This is a very well-written book, gripping and intelligent, and, unfortunately, all too believable.
Delilah is portrayed very authentically, and, while it is quite frustrating to read the novel at times because of her reactions and inaction, it is very clear why she behaves as she does, and why she feels so trapped and powerless.
Chase is very accurate, the way he manipulates Delilah so terrifying to read, and the influence he has on the couple’s son one of the most disturbing aspects of the narrative. The way he has ‘chosen’ Delilah to be his wife is so telling, and the reasons she has for believing his lies, and becoming so cut off from everyone and so reliant are easy to believe. It is unsettling and upsetting to feel her fear and trepidation when she is simply doing things we take for granted and wouldn’t think about twice. That the author has done this in a way that makes you want to read on, wanting to know what happens to Delilah, rooting for her all the while, is a testament to the skill of the writing.
To keep her children safe, she must put their lives at risk …
In suburban Australia, Mim and her two children live as quietly as they can. Around them, a near-future world is descending into chaos: government officials have taken absolute control, but not everybody wants to obey the rules.
When Mim’s husband Ben mysteriously disappears, Mim realises that she and her children are in great danger. Together, they must set off on the journey of a lifetime to find Ben. The government are trying to track them down, but Mim will do anything to keep her family safe – even if it means risking all their lives.
Can the world ever return to normality, and their family to what it was?
This was a bit hit and miss. There are some aspects of the story that are brilliant, and scary, and very, very human. Mim is a great main character and her fear for her children and her need to keep them safe are really relatable.
The future world in which she lives feels, unfortunately, very real, and it isn’t hard to imagine things going the way they have in her life – with the government taking over everything, tracking every move, and those who don’t fit being sent off to ‘BestLife’ facilities. It’s all very eerily believable.
The novel moves at a pace to begin with and is very dramatic and exciting. but once Mim is at sea, it all slows down a great deal and the details about the technicalities of sailing drag the story down, unfortunately.
When Mim is back to tracking her husband, the pace picks up again, and the ending is really good, very exciting and fast-paced.
While there was, in my opinion, too much detail of the intricacies of sailing, there were other aspects of the story that I felt didn’t get the depth they needed. There were hints that Mim was frustrated and unhappy at home, that things in her marriage weren’t all they appeared, and I felt this could have been explored a little more, as could the relationship she had with her brothers. I do thin this would have helped me to care more about Mim, and what happened to her.
So definitely worth a read, but not quite as gripping as I’d hoped – but I’d certainly read more by this author.
Born at the stroke of midnight at the exact moment of India’s independence, Saleem Sinai is a special child. However, this coincidence of birth has consequences he is not prepared for: telepathic powers connect him with 1,000 other ‘midnight’s children’ all of whom are endowed with unusual gifts. Inextricably linked to his nation, Saleem’s story is a whirlwind of disasters and triumphs that mirrors the course of modern India at its most impossible and glorious.
It feels a bit ridiculous that I’ve got to the ripe of age of fifty-three without having read any books by Salman Rushdie. I have had this one in my bookcase for about five years! And I decided that 2023 would be the year I would finally read it.
Well, it certainly got the year off to an excellent start. This is one of those books that, when you read reviews on Amazon, you wonder what the people who have given it less than five stars are reading. I know everyone is entitled to an opinion, and that reading can be subjective, but the moment I opened this book I was completely and utterly captivated.
The writing is breathtaking, absolutely on another level to almost everything I’ve read before. That this won the Booker of Bookers is no surprise. Every page, indeed, every paragraph, contains something that makes you stop in your tracks (at least if you are a nerdy, book obsessed person like me).
Saleem, with his huge, dripping ‘cucumber’ nose and amazing sense of smell is such an unusual narrator – if you want a masterclass in how to write an unreliable narrator, then this is the place to find it. Do these things really happen to him? Is he telepathic? Is he linked to the other ‘midnight’s children’? Or is he weaving a tale to make his life seem more interesting, as he recounts these events to Padma, delighting in surprising and shocking her as he does.
The parallels of his life to the changes in India after independence and through partition are beautifully woven throughout. I learned more about the history of India than I ever did at school. If you want to get the most from this book, you will need to not mind looking up things as you go – but it is really well worth it.
