'I suspect we would all be surprised by what we discovered if we took any group of twenty women over sixty and listened to them properly.'
With the sub...more'I suspect we would all be surprised by what we discovered if we took any group of twenty women over sixty and listened to them properly.'
With the subtitle 'Remarkable Conversations with Older Women', this is a wonderful collection of thoughts, reflections, hopes and lived experience of twenty women aged between 60 and 85, brought together by author and chartered psychologist Sarah Dale. Being in my thirties, initially I wasn't sure how much of relevance I would find here, or whether it would strike a chord with me, but I'm so glad I read it because I found it fascinating and extremely insightful reading.
The author sets out in her preface what drew her to thinking about this time of life: '...with fifty lurking just beyond the horizon, I can feel the stirring of another stage of life.'...'I set out to find twenty women, all at least ten years older than me, who were willing to chat to me about what matters and what doesn't, as they look back.' As she briefly considers the way things have changed in women's lives over the past couple of generations, and how big some of the differences are, which makes it fascinating, I think, to hear these older women's voices:
'The whole concept of older women with energy, choice, education, and much closer to equal status with men is therefore relative new, and still evolving. There isn't much of a road map. The generation I've been interviewing is at the cutting edge. It feels important to me to hear what they have to say about it.'
As I read, through chapters including thoughts on marriage, parenthood, work, amongst many others, I was invigorated by some of the wonderful, sage advice these women have been kind enough to share, passing on the wisdom of their varied experiences as they look back. In particular, I loved the 'what matters' and 'what doesn't' summaries of each chapter, as well as the 'advice for younger women' and also the section introducing the women, because it was so interesting to read about their backgrounds. Sarah Dale even asked each of them to recommend a couple of favourite books, which also appealed to this fellow bookworm.
I would certainly recommend this book, it's definitely worth your time whether read all at once or dipped in and out of, the author has skillfully collated the results of her interviews and integrated these with reflections on her own experience to produce a thoughtful and inspiring read with thoughts from intelligent, lively, strong and courageous women. Also as a younger woman who doesn't have many older women in her daily life, and who is prone to worrying and indecision, it has offered me the chance to share in some valuable life experience, as well as some things to really think about and some great advice that I think could improve my life, and I genuinely thank the author, and the women who collaborated in this work, for this.
I'll leave you with a few quotes from some of the advice for younger women that I loved and which struck me as particularly wise:
'Don't let anybody (yourself included) stop you from trying what you always wanted to explore or experience.'
'Life is a learning curve and the more you know the more you realise how little you know and how much is left to learn.'
'Never think you've left something too late, that the chance has passed you by.'
'Enjoy being young and don't be too concerned with how you look because you will look back and realise you were lovely and fresh.' (less)
The Engagements is a captivating, delightful novel that invites us into the lives of various characters and spans the years from the 1940s to the pres...moreThe Engagements is a captivating, delightful novel that invites us into the lives of various characters and spans the years from the 1940s to the present day. In it, the author looks at the significance and history of the diamond engagement ring as a recognised token of love, devotion and commitment, at different attitudes to marriage, at different women and men and the choices they make, and the emotions which connect us all. The underlying or main thread if you like, is the story of Mary Frances Gerety, an independent unmarried female copywriter at a time (1947) when this was exceptional, and a wonder in the advertising world - working for the dominant advertising agency, she was tasked with convincing everyone that every woman who was to be married needed a diamond ring, and she brought us the famous words A Diamond is Forever.
'The diamond would last even if the love did not. Even though youth would not.'
I found it fascinating to discover more about her through the author's portrait of her, to learn about her personal life and work. Though much of her life's work was devoted to something idealised as the height of romance and commitment, her own personal life was somewhat of a contrast to this; 'she found her job far more exciting than any man she had met...' Frances has to contend with the expectations of her day, when women married and ran the home; other women observed that 'It's not natural for a woman of a certain age to want to work in a stuffy office with men all day...' so her career and her being single went against this, and others viewed her with suspicion, yet she seemed content. I loved her confidence, her drive, talent and self-belief. Many moments stood out as I read, especially a comment she makes with regard to trying to join the all-male golf club. She watches as other women, even those who had worked, were more or less forced to stop once married. And later in her life, she sees how women are changing and taking chances that were never there for her.
The novel then introduces us to the other strands; there is Evelyn in 1972, James in 1987, Delphine in 2003 and Kate in 2012. Evelyn has been happily married for many years but is concerned about her son's behaviour in his marriage, James is a man devoted to his wife and trying to do the right thing but beset by financial problems, Delphine had a steady marriage but has left France for America with her lover, and Kate who 'was distrustful of marriage' and is happy to live with Dan. Each relationship is different, whether a marriage, an affair, one partner richer or poorer, yet there are emotions, and difficulties, joys and sadness in common for them all.
