This is a beautifully told and illustrated book connected to the closure of the Spanish Riding Academy during the Second World War. In Vienna, with itThis is a beautifully told and illustrated book connected to the closure of the Spanish Riding Academy during the Second World War. In Vienna, with its famous Lipizzaner horses, the Academy was a historical feature (interesting website article here - read up about it, and then go look on YouTube).
This book is fiction, but it is set historically and is a great little adventure....more
What a thoroughly enjoyable detective novel, set both in the present day and in the past (during the Second World War). We move regularly from one setWhat a thoroughly enjoyable detective novel, set both in the present day and in the past (during the Second World War). We move regularly from one setting to the other, with no chapter headings nor even a date, but each time it's quickly obvious where (when) we are with the 'clues' giving me nice little pleasures each time. For example:
A taxi splashed past with a dirt-smudged child sitting on the running board. Outside, on the steps of Kentish Town police station, a gang of teenagers were screaming at each other. Developers had reinvented the future so ruthlessly that the London of his youth had disappeared.
The key characters are interesting, and the scene of a London theatre is fun, with the murders nicely theatrical. I'm eager to read more in this series. ...more
The author gave me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I always admire the huge amount of work that goes into writing a novel, and aThe author gave me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I always admire the huge amount of work that goes into writing a novel, and a historical novel even more so. The bravery and skills of the riders who rode the Pony Express are well known to anyone who has looked at American history, and this book highlights that well. The horses and their care are also well described within the context of the story, so while I'm not a horse person (as it were) I found it interesting. I also enjoyed the descriptions of the countryside which made it visually appealing, and I was fascinated by the hotchpotch of nationalities among the characters. Again, we all know that the white history is because of immigrants from many different European countries, but it's not often this is brought to the fore in a novel that I've read.
I feel, however, that this book could have done with tighter editing. At times the prose is a little 'floral' - simpler vocabulary at those times would have had better impact. The dialogue needs a lot of work - Alix telling Xavier some of her people's history comes over as a mini-lecture; other conversations are frequently stilted or banal. The characterisation of the 'bad guy' doesn't ring true, and the developments connected to him at the end just aren't believable. And lastly, I doubt that anyone in that time period ever talked about 'relationships' - that's a very modern phenomenon.
I don't read romances so can't comment on that, but I'd say it works well for the teen reader. The personal histories explain some of their to-ing and fro-ing, though I did get impatient with them. That's probably a good recommendation for the reality of their romantic relationship difficulties. Overall, I found the book a little long for its genre and content, but was still pleased to have read it....more
What a great premise! This book is set shortly after the time of the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, London, when fossil hunting was all the rage, andWhat a great premise! This book is set shortly after the time of the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, London, when fossil hunting was all the rage, and when there was enormous debate between Christianity and Darwinism. Faith is 15, the daughter of the Reverend Erasmus Sunderly and his wife Myrtle. Faith also has a much younger brother, Howard - several other brothers have died in infancy. The family is moving for Sunderly to take up a position at the Vane Island excavation (Vane appears to be one of the Channel Islands, though I may be mistaken in my geography (for which I can be excused, living on the extreme other side of the world)). And in the very first chapter, Faith overhears her father and uncle talking, and she discovers the family is fleeing from accusations of fraud.
So, there is this great 'scientific and theological debate' setting, there's the place of women (and the terrible frustration for those who would love to study), and then there's murder and intrigue and a touch of the supernatural. I thoroughly enjoyed this book!...more
I've shelved this book under Historical Novels, though it is far from any kind of norm one would expect with that listed as its genre. This book is unI've shelved this book under Historical Novels, though it is far from any kind of norm one would expect with that listed as its genre. This book is undeniably odd. It purports to be the record of the life and research of one Thomas Darwin, 11th child of the famous Charles Darwin and his wife Emma. Thomas is fictional, and therefore his obsession with evolution, most especially with the evolution of inanimate objects (forks ...), and his madness, are also in the mind of this book's author.
Written as a report by a psychiatrist who unearthed information in a mental hospital's records, this book has notes from the presiding psychiatrist at the time of Thomas' 'stay', letters from same psychiatrist, from Charles and Emma, from Thomas.. , snippets from published papers, conclusions and suppositions ... - all footnoted as one would expect in a scholarly report. The author has cobbled together pieces from genuine historical documents along with the Thomas-story, and made a strange but fascinating novel.
While this isn't a book I'd rave about, its very weirdness makes it unforgettable....more
I'm rather ignorant of many things, and Cuba's history is one of them, so it has been fascinating reading this novel. It's set in 1963 when a group ofI'm rather ignorant of many things, and Cuba's history is one of them, so it has been fascinating reading this novel. It's set in 1963 when a group of mostly old women has been evacuated from their homes to escape the devastation of Hurricane Flora. With nothing to do except talk, Maria Sirena finds herself recounting her life story and the tales her mother told her, though the book spends much of its time in the years of the Cuban War of Independence (1895-1898). Mind you, the Independence Movement had its first armed conflict in 1836, so these years were simply the culmination of the struggle. And Maria, born of parents totally committed to independence, knew nothing else.
Not only did this book educate me, but it drew me into the story. I love the writing style - the voice of a storyteller is evoked beautifully, and the memories of being a child and then a young woman (no such thing as separate teenage years back then) are strong and clear. Also, an old woman's regrets are deeply lived through both Maria Sirena and the women she 'confesses' to. This is a powerful story....more
The prose in this sad little novel is quite beautiful. And it seems to me that the author has given an amazing insight into a person's feelings on becThe prose in this sad little novel is quite beautiful. And it seems to me that the author has given an amazing insight into a person's feelings on becoming blind. Especially, of course, the feelings of a rich and well-educated young woman at the beginning of the 19th century.
