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#Bookreview BIG LITTLE LIES by Liane Moriarty Dark chick-lit or humorous mystery wonderfully written and with great characters.

Hi all:

Today I bring you a best-seller that has now become an HBO TV series. I have read and reviewed one of the author’s previous books and I could not resist…

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

The #1 New York Times bestseller that Entertainment Weekly called “a surefire hit.”

NOW AN HBO® LIMITED SERIES STARRING REESE WITHERSPOON, NICOLE KIDMAN, SHAILENE WOODLEY, ALEXANDER SKARSGÅRD, LAURA DERN, ADAM SCOTT, AND ZOË KRAVITZ FROM THE DIRECTOR OF WILD AND DALLAS BUYERS CLUB, JEAN-MARC VALLÉE, AND WRITER DAVID E. KELLEY

Sometimes it’s the little lies that turn out to be the most lethal…
A murder…a tragic accident…or just parents behaving badly?  
What’s indisputable is that someone is dead. But who did what?

Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads:

Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?).

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.

New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.

Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Big-Little-Lies-Liane-Moriarty-ebook/dp/B00HDMMISA/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Big-Little-Lies-Liane-Moriarty-ebook/dp/B00HDMMISA/

https://www.amazon.com/Big-Little-Lies-Liane-Moriarty/dp/0425274861/

About the author:

Author Liane Moriarty
Author Liane Moriarty

Liane Moriarty is the Australian author of six internationally best-selling novels, Three Wishes, The Last Anniversary, What Alice Forgot, The Hypnotist’s Love Story and the number 1 New York Times bestsellers: The Husband’s Secret and Big Little Lies.

The Husband’s Secret has sold over three million copies worldwide, was a no. 1 UK bestseller, an Amazon Best Book of 2013 and will be translated into over 40 languages. CBS Films has acquired the film rights.

With the launch of her novel, Big Little Lies, which has sold over one million copies in the US alone, Liane became the first Australian author to have a novel debut at number one on the New York Times bestseller list. An HBO series based on the book is currently in production with Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and Shailene Woodley playing the three lead roles.

Liane’s newest novel, Truly Madly Guilty, will be released in July 2016.

Liane lives in Sydney with her husband, son and daughter. You can find more at www.lianemoriarty.com

and www.facebook.com/LianeMoriartyAuthor

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Penguin UK – Michael Joseph for offering me a copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

I read and reviewed Liane Moriarty’s recent novel Truly, Madly, Guilty and when I was checking the reviews I read many comments referring to the author’s sense of humour that was not so evident in that novel (don’t let that put you off. It’s a fascinating story and the style of the narration is pretty unique) and I read many people referring to this novel. I also happened to watch a couple of the episodes of the HBO series and wondered how they might compare to the book. I haven’t watched the whole series, so I can’t comment in full but I must say the book is fantastic.

The novel tells the story of the events that take place at an Australian primary school (Pirriwee Public School) during an event organised for parents, the Trivia Night (where the participants are supposed to dress up like Audrey Hepburn and Elvis Presley. Yes, you can imagine the scene). To tell the story, the action takes us back to the school’s induction day. While some of the mothers (and fathers, well, only one man is looking full-time after the kids but many fathers attend too) already know each other, Jane is new to the area and doesn’t know anybody. By accident, she meets Madeline, who has three kids and has seen it all. Madeline is a force of nature and adopts Jane, who is much younger and far less glamorous. Celeste, a friend of Madeline and the most beautiful and rich woman around, is the third in the fabulous trio.

The story is told in the third person from the point of view of these three women, and there are interspersed fragments of what appears to be an interview with a variety of characters, all of them parents of the children at the school, that are evidently being asked questions about what happened on that fateful night. It is no spoiler (as that is clear from very early on) if I tell you that somebody has died. The novel builds up slowly, introducing the characters and their personalities and concerns. Jane is a single Mum who’s struggling but loves her son Ziggy and does the best by him. Things start going wrong early on for her and her son due to an accusation of bullying and that sets up a number of things in motion, splitting up the parents and creating a lot of misunderstandings and resentment. Jane is also hiding some secrets that have seriously affected her life and she moved there seeking some sort of closure. Madeline is the funniest characters. She is quick-witted, loves clothes and shoes, does not tolerate fools gladly and hates the fact that her ex-husband (and father of her teenage daughter Abigail, Nathan, who abandoned her leaving her to bring up their child alone when she was only a baby) has remarried and is now living in close proximity. Not only that but, his daughter, Sky, goes to the same school as her youngest one, Chloe. She is not one for forgiving and forgetting and she has a very hard time accepting that Abigail is becoming close to her father. Her character offers light relief as she’s quite extreme in her passions and behaviour and seemingly superficial —hers is a familiar character of chick-lit books — but it’s impossible not to like her or side with her as her heart is in the right place and she is very funny. Celeste is also keeping secrets. The perfect family, and her oh, so perfect husband, is anything but, and the novel is very good at portraying the complex nature of domestic violence and the kind of mental processes the victims go through.

The short interludes, at the beginning of each chapter, of fragments of interviews with other characters manage to create a sense of what the whole community is like, and by contrasting two completely opposite answers to the same question (some hilarious, others in earnest) one easily gets a sense of how what happened, happened. Of course, the real causes of the incident go much deeper than the disagreements between the parents and the amount of alcohol consumed, as will be slowly revealed. One of the reviewers compared these fragments to a Greek chorus and it is a very apt comparison (minus the moral undertones).

This novel is very good at creating characters that we can care for, although perhaps we might not fully identify with any of them. I’ve laughed out loud at Madeline’s antics quite often (although not all is fun and games for her either) and I have worried with Celeste and Jane. The writing is agile and fluid, with the different character’s voices well captured, differentiated and believable. The small community, that becomes also another character, is vividly portrayed and the ending is surprising, as it should be in all good mysteries (I kept worrying about who the dead person might be and just worked out what was going to happen a couple of paragraphs before it did), positive and heart-warming (despite the tragedy). The book’s lightness of touch and the interspersed comedic events make it easy to read but it does not detract from the seriousness and the sensitivity with which it touches upon serious matters. Bullying, family relationships (especially the complexities of non-traditional families), domestic violence, the influence of our childhoods and the experiences we go through in later life, and of course, the dangers of secrets and lies, are all important elements of this novel, that despite the style and the subject matter fits also within the mystery category.

I recommend this novel to any readers of women’s literature, chick-lit with a sting, domestic mystery and in general to anybody who wants to have a fun time whilst reading about serious matters. Now I know for sure I must read more books by this author.

Thanks to NetGalley, to the publishers and to the author for her novel, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment and CLICK!