The narrative is skillfully structured, building together a little from each of the different stories, stories that take us back and forth in time, that illustrate the choices people make in life and love, about passion, loyalty, independence, commitment. There are five stories, and five parts to the novel, and each part takes us back to each story once. The years covered by novel allow the author to illustrate the changes in marriage, in attitudes, from traditional to modern values, from divorce being almost impossible to becoming an everyday occurrence.
I adored this novel and I absolutely didn't want it to end. I was swept up in each of the different story strands and I couldn't wait to return to each of them. I took a photo of the paperback copy I read because it just shows how many sentences or events or elements of the prose really struck me or resonated, and which I tagged to refer back to; there were so many in this book. I felt that each of the stories was strong and absorbing; they were each strong tales in their own right and brought together they made for a brilliant read. I wondered if I would be able to keep each of the stories and all the characters in my head as I read, because of the way the narrative shifted, but I found this worked well and each tale, and the primary characters within it, were distinctive and memorable.
I think readers will react differently to the stories depending on their experience and opinions; this would be a great book for discussion. It would also be a wonderful book to take on holiday and get lost in. I escaped into this story and was absorbed; I didn't want to be interrupted or distracted from this book, it was the type of read for me that it both an escape and reminded me of the great enjoyment that comes from a book that you really 'click' with, and it was also an intelligent, thought-provoking read.
I really looked forward to picking it up again every time, and I found that the characters and their lives were in my thoughts even when I wasn't reading it. I found them all interesting and fully formed, and there were things I was drawn to in each of them - Frances' drive in her work, Evelyn's love of her grandchildren and her love of books, plus her feelings about her ring, very similar to how I feel about jewelery and my ring; 'She had never been much of a jewelry person, but her ring was the exception. She loved it.'
Then, James' devotion to his family, Delphine's experience of living in another country, though I think I identified with Kate most of all, and some of the thoughts and beliefs she holds are things that I often think about so it was great to see them represented here through this character.
The author picks up on several significant moments in the background as she narrates her characters' lives; we hear about precious belongings stolen in WWII, about Vietnam, September 11th, a recession, Iraq; this novel is sweeping in scope but always ultimately focused on the intricacies and beautiful observations about the characters themselves, their thoughts and behaviour. I liked the different locations, including New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Paris, they added depth to the lives being played out. There are other themes and ideas too; the beauty and joy of music, the influence of modern technology on a marriage, the struggle for equality for all who want to be with, and make a commitment to, their beloved partner whatever their sexuality.
I'm always a bit nervous about longer novels, will it be worth the investment of time as a reader? Plus, sometimes, the synopsis of a novel doesn't always totally hook you, and with this one I wasn't totally sure if it would be for me, so I was ever so pleasantly surprised when I found I genuinely loved the story; this was certainly worth my time. I realise I sound very enthusiastic but that's because I enjoyed it so much, a standout read for me and a book I'll be keeping on my shelves for years to come. In the novel, J. Courtney Sullivan writes that, when Frances was studying, 'like everybody else, she was planning to write the Great American Novel.' Well, this is certainly a very good one.(less)
This is the third novel by Canadian-born writer Mary Lawson. It tells of twenty-five-year-old Tom Cartwright, his sister Megan, and their father Edwar...moreThis is the third novel by Canadian-born writer Mary Lawson. It tells of twenty-five-year-old Tom Cartwright, his sister Megan, and their father Edward, and the rest of their large family, in Struan, a small town in northern Canada. The paths of the three characters that Lawson focuses on run parallel, moving back and forwards in time a few years apart, each strand gradually reveals itself, and then the three are brought together as events very cleverly converge.
It’s the 1960s, Tom is intelligent and had a promising career ahead of him as an aeronautical engineer, but is withdrawn and hides himself away after the tragic death of his friend. Megan has at last escaped, to London, but worries for the welfare of her mother and brothers; as the only daughter, and with her mother only managing to care for her latest baby, the rest of the family of boys and men were under her care before she left. Edward looks back on his difficult memories of a violent father, and explores the remaining extracts of his mother’s diaries that recall the Ontario silver rush of the 1900s. He struggles to connect with his own family; he has regrets and wonders how his life got to where it is now, he hides away in his study and dreams of traveling, not noticing what is happening to his family.
Each of the three main characters is honestly, convincingly and roundly portrayed. Road Ends is beautifully written; a well-crafted, evocative tale that slowly captivates the reader, an eloquent, measured and touching story of tragedy, regret but also hope, and of the longing for independence and the chance to follow individual dreams, versus a sense of duty and responsibility.
