Maggie O’Farrell is not one to sit on her laurels nor is she one of those authors who stick to tried and tested formulas because they worked in the paMaggie O’Farrell is not one to sit on her laurels nor is she one of those authors who stick to tried and tested formulas because they worked in the past. Open a new Maggie O’Farrell and you will only be assured of one thing, this lady can write beautifully and engagingly but she’s full of surprises.
One of my all-time favourite songs is This Must Be the Place, that absolute gem of a love song by Talking Heads with searingly simple lyrics,
“Out of all those kinds of people You got a face with a view I’m just an animal looking for a home and, Share the same space for a minute or two And you love me till my heart stops Love me till I’m dead”
It’s about love and finding home with another person and maybe it’s right in front of you and you can’t see it. I don’t even know if this novel has any connection with David Byrne’s lyrics but Maggie O’Farrell’s prose just reaches inside my chest and reproduces the same heartrending effect. Daniel O’Sullivan is an expert linguist, working with language every day, but he just can’t find the right words to communicate his feelings to those he loves.
The author takes us on a journey across oceans and through the experiences of many different characters before Daniel reaches any kind of conclusion…if he ever does! If you don’t have the energy or inclination to focus on multiple characters and time frames then this might not be for you. The narrative requires quite a bit of focus and concentration but if you get on board you’ll have the ride of your life!
A few years ago, I introduced my book group members to Maggie O’Farrell’s writing. Suffice to say, they’re chomping at the bit to get their teeth into this one. Highly recommended. - See more at: http://www.lovelytreez.com/?p=879&......more
I've just finished this and hope I will sleep tonight. I will post a more considered review tomorrow but suffice to say, this is crime writing at itsI've just finished this and hope I will sleep tonight. I will post a more considered review tomorrow but suffice to say, this is crime writing at its very best. ...more
I was so engrossed by this novel that I read it in the space of two days. It's an odd book as it defies categorisation, part literary thriller, part pI was so engrossed by this novel that I read it in the space of two days. It's an odd book as it defies categorisation, part literary thriller, part psychological drama, part family saga, part ghost story - indeed, a story of many parts.
The plot is quite straightforward with a young mother murdered, her young daughter left unscathed and later discovered by her lecturer husband who ends up being the prime suspect. Three months beforehand, George and Catherine Clare moved to an old dairy farm in upstate New York. It's a beautiful house but it carries the history of previous occupants and their tragic demise with Catherine being the most sensitive to the mood of their new abode. George is good looking, charismatic and confident but there's just something not right about him, a penchant for cruelty, a lack of empathy. We see the Clare family trying to settle into their new life, meeting the locals but there's such an air of sadness about Catherine who feels she has settled for less than she deserves.
The narrative leaps about a lot, from past to present, from one character to another, which could be offputting to some readers but it kept me on my toes and piqued my interest. Also, there are no quotation marks which could again be irritating to some but I found it helped the flow of the writing. The characters are realistic and fully formed with a range of flaws and the author excels at showing the dynamics of relationships and the underlying secrets and lies of small town life.
Having read this, I am keen to explore more of Elizabeth Brundage's writing especially "The Doctor's Wife" which seems to also be a bit of a marmite book....more
Spanning almost 95 years, The House at the Edge of the Night is a vivid, absorbing family saga with the emphasis on great storytelling. Indeed, one ofSpanning almost 95 years, The House at the Edge of the Night is a vivid, absorbing family saga with the emphasis on great storytelling. Indeed, one of the main characters is described as a collector of stories and there are frequent references to and extracts from Italo Calvino's wonderful collection of Italian folktales so you sense the author's respect for storytelling tradition.
This is the story of four generations of the Esposito family as well as the stories of their friends and neighbours on the remote island of Castellmare, off the coast of Sicily. There is a great warmth to the writing and you feel fully engaged by the characters, from the convivial local priest, Father Ignazio to the supercilious Conte to the blind widow, Gesuina. Even though Castellmare is physically isolated from the mainland it cannot indefinitely prevent the outside world from impinging on their daily lives - war, technology and the banking crisis all take their toll.
I found it very difficult to tear myself away from this compelling story of island life and I read it in a couple of sittings. If you enjoyed Captain Corelli's Mandolin or The Island, you will be charmed by this epic tale of stoical folk. Highly recommended....more
The Finding of Martha Lost is a glorious, glittering kaleidoscope of a novel with vivid, magical characters popping into view with each turn of the paThe Finding of Martha Lost is a glorious, glittering kaleidoscope of a novel with vivid, magical characters popping into view with each turn of the page. In this tale of objects, feelings and relationships lost and found, there is the most beautiful backdrop of characters who wouldn’t look out of place in the Commedia dell’Arte with Martha Lost making an excellent Columbine/Pierrette or perhaps, in more modern times a scatty Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday.