 

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Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview ROSIE’S LITTLE CAFE ON THE RIVIERA by Jennifer Bohnet (@jenniewriter) A good holiday read for grey weather (in or out)

Hi all:

Surprise! Today it isn’t a thriller but a nice book that I’d recommend for when you need some downtime and to engage with people whose problems aren’t about somebody trying to murder them. Oh, and in the Riviera…

Rosie's Little Cafe on the Riviera by Jennifer Bohnet
Rosie’s Little Cafe on the Riviera by Jennifer Bohnet

Rosie’s Little Cafe on the Riviera by Jennifer Bohnet

Escape the winter blues with Jennifer Bohnet’s deliciously heartwarming read. A summer of taking chances! Rosie Hewitt’s dream of opening a little French cafe on the Riviera is finally coming true. She’s giving up on love and instead chasing her own perfect recipe for happiness…Only, she never expected the oh-so-sexy, award-winning chef, Sebastian Groc, to set up his restaurant next door – or for his freshly-baked croissants to smell quite so delicious. But with just a few days until she opens her doors and all her sugar-coated dreams crumbling around her, Rosie isn’t prepared to give up without a fight! Perfect for fans of Debbie Johnson, Ellen Berry and Caroline Roberts. Praise for Jennifer Bohnet: ‘A beautiful book, a perfect read for when you need a little bit of sunshine to help you through your day.’ – Book Worm Mummy ‘Jennifer Bohnet took me away into a sunny world full of surprises! I read the entire book in one sitting.’ – Urban Book Reviews ‘A great holiday read to chase away the winter blues.’ – Lesley Newton (Good Housekeeping) ‘I loved it so much that I read it in one sitting!’ – Alison Alcroft (NetGalley Reviewer) ‘A fun, feel-good story to lift the gloom of an English winter!’ – Bev Humphrey (NetGalley Reviewer) ‘A perfect holiday book, I felt like I was in the South of France sipping a glass of wine!’ – Alison Robinson (NetGalley Reviewer)

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Rosies-Little-Riviera-Jennifer-Bohnet/dp/0008246076/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rosies-Little-Riviera-Jennifer-Bohnet-ebook/dp/B01M1C8573/

About the author:

Author Jennifer Bohnet
Author Jennifer Bohnet

Jennifer is English, originally from the West Country but now living in the wilds of rural Brittany, France. She’s still not sure how she ended up there! The saying ‘Life is what happens while you’re deciding what to do’ is certainly true in her case. She’s always written alongside having various jobs: playgroup leader, bookseller, landlady, restauranteur, farmer’s wife, secretary/p,a – the list is endless but does provide a rich vein of inspiration for her stories.
For three years she wrote a newspaper column in The South Hams Group of Newspapers (Devon)where she took a wry look at family life. Since living in France it is her fiction that has taken off with hundreds of short stories and several serials published internationally. if you like stories set down on the French Riviera, Antibes, Cannes and Monaco, then take a look at Follow Your Star and Rendezvous in Cannes. Her other books too have passing references to the South of France.
Allergic to housework and gardening she rarely does either but she does like cooking and entertaining and wandering around vide greniers (the French equivalent of flea markets) looking for a bargain or two. Her children currently live in fear of her turning into an ageing hippy and moving to Totnes, Devon.
To find out more about Jennifer visit her website:
http://goo.gl/xviqQp

or chat to her on Twitter: @jenniewriter

https://www.amazon.com/Jennifer-Bohnet/e/B0034OOIKW/

My review:

I was provided with an ARC copy of this novel by the publisher through NetGalley and voluntarily decided to review it.

The French Riviera is the setting of this story that follows a few months in the lives of several British women who’ve adopted France as their home. Rosie, a chef who had worked in yachts for a few years, finally takes the plunge and opens her own café. She dreams of making a go of the business although people tell her she’s going to fail (trying to convince French people they should eat British food is not going to be easy). She has quite a few difficulties to conquer (the hotel next door opening soon, and owned by a chef with not one but two Michelin stars, Seb, a complaint of food poisoning, an ex-boyfriend who never gives up, her mother and her younger boyfriend, and other family issues). Erica, a widow with a young daughter, finds it difficult to move on and make sense of life without her husband. GeeGee, an estate agent whose boyfriend upped and left cannot make ends meet and has to get inventive.

Most of the characters in the novel face personal losses and changes in circumstances they have to deal with as best they can.  They are very different and face their problems in different ways, some by taking time and reflecting, going slowly, others by asking for advice and help and others still by jumping into action and never stopping to think. Apart from two very minor characters (both exes, a male and a female), all the rest are sympathetic (or eventually they become so) and are people most of us wouldn’t mind meeting and spending time with. There are family secrets revealed, happy moments and sad ones, dogs, wonderful food and scenery, a beautiful setting, amazing properties we’d all like to live in, and of course, romance, plenty of it.

All of the characters learn that you must let go (of your preconceived ideas, of the past, of the fear of having to be independent, and also of the fear of being in a relationship…) and that sometimes you have to reinvent yourself and re-evaluate what’s really important. We all make mistakes but it’s important to try and learn from them and make amends when the opportunity presents itself.

The book is written in the third person, from the alternating points of view of the three women, and it flows well, moving with ease from one character to another, with engaging descriptions of locations, objects and food. There are no psychological depths to explore and although there are obstacles to be overcome, there is no excess of drama and the characters’ emotions and reactions feel natural, credible and not forced.

The story is a feel-good read, with some sad and darker moments and with many stories intertwined (that means not all the characters are fully developed but it’s easy to find somebody to root and care for). A light-hearted story, recommended for the icy days of winter (meteorological or emotional) and a good substitute for chocolate and/or a holiday. (Also a good holiday read.)

Thank you to NetGalley and to the publishers for the novel, thanks to all of you for writing and remember to like, share, comment and CLICK!

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Book review Book reviews Reviews

#Bookreview Berlin. A Literary Guide for Travellers by Paul Sullivan (@slowberlin) and Marcel Krueger (@kingofpain666) Well researched, detailed and offering great insights into an emblematic city. #Berlin

Hi all:

I am trying to get up-to-date and catch up with the reviews I haven’t shared (I’m sure I’ll miss some but…) so I can start sharing them as I read the books. Today it’s the turn of a non-fiction book that travel and literature fans will love.

Berlin. A Literary Guide for Travellers by Paul Sullivan and Marcel Krueger
Berlin. A Literary Guide for Travellers by Paul Sullivan and Marcel Krueger

Berlin. A Literary Guide for Travellers by Paul Sullivan and Marcel Krueger. 

I.B.Tauris

Description

An alternative guide for those looking for the literary heart of Berlin.

Located at the centre of the ever-changing politics of Europe, Berlin has a rich literary and creative history: from the socialist literary salons of 18th century Prussia and the rise of Expressionism in the 20th century to the explosion of creativity during the Weimar period and those who captured life on both sides of the divided city after the Second World War.

Written by local experts, this new guide offers travellers a glimpse into the compelling body of literature on Berlin, charting the bars, cafes and neighbourhoods in which much of it was created. Here travellers will discover the pub where Joseph Roth wrote The Radetzky March just a year before he left Berlin on the day that Adolf Hitler was elected Chancellor, and the apartment where Nabokov spent some of the most productive years of his career. The authors also chart the up-and-coming neighbourhoods that are enticing writers and artists from all over the world today.

A Note From the Publisher

I.B.Tauris Literary Guides for Travellers were recently voted among the 24 best indie travel guides by FATHOM. Also in the series: Sicily, Florence and Tuscany, Tangier, Venice, Scotland, The French Riviera

Advance Praise

‘A rich and learned companion for every lover of Berlin; bursting with anecdote and alive with history. A must.’
– Rory MacLean, author of Berlin: Imagine a City

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1784536423/

https://www.amazon.com/Berlin-Literary-Guide-Travellers-Guides-ebook/dp/B01LWSKY4H/

A bit of information about the authors:

Author Paul Sullivan
Author Paul Sullivan

Paul Sullivan

Paul Sullivan is a Berlin-based writer & travel photographer and the founder/editor of Slow Travel Berlin. His words and images have appeared in The Guardian, BBC, Sunday Times Travel, The Telegraph, Nat Geo UK and more, and he has written several books on music and travel, including the HG2 Berlin, Rough Guide to Berlin, National Geographic Walking Berlin and Wallpaper Berlin. You can check out his photography galleries here.