I felt warmth and compassion towards these people; Mary Lawson conveys their dreams and sadness with poignancy and sincerity. I was intrigued by Edward’s past, by whether Tom’s life would change, and by Megan’s strength, her bravery and independence in coming to England and forging her own career. The locations are vividly realised; I could almost feel the wintery weather in Canada; she brings the surroundings to life and the landscape has a real part to play. I loved Mary Lawson’s previous novels and I relished the fine storytelling by her here once again. It is a captivating novel and a joy to read. (less)
'The cases of murder spattered across the pages of history provide a dark mirror for so many aspects of the less seemly world of the past.'
Written by...more'The cases of murder spattered across the pages of history provide a dark mirror for so many aspects of the less seemly world of the past.'
Written by true crime historian Neil R. Storey, The Little Book of Murder brings together in one slim hardback volume the details of many chilling, horrifying and terrible murderous crimes from history, including unusual facts and trivia about some of these cases and about the perpetrators, and featuring numerous black and white sketches alongside the text.
The contents of the book are divided into twelve sections, including 'Serial Killers', 'Murder not Proven', 'Infamous Murders', and 'Poisoners - Masters of the Silent Killer.' The part entitled 'Murderous Britain' is divided into regions, with details of crimes given according to where they occurred. 'The Black Museum' chapter lists the fascinating and sometimes bizarre items that are held in various crime museums and private collections across the world, including the Crime Museum at Scotland Yard, from knives and guns to a rolling pin and a tin opener. The pages within 'A Date with Murder' allow you to identify crimes with reference to the date they were committed.
The author states in his introduction that the book 'is aimed at all those armchair crime buffs who, like me, occasionally scratch their heads and try to recall the basic facts of some notorious or curious case of murder from the past.'
It's one of those books which you can very easily dip into, intending to read just an excerpt or two, but then find yourself reading just a little more as it's so gruesomely fascinating…! There were many that I had heard of through other books I've read, the Ratcliffe Highway Murders and the Road Hill House Murder being two examples, or through films I've seen, such as Fritz Lang's 'M' about the Monster of Duesseldorf, and there were many that I hadn't heard of before. If this book leaves you wanting more, the author has included suggestions at the back of the book for further reading, and has also listed 'some cinema and TV films based on true murder cases.'
Even though reading about some of these murders frightens me, and I don't recommend reading this book last thing at night or in a dark place alone unless you're of a strong constitution, there is a macabre intrigue to these accounts and an ongoing fascination with such notorious crimes. It will appeal greatly to curious readers, whether crime fiction enthusiasts or true crime fact fans, who have a craving for more information about crime scenes, murderers and their victims, unsolved mysteries, and detecting criminals. (less)
It's 1881 and Tilly is skating somewhere she shouldn't; on the frozen lake at Frost Hollow Hall. No one is meant to go there anymore. We learn as the...moreIt's 1881 and Tilly is skating somewhere she shouldn't; on the frozen lake at Frost Hollow Hall. No one is meant to go there anymore. We learn as the novel opens that ten years before, Kit Barrington tragically died there. When the ice cracks and Tilly slips beneath into the freezing water, she sees a beautiful boy. Who can he be, is he real, what does he want with her?
After hearing so many good things about this debut childrens/young adult novel this year, I couldn't resist buying it whilst I was on holiday recently. It sounded like a lovely, classic read to curl up and enjoy, and indeed it was a very enjoyable book; an enchanting story, an atmospheric setting and with a lovely character and great first person narrator in Tilly. I eagerly raced through it and would certainly recommend it. An engaging, mysterious and ghostly read for Winter.(less)
'Her history was held in the fabrics she'd used, the designs, and the appliqued figures.'
I read some super reviews of Liz Trenow's first novel, The La...more 'Her history was held in the fabrics she'd used, the designs, and the appliqued figures.'
I read some super reviews of Liz Trenow's first novel, The Last Telegram, which I then bought though sadly have not yet read. I was therefore really pleased to have the chance to read this second novel; it was a very enjoyable, absorbing and well-paced read which I escaped into and became immersed in the lives that were described to me.
Maria Romano has grown up in an orphanage after the death of her mother when she was very young. Close friends with Nora there, the two girls are selected due to their needlework skills to go and live and work in a wonderful, large house for a very wealthy family. This turns out to be none other than Buckingham Palace and the royal family. Maria soon notices the handsome Prince of Wales, and he in turn is attracted by her beauty. He encourages her attentions and there is a passionate affair, then, during his lengthy abscenses, she is left alone and bereft, and it's at this time she begins working on what will become a very special quilt; her needlework skills are her comfort, the thing she turns to in order to escape her situation; as she says, 'it was a way of escaping my loneliness.' She longs for the Prince to return, to rekindle their love, yet there is of course no future for the two of them together; there never could be. Events turn from bad to worse for Maria, and she is sent off and locked away in an asylum, where she experiences great despair and confusion, losing most of her sense of herself, until she again eventually finds solace in her needlework.
