A very imaginative and well written story of the way in which life can change within seconds. It explores issues around mental illness in different guA very imaginative and well written story of the way in which life can change within seconds. It explores issues around mental illness in different guises, the way in which humans manipulate each other, and the loss and rediscovery of identity.
I'm glad I read it. The characters are well written and the looming sense of catastrophe that hangs over most of the book is to a great extent redeemed at the end of it - but not in a facile way.
I was toying between three and four stars but for me it just misses being completely compelling, for reasons I've tried to analyse and can't....more
I really, really wanted to adore this book because the premise is right up my street: a group of pensioners around 80 in Sweden are having a rubbish tI really, really wanted to adore this book because the premise is right up my street: a group of pensioners around 80 in Sweden are having a rubbish time in their retirement home run by a cheapskate, and hear how almost luxurious conditions in Swedish prisons are by comparison, so they decide to commit a crime and get locked up for three square meals a day, a decent bed and some entertainment.
Led by Martha, the Little Old Lady of the title, they break into the retirement home's gym at dead of night and use the equipment to get fit so they can carry out an art heist and other hi jinks.
It's quite funny overall, with a good few moments of genuine slapstick comedy. It has some good insights into the invisibility of growing older, including the hapless policemen reviewing security camera footage to whom it never even occurs that the elderly people right there in front of them could be criminals.
But it's a rambling book with too many sub-plots and characters you never quite get to grips with. It has stilted dialogue (perhaps as a result of being translated from the Swedish), and as a friend put it, could have done with a strict editor to tighten the whole thing up.
We're so short of novels with strong older characters that I had high hopes for this one, and was really quite disappointed....more
I loved this book, and it's great to discover a crime writer new to me, together with her wonderful protagonist Chief Inspector Gamache.
In so far as mI loved this book, and it's great to discover a crime writer new to me, together with her wonderful protagonist Chief Inspector Gamache.
In so far as murder mystery stories can be gentle, in a strange way this one is, holding together the tension as the story unravels in a small Canadian town filled with interesting characters - artists, poets, restauranteurs - with lots of human flaws and strengths. But Gamache is undoubtedly the star of the show.
I did actually guess whodunnit in the first few chapters but this didn't detract at all for me from the enjoyment of the book, partly because I was never 100% sure I was right until the end, and partly because I'm always more interested in the characters and setting of murder mysteries than in the result. (Does anyone else re-read favourite detectives even knowing the answer??)
The climax was both dramatic and unexpectedly funny, and I particularly enjoyed the revision afterwards of one of the key characters in the narrative, about whom we'd had the wrong idea all the way through.
Great writing, and I'm really looking forward to the next in the series....more
I absolutely loved this book, which is the first I've read by Karen Maitland.
Set in the early 1300s, It could be made for me and my interests, exploriI absolutely loved this book, which is the first I've read by Karen Maitland.
Set in the early 1300s, It could be made for me and my interests, exploring as it does issues which include the position of women in life and in religion; alternative, powerful, female communities (the Beguines); the tensions between the corrupt medieval Church and the remnants of Pagan worship and superstition in the English countryside.
Its hero(ines) and villains are not caricatures (although two of the males, the D'Acasters, veer in that direction). Both the main and the supporting characters are beautifully written with all their human flaws and fears.
The book is divided into chapters which are each the thoughts and experiences of one of the characters, so we follow the story through the eyes of five individuals who each bring their own perspective and back story. This works very well because it gives both continuity and immediacy. I also rather liked the marking of time by Saints days rather than dates, with a little vignette of the Saint concerned at the beginning of each section. It adds to the medieval setting. For example:
"December - St Egwin's Day - To prove his innocence of a crime of which he was accused, St Egwin locked his feet in irons and threw the key into the River Avon before walking to Rome. There he bought a fish which he cut open in front of the Pope and inside was the key."