The writing is unconventional, and breaks all the rules – but this is a writer who knows how to break those rules, and certainly doesn’t do so for the sake of it. The narrative is carefully and beautifully constructed, metaphors, similes, imagery, vocabulary all working seamlessly together to create a wonderful story.
The people that populate this extraordinary novel are gorgeously drawn – like ayah Mary Pereira, who infuses her pickles with all her bitterness, hurt and love; Parvati-the-witch, who loves Saleem; Naseem, who really begins it all; and gorgeous Aunty Pia; Picture Singh the world’s most charming man; Uncle Hanif, film director; Shiva, Saleem’s huge-kneed rival, the novel is bursting with life and all the human emotions you can think of – love, hate, jealousy, empathy, cowardice, fear, sadness, joy, the list goes on and on.
I was genuinely sorry to get to the end – and very sorry I had taken so long to read it. I’m also very glad that I have a whole back catalogue of Rushdie to enjoy.
Happy Valentine’s Day! Here is my annual Valentine’s Day post about the real ideas behind the celebration.
Yes, I know it’s Valentine’s Day and lots of you will be receiving bouquets of roses and planning romantic dinners (not me- my husband knows I have no time for the gross commercialism that is Valentine’s Day and is under pain of divorce not to buy me flowers – and I mean it), however, it would seem that Valentine’s Day has always had a lot more to it than hearts and flowers. In fact, it originates from an ancient pagan ritual that was celebrated for years before anyone had heard of Valentine.
In Rome, many centuries ago, the festival of Lupercalia was celebrated from the 13th to the 15th of February. On the 14th of February, a day devoted to Juno, queen of the gods and patron of marriage, young women would place their names on slips of paper put into jars. The young men would pick out a name and the two would spend Lupercalia together.
Lupercalia itself was a strange festival. It was held in honour of the gods Lupercus and Faunus and the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus. The ritual began at the cave where Lupa the wolf was reputed to have suckled Romulus and Remus. A goat (fertility) and a dog (protection) would be sacrificed, and the goat flayed. Men would then run through the streets whipping women and crops with this flayed hide, in a bid to encourage fertility and to ease pain in any future childbirth. Not quite as romantic as a candlelit dinner, but this was ancient Rome.
So how did this rather wild sounding festival become the St Valentine’s Day of today? The rise of Christianity saw Pope Gelasius officially condemn the pagan festival, banning it at the end of the fifth Century. He declared that 14th February be St Valentine’s day. Although no one really knows who this Valentine was, he is possibly an amalgamation of two different men. During the reign of Emperor Claudius, it was decreed that all marriages be stopped. A priest called Valentine was imprisoned for continuing to perform marriage ceremonies. In the 3rd Century A.D. another Valentine was imprisoned for helping Christians. He allegedly fell in love with the daughter of his jailer and cured her of blindness. This good deed did him no good whatsoever, as he was executed on 14th February 289 A.D. These two Valentines may be the ones at the heart of Valentine’s Day (sorry!).
Even the tradition of young women placing their names into a jar to be picked by a man was incorporated into this new celebration – with one rather huge difference. The girl’s names were replaced by those of saints; each man vowing to emulate the life of the saint whose name he picked for the coming year. Not quite as romantic as the original, really.
So, like many other feast days and holidays, Valentine’s Day has its roots in something far from saintly (but perhaps a lot more fun!). Still, whether you object to the commercialism or not, it’s as good a day as any other to tell someone you love them!
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Two young people meet at a pub in South East London. Both are Black British, both won scholarships to private schools where they struggled to belong, both are now artists – he a photographer, she a dancer – trying to make their mark in a city that by turns celebrates and rejects them. Tentatively, tenderly, they fall in love. But two people who seem destined to be together can still be torn apart by fear and violence.
At once an achingly beautiful love story and a potent insight into race and masculinity, Open Water asks what it means to be a person in a world that sees you only as a Black body, to be vulnerable when you are only respected for strength, to find safety in love, only to lose it. With gorgeous, soulful intensity, Caleb Azumah Nelson has written the most essential British debut of recent years.