We meet Maria and here her story via the text of audio cassette recordings that were made when she was much older, seventy-four, when a lady was researching the history of mental health care. This was a clever device for telling Maria's story and I liked how this was incorporated into the novel, bringing her days back to life through her own voice. I was moved by her story, the intense joys and the terrible lows Maria experienced during her life, and by her mourning the loss of what her life might have been; 'how would my life be now, I wondered, had I never set eyes on him, nor he on me? What could I have made of myself, do you think…?'
Almost in the present day, we meet Caroline Meadows. At thirty-eight, she has just come out of a relationship and wonders whether she will find love again, is at a turning point in her career - working in a well-paid yet soulless job in London, she dreams of using her creative, artistic talents once again - and she cares for her elderly mum whose health is being to fail, sadly she is beginning to forget things. Whilst helping tidy her mum's home, they come across an item that was intended to be passed on to Caroline by her Gran Jean; a beautiful old patchwork quilt. Caroline starts to look in to the background of the quilt, and as she does so, more details emerge as to the provenance of it and the incredible story behind it, and she begins the journey following a fascinating trail into her past.
The past is vividly evoked through Maria's recollections of her memories and her life. It is sad to read how she isn't believed, her true past buried for so many years, her life reduced to being held a virtual prisoner in the hospital. The present day story is engaging too, a woman aware of her age, rethinking her life and looking back at what her amitions were when she was younger, wondering if she can bring them to life before it is too late; the reader wondering if she can find the inspiration to do so.
The novel's title is apt; talented seamstress Maria does indeed seem to have been forgotten by history, until now. Liz Trenow has written an imaginative, touching, romantic, sad historical story and combined it very well with a modern day strand that slowly reveals the connections between past and present.
I was intrigued immediately; after an opening extract about death, then I read of 'Experiment Two', before I reached chapter one of this novel, and I...moreI was intrigued immediately; after an opening extract about death, then I read of 'Experiment Two', before I reached chapter one of this novel, and I was drawn straight into the story. There is a woman, alone, scared, captive in the dark. I began to wonder who she is, what is this experiment, and if this is number two, what happened to number one? Then the main narrative takes us to 'Day One' of what will be the police procedural element of the tale; a body is found in a park, and DI David Murphy and DS Laura Rossi of Liverpool North division are in charge of leading the investigation. We are then taken back in time to the year before, and there is a man, Rob, whose partner has not returned home, and I was suspicious, it made me wonder again.
There is communication from the killer, he spells out the fact that he is experimenting with death, and is fascinated by the psychological aspect of death, killing his victims in the name of horrible, shocking experiments. The team soon realise that they've got a serial killer on their hands.
This is a tale packed with intrigue; Luca Veste makes the reader suspicious and evokes fear in the reader with his dark plot. DI Murphy in particular has a strong backstory which is slowly revealed to us during the novel; he has difficult memories, disturbing dreams, and is haunted by a terrible loss in his past. DS Rossi is an interesting character too, and I was keen to read on and find out more about her, and see how the two would work together.
I was engrossed by the second strand of the tale about the missing woman and I really liked how this unfolded gradually alongside the narrative involving the current investigation. The narrative structure added interest and involved the reader, and the chilling plot keeps the reader guessing, arousing our suspicions and tempting us to make connections - keeping us turning the pages with eagerness. The author's knowledge of locations in his home city of Liverpool makes for an atmospheric, authentic sense of place, and one that is portrayed roundly, with light and shade. The story skips along at a good pace and is satisfyingly complex and absorbing. This is a dark, original and thrilling debut by a promising new crime writer. (less)
This delightful and fun children's book by Wendy Unsworth tells the story of Kellie Culpepper, who comes from a long line of explorers, with her paren...moreThis delightful and fun children's book by Wendy Unsworth tells the story of Kellie Culpepper, who comes from a long line of explorers, with her parents being 'the greatest explorers of them all!' They are preparing to set out on their latest adventure, and Kellie cannot go with them this time. Instead she is due to stay with one of her Aunts, who has a very fitting name. However, this particular Aunt has a propensity to be a little bit silly, and things don't go as planned, so Kellie instead discovers she has an Aunt named Kitty, who is 'unusual and very, very interesting'. Aunt Kitty lives at Come-alive Cottage, a lovely house in the countryside. Kitty is unlike any Aunt you might have met before; she is quite magical in fact, as is her special home, where strange, unexpected and wonderful things happen. Kellie is in for quite an adventure at Come-alive Cottage!