The novel is really well-researched, I felt myself back in the hard, harsh life of medieval Norfolk. The horrors of the witch-burnings are foreshadowed here in the trial by water and condemnation for heresy. It's a graphic reminder (if we need one) that the fears and violence in all of us are only just under the surface in our so-called civilised world.
Not everything is explained and resolved: the book keeps some of its secrets and mysteries, and that's one of the things I enjoyed about it.
Delighted to have found another author I really like, and will be starting another of her books very soon! ...more
I wish I'd read this before knowing Galbraith was really J.K. But then I probably wouldn't have heard of it otherwise. As it was, it meant I had the aI wish I'd read this before knowing Galbraith was really J.K. But then I probably wouldn't have heard of it otherwise. As it was, it meant I had the awareness all through that she was the writer so my reading of the book was not free of preconceptions.
But reading it, I soon forgot that. This is a cracking story, which I swallowed pretty much in one bite. The characters are beautifully described, down to earth, imperfect and fully human. Although some of what was to happen was a little obvious, the "who" in whodunnit and the why did take me by surprise, and the red herrings were beautifully laid out.
I suppose it's difficult not to make some comparisons with Harry, so here are two things that struck me. First was how interesting that a female author chooses again to have a male protagonist (this always surprises me). Second that the lead character, Cormoran Strike, has an intelligent, able, imaginative female to back him up (Hermione grows up?)
I can't wait for the next adventure of Cormoran Strike - I suspect at that point comparisons will drop away.
And I love that someone rich enough to buy Britain (well nearly!) is so much a writer at her core that sitting back and eating chocolates doesn't seem to occur to her....more
Revelle is a very promising first novel by Alison Wiley. I'm sure it won't be her last. The story arc is nicely done, with some unexpected twists andRevelle is a very promising first novel by Alison Wiley. I'm sure it won't be her last. The story arc is nicely done, with some unexpected twists and turns and plenty happening. The characters are extremely well drawn, and Revelle's choices and emotional struggles are both frustrating (at least some of her choices are!) and all too human. One thing I really valued about the novel was the centrality of their spiritual life and church to Revelle and her Oregon friends. I liked the matter-of-factness with which this is incorporated into the story - nothing pious or pretentious about it, but emphasising its importance. Alison's book left me thinking a lot about tribe and place (in the sense of place as "home"), both central themes in Revelle's story....more
OK, this book is about cats, so it will appeal to cat-lovers. And it's about magic, so it will appeal to lovers of fantasy. But I enjoyed it because itOK, this book is about cats, so it will appeal to cat-lovers. And it's about magic, so it will appeal to lovers of fantasy. But I enjoyed it because it's original, well thought-out, funny, dramatic and incredibly imaginative. The black cat Duncan is a descendant of Sagira, a mysterious cat in ancient Egypt who had five magical powers. Feared because of her powers, Sagira's descendants have to hide their specialness from the "purebreds" who are out to rid the world of their kind. Protected by the feral clans and his dearest friend, Duncan gradually learns about his own power, and his capacity for friendship and love. This book is gorgeous, and I can't wait for the next in the trilogy....more
I picked this up for 1.50 in the remainders bin for a bit of fun. It's nonsense, but enjoyable, page-turning nonsense, good for a snowy evening in, thI picked this up for £1.50 in the remainders bin for a bit of fun. It's nonsense, but enjoyable, page-turning nonsense, good for a snowy evening in, then instantly forgettable. I doubt I'll read any more of Becker's stuff - there are many better thriller writers around....more
This book is a long, complicated read but very interesting and original. There are very few books which celebrate the lives, wisdom and power of olderThis book is a long, complicated read but very interesting and original. There are very few books which celebrate the lives, wisdom and power of older women as this one does. Centred around an old people's home in California in the 1980s/90s, and a community of local women who celebrate the ancient religion of the Goddess. The novel discusses issues which are vital for all of us baby boomers: aging, death, freedom of expression and of living, how society treats older people. Imaginative, enjoyable, a little rambling (but that's OK) and magical in several senses of the word....more