Category Archives: Arnold Gaynor

June Retrospective

A summary of the books I read in June, with links to reviews:

The Taint of Midas by Anne Zouroudi  – 3/5

I have discovered that I don’t find the Mysteries of the Greek Detective series especially mysterious… You might like it for the Greek characters and location but it didn’t do much for me.

Candlemoth by R. J. Elloryunfinished

I honestly gave this my best shot (I got over halfway), but I found I was wading through it so slowly that I was beginning to resent the time it was taking away from the reading of potentially more enjoyable books. I did find the coming-of-age story of the two friends quite readable, but the interspersed primer of American history of the period and the conspiracy theories were not very interesting. It just didn’t hang together for me, and I found the prose to be very generic.

The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedmanunfinished but 2/5 

I couldn’t face reading beyond the halfway mark. The prose was so-so but the sense of history was non-existent, with dialogue that didn’t fit the period at all. Mostly, though, I think it was just the story itself that was too sentimental for my taste.

After Such Kindness by Gaynor Arnold – 3.5/5

Based upon the relationship between Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), and his child-muse Alice Liddell, Arnold offers an interesting perspective and a good story. I was a bit put off by her attempted ‘Carrollisms’, though.

The Tooth Fairy by Graham Joyce – 3.5/5

Joyce is brilliant at portraying ordinary people in the real world, and this is a really good coming-of-age story of growing up in the 60s. Don’t be put off by the fantasy aspect of the Tooth Fairy as the reality versus the psychological origins of the tooth fairy is very much a part of the story. I highly recommend Joyce, if you haven’t tried him before…

The Silent Land by Graham Joyce – 3/5

…but don’t start with this one! I was very disappointed with it – really cliched, I’ve-seen-this-a-thousand-times-before Sunday afternoon fare. And the ‘banter’ between the couple became very grating, very quickly.

On Loving Josiah by Olivia Fane – 4/5

A well-written story, with challenging ideas but – for me more importantly – great characters. The style reminded me of Barbara Trapido (or a less-caustic Fay Weldon). I’m very interested to see what she writes next.

BOOK OF THE MONTH:
The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt – 5/5

Although this was a re-read, I think I enjoyed it even more this time around. DeWitt’s style is a sprawling stream-of-consciousness, a witty and wonderful adventure through words, but with appealing characters and great story, too. It’s ages since I enjoyed a book so much!

Lighthousekeeping by Jeanette Winterson – 4/5

This is a very fable-ish story told in lyrical, lilting prose – very enjoyable to read but ultimately a little insubstantial.

Girl Meets Boy by Ali Smith – 4/5

A wonderful, joyful love story that captures the happiness of Ovid’s original version of the Iphis myth (from Metamorphoses) whilst relating it to utterly contemporary themes. The prose is playful, witty and rhythmic stream-of-conscious style which will not appeal to everyone but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Burning Bright by Helen Dunmore – 3.5/5

A quite disappointing. With the exception of Enid, the characters are never really fleshed out, and although smoothly written and interesting in parts, it has neither the glittering crispness of A Spell of Winter, nor the taut and highly-charged atmosphere of Talking to the Dead.

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On Loving Josiah by Olivia Fane

DATE FINISHED: June 18th, 2012 

RATED: ****

SYNOPSIS:  Eve is a charming, untameable, sexually liberated wild child, with sociopathic tendencies and a psychiatrist who has utterly fallen for her charms. But Eve bears a child to an earthy, grounded gardener, who takes on the responsibility of tending to the young Josiah along with his plants, while Eve continues to float about happily, perhaps manically, upsetting their care workers. Plucked from their care at the age of 7, Josiah is tumbled from foster home to foster home to residential care home, until at the age of 14 he meets classical scholar Thomas and a world of love he has not known opens up to him. This is the story of a boy who has fallen through too many gaps in ‘the system’.

THOUGHTS:  Eve is a wonderfully drawn, extraordinarily vivid and spirited character – perhaps on the cusp of insanity, but perhaps just ‘different’. Thomas’ introspection and academia are equally well realised, although the nature of his love for Josiah makes reading from his perspective a more uncomfortable experience. Read more of this post

After Such Kindness by Gaynor Arnold

DATE FINISHED: June 14th, 2012 

RATED: *** (3.5)

SYNOPSIS:  Margaret is recently married to a good man who – so far – has been understanding of her reluctance to fulfil her wifely duties. Margaret discovers a long-forgotten childhood journal and she suddenly realises that a whole chunk of her childhood memories are missing. The journal takes her back to a delightful summer where she was entertained by the young Rev James Jameson, a friend and colleague of her father’s at Oxford. How could those pleasant days have led to such unpleasant adult nightmares? Margaret is determined to dig out the truth…

THOUGHTS:  Arnold has based this novel, categorically, upon the relationship between Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), and his child-muse Alice Liddell. Read more of this post