Paul on Facebook

All posts by Paul Sullivan

Author Marcel Krueger
Author Marcel Krueger

Marcel Krueger:

Marcel is a writer, translator (German-English / English-German) and editor, and mainly writes non-fiction about places, their history, and the journeys in between.

He works as Content Manager for PayPal and is also the book editor of Elsewhere Journal and the contributing editor of Sonic Iceland.

His articles and essays have been published in the Daily Telegraph, the Guardian, Reykjavik Grapevine, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Le Cool Dublin, Slow Travel Berlin, the Matador Network, CNN Travel and Spotted by Locals, amongst others. He has translated Wolfgang Borchert and Jörg Fauser, and his commercial translation clients include Gidsy, new talents – biennale cologne, University of Bielefeld, Fuhrwerkswaage Kunstraum and the Enveritas Group.

Together with Seamus Heaney, Roddy Doyle and a bunch of other great Irish writers Marcel currently holds the world record for ‘Most Authors Reading Consecutively From Their Own Books’ at the Irish Writers’ Centre.

In 2009, together with the other contributors, he won the Irish Blog Awards for their writings in the Dublin Community Blog.

Marcel is also a graduate of the Matador New Media School for Travelers.

Check his website for more information.

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to I.B.Tauris for offering me an ARC copy of this book that I voluntarily choose to review.

This is a book that does what it says on the tin, and much more. The authors share a great wealth of research that they divide by neighbourhoods, not only of the writers born in Berlin but also of those who emigrated to the city or visited and produced some significant piece of work inspired by their stay or travels. Providing a detailed historical background into the birth and development of the city, it also describes the most important buildings in each area, and their significance to culture, be it official culture or underground and resistance.

The book contains brief biographies of the authors it discusses, from the Grimm Brothers, Mark Twain, David Bowie and Iggy Pop, to writers published within the last five years. It illustrates the city with quotes and extracts from a variety of works, from poems, songs, novels… I’ve personally discovered fascinating stories of parks housing suicidal literary lovers, of breweries that became hubbubs of culture and neighbourhood life through the centuries, of resistance on both sides of the wall, of writers who continued to create no matter how dire their circumstances, of heroics and controversies, and of a city that has suffered and endured as much as its citizens. Destroyed and rebuilt, fragmented and reunited, it has provided fertile ground for literature and artistic creation through its history and this guide offers the reader a taster that is sure to encourage further exploration.

I haven’t visited Berlin personally, but I finished the book with an urgency to go, and with the feeling that anybody who visits Berlin taking this guide with them will see it through a myriad of perspectives and live an unforgettable experience.

I hope to read more of these literary guides and to be able to take them with me on future trips. Highly recommended to lovers of travel and literature alike.

Thanks to NetGalley, I.B. Tauris and to the authors for this book, thanks to all of your for reading, and remember to like, share, comment and CLICK!

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Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview ALL I EVER WANTED by Lucy Dillon (@lucy_dillon) A feel-good story with its heart in the right place.

Hi all:

As promised, I’m going down my list of reviews. As it’s in alphabetic order, it’s luck of the draw what comes up, genre-wise, but you won’t have to wait long for the next one.

All I Ever Wanted by Lucy Dillon

All I Ever Wanted by Lucy Dillon I recommend it to anybody who loves a gentle story about families, with no scandals, major shocks, histrionics or extremes

FROM THE BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF A HUNDRED PIECES OF ME AND ONE SMALL ACT OF KINDNESS COMES A HEARTWARMING, BITTERSWEET AND UPLIFTING STORY OF MISSED CHANCES AND UNEXPECTED OPPORTUNITIES.

‘Lucy Dillon’s books make the world a better place’ Heat

‘Bittersweet, lovely and ultimately redemptive; the kind of book that makes you want to live your own life better’ Jojo Moyes

‘So satisfying and clever and deeply moving’ Sophie Kinsella

Caitlin’s life is a mess. Her marriage to a man everyone else thinks is perfect has collapsed, along with her self-esteem, and breaking free seems the only option.

Nancy, her four-year-old daughter, used to talk all the time; in the car, at nursery, to her brother Joel. Then her parents split up. Her daddy moves out. And Nancy stops speaking.

Nancy’s Auntie Eva, recently widowed and feeling alone, apart from the companionship of two bewildered pugs, is facing a future without her husband or the dreams she gave up for him.

But when Eva agrees to host her niece and nephew once a fortnight, Caitlin and Eva are made to face the different truths about their marriages – and about what they both really want . . .

Links:

 

 

About the author: 

Author Lucy Dillon
Author Lucy Dillon

Lucy Dillon grew up in Cumbria and read English at Cambridge, then read a lot of magazines as a press assistant in London, then read other people’s manuscripts as a junior fiction editor. She now lives in a village outside Hereford with two basset hounds, an old red Range Rover, and too many books.

ONE SMALL ACT OF KINDNESS is Lucy’s sixth novel. The people are made up, but the basset hound, unfortunately, isn’t.

Lucy won the Romantic Novelists’ Association Contemporary Romantic Novel prize in 2015 for A HUNDRED PIECES OF ME, and the Romantic Novel of the Year Award in 2010 for LOST DOGS AND LONELY HEARTS.

You can follow her on Twitter @lucy_dillon or find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pages/LucyDillonBooks.

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Hodder & Stoughton for providing me with an ARC copy of this book that I voluntarily review.

This novel tells the story of a family, as unique as all families, and it starts seemingly at a point of crisis. What is supposed to be a fun trip to London for the kids, just ahead of Christmas, somehow marks the beginning of the end for of Caitlin and Patrick’s marriage. In the aftermath of the separation between them, Patrick’s sister, Eva, who was widowed a couple of years ago, ends up becoming roped into the situation and making interesting discoveries about herself.

The story is told in the third person, mostly from the alternating points of view of Caitlin and Eva, although there are a couple of fragments from the point of view of little Nancy. This is a book dominated by the female perspective, although it is not chick-lit. Each character is very distinctive and the reader gets to share in their point of view, although the alternating voices help to give more perspective to the story and to create a fuller understanding and a richer picture. Whilst at times we might identify completely with the characters and share their thoughts and feelings, they are not presented as perfect or always right. In fact, it is easy to feel annoyed and frustrated at times with some of the decisions they take, and we start questioning our alliances. But, as is the case with real human beings, nobody is perfect, and in this case, the story helps us understand their circumstances, why they behave as they do. By the end, we conclude that they all love each other, sometimes even if they are not aware of it, but they needed to work through their difficulties communicating and to get rid of the secrets they kept from each other.