So, where is the exotic setting for all this magical mayhem – why, Lime Street Station, Liverpool of course! Under the grime and the soot, there’s a world of humour and whimsy but not without its undercurrent of sadness. Martha’s Mother with a most definite capital M, ensures that Martha remains tied to the station, like the Liver Birds chained to the Royal Liver Building. Caroline Wallace’s novel is a veritable smorgasbord with lots to delight the reader – The Beatles, a Roman Soldier on the 17.37 from Chester, lemon drizzle cake, the Heatwave of 1976 and last but not least Kevin Keegan who may have tugged on my heartstrings in the mid 70s with his curly locks…
I like to conclude reviews by stating similarities between the book in question and others but Caroline Wallace’s novels defy categorisation. In the immortal words of Dana, this really is “all kinds of everything”. ...more
Aimed at young readers aged 14 and over, this new novel from Martyn Bedford is less high-octane thriller and more a sensitively written, contemplativeAimed at young readers aged 14 and over, this new novel from Martyn Bedford is less high-octane thriller and more a sensitively written, contemplative account of the trials and tribulations of teenage life.
Gloria is sick and tired of her mundane life, each day blending into the other but along comes Uman, this exotic creature whose clothes, vocabulary and general demeanour are unlike anything she’s experienced before. He’s a breath of fresh air, no, make that a hurricane and Gloria lets herself get swept away without any thought of the consequences.
This novel makes a refreshing change from all the “noisier” YA fiction currently on the market. It is a clever, compelling story with fully realised characters who don’t have to wield a weapon or possess super powers in order to engage the reader. The author skilfully recreates the uncertainties and angst of teenage years, that limbo between childhood and adulthood.
Yes, it’s a slow burner but stick with it and you’ll appreciate its warmth and emotional intelligence.
My thanks to Helen at Walker Books for providing me with a review copy of this novel.
About the Author Martyn Bedford has written three YA novels, the first of which, Flip, was shortlisted for the Costa Children’s Book Award. He has also written five novels for adult. Read more about the author at – www.martynbedford.com -
In her latest novel, Tracy Chevalier returns to Ohio, the setting of The Last Runaway, except this story is not about quilts but trees, from the humbl In her latest novel, Tracy Chevalier returns to Ohio, the setting of The Last Runaway, except this story is not about quilts but trees, from the humble apple tree to the majestic sequoia.
The story begins in 1838, with Sadie and James Goodenough literally stuck in the mud in the Black Swamp, Ohio where they hope to stake their claim by growing an apple orchard. It is a truly bleak, inhospitable environment with bitter winters and the summer swamp fever ruthlessly claiming so many lives year in year out.
James and Sadie are passionate pioneers but unfortunately their passions collide with devastating consequences – James with his devotion to his beloved sweet apples and Sadie with her lust for applejack, the strong liquor made from the inedible “spitter” apples.
As well as this desolate Ohioan setting, we experience the excitement and wonder of Gold Rush California when, Robert, the Goodenoughs’ youngest son heads West but don’t expect a sudden reversal of fortune for the Goodenough offspring! This is a story about family, sacrifice, determination and the need to set down roots. There aren’t a lot of laughs but then the pioneers didn’t have an easy time of it.
As in other Chevalier novels, there’s an impressive amount of research with the inclusion of real-life historical figures and wonderful attention to detail. The characters are flawed and not very likeable but all the more compelling as a result.
Yes, this is a grim tale but amid the doom and gloom there is the tiniest glimmer of hope – a sense that those sequoia seedlings might take root and begin anew.
My thanks to Penguin Viking and Net Galley for providing a digital copy of this novel for review purposes. -
Whilst this book is aimed at young folk (7-14) with its Wimpy Kid/graphic novel style, I think it would be extremely useful for people of all ages asWhilst this book is aimed at young folk (7-14) with its Wimpy Kid/graphic novel style, I think it would be extremely useful for people of all ages as it contains easily accessible information about the effects of all types of dementia.
You don’t even have to have a relative with dementia as there will be someone in your neighbourhood with the condition and this book has a wealth of tips and advice which could really enhance the lives of those affected by dementia. Brie, Fred, Sarah and Sam give honest accounts of what life is like for their grandparents, anecdotes which are sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreaking.
There seems to be a lot of stigma attached to dementia, just like there was/still is with cancer and depression. Any book which acts as a springboard for discussion can only be a positive move forward and it is often the case that young people are more open and less inhibited in their views than adults.
The Dementia Diaries should be in every school library. With life expectancy increasing, more and more children will experience dementia within their family circle and it really is about time we stopped considering it as something shameful to be swept under the carpet, “out of the mouth of babes” etc…. Highly recommended.