Told in eight short chapters, this is a really enjoyable book, a sweet story that would be ideal to read aloud; the author has used some lovely phrases to build her story, and I was excited every time another 'whoosh!' occurred! I loved the affectionate names Kellie's father had for her, such as his 'Little Butternut Squash.'
The illustrations by Frances Lee West are great fun too and fit so nicely alongside the text; it feels as though some care and thought has gone into the placement of the illustrations, and they really embellish the story very nicely, and include some clever plays on words.
A lovely book that is great fun to read, telling a magical, well written tale with great illustrations.(less)
'To store up a memory bank of poems is to build up your own unique library for life. The verses are your personal armoury…' - Ana Sampson
I don't read...more'To store up a memory bank of poems is to build up your own unique library for life. The verses are your personal armoury…' - Ana Sampson
I don't read as much poetry as I'd like to, so when I do read some, I often reach for a collection like this, which offers a mix that I can dip in to, and then prompts me to revisit my shelves/a bookshop/the library to read more from a favourite or someone I have newly discovered. I personally found this an interesting, varied, enjoyable and satisfying selection, with some of my favourite poems included, as well as some I knew a little of, and then some that I didn't know at all before reading them here.
The poems here are grouped into nineteen chapters, each with a theme, and each theme has a short passage introducing it and relating it to the medium of poetry. There's magic, adventure, love, reflection, family, death, war, courage, faith, advice, anger, nature and more. At the end of some of the sets of poems grouped under a particular theme, there is a quote relating to poetry and to learning it. At the back there's an index of poets and an index of titles, first lines and well-known lines.
When I pick up a book like this, it always reminds me of the joy of poetry and how some poems capture a moment, a dream, a thought or an emotion perfectly sometimes.
The focus here is on the idea of having some of these poems that you love, or connect most with, stored in your mind so that you can bring the words to mind whenever, wherever you are. The compiler writes: ' I hope that you will discover and cherish the pleasures of learning and knowing poetry by heart.' I remember learning a lot of poems as a schoolchild, and though there was always the element of 'having' to know them for the purposes of reproducting elements of them in essays and exams, I've found as the years have gone by that some of the poems I learnt back then have always stayed with me, and indeed mean more to me now than they did then.
As with any such collection, there are always omissions, but there is certainly a broad enough selection here to prompt me to investigate some of the poets further, and also to return to my own copies of more in-depth collections by my favourites, such as Dylan Thomas and John Donne. For some of the longer poems featured here just an extract is given.
This is a very nicely presented hardback volume; it would be lovely to give as a gift to someone special, to someone who is interested in poetry and is looking for an accessible place to start, or indeed as a gift to yourself! There's a place on the endpaper to write who it is a gift for, and who it is from, should you wish to. This is a book that I will treasure.
Some of my favourites from this collection are: The Good-Morrow - John Donne To His Coy Mistress - Andrew Marvell Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night - Dylan Thomas Anthem for Doomed Youth - Wilfred Owen The Soldier - Rupert Brooke Night Mail - W.H. Auden Not Waving But Drowning - Stevie Smith This Be the Verse - Philip Larkin (less)
In the midst of World War II, Peter Faber and Katherina Spinell embark on an usual marriage – they haven’t even met. Peter takes this step to get ‘hon...moreIn the midst of World War II, Peter Faber and Katherina Spinell embark on an usual marriage – they haven’t even met. Peter takes this step to get ‘honeymoon’ leave from the Eastern front, and he travels to Berlin and meets his wife and her family for the first time. For Katherina, it offers a war pension should he die. Before the war a schoolteacher in Darmstadt, now he is fighting in Russia, for his homeland Germany. Despite the unconventional manner of their union, the pair do find they like and indeed come to love one another, making it difficult for them both when Peter has to return to Russia.
The narration moves between Peter’s horrendous time in Russia as his division moves towards Stalingrad, and Katherina’s life in Berlin, where she enjoys a relatively comfortable existence for a time – this is thanks to her father’s close acquaintance with the powerful Nazi Dr. Weinart, who he almost slavishly complies with, even to the point of not defending his own war-damaged son Johannes in front of him. When the war starts to go against Germany, though, both of them find themselves still apart, and in dire circumstances.
The author writes with brutal honesty of the appalling conditions the soldiers endure, and conveys the different views amongst them about what they are actually fighting for, so that as a reader we can conceivably sympathise with Peter despite the outrage we feel at the regime he was fighting to protect. Audrey Magee also convincingly portrays the turbulent change in fortunes for Katherina and her family.
Throughout the novel, much of the narrative is written as dialogue; I quickly got used to this style and thought it worked very well here; the author lets the characters’ thoughts and decisions speak for themselves, directly, rendering their emotions and experiences vividly to the reader.
