Tag Archives: France

Ben, in the World by Doris Lessing

DATE FINISHED: September 4th, 2012 

RATED: *** (3.5)

SYNOPSIS:  At 18 years old (looking twice his age) Ben has left home, and is seeking his own place in the world. He has always been ‘different’, and although he has learned (for the most part) to contain his instinctive impulses, he is becoming increasingly desperate to find more people like himself, somewhere he can belong in a world he simply doesn’t understand. Although he meets several people who accept him as he is, for various reasons their refuge is short-lived and instead his life is manipulated by people he knows he cannot trust yet still cannot evade. After being used to carry drugs to France, Ben finds himself in Brazil where he appears to be a highly sought prize by scientists at a local research centre, but also ever closer to the promise of more ‘people like him’…

THOUGHTS:  Ben in the world is a different Ben to the one introduced in The Fifth Child. Read more of this post

The Flying Man by Roopa Farooki

DATE FINISHED: April 2nd, 2012

RATED: ****

SYNOPSIS:  Maqil, Miguel, Mehmet, Mike, slips through life from name to name, wife to wife, border to border, decade to decade, relying on his easy charm and quick wit to see him through the short con and the long, to provide the edge and entertainment he craves. But suddenly he is old, and what does he have to show for it? And who will miss him, once he’s gone?

THOUGHTS:   I was expecting to read about the exploits of a glib, smooth-talking conman, but instead Farooki revealed the other side of the man – Read more of this post

The Girl from the Chartreuse by Pierre Peju

DATE FINISHED: March 28th, 2012

RATED: *** (3.5)

SYNOPSIS:  A bookseller driving his van through the crowded streets of a small French town knocks down a young girl whose mother has failed to collect her from school.  While the girl is in a coma, Vollard tells her stories from his immense memory; and Eva’s mother drifts in and out of the hospital, more trapped than ever.  Both must live with their guilt over the child’s situation, and what will happen if & when the child wakes up?

THOUGHTS:  Despite the appealing jacket and the emotionally drama-wrought potential of the synopsis above, this is a very quiet novel, about two adults who are lost in different ways, for different reasons.   Read more of this post

The Strange Case of the Composer and his Judge by Patricia Duncker

DATE FINISHED: October 8th, 2011             

RATED: *** 

SYNOPSIS:  On New Year’s Day of the new millennium, a group of bodies is found in the snow, echoing an earlier group suicide by members of the Faith. The local police detective, Schweigen, is reuinited with an old flame (the Judge of the title) to solve the mystery. When a curious book of undecipherable symbols is discovered near the scene of the crime, the Judge is led to the Composer, an irresistible attraction, and many questions without answers…

THOUGHTS:  The most mysterious thing about this novel was the consistently unprofessional behaviour of the protagonists. 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

White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi

DATE FINISHED: September 2nd, 2011

RATED: *** (3.5)

SYNOPSIS:  Twins Miranda and Eliot live in a house that is haunted by generations, a house with its own way of getting its own way.  Eliot seems immune to the ghosts they live with, but following the death of their mother, Miranda sees and hears more and more of them and her own existence becomes proportionally less and less.  Which family will claim her – the living or the dead?

THOUGHTS:  Oyeyemi’s prose style will not be to everyone’s taste, Read more of this post

No and Me by Delphine de Vigan

DATE FINISHED: August 19th, 2011

RATED: ***

SYNOPSIS:  A schoolgirl with a high IQ and a mother in deep depression, befriends a homeless girl for a school project, but soon finds she is out of her depth.

THOUGHTS:  I think if I had read this book as a teenager I would have loved it.   Read more of this post

Sulphuric Acid by Amelie Nothomb

DATE FINISHED: April 18th, 2011

RATED: *** (3.5)

SYNOPSIS: A large number of people are randomly incarcerated and their lives in a specially created death camp are televised for the viewing public in the latest reality TV project: working all day long, surviving on gruel and stale bread, prisoners are daily condemned to death. Inmate Pannonique captures the imagination of the public and camp alike but does she have the power to put an end to the insane project?

THOUGHTS: Read more of this post

The Wave Theory of Angels by Alison MacLeod

DATE FINISHED: March 21st, 2011

RATED: *** (3.5)

SYNOPSIS: As a gothic cathedral rises in the background of medieval France, Christina dies in the bed she shares with her sister Marguerite, yet wakes again on the day of her funeral.  Centuries later in Chicago, Tina falls into a coma upon answering the phone in the middle of the night, and does not recognise her sister and father when she wakes.  The answer lies within the mysteries of philosophy, physics, sleep, dreams and angels…

THOUGHTS: Read more of this post