My mum always tells me about how hot the summer of my birthday was. And how long that summer lasted. Summer in the UK usually equals a few warm muggyMy mum always tells me about how hot the summer of my birthday was. And how long that summer lasted. Summer in the UK usually equals a few warm muggy days followed by dull warm days, rainy days, and on the rare occasion hailstones. Some readers must wonder why this rare long hot summer in the 70s featured so strongly in this book and I can only imagine the author was usually it to explain why the characters of this novel acted out of character. Basically nothing was normal that summer.
On a suburban street in the West Midlands Mrs Creasey has gone missing and Grace along with her friend Tilly (who has a mysterious illness meaning she wears a sou'wester or cardie even in the heat) decide to investigate the disappearance. They turn to the Vicar to ask for help and he uses the idea of Goats and Sheep to describe the way people behave. There are other characters on the street, all with interesting personalities and, as becomes clear, stories to hide.
As the story develops we see how each individual interacts with the others and it builds to an explanation of Mrs Creasey's disappearance. We see characters change, mature, and develop. I liked the focus on the current story interspersed with look backs to 1967 when events on the street changed things forever. I liked the twist at the end.
I thought it a well written novel; I liked the comments on life in the 1970s, and I think these built up to an interesting portrayal of suburbia.
Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the ARC. ...more
My first W. Somerset Maugham but it won't be my last. Whilst I found this story a bit silly, it was well written and I'm looking forward to reading ThMy first W. Somerset Maugham but it won't be my last. Whilst I found this story a bit silly, it was well written and I'm looking forward to reading The Painted Veil for a group challenge later this year.
Up at the Village is a short book, a novella, and tells the story of a widow who has travelled to Italy to recover from her marriage to a drunken womaniser. She's beautiful, sociable and has friends who own a villa in the Florentine hills where she has lived for the past few months. The story opens with her setting off for dinner in a quaint place on the banks of the Arno. She's due to meet an Italian Princess who is holding a dinner party. At the dinner party is a young man who seems to have a reputation for charming the ladies. Entertaining them is a young Austrian who is a refugee in Italy (the book was published 1941). He plays the fiddle badly but our young widow takes pity on him, despite being left practically penniless (although she's managed to buy a sports car!) herself. She gives him a generous tip. Before the evening is out she had been on a night ride with the ladies man and has had marriage proposed (she also has a 50+ family friend who is keen to marry her and take her to India for him to take on a Viceroy role).
On the way back to the villa out of the shadows pops the refugee. He wants to see her frescos and she agrees. He's overcome with passion for the widow and "violence" (words on the blurb) occurs which sets our widow on a journey of secrets, truths, and questionable passions.
This story is very evocative of the time. Given this story was published in 1941 and reference was made to the Reich, I feel a need to understand a little better how the widow was able to reside in Italy as freely and she did. ...more
More portrait of an individual than (as described) a crime novel, this Man Booker nominee does deliver a good novel but it is a novel where not a lotMore portrait of an individual than (as described) a crime novel, this Man Booker nominee does deliver a good novel but it is a novel where not a lot happens.
Eileen is a twenty something New Englander, working at a boys prison. She lives a home in a ramshackle house with her father. Her mother has died and her father has taken to the drink, more seriously than ever before. Eileen doesn't really like her job and she's friendless, her father is a nightmare to look after, and so when her colleague Rebecca appears on the scene and pays her attention Eileen falls for her charms. And Rebecca persuades Eileen to commit a crime.
The crime takes up about 10 pages at most; the rest of the novel, written in day by day chapters, is really a character analysis. Eileen has issues with her father and issues with her view of her own self. She drinks, doesn't eat very much and seems to spend an inordinate time clearing her bowels (which is discussed in great detail btw).
Despite not a lot happening I thought the novel well written. It was very readable and although I didn't particularly like Eileen I also didn't actively dislike her. She's certainly one mixed up individual and whether this is because of nature or nurture I'm not sure. ...more
I loved this book; didn't want it to end. I was so sucked into Mary & Frank's romance.
Set during the election campaign of Nixon / JFK we meet MaryI loved this book; didn't want it to end. I was so sucked into Mary & Frank's romance.
Set during the election campaign of Nixon / JFK we meet Mary, wife of Charlie, and Frank. Frank is a newspaper reporter and Mary and Charlie are part of the British diplomatic service based in Washington DC.
Mary and Frank meet at a party at Mary and Charlie's house. Charlie is inebriated, and is for most of the book. Mary, on a trip to NYC without Charlie, finds herself in contact with Frank and the rest, as they say, is history. Interspersed with historical references, this is the account of an extramarital affair. It isn't especially graphic in detail; the affair is strongly suggested.
Some reviews suggest it's a slow story but for me it set a good pace and it was one of those books I kept wanting to read and wanting more of. ...more
Interesting reflection on love, sadness, loss and survival during wartime. Well written, although at times I did get lost by the accounts of psychoanaInteresting reflection on love, sadness, loss and survival during wartime. Well written, although at times I did get lost by the accounts of psychoanalysis and found myself quickly reading over those sections. I liked the interconnected stories of the characters, even if the connections were slightly far fetched. The end was sad and shocking / unexpected but I think it was fitting to the story.
I've not read any other books by Faulks as yet but I think I'll change that soon. ...more
When I saw this book listed I thought "ooh a book set under the Aurora Borealis" and having seen the Northern Lights in person I was interested in howWhen I saw this book listed I thought "ooh a book set under the Aurora Borealis" and having seen the Northern Lights in person I was interested in how this act of nature would be weaved into a thriller by a British author. The answer is, it wasn't. The story is set on a private yacht / boat cruising to Norway but there are no real references to the scenery. The story is much more focused on the action and it took a good 60% through the story before it really sped up for my liking.
Laura (call me Lo) Blackstock works for a travel mag and is offered a dream trip on a luxury cruise. Before the trip she is the victim of a crime (and quite why there was this at the beginning I didn't understand - all through the story I presumed some connection would be made...). In a state of unease she boards the boat and schmoozes with the glitterati. All is ok until she gets drunk and heads back to her cabin. She happens to look out of her window when she sees what looks like blood and hears a splash. She then plays detective which isn't necessarily appreciated by all her fellow travellers...
Overall I was slightly disappointed with this book. I'd seen it listed and it got my attention and then when it was nominated and voted for by my book group I was really happy. But I've ended up feeling a bit humph about it. I couldn't connect with Lo (Laura) who was annoying and winey, and it certainly was no Scandinavian crime thriller unfortunately. ...more