Tag Archives: unreliable narrator

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

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A Summer of Drowning by John Burnside

DATE FINISHED: July 2nd, 2012 

RATED: **** (4.5)

SYNOPSIS:  Liv is raised by her extraordinarily self-contained artist mother on a tiny Norwegian island, where the summer nights are white and haunting, and her neighbour’s folk tales of trolls and huldra do not seem out of place. When two boys Liv has known from school drown within weeks of each other, the landscape of her eighteenth summer becomes laced with a heightened intensity, compounded by the appearance of an English man with secrets who is staying nearby, and the wild girl Maia who Liv knows spent time with the drowned boys before their death and seems to have a malevolent influence on those around her. Can she really be the huldra?

THOUGHTS:  This is an intensely dark and brooding story, simmering with suspense and seeped in rich imagery of the Norwegian landscape. 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

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

A Method Actor’s Guide to Jekyll and Hyde by Kevin MacNeil

DATE FINISHED: October 2nd, 2011             

RATED: *** (3.5)

SYNOPSIS:  Robert (Lewis) is in a bad way after a cycling accident, but he is determined that it will not affect his casting in the lead role(s) of a new production based on Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  But it seems he must prove his worth over a new actor who has been brought in to play the same role(s) not to mention win back his erstwhile ‘girlfriend’ Juliette.  In fact, none of the cast or crew seem to fully appreciate either Robert’s bravery/tenacity in the face of his post-accident pain, or indeed his immense talent.  And somehow, everything in his life seems to be sliding dramatically from bad to worse…

THOUGHTS:  The bulk of the story is told by Robert, so given the aftermath of the accident, combined with the subject of the play, the logical reader expects some kind of Jekyll & Hyde manifestation within his character.   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

Duchess of Nothing by Heather McGowan

DATE FINISHED: March 27th, 2011

RATED: *****

SYNOPSIS: Abandoned by her lover in Rome, a woman finds herself taking care of the young brother who has also been left behind, and trying to balance the need for bread against the desire for new hats.  Told in stream-of-consciousness style, this story is not as straightforward as it might seem.

THOUGHTS: Read more of this post

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

DATE FINISHED: March 23rd, 2011

RATED: ** 

SYNOPSIS: Hundreds is a country manor going steadily into decline in the post-war years.  Its inhabitants, the Ayres family, believe that there is a sinister presence in the house, and the family doctor watches aghast as the family’s mental health declines as the house almost literally crumbles around them.  Is it a ghost at work, or something more human, or more sinister?

THOUGHTS: Read more of this post