a portrait of such damaged people, was it all quite sarcastic and his way of poking fun at broken britain?
So not one I will be recommending, but I do now feel a need to get hold of Birdsong to compare his work.
I've had this book on my shelf for a while. It was gifted to me, so obviously recommended, but I have to admit the cover did put me off.
During the WoI've had this book on my shelf for a while. It was gifted to me, so obviously recommended, but I have to admit the cover did put me off.
During the World Book Night coverage the Guardian had pulled together a list of twelve of the best new novelists, one of which was Jenn Ashworth, and A Kind of Intimacy was spoken of so highly that I moved back up the 'to be read' pile.
The Guardian succinctly described A Kind of Intimacy as: "laugh-out-loud funny and completely compelling. The protagonist Annie is obese, unloved and deluded. In fact she misreads every situation she's in and from this disjuncture comes the comedy. It's a dark, dark tale, but a tale for today."
I actually disagree with the laugh out loud comedy described above. I found it much more dark & sinister than humorous. The main character Annie, is obviously very damaged. The death of her mother when she was a teen is probably the crux of all her unfolding misjudgments and downward spiral along a disastrous path through life. It is certainly a compelling tale, told in part via flashbacks to her Teens & first marriage.
The present day setting of a house in Fleetwood is brilliantly drawn. The choice of basing it in Fleetwood is fantastic, a place which feels like the end of the world on the best of days. It is what stops the story from potentially being an impossible 'only in the movies' type drama, to being a very plausible and even more scary sequence of events.
I did feel sorry for Annie, I envisaged her as a character similar to mad Mary on Coronation Street (sorry for the TV reference), with the Bridget Jones tendency to live her life through self-help books. You will never look at that genre in the same way again after reading this.
The final chapter had me reading the book with my hand over my mouth, the suspense was written so convincingly. In fact the whole book was just that - very convincing. A brilliant first novel.
Edit: I think this would easily be a 3.5, but not quite a 4 for me. I find I quickly forget thrillers/crime novels so tend to score low.
I started readEdit: I think this would easily be a 3.5, but not quite a 4 for me. I find I quickly forget thrillers/crime novels so tend to score low.
I started reading this whilst staying in a lodge, in a forest, on my own with 2 children. I think it is partly why I didn't sleep at all the first night. After reading about one of the characters being hunted down in a forest by a murderer known as the Snowman, it certainly got under my skin.
The pace of the book at the beginning in particular is astonishingly fast. The body count is high, by about a fifth of the way in. The murders are gruesome and don't make easy reading. There is the stereotypical, grumpy, alcoholic detective, with a young attractive female assistant. All sounds a bit run of the mill up to now, eh? However, there are some clever plot lines and enough twists to keep you hooked. I did have my suspicions quite early on of who the 'real' snowman was, as you are led to believe he has been caught a couple of times throughout the novel.
I liked the Norwegian setting, and it gave quite a contrast between the glamorous cosmopolitan lifestyle of the flashy head journalist, and the traditional rural dwellings on the outskirts. The relentless snowfall played quite a key role in novel too.
I did feel that it went on a little bit too long, with perhaps a few too many plot lines to tie up. It didn't stop it being a page turner right up until the end though.
This is one of our book club choices for April, so I'll add the overall verdict from them on, when we meet early May....more
It's not often I give a 5* review, but I did really love this. From it's opening, set in a leafy Devon back water, swiftly moving Lexie from her quainIt's not often I give a 5* review, but I did really love this. From it's opening, set in a leafy Devon back water, swiftly moving Lexie from her quaint existence to her bohemian lifestyle in 1950's London. I loved her character, self reliant, forthright & independent. The novel switches from Lexie's era to the present day story of Elina & Ted who are struggling with the arrival of a new child and adjusting to parenthood.
I think the portrayal of Elina's journey into motherhood and all it's ups and downs is extremely eloquent, honest and the closest recollection I have ever read that resembles the reality of it all. The scene in the bathroom at her MIL's house is one I could have written about similar experiences.
For quite a long time in the book, the two strands of the story appear to be quite unconnected, but eventually the links are beginning to be made. It wasn't all as obvious as it first appears though. Not wanting to give too much of the plot away, the links between the two were very well drawn and experiencing through Ted's eyes his memories being drip fed back to him of a childhood that didn't quite fit with the one he had been told about was chilling.
I found the characters utterly convincing and had so much empathy for most of them and the obligatory disdain for the vile few. It brought me to tears, and I think this is partly why I have given it the top rating as not many books can move you to actual tears. I loved O'Farrel's writing, it was lyrical without being highbrow and I felt that I was in the hands of a great story teller....more
I'm not quite sure I fully understood all I should have about this book. I struggled at first with the introduction of so many characters in quick sucI'm not quite sure I fully understood all I should have about this book. I struggled at first with the introduction of so many characters in quick succession, but was soon quickly drawn in. It is based on historical fact, centred around the incarceration of poet John Clare in an asylum in the 1840's.
It intertwines the poet's life, the asylum owner and Alfred Tennyson in a cleverly imagined tale around all of their flawed characters. It is set over seven seasons, and gives us snapshots of the lives of the characters, written so beautifully and in a sense so poetically. I was left wanting more, which I think is always the sign of a good book for me. ...more