Tuesday, 8 December 2015
Advent 8: My Autumn Reads (Part 1)
How I lost you - Jenny Blackhurst: This book had me downloading at this line: I have no memory of what happened but I was told I killed my son. And you believe what your loved ones, your doctor and the police tell you, don't you?
What ensued was a twisting and turning thriller about a woman sent to a psychiatric unit after killing her young child. When she's let out she re-invents her self in a new area. Then she received a letter addressed to her former self and it makes her question whether she really did kill her child (an event she has no memory of ) and in fact whether he's dead at all.
The Children Act - Ian McKewan: This was a book group choice and I confess when the person announced their choice my heart sank. You see many years ago a friend gave me a copy of Saturday and thought I'd like it. I hated it. I never finished it. I didn't like or care about the characters enough to finish the book. I found the writing style pompous, I think I tried another of his books and felt the same. Really I did not want to ever be reading anything else by him ever again. But still it was the choice and I downloaded the book to my kindle and you know what? I enjoyed it. It made for an interesting discussion too. The book centres around a judge who has to made decisions about the lives of children and in one crucial case; whether a Jehovah's witness boy should be given life saving treatment against his and his families wishes. What results is a complex study in human nature and morality. Not a word seemed wasted in this book (which is more of a novella than chunky fiction works.) The characters were well drawn and it was a relief to hear from other members of book group that they struggled with McKewan at times and if a surgeons wife said that Saturday irritated her too (the main character was a surgeon) I felt much better for dissing such an acclaimed author.
Next up with Some Tame Gazelle by Barbara Pym and sent to me by Helen. Barbara Pym is an author I keep hearing about and yet had never read anything by her or understood her appeal. I even missed a talk about her at the World Bookcrossing Convention in Oxford this year and the room opposite mine in St Hilda's college was named after her. When Helen sent me her first novel to read I was intrigued. Step back in time to two spinster sisters living our their lives in a village where it's quite insular and everything seems to revolve around the comings and goings as the vicarage. In fact there was more men of the cloth in this novel than you could shake an incense stick at. (Oh how village life must have changed.) I enjoyed the subtle humour and characters and having started to learn to knit around the same time I enjoyed the fact someone always seemed to be knitting something.
The Good Neighbour by A J Banner was up next. This was a kindle first deal. At the start of the month Kindle offers a new book at a knock down price. There is usually about five or six books to chose from and this one appealed. Sarah settles into life in Shadow Cove with her doctor husband but when there is a fire next door resulting in the death of the family (save their little girl - who Sarah manages to rescue) and the destruction of Sarah's own home; Sarah starts to discover things about her own life are not all that they seem. A fun, fast paced domestic thriller. The kind of story I can see being made into a good TV movie.
I let you go - Clare Mackintosh. I was scrolling through my kindle and this popped up as unread. At first I thought I had read it and was confusing this with the plot of How I lost You. Similarly this thriller also concerns a woman who thinks she's responsible for a child's death. I don't want to say much more as this was cleverly written to make me think one thing and completely misdirect me for a good chunk of the novel. Much better in fact than How I Lost You.
The Snowman by Jo Nesbo was up next. Can you tell I LOVE thrillers yet? I have long given up trying to read the Harry Hole books in order (It hasn't helped they weren't released in the UK in order.) This was quite a chilling one. Women are going missing around the time of the first snow and a snowman is built at the victims home - often wearing the victims clothing or the victims head...Yes, snowman are now set to freak me out as much as scarecrows did as a child! I am used to the false killer trails and I actually plumped for the real killer very early on because there are some big obvious clues left.
By Halloween I was ready for something creepy so I opted for The Others by James Herbert. James Herbert along with Stephen King were my go to modern horror writers during my teen years and as such I probably haven't read any James Hebert for nearly 20 years. This was actually more of a detective cum romance novel with a supernatural twist. I don't find his work as disturbing as I remember it. I enjoyed this just the same and liked the main characters a lot.
It was book group reading again with The Road Home by Rose Tremain. We discussed this at book group just last week and it was a book that largely divided the group. I didn't much like it. It was bleak, depressing, stereotypical and I can't see why it won awards. There were plenty of the group that disagreed and one person even said it was the best book we'd read at book group!
I have read plenty more since, but I'll save that for another post later in the month. I'm already making a list of books I'd like to read next year. Do you have any recommendations? I'd love to hear them.