Category Archives: Martin Valerie

A True Story Based on Lies by Jennifer Clement

DATE FINISHED: July 19th, 2012 

RATED: **** (4.5)

SYNOPSIS:  Leonora is raised on Mexican folklore, its rhythm in her blood. After studying at a convent she is taken on as maid and nanny to a well-off couple, but when she falls pregnant by her employer, Mr. O’ Connor, she must give up her child to the couple for the sake of society and appearance. Aura Olivia calls Mrs O’ Connor mother, but Leonora’s blood courses through the household’s veins. In a house full of women, sometimes it is hard to know exactly where the power lies…

THOUGHTS:  Although set only decades ago, Clement’s prose has a timeless, storybook feel. Read more of this post

Lighthousekeeping by Jeanette Winterson

DATE FINISHED: June 22nd, 2012 

RATED: ****

SYNOPSIS:  Orphaned Silver is apprenticed to lighthousekeeper Pew, and in the darkness of the lighthouse she finds stories hang in the air like seaspray. From Pew she learns about Babel Dark, the minister son of the man who built the lighthouse, and his own haunted tale of love and duality. And eventually Silver follows the trail to find a love of her own.

THOUGHTS:  Winterson’s musical prose weaves back and forth through time, painting vivid pictures of darkness and light, past and present but avoiding extraneous detail: a watercolour wash of dreamlike images. Read more of this post

A Method Actor’s Guide to Jekyll and Hyde by Kevin MacNeil

DATE FINISHED: October 2nd, 2011             

RATED: *** (3.5)

SYNOPSIS:  Robert (Lewis) is in a bad way after a cycling accident, but he is determined that it will not affect his casting in the lead role(s) of a new production based on Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  But it seems he must prove his worth over a new actor who has been brought in to play the same role(s) not to mention win back his erstwhile ‘girlfriend’ Juliette.  In fact, none of the cast or crew seem to fully appreciate either Robert’s bravery/tenacity in the face of his post-accident pain, or indeed his immense talent.  And somehow, everything in his life seems to be sliding dramatically from bad to worse…

THOUGHTS:  The bulk of the story is told by Robert, so given the aftermath of the accident, combined with the subject of the play, the logical reader expects some kind of Jekyll & Hyde manifestation within his character.   Read more of this post

Savage Lands by Clare Clark

DATE FINISHED: September 7th, 2011

RATED: ****

SYNOPSIS:  Sold by her father in Paris to become a wife in the ‘prosperous’ new colony of Louisiana, Elisabeth Savaret finds her expectations confounded at every turn – especially when she falls violently in love with the man she marries, the charming but untrustworthy Babelon.  Having been left as an observer of the local Ouma ‘savages’ throughout his teenage years, Auguste Guichard is befriended by Babelon, a move which shapes the lives of the three protagonists from that moment forth.

THOUGHTS:  Although there are one or two moments when Clark’s narrative makes brief and unaccountable leaps, for the most part this is a well-written novel, with strong, considered language accompanying strong, considered characters.   Read more of this post

Jack Maggs by Peter Carey

DATE FINISHED: March 13th, 2011

RATED: **** 

SYNOPSIS: Jack Maggs arrives in London seeking out Henry Phipps, a gentleman who it turns out has recently departed his last known address. Maggs bides his time in the role of footman next door until he can meet his quarry; but in the employ of Percy Buckle, Maggs’ secret past as a transported convict is quickly discovered when a dinner guest practices his parlour trick of mesmerism.

THOUGHTS: Read more of this post

The Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

DATE FINISHED: March 10th, 2011

RATED: ****

SYNOPSIS: After a lonely childhood watching her mother’s descent into madness, Antoinette marries an Englishman who has travelled to Jamaica upon invitation by her step-brother. They embark upon a sensual love affair, but soon the village gossip pushes Antoinette’s new husband to the brink of madness himself as he begins to believe the rumours.

THOUGHTS: Read more of this post