The novel offers us two very different female protagonists, Caitlin, reckless, impulsive, disorganised, with a big heart, a fierce mother who’d do anything to protect her cubs, but less than perfect, and aware of her weak points, and Eva, a far more rational, business-like and determined woman. Both of them thought they’d found the perfect husband but they discover things aren’t quite as they think. As mentioned, we might feel closer to one or the other, but they both come through the pages as real people. We share their fears, hopes, puzzlement, even if at times we might not agree with what they do. The two children, Joel and Nancy are beautifully depicted, with their very different temperaments, and they also function well as stand-ins for children in similar situations, trying their hardest to cope and make sense of what’s going on around them. In a way, Nancy and her predicament, when she stops talking, is an embodiment of the difficulties between the adults, who are also keeping secrets and are unable to communicate effectively their feelings, even if they are still talking. The men in the story, although only seen through the perspective of the women, are neither knights in shining armour (no matter how hard they try), nor villains, but good people trying their best to be worthy of their partners and their families. And if you love pets, the two pugs, Bumble and Bee will melt your hearts, with their individual personalities, their ways of communicating and providing a safe haven to humans, and their winning ways.

This is a touching novel that makes us think about families (standard and alternative), about the impact of expectations and childhood experiences on our adult behaviour, and about the risks of trying to impose impossible standards on others. We need to remain true to ourselves to be the best for our families. The author invites us to become members of this extended family and we feel a bit orphaned at the end. I recommend it to anybody who loves a gentle story about families, with no scandals, major shocks, histrionics or extremes. A feel-good story with its heart in the right place.

Thanks to NetGalley, to the publishers and to the author for this wonderful novel, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember, like, share, comment and CLICK! More tomorrow!

 

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Book reviews

#Bookreview TRULY, MADLY, GUILTY by Liane Moriarty (@Flatironbooks) What does it take to shatter a life? #TuesdayBookBlog

Hi all:

As I’ve been telling you, I have quite a few reviews due and accumulated, and today I’m sharing a review for a book coming from Australia by a well-known writer, although this is the first book by Liane Moriarty I’ve read.

Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty
Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

Entertainment Weekly’s “Best Beach Bet”

USA Today Hot Books for Summer Selection

Miami Herald Summer Reads Pick

The new novel from Liane Moriarty, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Husband’s Secret, Big Little Lies, and What Alice Forgot, about how sometimes we don’t appreciate how extraordinary our ordinary lives are until it’s too late. 

“What a wonderful writer―smart, wise, funny.” ―Anne Lamott

Six responsible adults. Three cute kids. One small dog. It’s just a normal weekend. What could possibly go wrong?

In Truly Madly Guilty, Liane Moriarty turns her unique, razor-sharp eye towards three seemingly happy families.

Sam and Clementine have a wonderful, albeit, busy life: they have two little girls, Sam has just started a new dream job, and Clementine, a cellist, is busy preparing for the audition of a lifetime. If there’s anything they can count on, it’s each other.

Clementine and Erika are each other’s oldest friends. A single look between them can convey an entire conversation. But theirs is a complicated relationship, so when Erika mentions a last minute invitation to a barbecue with her neighbors, Tiffany and Vid, Clementine and Sam don’t hesitate. Having Tiffany and Vid’s larger than life personalities there will be a welcome respite.

Two months later, it won’t stop raining, and Clementine and Sam can’t stop asking themselves the question: What if we hadn’t gone?

In Truly Madly Guilty, Liane Moriarty takes on the foundations of our lives: marriage, sex, parenthood, and friendship. She shows how guilt can expose the fault lines in the most seemingly strong relationships, how what we don’t say can be more powerful than what we do, and how sometimes it is the most innocent of moments that can do the greatest harm.

Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty
Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty

Here, my review:

Thanks to Net Galley and to Penguin UK- Michael Joseph for providing me with a free copy of the novel in exchange for an unbiased review.

I confess to having checked some of the reviews of the book and noticed that many of the comments compared this novel to some of this Australian writer’s previous work, particularly The Husband’s Secret and Big Little Lies. This is the first of Moriarty’s novels I read and therefore I don’t know if this might be a disappointing read for those who have read the others.

The novel is clearly set from the beginning around something that happened at a barbeque (this being Australia, I guess it’s to be expected). The chapters alternate between the aftermath of the said barbeque (weeks later) and events that happened at the time, although we’re not told exactly what that was until half way through. It is evident that it was an event that affected everybody involved, but the author cleverly (although perhaps annoyingly for some readers) circles around the details and the circumstances of what happened without quite revealing it (and no, I won’t either).

The story is narrated in the third person from the various characters’ points of view, mostly those who were present at the barbeque (that includes Dakota, the young daughter of the couple who had invited the rest to their house), but also some that we only later realise were either involved in the incident or know something about it others don’t. I know some readers don’t like too many changes in viewpoint, although in this case the characters and their voices are sufficiently distinct to avoid confusion.

The three couples present at the incident are very different from each other. Erika and Oliver are a perfectly matched couple. Both grew up with difficult parents and survived disrupted childhoods, although not unscathed. They are organised and methodical and they do everything by the book (or so it seems). Clementine and Sam are the ‘opposites attract’ kind of couple. She is a musician, a cellist, and he doesn’t even like classical music. She is the artist and he is more down to earth. They have two daughters and they are impulsive, free for all and relaxed (although perhaps not as much as they seem). Camilla and Erika are childhood friends, although their friendship was instigated by Camilla’s mother, who became Erika’s heroine and role model, perfect motherhood personified.  Camilla feels guilty for resenting Erika’s interference in her childhood because she’s aware of her family circumstances. But she still feels put upon. Erika’s feelings towards her friend are also complicated, mixing envy, disdain and some true affection.

The third couple, Vid and Tiffany, are Erika and Oliver’s neighbours, very rich, very loud, and seemingly perfect for each other. They enjoy life to the full and don’t mind bending the rules for fun or to get their own way. Although on the surface they seem harmless and good fun, they represent temptation and we later discover they might be darker than they appear. They don’t know the others very well but even they are affected by what happens.

The novel shows how a seemingly unimportant oversight can have an impact on many people’s lives, putting an end to innocence and burdening all with guilt, and how we all keep secrets, sometimes even from ourselves. The guilt we carry, justified or not, can put a terrible strain on relationships and lives and can affect people’s mental health.  The story builds up slowly and perhaps because of the emphasis on the event (that is not easy to guess and is kept under wraps for very long) it might result somewhat anticlimactic once it is revealed. For me, it works like a puzzle where the pieces are being fitted together slowly, with an insistence on fitting first the outskirts of the picture rather than the centre of it. How much of the detail is necessary is debatable, and it also depends on how much you care for the characters, that are interesting but perhaps not that easy to identify with. There were flashes of humour, but very few and I understand from comments that the author’s previous books were funnier.

I enjoyed the ending that I found unexpectedly positive, although it is not earth-shattering. Some of the couples learn from the event and move on, but not all, although we get to understand the microcosms and all the characters much better by the end of the novel as they have grown more rounded and human . Although I don’t think this is a novel for everybody and it is not a page-turner, I hope to get to check the author’s previous work and I appreciate the quality of her writing, which is descriptive and precious.

Link:

https://www.amazon.com/Truly-Madly-Guilty-Liane-Moriarty/dp/1250069793/

Thanks to Net Galley, to Penguin UK and to the author for her novel, thanks to all of you for reading and please, like, share, comment and CLICK!

Categories
Book reviews New books

2 Brand new books and #bookreviews. WEAR AND TEAR by Tracy Tynan (@tynanthreads) and UNDERGROUND AIRLINES by Ben H. Winters (@BenHWinters) Very different but they’ll make you think.

