Tag Archives: village

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

Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce

DATE FINISHED: July 6th, 2012 

RATED: **** 

SYNOPSIS:  On Christmas Day, a young woman returns home after being missing without a trace for 20 years, but barely seems to have aged. Her only explanation is that she was taken by a stranger to a world just beyond ours, and 20 years passed in the real world while she spent only 6 months there. Her family cannot believe she has finally returned, but send her to a psychiatrist in an attempt to find out what really happened in the missing years. Is there a trauma her mind has blocked out, and constructed a fantasy so that she can deal with it – or has she really been ‘away with the fairies’?

THOUGHTS:  As ever, Joyce creates a faultlessly recognisable, comfortable middle class suburbia then overpaints the corners with shades of unreality. Read more of this post

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

DATE FINISHED: May 13th, 2012

RATED: **** 

SYNOPSIS:  18 year old Merricat (Mary Katherine) is derided by the villagers when she ventures out of the Blackwood family home for supplies. The scandal of a poisoning years earlier (of which her elder sister Constance was acquitted) hovers over the family home, where the two girls and their ailing Uncle Julian live, and Julian daily relives – or tries to remember – the day that changed their lives forever. When Constance invites their Cousin Charles into the family home, Merricat does everything within her powers to make him leave, from asking him outright, to storing up ‘magic’ words, to…much worse. But Charles is equally determined that Merricat must go. Who will win?

THOUGHTS:  Like I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, I’m certain I would have loved this book if I had first read it when I was 14.   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

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

The Judgement of Strangers by Andrew Taylor

DATE FINISHED: October 9th, 2011             

RATED: *** 

SYNOPSIS:  When widowed vicar David Bycroft re-marries, his daughter returns home after finishing her exams, and they take in the son of a family friend for a couple of months. The anticipated familial harmony, however, is interrupted by a busybody parishioner, a missing cat, two young and mysterious new locals, and David’s wife’s research into local historical mad priest, Francis Youlgreave.

THOUGHTS:  The second part of the Roth trilogy, this volume is told from the perspective of the minor character from Part 1 who most piqued my interest: David Bycroft. 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

The Hearts and Lives of Men by Fay Weldon

DATE FINISHED: April 23rd, 2011

RATED: ****

SYNOPSIS:Helen and Clifford fall in love at first sight, and the conception of Nell is the result. Love is simply not enough, however, and while Helen and Clifford are caught up in a bitter cycle of divorce and re-marriage, hurt and neediness, Nell disappears, falling into a series of bizarre guardianships until fate guides her back into the art world inhabited by her parents.

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