I thought that a book about a dog was going to be too sickly and sentimental for me, but found that I was sucked into the story, and became rather fonI thought that a book about a dog was going to be too sickly and sentimental for me, but found that I was sucked into the story, and became rather fond of Marley, and more than a little touched by his delicine and death....more
I hated and loved this book in equal measure. I loved the parts of the book where Sara is treated well, but hated the parts where she is treated badlyI hated and loved this book in equal measure. I loved the parts of the book where Sara is treated well, but hated the parts where she is treated badly. The unfairness of it burned me. The only measure of how well Sara is treated is the wealth, or lack of it, of her father. When her father dies, a time when she needs friends and compassion, none is forthcoming to her, simply because she has no money.
I know people are like that, that is what makes the book so unbearably sad, I just do not know how they can be....more
This little novel is a very satisfying read - the closest thing I have ever read to a modern fairy tale. All of the ends tie up, and the backstory isThis little novel is a very satisfying read - the closest thing I have ever read to a modern fairy tale. All of the ends tie up, and the backstory is as entertaining as the main story. There is nothing to beat the good feeling that floods a reader after a story as inspirational as this either. My one gripe is the character of the Warden, who was created by Dodi Smith originally - yes, it is Cruella De Ville, and I felt that making her a little more credible would have fitted in better with the story.
Precis: The plot is quite convoluted, and hard to explain without giving the wonderful ending away, but here goes. Stanley is a lad whose family is blighted with bad luck believed to be beause an ancestor renaged on a promise. He ends up in a penal camp for a crime he did not commit, where the warden has the boys dig many holes each and every day. You also read about Stanley's ancestor, and how he ended up renaging on a promise, and you read about "Kissin' Kate Barlow" who became an outlaw after her village, led by the warden's ancestors, killed her beloved as she was white and he black.
**spoiler alert** Precis: A biographer is asked to meet an elderly relusive novelist to write her biography. Secrets emerge!
I bought this book from a**spoiler alert** Precis: A biographer is asked to meet an elderly relusive novelist to write her biography. Secrets emerge!
I bought this book from a car boot, wondering if it was one I had seen reviewed positively in the Telegraph Saturday review, and fell in love with it from the first chapter. And then Vida Winter entered the story, and, for me, the magic died.
This book is very positively reviewed on Virtual Bookshelf in all it's various incarnations. One reviewer says that they could never get on with Jayne Eyre, or Gothic books of that age, but making the genre contemporary had really hooked them. I had the opposite feeling.
I can cope with the unreality of this genre in an old book, as I can believe that back in that day it was possible for wealthy people to hide mad first wives up in the attic, and live with everyone around them unaware that they are married (Who's Who was not first published until 1849 after all, two years after Jayne Eyre was published). I can accept those stories as honest. But I find it difficult to accept this story, even though it is not entirely clear when it is set.
The book includes few clues to its time line - the two wars that pressed themselves on every life last century are not mentioned at all. The clues are few. The story begins in the present, and then recounts the past.
In the present tense of the book the clues as to time include: mobile phones, televisions and computers are not mentioned; electricity is commonplace (including mini fridges and kettles in guest bedrooms); indoor toilets and en-suites exist; a camera used in the story contains film that must be sent off to be developed. A heavy snow brings telephone wires down for days. This suggests the story is set in the 80s at the earliest, although possibly this could stretch back slightly into the 70s. And then Margaret drinks cocoa.
Cocoa is an old fashioned drink, but Margaret makes it armed with a kettle. This means it cannot be cocoa as I buy it for baking, the cocoa my mother mixed with milk and sugar in a saucepan to make my bedtime drink, the cocoa I once tried to make like coffee with boiling water from the kettle, and had to pour the resulting hot water and mud mix away. This cocoa Margaret drinks in her room must be instant hot chocolate, a fairly modern invention in the UK. I doubt that instant hot chocolate was available in the 70s, so think that the current part of the book could be set any time on from the 80s. Of course there are people today who do not use computers, tvs, digital cameras, mobiles etc, although it would be unusual to find three of them in the same house. Even so, the current part of the book could, just possibly, be modern.