Hi all:

As you know I’ve been sharing new books and reviews recently. These two have just been published this week (the first one only available in hard cover at first) and I thought they might appeal to very different readers, but I enjoyed them  both (in very different ways).

First:

Wear and Tear by Tracy Tynan
Wear and Tear by Tracy Tynan

Wear and Tear: The Threads of My Life Hardcover by Tracy Tynan   A life in clothes, lived with a big heart and plenty of talent.

Description:

A candid, entertaining memoir told through clothes.

Tracy Peacock Tynan grew up in London in the 1950’s and 60s, privy to her parents’ glamorous parties and famous friends—Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, and Orson Welles. Cecil Beaton and Katharine Hepburn were her godparents. Tracy was named after Katherine Hepburn’s character, Tracy Lord, in the classic film, The Philadelphia Story. These stylish showbiz people were role models for Tracy, who became a clotheshorse at a young age.

Tracy’s father, Kenneth Tynan, was a powerful theater critic and writer for the Evening Standard, The Observer, and The New Yorker. Her mother was Elaine Dundy, a successful novelist and biographer, whose works have recently been revived by The New York Review of Books. Both of Tracy’s parents, particularly her father, were known as much for what they wore as what they wrote.

In the Tynans’ social circles, style was essential, and Tracy had firm ideas about her own clothing for as long as she can remember. Shopping was an art passed down through the family; though shopping trips with her mother were so traumatic that Tracy started shopping on her own when she was fourteen.

When Tracy started writing about her life she found that clothing was the focus of many of her stories. She recalls her father’s dandy attire and her mother’s Pucci dresses, as well as her parents’ rancorous marriage and divorce, her father’s prodigious talents and celebrity lifestyle, and her mother’s lifelong struggle with addiction. She tackles issues big and small using clothes as an entrée—relationships, marriage, children, stepchildren, blended families, her parent’s decline and deaths, and her work as a costume designer are all recounted with humor, with insight, and with the special joy that can only come from finding the perfect outfit.

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Tracy Tynan uses the universal medium of clothing to tell the highly specific story of her Bohemian British upbringing, and she does so with wit, candor and yes– style. For anyone obsessed with the intellectual gossip of yesteryear- or just obsessed with the language of fashion- this book will be a cozy bedfellow.” (Lena Dunham)

“Tracy Tynan’s memoir is a wolf in sheep’s clothing…Rich in humor and observation, its stylish tone belies the often harrowing nature of her formative years, and details with bravery and precision exactly who she was and what she wore.” (Anjelica Huston – Author of A Story Lately Told and Watch Me)

Tracy Peacock Tynan grew up in a tornado of glamorous, stylish eccentricity. So jealous!!!” (Simon Doonan -Author of The Asylum: True Tales of Madness from a Life in Fashion)

“Tracy Tynan takes on the paradox of style with unique flair in Wear and Tear, by hanging her book on the clothes she wore at key moments in her life. But the life of the exceptionally stylish, charming and resilient Ms. Tynan is like no other — a brilliant, famous father, a titan of culture addicted to S+M, an equally brilliant but alcoholic mother who’s become a cult writer, the promises and delusions of a life among the famous, a career as the go-to movie costume designer.

Wear and Tear is poignant, surprising, and an enchanting inner view of what it is to come into oneself among the sacred monsters of the 20th century.” (Joan Juliet Buck)

“A page-turning memoir that affords an astonishing glimpse into rarified lives in the now-extinct Anglo-American literary jet set. Tracy Tynan inherited both her parents’ sartorial flair, and their skill with words.” (Matt Tyrnauer – Director, Valentino: The Last Emperor)

Wear and Tear is a riveting account of life growing up as the only child of two famous and famously complicated personalities: theater critic Kenneth Tynan and writer, Elaine Dundy. Tracy Tynan recalls her fascinating and difficult childhood during the Swinging Sixties in London and New York, and the legendary actors and artists who frequented her parent’s life. She chronicles her growth as an artist, taking on myriad roles as lover, costume designer, step-mother, mother, and wife, with honesty and insights that make for can’t- put- down reading. Her independence and original style weave through the pages of her book just as they have always done in her life.” (Wendy Goodman – Design Editor, New York Magazine)

“In this wonderfully observed, elegiac, and least judgmental of memoirs, esteemed costume designer Tracy Tynan describes a society and personalities defined by style, and the ever shifting self-perception that characterizes out sized lives–and talent. Moving effortlessly between the world where post war American and British literature and cinema, theatre and politics, converge, Tynan details a now vanished golden age with wit, honesty, and that rarest of qualities—empathy.” (Hilton Als)

Wear and Tear is the first book that reveals style as a successful survival strategy. Tracy’s familial chaos required much dancing backwards in heels and looking good in the part. Written with compassion, she pulls no punches, her observations are not casual chic. A fascinating read about a creative clan. (Deborah Landis -Author of Filmcraft and Hollywood Costume)

“The daughter of celebrities reflects on fame, parenthood, and style. Costume designer Tynan makes her literary debut in a candid and entertaining memoir featuring her alcoholic, combative parents, theater critic Kenneth Tynan and novelist Elaine Dundy, and their assorted glamorous friends. Her vivid descriptions reflect her love of clothes, designers, fabrics, and, not least, shopping. Star-studded, gossipy, and engaging.” (Kirkus)

About the Author

Tracy Tynan is a costume designer and writer living in Los Angeles. Her credits include the movies The Big EasyBlind DateGreat Balls of Fire, and Tuesdays with Morrie.

My review

Thanks to Net Galley and to Scribner for offering me a free copy of this memoir in exchange for an unbiased review.

I knew who Kenneth Tynan was before I read this book. Although well before my time, I do love theatre, I’ve lived many years in the UK and I’d heard of his reviews, his wit, and remembered having seen pictures of him, but didn’t know much about his life. I didn’t know anything about his first wife, American writer Elaine Dundy, or his daughter Tracy, and I must admit that I’m not a big clothes buff. Having said all that, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. The clothes (or outfits) give name to the chapters and form the backbone of the book, assisting the author in organising her memories. I guess we all have things we remember, music, movies, books, and they help bring to our mind momentous happenings in our lives. Why not clothes, especially when they were so meaningful to her and the people she cared about?

Tracy Tynan’s life isn’t ordinary, whatever our definition of an ordinary life might be. Both her parents were popular, talented, brilliant and social butterflies. Their parties and events read like the who is who, first of London and then of the LA of the era. But they weren’t particularly gifted as parents. They seemed wrapped up on their own relationship, the people they knew, and their careers. Their daughter was often an afterthought, and even when they tried to connect with her they weren’t very skilled at it. But the author is generous to a fault and makes an effort to be fair and not to dwell or overdramatise matters. She tries hard to understand and does not moan or complain, despite having lived through pretty harrowing experiences due to her parents’ rocky relationship and to their difficult behaviour. She is sympathetic towards other’s plights and never self-apologising, something extremely refreshing.

The book is full of anecdotes but despite the many famous people the writer has met through her life this is not a scandalous book trying to exploit her connections and throw dirt at others. She always has a good word to say, even about people or actors she had a hard time with, and I got the distinct impression that she subscribes to the idea that if you don’t have anything good to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all. It’s a book full of passion for clothes, for life, for her friends and family. It’s a touching and warm book although it avoids sentimentality, cheap thrills and pulling at heartstrings.

