Tag Archives: friendship

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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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

All My Friends Are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman

DATE FINISHED: July 28th, 2012 

RATED: **** (4.5)

SYNOPSIS:  On their wedding night, Tom becomes invisible to his wife, The Perfectionist. After six months of waiting for Tom’s return, The Perfectionist buys a plane ticket and a new apartment in a new city. Invisibly, Tom sits next to his wife throughout the plane journey trying to think of ways to make her see him. Time is running out – will he discover his own superhero power in time?

THOUGHTS:  At first glance, this is a not very subtle but quirkily humorous story about the characters we build in order to survive everyday life. A superhero power exists for every strategy, defence, and pigeonhole Read more of this post

Bereft by Chris Womersley

DATE FINISHED: July 11th, 2012 

RATED: *** 

SYNOPSIS:  Quinn is a haunted man: once by his sister’s blood on his hands (and his knowledge of what happened to her before her death) and again by his experiences in the Great War. Returning home 10 years after running away from Sarah’s murder and the accompanying accusations, Quinn seeks redemption, but also fears for his own life at the hands of those who once knew him. Hiding in the hills, he is befriended by an edgy and curious young girl, Sadie, who convinces him that he needs to avenge his sister’s killer in order to move on with his life. But can he first tell his ailing mother the truth, and is he really capable of murder?

THOUGHTS:  There are many ghosts in this short novel, most of them still living. Read more of this post

The Tooth Fairy by Graham Joyce

DATE FINISHED: June 16th, 2012 

RATED: *** (3.5)

SYNOPSIS:  At the tender age of 5, Sam accidentally sees the Tooth Fairy when he wakes in the middle of the night. From that moment on, Sam sees the Tooth Fairy’s malign hand in everything that goes wrong for the people closest to him while he grows up, like a shadow hanging over him. Sam and his two best friends Terry and Clive are growing up in the sixties, with a world that’s changing around them, but from the safety of their suburban family units. But when the three join in with a scouting game that goes horribly wrong, they live in fear of the moment it will catch up with them throughout their adolescence. And Sam’s visits from the Tooth Fairy ensure he is never at risk of forgetting…

THOUGHTS:  Apparently, this novel is officially categorised as ‘horror’, but I read it as a classic and original coming of age story Read more of this post

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

Angel of Brooklyn by Janette Jenkins

DATE FINISHED: April 27th, 2012

RATED: *** (3.5)

SYNOPSIS:  Beatrice is raised in small-town America by her distant father, an amateur taxidermist, alongside her brother’s dreams of becoming a preacher. When this life comes to an abrupt end, Beatrice finds herself on Coney Island – at first selling postcards, but later playing a starring role, as the Angel of Brooklyn. Lancashire lad , Jonathan, whisks her away from the ‘glamour’ of the boardwalk, and Beatrice switches the hustle & bustle of small-time entertainment for the gossip of a tiny village without even a picture-house. Beatrice adapts to her new life in Anglezarke, but as all the young men sign up to serve their country, tensions rise amongst those left in the village.

THOUGHTS:   I did not immediately warm to this book. Read more of this post

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

The Limits of Enchantment by Graham Joyce

DATE FINISHED: October 14th, 2011             

RATED: ****

SYNOPSIS:  Fern has been raised by the village midwife, Mammy, assisting at births since her early teens and catching glimpses of Mammy’s magic as she prepares folk remedies for those who don’t quite trust the NHS. But when a young girl who has visited Mammy for help dies soon afterwards, scandal and gossip runs rife in the village, and Mammy’s own health goes into rapid decline. Fern is left to cope with her grief over Mammy, the prospect of eviction, and the discovery of her own gifts and calling; but who can she trust to help her through?

THOUGHTS:  Although it sounds trite in synopsis, The Limits of Enchantment is surprisingly engaging and thought-provoking in the telling. Read more of this post