Tag Archives: guilt

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

The Little Hammer by John Kelly

DATE FINISHED: July 29th, 2012 

RATED: **** (4.5)

SYNOPSIS:  When he is 9 years old, the artist despatches a paleontologist he meets on the beach by means of his hammer.  When he returns home, his saint-worshipping Grandmother colludes in covering up the crime, which has remained undiscovered as the artist enters his thirties – but it keeps re-surfacing, with the compulsion to confess jarring against the fact of getting away with murder.  Following a trip with the mysterious Billie Maguire during which the artist is filmed telling a farcical and falsified version of his life story, the statue of the Holy Infant of Prague finds its way to the Grandmother’s home in Ireland.  In her little village, miracles occur just as the artist’s life and mind begin to unravel.

THOUGHTS:  Told in the swirling Irish vernacular of the archetypal storyteller at the bar – “Would you believe me if I told you…?” – one would be forgiven for mistrusting the narrator from the beginning.   Read more of this post

Mr Fox by Helen Oyeyemi

DATE FINISHED: May 16th, 2012

RATED: **** 

SYNOPSIS:  Author St. John Fox stands accused of multiple murder – by his own muse and creation Mary Foxe. He also finds himself on the brink of divorce from his jealous wife, Daphne, who believes he is having an affair. Is St. John in love with Mary or Daphne? And does choosing one necessarily mean the end of the other? What’s a man to do?

THOUGHTS: Stories within stories, slipping times and locations, where do memories and fantasies collide and divide? If you prefer a linear narrative, this is not the book for you. 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

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

The Illusionist by Jennifer Johnston

DATE FINISHED: May 2nd, 2011

RATED: **** (4.5)

SYNOPSIS:  Martyn lives a double life: he works as an illusionist, and at home he builds the appearance of domestic bliss. But what is his past? Where does he come from? Where is his family? Where does the money come from to support his life with Star? At first entranced by the enigma of his extravagance and arrogance, eventually Stella realises she is being crushed by his controlling ways and that their life, too, is an illusion. The novel begins with Martyn’s shocking death but continues with his wife and daughter struggling to integrate their opposing views of husband and father. There is one last illusion which it seems even Martyn cannot sustain beyond the grave.

THOUGHTS: Read more of this post

Florence & Giles by John Harding

DATE FINISHED: April 30th, 2011

RATED: *** (3.5)

SYNOPSIS:  In a gothic mansion, Florence and her younger brother Giles are in the ‘care’ of their absentee uncle. The uncle has forbidden his niece from learning to read (and education of any kind), but she has secretly defied him and spends every available moment devouring the contents of the library. When Giles is returned home from boarding school, a governess enters Blithe House – soon to be followed by a second governess, after the first suffers a tragic accident. Florence is convinced that Blithe is now haunted, and that Miss Taylor harbours the spirit of her predecessor.  Florence is also determined to foil Miss Taylor’s plans to steal her brother away…

THOUGHTS:   Read more of this post