This first-person account is a beautifully written book (she seems to have inherited the writing talent from both her parents), a page turner, understated, and we get to feel as if we were reading the memoirs of a friend. The chapter about her daughter, who was born premature, reminded me of my goddaughter, who was born in similar circumstances, and it resonated especially with me.  Her reflections about getting older, her experience of losing loved ones, and her more recent activity volunteering with homeless organisations and those looking after women victims of domestic violence made me realise I had more in common with this woman than I could have ever guessed when I started reading.

If anybody is worried about reading these memoirs because they aren’t familiar with the people involved or are not interested in clothes, don’t let that stop you. The book can be enjoyed by readers who know the era and many of the famous actors, writers, directors, clothes designers… who formed the social circle of Tracy Tynan’s family, but also by all those who have an interest and a passion that has accompanied them throughout their lives, who’ve survived complicated family lives, who love their friends and their families, and who don’t fear reinventing themselves once over again.

I’m not sure if the paper copies will have pictures. The Kindle review copy I was sent didn’t, but that did not diminish my enjoyment.

Links:

In hardcover: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1501123688/

 https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1501123688/

And:

Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters
Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters

Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters  Some nightmares look and feel too close to reality for comfort. 

Description:

‘The most timely of alternate history novels. Ben Winters has created a spellbinding world that forces the reader to look around—and to look within. This is a thriller not to be missed and one that will not be easily forgotten.’ Hugh Howey

It is the present-day, and the world is as we know it. Except for one thing: slavery still exists.

Victor has escaped his life as a slave, but his freedom came at a high price. Striking a bargain with the government, he has to live his life working as a bounty hunter. And he is the best they’ve ever trained.

A mystery to himself, Victor tries to suppress his memories of his own childhood and convinces himself that he is just a good man doing bad work, unwilling to give up the freedom he is desperate to preserve. But in tracking his latest target, he can sense that that something isn’t quite right.

For this fugitive is a runaway holding something extraordinary. Something that could change the state of the country forever.

And in his pursuit, Victor discovers secrets at the core of his country’s arrangement with the system that imprisoned him, secrets that will be preserved at any cost.
‘It is a rare thing when a writer has a fresh new provocative idea – and then executes it beautifully. This is what Ben H. Winters has done in his novel Underground Airlines. Imagine an America in which slavery still exists. Now imagine a dramatic telling of the story.’ James Patterson.

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Am I allowed to curse? Because holy heck, I want to. This book is shocking, bold, sad, human and wise. Put an expletive in front of each of those adjectives. It’s not post-apocalyptic fiction, but if you like that sort of thing, you’ll like this too. If you liked Station Eleven (an overused but appropriate comp!), World War Z, or Brief History of the Dead, then this is a book you should read.”―Rebecca Fitting, Greenlight Bookstore

Underground Airlines is the rare book that actually fulfills the promise of being unlike anything you’ve ever read. The alt-world premise of a present day US where the Civil War never happened and slavery still exists in four states, is so perfect for the current dialogue about race that’s going on right now. It’s not that common to be reading a gripping page turner of a mystery and be thinking about voices like Ta-Nehisi Coates at the same time. It’s one of those books you only want to stop reading so that you can go out and start talking to people about it. I can’t wait until this book is out in the world so I can engage with other readers about it.”―Robert Sindelar, Third Place Books

“Ben Winters’ Underground Airlines is an ingenious speculative thriller wrapped around the core of our nation’s ouroboros history of institutional racism. While that may sound bizarre to some, Winters pulls it off with ease, crafting a novel that is both fantastic and scarily believable at the same time.”―Ian Kern, Mysterious Bookshop

“Ben H. Winters has crafted a timely, necessary, and gripping page-turner. The plausibility of Underground Airlines‘ central conceit is terrifying, made more so by the author’s deft blend of alternate history and modern mundanity, but the loose, often jaunty narration of its flawed protagonist, Victor, prevents its descent into hopeless, maudlin territory. Victor’s desperate pursuit of freedom or redemption, whatever the cost, propels the novel toward its inexorable and satisfying conclusion.”―Jake Cumsky-Whitlock, Kramerbooks

Underground Airlines is a work of astonishing originality and ambition. Like the best art, it forces us to question our own assumptions. Is the machine of modern civilization really that far removed from the alternate reality that Winters presents here? We’re all implicated in this unsettling and visionary novel. Ben Winters is one brave writer.”―Patrick Millikin, The Poisoned Pen Bookstore

“I could not put Underground Airlines down. A brutal, hard-boiled detective mystery about what might have happened if Lincoln had been killed before ending slavery, it is thought provoking and vivid. It will live with you for a very long time.”―Rene Kirkpatrick, Eagle Harbor Book Co.

About the Author

Ben H. Winters is the author of, most recently, World of Trouble, the concluding book in the Last Policeman trilogy. The second book, Countdown City, was an NPR Best Book of 2013 and the winner of the Philip K. Dick Award for Distinguished Science Fiction. The Last Policeman was the recipient of the 2012 Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America; it was also named one of the Best Books of 2012 by Amazon.com and Slate.

My review

Thanks to Net Galley and to Cornerstone Digital for providing me a free copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

When I read the premise of this novel, a United States where the Civil War hadn’t taken place and slavery was alive and well in modern times, I was intrigued. As part of my American Literature course I did read historical and literary texts related to the Civil War and later to the Civil Rights Movement, and I found the thought of what modern-day America might have looked like if things have gone differently both fascinating and horrifying.

The book is classed under alternative history, a subgenre that allows authors to imagine scenarios that might make readers shiver, or just reflect on how far (or otherwise) civilisation has come.

The world in Underground Airlines is on the one side very similar to the world we know (at least the bits we’re shown), and even the historical figures of importance are mentioned, although in some cases with a slightly alternative fate or role (like Lincoln’s earlier demise, and Michael Jackson’s different set of problems). Despite the genre, the book is not very heavy on history and does not hammer readers with deep analysis (there are subtle references to themes like the Mockingbird syndrome) and considering the nature of the subject it even manages to avoid heavy pulling at emotional heartstrings.

The story is told in the first person by Victor or… well, whomever he is. The main character is an African-American free man, but not really. He escaped from a slaughter house where he had been born and was supposed to spend all his life. They found his hiding place and forcefully recruited him to become an official agent who would find escapees and return them back to one of the 4 states where slavery is still legal, thanks to the 18th Amendment to the constitution. At first, Víctor made me think of Herman Melville’s The Confidence Man, whereby seemingly different characters tell different stories, although perhaps they are all one and the same master of disguise. But then I thought (and saw a comment that also made that reference) about the film Blade Runner, at least if we think about the first version of the film with Deckard’s narration. Victor is somebody who tries hard not to remember anything about his past (although memories, or more accurately flashbacks, intrude every so often) or to feel anything. He has become so adept at adopting other identities that when at some point Martha —a young mother he meets early in the novel and ends up embroiled in the whole intrigue — wants to know his real name, he’s no longer sure. He also reminded me of Deckard with regards to the doubt in many people’s minds as to his real identity. Is he a human being or a replicant? Victor insist (to himself) that he does what he has to do, that he does not care about the ongoing slavery and his own safety is his only concern, that he does not believe anybody can do anything or any of his acts can change matters, but…

What seemed to be a pretty streamlined occupation for Victor starts to get complicated when he is assigned a case where he soon realises something is not what it seems. The file is not complete, the phrasing is off, and the people he meets along the way seem to be hiding something, although he doesn’t quite realise how much. Agents and double agents, twists and turns, betrayals, and a visit to the Deep South are on the cards for the man whose only goal is to not make ripples and keep to the plan.

