Tag Archives: family

Habits of the House by Fay Weldon

habits of the house, fay weldonDATE FINISHED: August 1st, 2013 

RATED: **** 

SYNOPSIS:  During a stay in London’s Belgrave Square, the Hedleigh family suddenly find themselves on the brink of bankruptcy, due to an unfortunate investment gone awry, not to mention a variety of gambling debts courtesy of the Earl… The daughter of the house is an ardent feminist and has declared herself out of the marriage market, so the only thing for it is for the charming but ineffectual son of the family, Arthur, to pull himself together and marry money – quickly!  The Countess and her maid work both together and against each other to bring about a ‘happy’ union with a visiting heiress (with a scandal in her past); but will Arthur’s preference for laid-back living and his sister’s horror at his mildly amoral proclivities scupper the grand plan to save the family?

THOUGHTS:  A comedy of manners both above and below stairs, I thoroughly enjoyed this period romp. Read more of this post

Sarah Thornhill by Kate Grenville

sarah-thornhillDATE FINISHED: July 26th, 2013 

RATED: *** 

SYNOPSIS:  Set in Australia a generation beyond its first convict settlers (a story told in Grenville’s The Secret River), Sarah Thornhill and Jack Langland grow up knowing that they belong together. But their families’ pasts turn out to be inextricably intertwined with the present and the couple is forced apart by circumstances beyond their control. Sarah settles for marriage to a good man she does not love, but her story is far from over…

THOUGHTS:  Told from Sarah’s perspective, I felt as a result that there was a lot missed out of this narrative.   Read more of this post

The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing

DATE FINISHED: August 4th, 2012 

RATED: **** (4.5)

SYNOPSIS:  Harriet and David are instinctively drawn to each other through a mutual yearning to play traditional happy families. They marry almost immediately, stretch their finances to live in an enormous home, and Harriet gives birth to four normal, healthy children amidst a whirl of family gatherings and old-fashioned support. Ben, the fifth child, is different even before he is born, torturing Harriet from within; and then after birth, immediately proves himself insatiable, brutal, ‘other’. Harriet and David become convinced that Ben is not quite human – somehow a throwback from an ancient, primitive race, and untameable. In the face of this indomitable force of nature, their carefully constructed family idyll begins to crumble…

THOUGHTS:  The story of this unearthly cuckoo in the nest, threatens all sanguinity. Read more of this post

The Blue Book by A.L. Kennedy

DATE FINISHED: August 3rd, 2012 

RATED: **** 

SYNOPSIS:  Beth and Derek are on a cruise – the youngest people aboard by far. Derek has planned to propose but is miserable and confined to his cabin with seasickness, instead. Beth wanders the decks and meets up with Arthur, a successful fraudulent psychic. It soon becomes clear their meetings are not the result of chance: Beth and Art have a secret history, but what is the truth of it (and them) and will their future be together or apart?

THOUGHTS:  I found this book quite infuriating. Read more of this post

The Waterproof Bible by Andrew Kaufman

DATE FINISHED: July 30th, 2012 

RATED: **** 

SYNOPSIS:  Rebecca has suffered since the day she was born with an overwhelming and uncontrollable ability to project her emotions – an issue she has finally resolved with a handy storage unit containing boxes of mementos, which keeps her excess emotions in check.  On the day of her sister Lisa’s funeral she suddenly realises she has lost touch with some of her feelings which she desperately needs and she realises it is time to deal with her issues – but how?  Aby is a little green around the gills.  Raised as a staunch Aquatic (the religion of an underwater civilisation which evolved following the Flood) she is breathing air for the first time as she crosses the country in a stolen car, on a mission to ‘rescue’ her landlocked, heretical mother Elizabeth before the opportunity is gone.  Elizabeth is running a little-visited hotel in the mountains aided only by Stewart, who in his spare time is building a boat and taking phonecalls from his troubled ex, Rebecca.  Oh, and Lisa’s husband Lewis has met a woman who tells him she is God, but God’s voice is not quite what he might have expected, and has some unforeseen effects…

THOUGHTS:

Stewart got out of the truck and walked into the wheat field he’d parked beside.  The stalks grew higher the deeper into the field he went. He continued walking. The stalks were slightly taller than his waist, but he still didn’t know what to say.

While overwhelming emotions is a problem most of us can already empathise with, it takes a little more suspension of belief to take at face value an Aquatic race living alongside our own Read more of this post

Snake by Kate Jennings

DATE FINISHED: July 25th, 2012 

RATED: **** (4.5)

SYNOPSIS:  This is the story of a marriage between polar opposites, dissatisfaction snaking through it from the start.  Rex is a solid man of earth, accepting of disappointments, and simply looking to settle into his own corner of land.  Irene is flighty as the air and soon resentful of the man and life she has tied herself to.  As the children grow up, Rex and Irene grow further apart under a scorching, suffocating sun.

THOUGHTS:  This deceptively simple story is built up through a chain of vividly realised images – the stark landscape, the hollow lives, the hope and the melancholy. Read more of this post

Pobby and Dingan by Ben Rice

DATE FINISHED: July 24th, 2012 

RATED: **** 

SYNOPSIS:  When Kellyanne’s imaginary friends disappear, she quickly slides into a mysterious illness. Although big brother Ashmol has never believed in Pobby and Dingan himself, he decides that the only way to cure her is to get the rest of their small mining town out looking for the missing invisibles, to prove to Kellyanne that people care. But will the plan work?  At the same time, their father is accused of ‘ratting’ at the local opal mines, and must contend with a swell of local opinion against him as his daughter wastes away before his eyes…

THOUGHTS:  Although on the surface this is a sentimental premise, Rice neatly avoids cliché in its telling. Read more of this post

The Book of Colour by Julia Blackburn

DATE FINISHED: July 24th, 2012 

RATED: **** 

SYNOPSIS:  When the family is cursed by a ‘devil’ islander, the narrator’s grandfather as a boy is uprooted from the home he has known and transplanted into an alternative island life, now under the care of his uncle and ‘his mulatto’, while his father stays behind, and his mother is placed in an asylum.  A history of curses, mixed race unions and cultural bigotry haunts the family through generations.

THOUGHTS:  In the first part of the book some intriguing images are introduced but the characters appear as though within a dream or trance-like state.  In the second part of the book, however, the narrative becomes more linear Read more of this post

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

In a Dark Wood by Amanda Craig

DATE FINISHED: July 18th, 2012 

RATED: **** 

SYNOPSIS:  Benedick is miserable: recently divorced, acting career in the doldrums, at war with his father, and barely able to look after himself, let alone his two young children (who ex-wife Georgie keeps insisting spend time with him). Taking refuge in the home of Ruth, the woman who raised him as one of her own, Benedick suddenly realises he can remember almost nothing about his real mother, who committed suicide when he was six years old. Inspired by a book of fairy tales written and illustrated by Laura, he embarks upon a quest to discover more about her, whether she was mad as many of her ‘friends’ seem to claim, and what drove her beyond the brink.

THOUGHTS:  In the sheer unlikeability of lead character Benedick, Craig sets herself for a potentially huge downfall – he is irritating, whiny, hypocritical, rude, quite simply unpleasant. Those readers who force themselves beyond this, however, will be rewarded Read more of this post