The Undertaking is a stark, intelligent and powerful debut novel that confronts harsh realities and depicts two ordinary people complicit in terrible actions. I was impressed by it and I’d love to read more by this author. There is plenty here for reading groups to debate and get their teeth into – morality, greed, war, damage, and love.
This is the first crime novel in what is now a series featuring young, promising detective Gary Goodhew, and set in Cambridge and the surrounding area...moreThis is the first crime novel in what is now a series featuring young, promising detective Gary Goodhew, and set in Cambridge and the surrounding area. It's always interesting to read fiction set in or near to the place where you live, and to be able to recognise some of the sites and streets that are mentioned. I've wanted to make a start on this series for ages now, so I'm glad to have finally got the opening book under my belt. I liked it, overall, in particular the main character Gary, and his closest confidant, his Grandmother, and I've bought the next in the series, curious to discover how the character of this eager, intelligent and at times unconventional detective will develop and interested in how the author's writing and future storylines will evolve. (less)
Jess Thomas is a single mum, working hard both as a cleaner and barmaid to make ends meet, caring for her young daughter Tanzie, a prodigious maths ta...more
Jess Thomas is a single mum, working hard both as a cleaner and barmaid to make ends meet, caring for her young daughter Tanzie, a prodigious maths talent, and for shy bullied teenager Nicky, her absent husband’s son from a previous relationship, to whom Jess is the nearest thing to a stable parent. Affluent Ed Nicholls has a high flying career running a very successful software company with University friend Ronan, but an unfortunate encounter with a woman from his past is about to bring Ed’s world crashing down around him. Jess and Ed’s paths are destined to collide; what is surprising, funny, poignant and uplifting is how wonderfully this plays out.
I devoured this new tale from Jojo Moyes, it was a real delight to read. By turns a funny, sweet, honest and tender portrait of modern life in Britain; concerned with families, work, money and the lack of it, insider trading, and ultimately, heartfelt romantic love. It feels that this author lives and breathes her characters; the result is they feel so vivid, rounded and real to the reader; a sense greatened by including some chapters from each of four different perspectives. All five of the main protagonists are beautifully drawn, youngsters Tanzie and Nicky in particular. And Norman the dog is adorable! Aspects of the scenario reminded me a little of the lovely film Little Miss Sunshine.
Jojo Moyes has written another absolute winner here – marvellous, eloquent modern fiction.
Set in a small town in Australia, the story is told over a few days, and it begins with the accidental discovery by Cecilia of an old envelope in the...moreSet in a small town in Australia, the story is told over a few days, and it begins with the accidental discovery by Cecilia of an old envelope in the attic, which states on the front 'to be opened only in the event of my death'. She recognises the handwriting as her husband's. Ultimately unable to resist her curiosity, she reads the letter, and is then left with an awful dilemma, because his words reveal something very serious. She is confronted with a decision; to stay silent and protect her husband and their three children, or to reveal John-Paul's secret and carrying a heavy burden alone. But don't think that this is all there is to the story; there is so much more.
The interweaving of the three tales of the three fascinating, well-drawn main female characters Tess, Rachel and Cecilia, was very cleverly done. I loved this book, I found it an absolutely cracking read, an absorbing story that I couldn't wait to get back to - I became thoroughly immersed in the development of the plot and I didn't want to be parted from this book! I thought the characters were superbly portrayed, I engaged with them and loved how the author depicted the evolving relationships between them. One of the things I thought the author did really well was portray humour in the most serious of situations, just as can happen in life. Some of the incidents and encounters were so well-observed. I think the only small negative note really for me was that there seemed to be a number of errors (I read a finished brand new paperback copy that I bought) which was a shame.
The Husband's Secret was a captivating, compelling read and Liane Moriarty is definitely an author whose books I will eagerly watch out for in future.(less)
Set predominantly in Australia, this is a compelling story which I read very fast; it was one of those books that I was loathe to put down. It begins...moreSet predominantly in Australia, this is a compelling story which I read very fast; it was one of those books that I was loathe to put down. It begins with a scene at the airport, and a flight to Melbourne. Joanna and her partner Alistair are travelling with their baby, and straight from the off, the situations, the prose and the dialogue all draw the reader in, from the difficulties that Joanna faces on the flight, with the baby being so unsettled, to the contrast in others' reactions to her and to her partner. I felt for her so much.