The book is written in a style that seems to fit in with the fictional character, although for me, somehow, the picture was as fractured as the man itself. Although I have a weakness for unreliable narrators, and Victor is indeed one of them, I had difficulty connecting with him, perhaps because he was himself disconnected and avoided looking at his emotions, and I am not sure he ever became a fully-fledged character for me.

The idea behind the story is good although I wondered if people really keen on historical fiction would find there is enough detail or would like to know more than the brief tasters and snippets that are hinted at throughout the novel. Personally, the novel made me reflect on the nature of world politics and economy, as in what is considered the developed world we seem to be happy to wear or consume products manufactured in near-slavery conditions with little concern for where they come from or only paying lip service to such issues. The specific reflections on race and racism will perhaps be more shocking to readers not very familiar with the topic or who have not read novels or classic texts by authors and figures who’ve written more extensively on it.

I liked the ending, although I wasn’t a hundred per cent sure how well it fitted in with the rest (but I won’t comment in detail to avoid spoilers). The issue at the heart of the investigation that costs many people dearly was to my mind less surprising than it was built up to be (the big whatsit kind of scenario) although in truth I’m not sure what I was expecting.

In sum this is a novel that paints a scary but somewhat familiar alternative version of history in the US (an uncanny version if one wants) and makes us think about issues of race, loyalty, identity, family and global economy. It can be a good introduction to the genre of alternative fiction and has enough intrigue for readers in search of a good story.

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B019CGXX5G/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B019CGXX5G/

Thanks so much to Net Galley and to the publishing companies and to Tracy Tynan and Ben H. Winters of their books, thanks to you all for reading, and please, share, like, comment and CLICK!

Categories
Book reviews

#Bookreview Let Me Tell You About a Man I Knew by Susan Fletcher. A beautiful, contemplative and touching novel that brings Provence and Van Gogh’s paintings to life.

Hi all:

I’ve been doing a fair amount of reading recently, and I was privileged to read this book before even it was officially out for sale. But now that is available, I felt I should tell you about it. I’m using my Friday spot as it is indeed a new book, and I didn’t know the author from before.

Here it is:

Let Me Tell You About a Man I Knew by Susan Fletcher
Let Me Tell You About a Man I Knew by Susan Fletcher

Let Me Tell You About A Man I Knew by Susan Fletcher

Provence, May 1889. The hospital of Saint-Paul-de Mausole is home to the mentally ill. An old monastery, it sits at the foot of Les Alpilles mountains amongst wheat fields, herbs and olive groves. For years, the fragile have come here and lived quietly, found rest behind the shutters and high, sun-baked walls.

Tales of the new arrival – his savagery, his paintings, his copper-red hair – are quick to find the warden’s wife. From her small white cottage, Jeanne Trabuc watches him – how he sets his easel amongst the trees, the irises and the fields of wheat, and paints in the heat of the day.

Jeanne knows the rules; she knows not to approach the patients at Saint-Paul. But this man – paint-smelling, dirty, troubled and intense – is, she thinks, worth talking to. So ignoring her husband’s wishes, the dangers and despite the word mad, Jeanne climbs over the hospital wall. She will find that the painter will change all their lives.

Let Me Tell You About A Man I Knew is a beautiful novel about the repercussions of longing, of loneliness and of passion for life. But it’s also about love – and how it alters over time.

Links:

Kindle version: http://amzn.to/1TLjIfI

Paperback http://amzn.to/1TLjjKg

Hardcover: http://amzn.to/1TG0VBi

Let Me Tell You About a Man I Knew2

Here, my review:

A beautiful, contemplative and touching novel that brings Provence and Van Gogh’s paintings to life.

Thanks to Virago and to Net Galley for providing me with a free copy of this novel in exchange for an unbiased review.

There are historical (and artistic in this case) figures that set imaginations alight. When I read the description of the book I liked the premise. Rather than being a straight biography of Vincent Van Gogh this novel is built around one episode of Van Gogh’s life, his stay at Saint-Paul-de Mausole, an old-monastery converted into a home for the mentally ill. The story, a third person narrative, is not told from the point of view of the painter, but of Jeanne Trabuc, the wife of the warden, Major Charles Trabuc. She’s the mother of three boys and two girls, but her surviving sons (the girls died at birth) are now grown-ups and have left the family home. Her husband is busy most of the day trying to run the hospital that’s slowly decaying, and her life has become routine and tedious. There have been no new patients for years and she is intrigued by the painter since she first hears about him.

The novel isn’t full of action. Jeanne observes the world around her, and from her thoughts we know she’s always been curious and a woman whose life has spread outside of the boundaries of her everyday life thanks to her imagination. The arrival of the painter brings back memories of her childhood and her dreams of exploring and doing things that others might view as inappropriate or daring. She ignores her husband’s rules and the small town’s gossips and conventions in order to get to know this man. In the process, she learns not only about herself, but she also gains a new understanding of her husband and their marriage.

The Van Gogh we meet in this novel is a man consumed by his art, fond of his brother, seriously ill, but hopeful, at that point, that his illness will improve and he’ll be cured. He is eager to record not the important people and the pieces considered of historical or architectonic interest, but the landscape, the flowers, a moth, olive trees, and everyday people. He finds value and beauty in all things. He only offers Jeanne brief snippets of his life before. The odd mention of flat landscapes in Holland, streets in Arles, a woman he loved, and the incident that brought him there. He paints; he suffers several bouts of his illness and eventually leaves to be closer to his brother and his new-born nephew and under the care of a new doctor. He dies shortly after leaving the monastery of a self-inflicted wound.

The descriptions of the landscape, the seasons, the hospital, and the interactions between the characters are beautiful and poetical. You feel the heat, smell the lavender and the paint, caress the stones and the silk of the yellow dress, listen to the cicadas, and above all, understand this woman’s feelings and experience her emotions. Although I’ve never visited Saint-Paul-de Mausole, now a museum, I felt as if I had, and it is clear that the author is very familiar with the place and has lived and breathed the environment she describes.

I loved the lyrical writing, the feeling of being immersed both in the place and inside Jeanne’s brain and even her body. The characters are consistent, believable and complex human beings. My only doubt was how well Jeanne’s subjectivity, as described on the page, fits in with the background provided. She is a woman who left school at a young age and spent most of the time in the company of a servant with limited social graces and of her father. Her only other contact with the outside world was with the clients of her father’s shop and the people she might meet in her lone walks. She has little formal education (Van Gogh tells her off for leaving school at such a young age, as it was her own choice) although knows how to read and write. But the story, as mentioned before, is not written or told by her in the first person and the author is, in a manner similar to Van Gogh, highlighting that poetry, inspiration and beauty can grow and be found anywhere.

Fletcher acknowledges in a note that she did plenty of research on the subject and tried to be accurate with regards to Van Gogh’s illness and his work whilst at the monastery, but although Jeanne Trabuc and her husband existed (as do their portraits by Van Gogh), the rest of details about their lives are part of her creative (and indeed poetic) license.

