Category Archives: Harris Jane

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

May Retrospective

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

Gillespie and I by Jane Harris – 3/5
The story of a soured friendship in the art world of Victorian Glasgow.  After a promising start, I’m afraid this was a bit of a damp squib.

The Grifters by Jim Thompson – 4/5
A career conman takes a beating that forces him to reassess his life.  This was a quick read but unexpectedly poignant.

The Voices by Susan Elderkin – 3.5/5
The spirits of the Australian outback try to make themselves heard in this wonderfully evocative piece of prose.  The writing is lively, poetic and original but the themes became a little too heavy-handed for my taste.

Rhumba by Elaine Proctor – 3.5/5
A sad and hopeful story about the bleak world of human trafficking, and the need to find somebody to love.  It has a curious sense of distance from reality and is night quite as powerful as it should be.

The Adventures of Vaclav the Magnificent & His Lovely Assistant Lena by Haley Tanner – 3.5/5
An inseparable friendship between an aspiring magician and his lovely assistant comes to an abrupt end when Lena disappears.  Strong characters drive this story of immigrants in America.

We have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson – 4/5
Not a brooding, suspenseful or spooky gothic thriller; but it is a short book, and the writing is fun, dark, magical, enjoyable – a great evening’s read!

BOOK OF THE MONTH:
Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi – 4/5
Stories within stories, slipping times and locations, where do memories and fantasies collide and divide?  A wonderfully original love story covering Bluebeard, escapism, storytelling and more.

Our Lady of Alice Bhatti by Mohammed Hanif – 4/5
Oops, was supposed to be saving this for my holiday reading… :S  An unexpectedly disturbing story that was not at all the lighthearted romp I expected.  An uncomfortable but thought-provoking read.

The Dream Room by Marcel Moring – 4/5
Re-read to refresh my memory.  Although a little cliched in structure, it is a quietly haunting story of wartime and beyond.

English Passengers by Matthew Kneale – 4/5
A wonderful narrative journey carried by great characterisation, and managing just the right balance between heart-wrenching historical fact and essential comic relief.

The Messenger of Athens by Anne Zouroudi – 3/5
I had mixed feelings about this one.  A compelling soap opera of Greek island life; but I felt it lacked the necessary tension to be fully successful as a mystery.

Gillespie and I by Jane Harris

DATE FINISHED: May 2nd, 2012

RATED: *** 

SYNOPSIS:  In the 1930s, Harriet Baxter is an ‘old maid’ looking back on her acquaintance with the Gillespie family, back in the 1890s.  Following a chance encounter on a Glasgow street, Harriet’s friendship with the family grows over the following months, and she becomes an ardent fan of up-and-coming artist Ned Gillespie’s work.   When the Gillespies’ younger daughter disappears, however, relations become strained…

THOUGHTS:   If you have read any reviews of this book, it is impossible to approach it without the knowledge that Harriet is an ‘unreliable narrator’.   Read more of this post