This is a story about which little can be revealed in a review if a prospective reader is going to enjoy the discoveries and twists and turns to the fullest. This tense, dark read offers up an awful situation, the plot kept me guessing, it surprised me and it made me question who was genuine, who was lying, what could I believe, what had been fabricated; an excellent and highly addictive thriller. I'll definitely be looking out for Helen Fitzgerald's previous novels, which I have missed up until now.(less)
Needless to say, a new book from a favourite author is always something to get very excited about, and as a big fan of this author, having read and en...moreNeedless to say, a new book from a favourite author is always something to get very excited about, and as a big fan of this author, having read and enjoyed all three of her gripping novels thus far, (Into the Darkest Corner, Revenge of the Tide, and Human Remains), I was therefore thrilled to hear about Under a Silent Moon. I grew more excited as I read that the story would comprise of a police investigation, the timespan would run over only six days, and that there would be ‘source material and evidence’ included within it, so that the reader could themselves be party to the clues that the investigation team have to hand, and thus feel involved in the story at a somewhat deeper level.
Elizabeth Haynes introduces us to DCI Louisa Smith, newly-promoted and challenged with leading her team in investigating the murder of an attractive young woman, Polly Leuchars, in the cottage she lived in, part of a local farm. It soon becomes evident that a suspected suicide of another local woman in her car at a nearby quarry may well be linked to Polly’s murder, and it’s up to the team to discover the truth behind the lies, unearth the facts and piece together the clues as to a possible connection between the two deaths. This author hasn’t shied away from darker, sordid or unscrupulous aspects of humanity and relationships in her previous novels, and neither does she here; as well as murder, there are affairs, sexual encounters, there is jealousy, desire and greed.
The novel follows the investigation as it progresses, through witness statements, interviews with witnesses and suspects, chasing up leads. What I found interesting and innovative here is that, as well as the narrative being divided up into the six days of the investigation, and within that the down to the hours and minutes of the day, witness statements, emails, telephone calls and text messages, reports and other items are also presented here within the text using different layouts/fonts and using accurate terminology, so that as I read, it felt like the information before me was very immediate and real, and that I was thoroughly involved in this story as it unfolded.
The author presents an authentic depiction of a murder investigation room, and in particular, through the character of Jason Mercer, she highlights the role of the police intelligence analyst – a role that she herself has held in her working life – in compiling reports and charts and presenting information that can be key to finding the answers in a case like this.
As well as the police procedural elements of the tale, the story also moves between the activities of the main characters within the village who were connected to or involved with those deceased, so gradually building up a fuller picture for the reader of how everything fits together. Nothing is revealed too quickly, the intrigue is sustained so that I wanted to know just a little more about each of them in order to make my mind up as to whose loss and grief was genuine, and who was hiding something. There is development of main character DCI Louisa Smith beyond her workplace, too, though her relationships do tend to involve work colleagues. I believe that this is the start of a series, so it will be interesting to see how she develops over future novels.
Under a Silent Moon is an intricate, intelligent, well-paced crime story that kept me guessing; it was great to see Elizabeth Haynes’ take on a police procedural style novel. The author was successful in making me suspicious of a fair few of the characters from the way her story is weaved, though there are clues and pointers towards what is in fact the right track (easy for me to say looking back having finished the book and discovered the outcome though I suppose!)
An engrossing page-turner that captures human strengths, desires and weaknesses vividly; if you’re like me, you’ll want to sit back, jump in, and not leave your seat until the end! 4.5 stars(less)
Joey Driscol went to Australia to make a new life for himself and his wife Shauna, trying to leave behind their problems in their homeland of Ireland....moreJoey Driscol went to Australia to make a new life for himself and his wife Shauna, trying to leave behind their problems in their homeland of Ireland. They've got a lovely young son now, Marti. However, we soon discover that their life is far from joyful and they are both still weighed down in their own ways by the memories and events in the past, with little communication between them, the happiness all but gone from their relationship. This uneasy situation culminates in Shauna taking Marti away one day, leaving Joey without the best thing in his life, his son. When he discovers where they have gone - back to Ireland - it's an enormous challenge for him to return there and meet again the family he hasn't seen for years, but one he has to face if he is going to see Marti and Shauna again.
This was a compelling, at times very sad story that is full of raw emotion, difficult relationships, fierce love and the highs and lows of life. The author writes movingly about what matters in life, and about how people can carry hurt from the past with them for many years without really facing it, trying to protect themselves and paper over the cracks but becoming susceptible to pain and depression as the worries and ghosts persist inside. The depth of love Joey feels for his dear son Marti, and the strain of having to revisit the past, is strongly evoked, and I felt for them all as I read. The characters were very well drawn and came powerfully to life, most of all Joey and Marti, and also Shauna who is battling the Black Dog. I think I would have liked to have known even more about her; having said that I felt that the focus of the story was right, with Joey and Marti's experiences foremost, and Shauna's thoughts seen through extracts from her diary, read by Joey. We learn of how each of them feels about, and views, the situation, the contrast in their perceptions, and the experiences of all three of them are important to the story. I could feel the awful pain when Joey realised Marti had gone and what he must do, and I could feel the anxiety and confusion as Marti tried to get to grips with his new surroundings in Ireland. I felt I knew Joey most of all though, the things that brought him immense happiness and the things that were a source of great sadness.