This is such an unusual book. On the surface, it is a simple story, of two young people who fall in love. But it is so much more than that. Through the two protagonists, the author explores so much of life, and love, and society – it’s expectations, it’s cruelty, the freedoms it seems to offer that can be utterly superficial. It’s a story about being young, and hopeful, and about trying to make a life, a good life, in a world where those hopes are dashed.
I can’t fully understand the complex issues that this book raises – I have never had the experiences that are written about here, but this novel, as well as being utterly compelling and a joy to read for the beauty of the writing, goes a long way to show these experiences. It is written in second person – which does really take some getting used to – but it is so worth persevering, because the writing is so good. Not many authors could have done this so successfully, and it is a testament to the author’s talent that this is such a beautiful novel.
Five years after giving up work to travel full time, Dog-ma Jacqueline (Jackie) and Dogfather Mark race against time to leave the UK before Britain exits the EU. If Brexit happens, their four Cavapoos (Cavalier/Poodle cross) Kai, Rosie, Ruby, and Lani will lose their puppy passports, and the Lambert Family will be unable to travel together. But Brexit isn’t their only obstacle. A few months into their adventure, the pandemic suddenly shatters their plans, and leaves them trapped in the epicentre of Europe’s No. 1 coronavirus hotspot.
The fourth road trip Europe adventure in author Jacqueline Lambert’s “inspirational and hilarious” series of true travel memoirs invites you to join the couple as they discover even more amazing and little-known places, this time in France and Italy. However, this isn’t just a priceless escape travel story filled with humorous mishaps and mountain adventure. The coronavirus pandemic separates the family from their loved ones at home, and leaves Jackie stranded alone during a blizzard in a remote Italian village, with Mark thousands of miles away, back in the UK.
Between terrible weather, political mayhem, and a global pandemic, Jackie and Mark try to take lessons from each hardship. Yet, even with a positive attitude, a sense of adventure, and a caravan full of loved ones, you can’t stop all the obstacles life rolls your way. These “amusing and informative” travel stories are certainly proof that It Never Rains… But It Paws!
I chose to read this book because we are planning to buy a campervan in the next few years when we retire and travel with our four dogs – so this sounded like a very good way to find out what the reality of that dream might be.
And it didn’t disappoint. The book is full of the ups and downs of a life on the road, and doesn’t shy away from telling it like it is – there are problems and mishaps galore, and life isn’t always a comfortable idyll.
But despite the often terrible weather, the financial worries, the sometimes seemingly insurmountable problems caused by ridiculous politics, the genuine love that Jackie and Mark have for their life and their dogs shines through.
There are wonderful descriptions of glorious countryside, and some interesting history too, along with some very entertaining anecdotes. This is a very light-hearted and enjoyable read.
One twin ran. The other vanished. Neither escaped…
DON’T TRUST ANYONE Cat’s twin sister El has disappeared. But there’s one thing Cat is sure of: her sister isn’t dead. She would have felt it. She would have known.
DON’T TRUST YOUR MEMORIES To find her sister, Cat must return to their dark, crumbling childhood home and confront the horrors that wait there. Because it’s all coming back to Cat now: all the things she has buried, all the secrets she’s been running from.
DON’T TRUST THIS STORY… The closer Cat comes to the truth, the closer to danger she is. Some things are better left in the past…
The most dangerous stories are the ones we tell ourselves… No. 36 Westeryk Road: an imposing flat-stone house on the outskirts of Edinburgh. A place of curving shadows and crumbling grandeur. But it’s what lies under the house that is extraordinary – Mirrorland. A vivid make-believe world that twin sisters Cat and El created as children. A place of escape, but from what?
Now in her thirties, Cat has turned her back on her past. But when she receives news that one sunny morning, El left harbour in her sailboat and never came back, she is forced to return to Westeryk Road; to re-enter a forgotten world of lies, betrayal and danger.
Because El had a plan. She’s left behind a treasure hunt that will unearth long-buried secrets. And to discover the truth, Cat must first confront the reality of her childhood – a childhood that wasn’t nearly as idyllic as she remembers…
I’m going to use a cliche because it’s true – I couldn’t put this book down. Every page was a pleasure to read.