Based on fact - that Pellegrino Turri invented the (first working) typewriter for his friend the Contessa Carolina Fantoni, who was going blind - this novel is a love story and a story of coping with powerlessness and fear.
We can assume the paternal attitudes of Carolina's parents and fiancé are accurately written as prevalent for the time, though not that they actually occurred in history. Nor do we know that Turri's attitudes were any less so - but that wouldn't have made a good story. I found this snippet particularly striking - Carolina has just knocked into and broken a precious clock, and Pietro thinks she did it deliberately:
"But it was right there," he said, reasoning slowly. Carolina held her hands to each side of her face. "I cannot see my hands," she said. "I cannot see beyond them. It is worse every week." "You cannot see," Pietro repeated. "I told you," she said, begging. "I told you before we married." After a moment, recognition sprang up in his eyes. "But you were joking!" he exclaimed.
I also love the descriptions of her dreams, how they change along with her increasing blindness, and the ways Turri helped her to use her imagination to bring colour back into her mind. Lovely!...more
Detective Sergeant Sean Duffy hadn't intended to become a policeman - he'd done his PhD in Psychology and was heading for a career as an academic, butDetective Sergeant Sean Duffy hadn't intended to become a policeman - he'd done his PhD in Psychology and was heading for a career as an academic, but then things had changed and here he was in Carrickfergus (an outer suburb of Belfast) in the midst of the Riots and hatred of 1981.
There's all the religious and political violence of Northern Ireland, there's a lovely lady pathologist (with her own issues), there's lots of repartee, there's a couple of nasty murders, and all sorts of intrigue. It's narrated by Duffy, a common device in crime investigator novels and one which I enjoy for its immediacy. He's a likable character, and I particularly like his interest in classical music and his knowledge of subjects like Latin and Greek (force-fed onto students of his era).
I also like that I remember what was going on in the world in that time. Though this is, in effect, a historical novel, it simply took me back a few years and into the lives of my contemporaries across the other side of the world. But the descriptions of the time and place are such that readers without that memory will also be taken into the situation and will be able to experience what it was like.
The narrator of this book is a somewhat embittered man in his 30s (early 40s?) whose ex-wife nags and whose boss sends him offshore with very little nThe narrator of this book is a somewhat embittered man in his 30s (early 40s?) whose ex-wife nags and whose boss sends him offshore with very little notice to sort out clients in various places. He's unhappy with pretty much everything. And then his sister in England phones to say that their mother has had a stroke and died. He, of course, flies back 'home' for the funeral, and comes back to New Zealand with a box of old postcards and letters. Expecting nothing, he finds instead that he is drawn into a search for his great-aunt who married a Kiwi soldier after the First World War and then disappeared with him to his home in the cold South Island.
I really enjoyed this book. The pace is slow, but it's a gradual unfolding of a mystery. First he has to find any records of her, then he has to find out why the people at Kinross Flat are so aggressive towards him. The reader travels between Marty (the narrator) in 2011 and a 3rd-person account of the English Julia in 1919. There's also a brief foray into 1961 for links and explanations. Little snippets of Marty's current life experiences intervene every now and then (as things do), which help paint the picture of Marty and his dissatisfaction with life in general. And at the end the reader is hopeful that Marty's discoveries will help him feel a little more connected to his birth family and, who knows, might help him in his relationship with his teenage son.
The blurb on the book says this is Roy's first novel and he has put in a great deal of research and gives excellent descriptions of places and processes. I want to look out for more by this author (though there's a bit of difficulty for me in that right now as there appears to be more than one Goodreads author by that name .....)....more
I wasn't sure for a while if I was going to enjoy this book, but it grew on me until I could hardly put it down. What a fascinating group of characterI wasn't sure for a while if I was going to enjoy this book, but it grew on me until I could hardly put it down. What a fascinating group of characters and what a twisted plot. And a great historical setting.
We begin in Sue's voice. She is a foster daughter of a baby farmer in London and is brought up as a thief. The suave Gentleman comes up with a plan and Sue is sent as maid to a lonely and isolated young woman in the country. Said lonely and isolated young woman will come into a huge inheritance when (if) she marries.
We then switch to her voice. She is Maud, and after spending the first 10 (or so) years of her life living as proxy daughter to all the nurses at a madhouse, she is taken to her uncle's residence and trained to be his secretary.
But wait, there's more!
The book remains told by one or other of these two young women, and gradually the whole story unfolds for the reader, though at quite a different pace for each of them. I loved how I got to like these two not particularly likable characters, and I thoroughly enjoyed the turns in plot....more
I've read other books by this author and enjoyed them so was eager to read this one. Unlike her other work, this is an historical novel set in the earI've read other books by this author and enjoyed them so was eager to read this one. Unlike her other work, this is an historical novel set in the early years of the Berlin Wall. The father and one of the sons got 'caught' on the West side of the Wall, having regularly made trips to the West and back, and the mother with her other son and her daughter are left in the East. With the father already being a person the authorities were suspicious of, the family left behind are even more under observation.
If this was a true historical record I doubt that it would have turned out well. People under observation would not really have managed the way they do in this novel. The daughter is determined not to fit in with the regime, and she is determined to see if she can see her father on the 'viewing' platform that West Berliners stand on looking in on the East. She then hatches a plan that is fraught with danger, and succeeds despite all the odds.
So, not really believable (and I won't name the most unbelievable part as that truly is a spoiler). However, this is a children's novel. As such it keeps the reader in a state of anxiety for the girl and her family and it has a plot that develops nicely, has twists, has joy and sadness, and ends well. All told, I'm happy to recommend this as a good tale in a setting we should continue to be reminded of....more