Although this is not a book for lovers of action and plot, it is not a difficult or slow read. This is a beautiful, contemplative and touching novel, and a pleasure to read and savour.

Virago are organising some events with the author present, so you might want to check their website, just in case she’s coming somewhere near you.

Here is one of these events in Blackheath Library.

Thanks so much to Net Galley and to Virago (and to Susan Fletcher) for this wonderful book, thanks to all of you for reading, and if you’ve enjoyed it, like, share, comment and CLICK!

Categories
New books Reviews

#Newbook and #bookreview. Demon Road (The Demon Road Trilogy, Book 1) by Derek Landy (@DerekLandy) and Desolation (The Demon Road Trilogy, Book 2). Are you ready for a road trip?

Hi all:

On Fridays I normally bring you new books and/or authors. As I’ve told you I’m in the middle of a bit of a reading and translation spree, and when checking the books I’d read recently I realised that I hadn’t shared the review for one of them (that I’d had my eye on for a while but had resisted so far…) Demon Road by Derek Landy (YA, fantasy, horror…) and these days, the second book in the trilogy was being released, so I thought that was a bit of a strike in two. Review the first book and share the second (that is already waiting in my kindle)…

So, first things first….

Demon Road (The Demon Road Trilogy, Book 1) by Derek Landy
Demon Road (The Demon Road Trilogy, Book 1) by Derek Landy

Description:

The epic new thriller begins.

The creator of the number one best-selling Skulduggery Pleasant series returns with the story of a girl on the run from everything she loves…and the monsters that await her.

For anyone who ever thought their parents were monster…Amber Lamont is a normal 16-year-old. Smart but insecure, she spends most of her time online, where she can avoid her beautiful, aloof parents and their weird friends.

But when a shocking encounter reveals a horrifying secret, Amber is forced to go on the run. Killer cars, vampires, undead serial killers and red skinned, horned demons – Amber hurtles from one threat to the next, revealing the terror woven into the very fabric of her life. As her parents close in behind her, Amber’s only chance rests with her fellow travellers, who are not at all what they appear to be….

Witty, action-packed and heart stoppingly thrilling, Demon Road will take you on an epic road trip across the supernatural landscape of America.

Demon Road (The Demon Road Trilogy, Book 1) Kindle Edition by Derek Landy  A road trip, a quest and a coming of age story to hell and back

Thanks to Net Galley and to Harper Collins Children’s Books for offering me a free copy of the novel in exchange for an unbiased review.

Demon Road is a coming of age novel of sorts. Amber, the protagonist, is sixteen and discovers that her parents, whom she’s always known weren’t exactly ordinary, are demons and so are their friends, and now she’s started turning too. Worse still, they’re determined to eat her to comply with the terms of a deal they made with the Shining Demon in exchange for power (not that they are particularly sorry about that). With the help of one of her parent’s friends, who’s decided the demonic lifestyle is no longer for her, Amber sets off on a journey to try and save herself by making her own deal. She travels in a car that’s not quite what it seems, with Milo, a bodyguard/chauffer that isn’t what he seems either. The novel follows them in their journey through the different stages of their trip, investigating the many clues, trying to find the one individual who might hold the secret to solving her problem.

Demon Road is also a road trip. The protagonist and her team (Milo and Glen, another character who’s also made a rather stupid deal and has ended up lumbered with a death mark) travel through the Demon Road of the title, a supernatural route linking strange beings, places and happenings, where everybody knows more than they say and people are never who they seem to be. The adventures Amber and her friends/associates (the relationships are open to interpretation) get into are fascinating and varied, going from towns haunted by supernatural serial killers, others with vampires gone out of control, a witch in love in the depths of a forest, winged creatures in New York, and lots of hiding and fighting. Any of the adventures they get involved in would make a great story in its own right and they ensure the plot keeps moving along at a good pace and never gets boring.

Demon Road is a quest. Amber makes a deal which results in her having to look for the only person who’s ever managed to trick the Shining Demon. Every stage of her quest brings her in contact with people, both human and supernatural beings, which have an impact on her and how she sees the world. She also has to come to terms with her new self and not all she learns is positive. As a hero (or heroine) she’s flawed. She can be compassionate and human, and the next minute act on impulse and hurt somebody. She can be quite clever at times and make stupid mistakes at others. She’s easy to anger and lacking in self-confidence but she can be magnificent. She’s not an immediately likeable character although her sense of humour and her capacity for self-reflection make her interesting. Like in all quests, the main character’s search becomes a search for her true self.

Because of all these things, and although the overall pace of the book is reasonably fast, it can feel uneven. It is composed of a number of set pieces interconnected by the trip resulting in a fair amount of telling rather than showing, as they always come upon places or events that have to be explained and grasped, and things slow down at that point and then accelerate when the action comes. Some of those episodes feel more rushed than others (for me the episode with the witch didn’t seem to quite fit in with the time allocated to it, and the bonding between the women and Amber seemed too fast, considering the amount of time they were together. On the other hand I loved the idea and the concept of that story) as if the clock counting down Amber’s time to complete her mission would speed up and slow down. Although it’s true that time is relative and the story is told from a subjective perspective…

The book is written in the third person although it follows Amber’s character and we get her insights and point of view. The writing is dynamic and easy and despite its length, the novel is a quick read.

We have very little information about most of the characters, although that’s in keeping with Amber’s point of view, and it helps us share her feelings, emotions, confusion and attempts at making sense of what’s going on. Milo and his relationship with his car is very intriguing and, at least for me, one of the big successes of the novel. We get some hints of his story but I get the feeling there’s much more to come. Glen might be a divisive one that some readers might love and others hate. I found him at times annoying but at others endearing.  Although there are some characters that don’t seem to have any redeeming qualities, most of them are grey rather than black or white, and I thought that added to the complexity of the book and gave it a touch of realism.

There isn’t a love story (at least not so far) and although that might put some readers of the genre off, I didn’t mind so much. The ending is both an ending and it sets off the stage for the next chapter in the story.

In sum this is a novel that packs a lot of stories into a single book, with characters that are interesting if not immediately likeable, and although not perfect, it’s a great read. I’m looking forward to the next book.

Links:

http://amzn.to/1qz52We

http://amzn.to/1qz53cw

Here if you want to check a preview:

And now, the second book in the trilogy:

Desolation (The Demon Road Trilogy, Book 2) by Derek Landy
Desolation (The Demon Road Trilogy, Book 2) by Derek Landy

Desolation (The Demon Road Trilogy, Book 2) by Derek Landy

THE EPIC NEW THRILLER CONTINUES.

Book two in the mind-blowing new supernatural thriller from bestselling author DEREK LANDY, creator of international sensation Skulduggery Pleasant.

Reeling from their bloody encounter in New York City at the end of Demon Road, Amber and Milo flee north. On their trail are the Hounds of Hell – five demonic bikers who will stop at nothing to drag their quarries back to their unholy master.

Amber and Milo’s only hope lies within Desolation Hill – a small town with a big secret; a town with a darkness to it, where evil seeps through the very floorboards. Until, on one night every year, it spills over onto the streets and all hell breaks loose.

And that night is coming…

Links:

http://amzn.to/23nZ87Y

http://amzn.to/23nZawT

If you want to have a look:

Thanks to Net Galley, to Harper Collins Children’s Books and to Derek Landy for the books, thanks to you for reading, and you know, if you fancy a trip, like, share, comment and CLICK!

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