Monthly Archives: September 2015

September 2015

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler – 4

Getting underneath the skin of an ‘ordinary’, unremarkable family, this is a story about the little things that push people apart and pull them back together, the truths behind the myths, the special moments alongside the mouldering resentments and the secrets big and small which all provide the foundations for our memories and infrastructure of our lives.  The family trade of construction is a metaphor for all of that visualisation and growth.

I wasn’t convinced that I would enjoy this novel, but was actually quickly drawn into the complex dynamics of the Whitshank family soap opera very quickly. After reading several books with quite superficial characterisation recently, it was a relief to read something a little more sensitive to the layers that go into each character, how we perceive ourselves differently than we are perceived by others, and how, also, we change.

Although there was an overall positive “we shall overcome” feeling to the story, there was also something of an inherent sadness, which reminded me a little of Mrs Bridge by Evan S. Connell.


August 2015

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi – 3.5

I was really looking forward to this – a novel based on fairytale, by an author I have enjoyed in the past.  A girl called Boy escapes from her abusive father, falls in love and becomes stepmother to Snow, then sends Snow away following the birth of her own child, Bird.  Loosely based on aspects of Snow White, it’s also about family secrets, and learning to live with them (amongst other things).

Although it reads well, it didn’t quite hit the mark for me.  The story wasn’t traditional-fairytale enough to sustain archetypal characters, but they just didn’t have enough depth for me to believe in them as ‘real life’ people.  It was all a nice idea, but at the end of the day, it all felt a little bit superficial.  I really wanted to love it, but it left me underwhelmed.

Hotel Alpha by Mark Watson – 3

A man dedicates his life to working for the Hotel Alpha: while the world advances around him, he is determined to stay cloistered in the cosy world of the hotel.  But ultimately, the secrets that he has helped the hotel to conceal find their way out into the open, and everything will change, whether he likes it or not.

Another book with relatively likeable but disappointingly shallow characters, and secrets which are by no means as shocking as they are apparently supposed to be.  It might have been interesting to see how the characters re-built their lives (or not) after the secrets were revealed, but instead it was a fairly plodding ride to a damp squib of an ending.