I became involved in the book and willed things to go well for them, for this little family of three. The sense of place in both settings of Australia and Ireland felt real to me, and the use of vernacular language at times added to the authenticity of the characters. There is an element of mystery to the tale too; what happened in the past and what will happen in the future?
His Father's Son is beautifully written; a thoughtful and poignant read with an immense honesty about the writing. I felt the author wrote with a deep understanding of individuals and of family relationships and the story held many truths about how dark times in the past can haunt us and threaten our present, and the strength it requires in order to face that past. Despite the intense, emotional nature of the story overall, there are light touches too and there is humour and innocence. A powerful, moving book.(less)
Although the fourth book in the series (as I understand it) of crime novels by Nele Neuhaus, featuring Detective Superintendent Oliver von Bodenstein...moreAlthough the fourth book in the series (as I understand it) of crime novels by Nele Neuhaus, featuring Detective Superintendent Oliver von Bodenstein and Detective Inspector Pia Kirchhoff of the Division of Violent Crimes at the Regional Criminal Unit in Hofheim, this is in fact the first book in that series to be translated into English.
The story is set in the small village of Altenhain, near Frankfurt in Germany, and features an intriguing scenario. We meet Tobias Sartorius as he is released from prison, having served over ten years for the murder of his girlfriend Stefanie – the Snow White of the book’s title – and his friend Laura. His conviction, when he was just twenty-years-old, was brought about due to circumstantial evidence – the two girls’ bodies have never been found. Needless to say, when Tobias returns to his hometown, he doesn't meet with a very warm welcome, plus he finds his parents have separated, his father is a broken man, and Tobias can see little future for himself now.
His return causes a strong reaction and reminds many people in the village of a past that many of them would rather not think about, and brings things to the surface that they would have preferred to keep concealed. As tensions rise, and violent attacks are made on Tobias and his family, detectives Kirchhoff and von Bodenstein are called in to look into the events and keep watch over this unsettled village that has had its equilibrium severely rattled. The more the detectives, in particular Kirchhoff, learn about the place and the past, the more they start to realise that there is a lot about the murders eleven years ago of Snow White and Laura that is still unknown. But the villagers quickly close ranks and it’s clear they won’t give up their dark secrets without a fight, and things go from bad to worse when another young woman goes missing.
I really enjoyed escaping into this mystery story. I could sense the suspicion and intrigue brewing within the small village and I was gripped as the secrets were uncovered and the surprising and shocking revelations came out throughout the tale. There is an intriguing and varied cast of characters, including Amelie, a newcomer to the village from Berlin, and I grew to care about some of them and feel for the innocent victims of the wrongs that had been and were still being perpetrated. Nele Neuhaus conveys the sadness and pain still suffered by those affected by the deaths years ago. As I read, I began to question what had happened in the past, and I had my suspicions as to who was hiding something; I think there are clues along the way that can be picked up on, though I’d be surprised if anyone could figure it all out. For me this wasn’t one of those crime novels that I absolutely raced through very fast, it was a little slower, but I don’t mean that in a particularly negative way, only that there was more to think about and contemplate with the many characters and strands to the well-plotted tale, and it kept me engrossed and guessing throughout.
We have some short sections that delve into the background and home lives of both of the two lead detectives, too, with a headache for Kirchoff regarding her house, and with a serious shock for von Bodenstein with regards to his personal life. In a way I wanted to stay with the main storyline, but the diversions were never too long and they add colour and insight into the way the pair behave professionally. In respect of the personal lives of the detectives, it’s a bit of a shame that we have the fourth book in the series translated first, but this is what seems to happen from time to time with translated fiction.
Nele Neuhaus initially self-published her novels, and now is traditionally published. I enjoy reading fiction in translation, and in particular that set in Germany. I’ve read several reviews of this novel and noted that many UK reviewers have commented on the US English of this translated version. I can see their point; at times I was a little unsure about some of the ways things had been rendered, but if it were a choice of a US English translation or none at all, I’ll still take this one. After reading and enjoying this one, I would definitely read more and I certainly hope others in the series will be translated; otherwise I might have to follow my husband’s suggestion and try reading another of the books in the original German. It’s nice to see this translated novel on the Richard and Judy 2013 book club list.(less)
Quite amazing how this family kept going and especially the little girl's life and her perseverance, and lovely to read the section at the end by the...moreQuite amazing how this family kept going and especially the little girl's life and her perseverance, and lovely to read the section at the end by the author herself telling how this was based on her very own experiences. (less)