The narrative takes you from past to present, as Cat returns to her childhood home to try and make sense of her twin sister’s disappearance. But there are so many reasons she left and coming home brings all those things back to the surface. Switching like this can often be clunky and awkward, but here it works so well and the flashbacks, the details of the twins’ strange childhood, are beautifully done, so evocative and detailed.
As the past is slowly revealed, the tension really grows, and the reader is pulled along by the narrative, as almost every page seems to reveal another piece of the puzzle. It’s expertly done, absolutely gripping.
A very impressive debut. Very much looking forward to her next book.
Two young men ski into a blizzard… but only one returns.
20 years later
Four people connected to the missing man find themselves in that same resort. Each has a secret. Two may have blood on their hands. One is a killer-in-waiting.
Someone knows what really happened that day.
And somebody will pay.
This is a solid mystery/thriller from an author who can obviously write well.
The author clearly knows the Alps well, and the sense of place and time is excellent. It’s really easy to picture the chalet and the slopes. It’s a great idea for the setting for a novel of this type.
There is suspense, and there are twists and turns that work really well, and the writing itself is good.
However, while there is always a place for horrible characters in a novel, I just couldn’t like anyone in this story, even the one character that I was supposed to like and to root for. The back story felt rather contrived and cliched unfortunately, and there were too many coincidences to make the set up feasible.
It’s been twenty years since Neve’s best friend Chloe went missing. Neve has never recovered and promised herself she’d never go back to that place.
But secrets can come back to haunt you
When Neve receives news that her first boyfriend Jamie has gone missing, she’s forced to return. Jamie has vanished without a trace in a disappearance that echoes the events of all those years ago. Somebody is watching and will stop at nothing until the truth about what took place that night is revealed …
Neve left the mining village where she grew up after her best friend Chloe disappeared. Now, after the breakup of her relationship, and struggling to run a business with her friend, she returns to help in the search for another friend, and her first love, Jamie.
The story switches between the present day, and the events of twenty-one years ago. This is done very well, and there is no confusion. The plot is quite complex and there are lots of twists and turns to keep mystery fans happy, and the atmosphere is quite spooky. The writing is very good in places, particularly in the evocative descriptions of the abandoned mine, the headframe watching over everything.
But I did find it hard to really connect to the characters, which made it difficult to really feel the tension. and there were quite a few errors in the text, including a lot of unintentional switches from past to present tense in the earlier chapters.
I also found the ending a bit of a disappointment.
So, not for me, unfortunately, but the book does have a lot of really great reviews, so the author is worth checking out if you’re a fan of the mystery genre.
China, 1941. With Japan’s declaration of war on the Allies, Elspeth Kent’s future changes forever. When soldiers take control of the missionary school where she teaches, comfortable security is replaced by rationing, uncertainty and fear.
Ten-year-old Nancy Plummer has always felt safe at Chefoo School. Now the enemy, separated indefinitely from anxious parents, the children must turn to their teachers – to Miss Kent and her new Girl Guide patrol especially – for help. But worse is to come when the pupils and teachers are sent to a distant internment camp. Unimaginable hardship, impossible choices and danger lie ahead.
Inspired by true events, this is the unforgettable story of the life-changing bonds formed between a young girl and her teacher, in a remote corner of a terrible war.
I’ve read quite a few of Hazel Gaynor’s books and have loved every one of them. She has a really lovely way of writing about ordinary people in extraordinary situations, showing how those people find such strength of character in order to cope. The relationships between her characters are always a highlight too.
This novel is no exception. Elspeth and Nancy are authentic and likeable narrators, showing clearly their fear and bewilderment as their lives change so dramatically. What works particularly well is their belief that this can’t possibly be happening, that someone will come and hp them. It really made me, as a reader, think about what how I would react in those circumstances.
I did find, however, the storyline around the Girl Guides a little overdone. I can appreciate that it was something to hold onto, for the girls and their teachers, and something they used to give life in the camp a sense of normality, but it did take over the narrative in places.
Otherwise, another great novel by Hazel Gaynor, and definitely recommended.