Margaret guesses Vida Winter's age to be between 73 and 80. So she was born sometime between 1900 and 1920, somewhere in that period between the second Boer war (ending 1902) and WW1 (from 1914). My great-grandmother was born in 1901, so this era does not seem so far removed to me, and I struggle to suspend disbelief about some of the stories told. For instance, Charlie Angelfield was supposedly conducting multiple violent rapes around his area, with no attempt to disguise his identity, a year or so before Vida's birth. You would expect that in that time there would be some immediate repercussions from that.
Margaret is a puzzle. I could not accept that she was a published biographer. She asks Vida for her birth name and place to prove Vida's identity, but waves away the reluctant offer of a date of birth reasoning that she will not need it. However she then does not have a clue how to go about getting this proof, and never does anything with the information. Later she believes that she has her proof through a different method entirely. She also does not know how to begin to trace a person you want to find, though other people (such as the village doctor) manage it without a problem, and she tackles writing the biography by simply noting down Vida's words exactly as she is told them. Although I did like Margaret, her passivity, her ignorance, her dependence on her father and his friends and other people she met to help her out, all that irritated me. Margaret also had the annoying habit of making sudden intuitive leaps of guesswork, based on very little evidence, which she treated as absolute fact, and was often proved right.
Vida is a caricature of a dictatorial, secretive novelist. I did not believe in her, and did not belive the way she acted. Dying, desperate to relieve herself of her story, would she really withold vital information until the last possible moment? An authoress herself, with her whole lifetime to write her story down, why would she employ someone else to do it? Of course not believing in Vida doesn't really hurt the story - it turns out that the story Vida is telling is not her biography at all, but the biography of another, in which she barely existed. Her story is barely outlined.
A lot of the people in the book are caricatures. The gentle giant, the quietly loyal housekeeper who keeps the family secrets (two of them), the honest hard working gardener (two of them too), the sweet playful children (two), the (two) mentally affected children of incest (and their two mad pain loving parents), the bookish loving father, the distant mother (two of them as well). All this kept me from sinking into the story, from suspending my disbelief, much as I liked the writing with which it was told, and so I was ahead of the plot in this book, way ahead.
To really accept this story you have to accept that twins are irretrievably linked - and as I grew up with a set of twins who were nothing alike to each other, and viciously hated each other, though those feelings have softened into indifference as thay have aged, I had a hard time believing that there is any such marked link.
Having said that, I really enjoyed the style of the writing, the turns of phrase, the descriptions. I hope Setterfield writes more. Something other than a contemporary Gothic next time please. ...more
**spoiler alert** I read "Black Dogs" years ago, and really disliked it. Nothing to do with the writing, and lots to do with the ugly story. I didn't**spoiler alert** I read "Black Dogs" years ago, and really disliked it. Nothing to do with the writing, and lots to do with the ugly story. I didn't want to read anything by McEwan again, and so I resisted reading Attonement for a while, despite the hype, despite the shortlisting for the Booker prize.
But I am very glad that I did read it, as I enjoyed it immensely. I found myself so caught up in the story that I spent the next few days after reading the book catching myself trying to work out which parts of Briony's story were fact, and which parts were fiction, forgetting that Briony herself was fiction.
The story is a tale of an event that occured in Briony's childhood and it's long term affects on her, and her family; the event was when she identified her sister's boyfriend as the man who raped a visiting cousin.
It's only at the end of the book that readers discover that what they have been reading is purportedly the manuscript penned by Briony. So, suddenly the book, which seemed to be written in several viewpoints, is all entirely from one viewpoint, and that viewpoint is from a narrator who cannot know everything that they have described, and admits that they might have changed facts. I found this twist very compelling.
I can forgive McEwan "Black Dogs", now that I have read attonement. ...more
This is a cult graphic novel, recently turned into a film. The story is about superheroes - although in this book, and with one massive exception, theThis is a cult graphic novel, recently turned into a film. The story is about superheroes - although in this book, and with one massive exception, the superheroes have no powers, just gadgets, and are all too human. A law has been passed banning these people from their chosen work of unofficial law enfocement, but someone seems to be killing them off.