Category Archives: Salway Sarah

Tell Me Everything by Sarah Salway

tell me everything, sarah salwayDATE FINISHED: August 2nd, 2013 

RATED: ***

SYNOPSIS:  From an overweight girl collapsed in tears at a cafe table, Molly becomes a girl with a sparse bedroom above a stationery shop, where she works for Mr. Roberts who likes her to climb a ladder while he holds her ankles and she tells him inappropriate stories about her life (which she has to embellish, not having led quite the life he imagines). It’s an odd kind of deal, but at least she has a roof over her head, a ‘boyfriend’ who likes to think he is a secret agent, and the possibility of a future. But whatever stories she tells to re-shape it, will she ever leave her past behind?

THOUGHTS:  Molly is a curiously naïve character, surrounded by equally curious co-conspirators in her story: are they caricatures of the fat girl, the hairdresser, the librarian, the shopkeeper, the oddball in the park, or is there in fact more to all of them than first meets the eye? Molly tells and re-tells her own story, high on the transformative power of creation, but her new life is slowly building a momentum of its own, transformations occurring within and without her.

Of course there is more to each of the characters than there first seems…but none of them feel real even so. Each transformation seems a little too contrived, a little too much of a plot device. It’s a story about storytelling and how we can create our own narratives in life – at the same time I felt there wasn’t quite enough depth to sustain this as a novel, and might have worked better condensed into a short story. Although likeable, it didn’t quite dig deep enough or push far enough to be completely satisfying.

FOLLOWING ON:  Salway’s light touch worked better for me in her first novel, Something Beginning With. This reminded me strongly of something else I’ve read but is currently escaping me – will return to update, when I remember!

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A March Retrospective

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

A Mysterious Affair of Style by Gilbert Adair – 3/5
Nowhere near as entertaining or cleverly conceived/wrought as the previous book in the series, The Act of Roger Murgatroyd. Disappointing.  (My mum enjoyed it, though!)

Ella Minnow Pea by Matt Dunn – 4/5
A clever & enjoyable fable set on an island where an overzealous council bans more and more letters from daily usage as a historic monument begins to decay. If you enjoy word puzzles, this is a really fun read, but more importantly, it’s a good story, too!

BOOK OF THE MONTH:
War Crimes for the Home by Liz Jensen – 4/5

In this sharply witty tale, Gloria looks back on life with her sister during the war, and discovers why certain memories are more reluctant to re-surface than others. I was relieved that the ‘twist’ (evident that it would be coming from early on in the story) was slightly different than I had imagined.  I like the fact that Jensen explores different styles in her writing, this being quite different to The Ninth Life of Louis Drax (equally enjoyed, and in retrospect does have some overlap of theme despite the dramatic difference in characters), My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time (a vivid historical romp, but with a schmaltzy ending), Egg Dancing (reminded me very much of Fay Weldon – actually, War Crimes could be said to have echoes of Weldon, also) and The Rapture (not as good as I had hoped).

The Girl from the Chartreuse by Pierre Peju – 3.5/5
An accident involving a bookseller’s van knocking down a young child whose mother has not collected her from school provides the framework for this introspective and philosophical novel about two drifting souls searching for either meaning or escape.  Very French, very existential, quietly intriguing but lacking engagement on an emotional level.

Something Beginning With by Sarah Salway – 3.5/5
An encyclopedic look at Verity Bell’s life, naive and touching; very cleverly constructed.

The American Boy by Andrew Taylor – unrated
Read up to about the halfway point & was neither hating nor loving it, but realised I had no great desire to continue reading it.  So I stopped.

Endings

“The sort of books I like best are those in which I can completely lose myself.  At first, you sit with the unopened book on your lap waiting to meet the main character with that sense of anticipation you get on blind dates.  Is this person going to be your new best friend?  And then there’s a moment – normally just over half-way through – when your heart grows until it’s too big for your body because all these dreadful things are happening in the book and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.  You can’t even tell the character they’re making all the wrong decisions.  You’vve just got to keep on reading.  But then you get to the last words and you can’t believe it, you keep your fingers on the end sentence because it can’t all finish there.  It’s as if they’ve shut the door and left you on the other side, unwanted.  And you cared so much.  And there’s no way to make them see how much you cared.”

from Something Beginning With by Sarah Salway

Something Beginning With by Sarah Salway

DATE FINISHED: March 29th, 2012

RATED: *** (3.5)

SYNOPSIS:  Naïve social misfit Verity Bell is concerned about many minor and major issues in her life, such as her leering boss, and her best friend Sally’s affair with a married man. Everything changes when she acquires a relationship of her own with an equally married man, with whom she knows she has found the secret to love and happiness. Although he is suddenly more reluctant to leave his wife, and increasingly finds fault in little things Verity knows she can change… Of course she is not in denial!

THOUGHTS:  You would be forgiven for assuming from the cover artwork and synopsis that this is just another frothy, throwaway chick-lit novel. It isn’t. Read more of this post