I can't believe how quickly I managed to read this. I was hooked from the early pages. An extraordinary story about ordinary folk, none of whom are alI can't believe how quickly I managed to read this. I was hooked from the early pages. An extraordinary story about ordinary folk, none of whom are all that likeable but they're all the more engaging by dint of their human failings. An extremely impressive debut and an epic tale of one family's struggle to live, love and be loved. ...more
An interesting debut novel which packs a lot into its 217 pages, Look At Me is narrated by 29 year old Lizzy, an out of work actress who lives with he An interesting debut novel which packs a lot into its 217 pages, Look At Me is narrated by 29 year old Lizzy, an out of work actress who lives with her father Julian and brother Ig in their very nice middle class home in North London. Two years have passed since the death of Julian's wife, Margaret and Lizzy is at a loose end, struggling to fill her days with anything meaningful when along comes an excellent distraction in the shape of Eunice, Julian's 23 year old love child whose existence he chose to keep from Ig and Lizzy. Unfortunately, Eunice is more tsunami than breath of fresh air.
This is a quirky little book, quite theatrical both in tone and structure with echoes of Abigail's Party and its middle class woes. If you're looking for an in-depth analysis of grief, bereavement and family dynamics, you may look elsewhere but as an entertaining, thought provoking comedy of manners with a hint of Single White Female, it works very well....more
“There are decent people and then there are the weird ones, the ones who don't belong. The ones who cause the rest of us problems.”
In other words, “go“There are decent people and then there are the weird ones, the ones who don't belong. The ones who cause the rest of us problems.”
In other words, “goats and sheep”. The goats are just that little bit different, they have something to hide, they don't quite belong. During the long hot summer of 1976, the residents of “The Avenue” consider themselves “alpha-sheep” but they all have something to hide. How better to deflect attention from their own failings then than to focus on a scapegoat, the one resident who stands out as being different.
Part mystery, part coming of age story, The Trouble with Goats and Sheep completely enthralled me over the past few days. The trouble with this remarkable debut is that you're torn between gobbling up the pages in a book binge or eking it out, chapter by chapter, to prolong the pleasure of the prose. The author, Joanna Cannon, has had an eventful life, leaving school at 15 with one “O” Level working in a wide range of jobs to eventually return to education in her 30s, becoming a doctor specialising in psychiatry. This breadth of experience is reflected in the vivid panoply of characters inhabiting “The Avenue”. It really is a tour de force.
Everything kicks off whenever Margaret Creasy disappears on a Monday, bin day. Our 10 year old narrator, Grace and her friend Tilly are at a loose end so they decide to fill up the long summer days with a quest to find God and perhaps discover Mrs Creasy in the process. Their mission takes them on a long trek, in and out of most of the houses on “The Avenue” with most of the residents spilling their secrets en route. Grace and Tilly are such an engaging duo, getting straight to the point, the way children do with a searing honesty which is lacking in most of their neighbours.
The writing is superb, deceptively simple and natural but always beautiful. You feel like you're transported back to the 70s with the Angel Delight, Kays Catalogue and my personal favourite and cause of multiple fillings, Sherbet Fountain. However, the themes are timeless, we all want to fit in but maybe it's more important to look out for those struggling on the periphery. Indeed there's quite possibly a bit of goat in all of us.
This is a fabulous debut novel and one which I will be recommending to anyone who enjoys a well written story with heart and warmth in every word. ...more
Janet Ellis' debut novel is a bawdy coming of age tale set in Georgian London. Our protagonist, Anne Jaccob, is the eldest daughter of a middle-classJanet Ellis' debut novel is a bawdy coming of age tale set in Georgian London. Our protagonist, Anne Jaccob, is the eldest daughter of a middle-class family, whose boorish father seems intent on marrying her off to the wealthiest suitor. Far removed from Jane Austen's world of rural gentility, Anne hopes to flee her father's tyranny by seeking romance with Fub, the butcher's boy. Thus she enters the dark and violent underbelly of Georgian London with all its sights and smells being vividly presented to the reader.
Anne is a compelling character with both attractive and repellent qualities. You feel sympathy for her situation and admiration for her determination to control her own destiny but she could do with a modicum of self-restraint at times! The male characters are mere satellites in her orbit, ruled by their desire for sex and money.
I thoroughly enjoyed this bawdy romp through Georgian London, especially the last third of the novel where the pace really picked up. It reminded me of Sarah Waters' Fingersmith and Emma Donoghue's Slammerkin, no mean feat for a debut novel. I believe that the novel was originally submitted to potential publishers under a pseudonym, an encouraging fact as Ms Ellis' celebrity status was irrelevant. Two Roads have signed her for a two-book deal and this debut has whet my appetite for seconds....more
I know Flavia isn't everyone's cup of tea but I am a dedicated fan so this was like sinking into your favourite armchair or hugging a long lost chum.I know Flavia isn't everyone's cup of tea but I am a dedicated fan so this was like sinking into your favourite armchair or hugging a long lost chum. Tally ho, off to acquire the next in the series. Great comfort reading to light up the dark days before Christmas. ...more