Surrounded by Water* is an interesting debut but it's also one that stays with you thanks to Stephanie Butland's fine writing. She's writes beautifullSurrounded by Water* is an interesting debut but it's also one that stays with you thanks to Stephanie Butland's fine writing. She's writes beautifully, delicately about grief, and deals with it compassionately, but she's also a cracking storyteller. And here she shows us that no matter what we may believe, even those closest to us can have sides to them we never knew about, secrets they've been hiding which may only come out once they're no longer around to protect us or any others affected by them. Surrounded by Water* is an impressive debut novel and I'm looking forward to what Stephanie Butland writes next.
*Published as a paperback under the title Letters to my Husband....more
Covering the history of Athens from ancient to modern times in a single book is hugely ambitious but Robin Waterfield manages it surprisingly well. AlCovering the history of Athens from ancient to modern times in a single book is hugely ambitious but Robin Waterfield manages it surprisingly well. Although he spends more time and focus on Athens' ancient history, this nevertheless feels like the right balance, especially as there were periods in Athens' more recent history about which either little is known or when other cities, such as Constantinople, took precedence in the area. It's a fascinating read and a great overview from which you can go off and read more about the specific period(s) in which you're interested. ...more
A thoroughly absorbing, often disturbing but also surprisingly uplifting book, looking at the lives of some of those who lived in the former GDR.
AnnaA thoroughly absorbing, often disturbing but also surprisingly uplifting book, looking at the lives of some of those who lived in the former GDR.
Anna Funder interviewed former Stasi employees and informers and those ordinary citizens whose lives were so fundamentally altered by this most sinister tool of the East German government. It makes for scarily compelling reading, especially when you look at the dates and remind yourself how recently this all happened. It's frightening to read what humans were capable of doing to their fellow human beings and how some ex-Stasi men not only see what they did as justifiable but, more worryingly, also long for a return to that life under their former ideology. It's in the stories of the seemingly small acts of resistance by ordinary men and women that the book really comes into its own; acts which put your own day-to-day worries and troubles into true perspective and also remind you how strong, brave, and selfless, human beings can be when they are faced with what look like impossible choices.
This is an important (hi)story, impeccably told by Anna Funder....more
This is my second Wolf Haas book and I enjoyed this one more than Komm, süßer Tod. (This might be partly due to me now being more used to Haas' writinThis is my second Wolf Haas book and I enjoyed this one more than Komm, süßer Tod. (This might be partly due to me now being more used to Haas' writing style and humour.) The action in this takes place in and around one of Austria's largest restaurants and grill. Haas' private detective, Simon Brenner, is called in to investigate when human bones are found mixed in with the chicken bones that are due to be ground up and disposed of. Whose are the bones and who is the murderer (or Bone Man)? Great story, good characters and Brenner is growing on me as a detective. I'll probably read more in the series now. ...more
What starts off as an interesting tale of computer hacking and industrial sabotage segues into one about more sinister wrongdoing and then becomes a sWhat starts off as an interesting tale of computer hacking and industrial sabotage segues into one about more sinister wrongdoing and then becomes a story of a man being forced to confront his past as a public prosecutor under the Third Reich. The central character of Gerhard Selb, now a private detective, is engaging, which is a good thing as we do get to look at his life in great detail.
The chapters are short which makes for a page-turning read but I did find it hard to keep track of who everyone was - I felt there were too many characters and sometimes chapters between them being introduced before they popped up again. But, on the whole, it was a good story but nowhere near as compelling as The Reader.
This is one of the set books on the German literature course I'm taking. We're reading crime fiction this year, which is not something that I've read a great deal of since my teens....more
Telling the story of a man nearing the end of a successful but, let's say, morally-questionable career, this novel is a beautifully-written insight inTelling the story of a man nearing the end of a successful but, let's say, morally-questionable career, this novel is a beautifully-written insight into his philosophy and thinking, and, indeed, his whole way of life. It is poetic as well as matter-of-fact in its telling, not simply one man looking back on his life but also the story of a man falling in love with this part of Italy, as much as the young woman he meets there.
I never thought I'd thank George Clooney for putting me on to a great book but he kind of did with this one - if only in a very roundabout way! When I heard that filming for The American (the title of the adaptation), in which Clooney plays the main character, was taking place in the earthquake hit region of Abruzzo, in central Italy, it piqued my interest and I sought out a copy of the book. And I am so glad I did - otherwise I might never have read it and I would hate to have missed out on such stunning writing. This is the first Martin Booth novel that I've read but it certainly won't be the last one. ...more
If, like me, you enjoyed Jonas Jonasson's The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of a Window and Disappeared, it's very likely that you'll enjoy thiIf, like me, you enjoyed Jonas Jonasson's The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of a Window and Disappeared, it's very likely that you'll enjoy this sharply witty story by Finnish writer, Arto Paasilinna.
Disenchanted journalist, Vatanen, is out on a story together with a photo-journalist for the magazine they both work for, when he climbs out of their car after it hits a hare who limps off into the nearby woods. He follows the hare, finds it and never goes back to the car. Which is just as well because his colleague, who was driving the car at the time, has decided he's waited long enough and drives off without him to the next town. Vatanen is tired of his job, his wife, indeed his entire life, so he sets out without knowing where he'll end up on an odyssey around Finland, taking occasional work, meeting the strangest of people and running into the oddest of situations, all in the company of the hare he rescued.
It's a blackly funny, sometimes bemusing, but often comic tale about one man's quest to find the right life for himself when all he knows is that he's walking away from what's become the wrong one. ...more
Switching between 1819 and the heatwave summer of 1976, The Mathematics of Love is a beautifully-written novel, telling the stories of Stephen FairhurSwitching between 1819 and the heatwave summer of 1976, The Mathematics of Love is a beautifully-written novel, telling the stories of Stephen Fairhurst and teenager Anna Ware respectively. The novel is chiefly set in Suffolk and the home of Stephen Fairhurst (which is where Anna has been sent to spend her summer with an uncle in 1976), but some time is also spent in Belgium and Spain when Stephen travels there.
It gets off to a dramatic start with the Peterloo Massacre and I was quickly drawn in by the wonderful writing, the fully-realised characters and their story, or stories. I especially liked how letters were used to reveal Stephen Fairhurst's thoughts and feelings. The writing is incredibly good, so nuanced and richly descriptive that I happily sunk into it, like settling in among a mass of cushions, every time I opened the book. It's an ambitious and fully-realised novel which is deeply satisfying to read. ...more
I read an extract of this for a German course I'm taking but some of the comments made in class by those who'd read the book were so intriguing that II read an extract of this for a German course I'm taking but some of the comments made in class by those who'd read the book were so intriguing that I got hold of a copy and read it cover to cover. I'm glad I did. For one thing, it feeds into an area I'm researching for my own book.
The central character of Rosi Hirte is fascinating. She has been a spinster ever since having been disappointed in love while at university. Now 52, she's about to fall in love with a man she barely knows but attempts to befriend under bizarre circumstances. What follows is a fascinating look at one woman's obsession and the lengths she is willing to go to in order to turn the fantasy life she creates for herself into reality. It's chilling at times, especially when Rosi applies her matter-of-fact view of the world to the situations she finds herself in. This is when she appears at her most cold and calculating, when in fact she's simply become so blinkered to the end goal that everything else she does along the way pales into insignificance. It's an interesting look at how someone can become so distanced from or ignored/misunderstood by society that they react by creating their own version of the world. ...more
I have to confess that what drew me to this book originally was not that it was one of Elizabeth Gaskell's novels, even though I've read and enjoyedCrI have to confess that what drew me to this book originally was not that it was one of Elizabeth Gaskell's novels, even though I've read and enjoyedCranford and North and South and have Ruth and Mary Barton on my TBR pile. No. What caught my attention was that this was set in Monkshaven, a fictionalised version of Whitby, which I visited, and fell in love with, for the first time last year. I've been looking for books set in or around the Yorkshire fishing town ever since to keep the flame alive!
I did struggle to get into the book until I was between 50-100 pages in, though, and I think that was down to the dialect used for the dialogue. However, once I got used to this, I was able to read at a better pace and enjoy the book. This story of Sylvia Robson and the two men who love her, Philip Hepburn, a serious and hard-working shop worker and Sylvia's cousin, and the more lively and exciting whaler's specksioneer, Charley Kinraid, is a tragic love triangle that, were it not for its setting in the north-east of England, wouldn't feel out on place in Thomas Hardy's bibliography. If you're a fan of the Brontë sisters' writing, too, then you'll probably enjoy this and I believe Gaskell in part wrote it in response to Charlotte Brontë'sWuthering Heights, after having just finished the biography of her author friend.
The description of the north-east coastal town and surrounding area is wonderful, as are the characters she peoples the landscape with. And these are the ordinary townspeople and those working the land and sea surrounding Monkshaven (or Whitby). This is not a story of the privileged few and all the more interesting for it. It's a fascinating, albeit imagined, look at the society of a northern fishing town at the end of the 18th Century - and the way in which the press gangs (thought necessary to supply men to fight in the Napoleonic Wars) terrorised such places, sometimes with disastrous outcomes.
It's an emotional read but also an interesting one in the way that Gaskell looks at the way that people can misinterpret or misunderstand others (whether wilfully or innocently), even those they profess to know well, and how difficult it is sometimes to read other people; how much events can turn on things critically left unsaid and how long people are prepared to wait for others.
The fact that this is an Oxford World's Classics title means that you also have extensive notes to help with vocabulary and topical and historical references throughout and an Introduction that added to my appreciation of the novel. (I'd recommend, as the Introduction does, that you don't read this until after you've read the novel itself, though, so as to avoid spoilers.)...more