logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: Great-Britain
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-06-03 14:03
A gentle read for those who love books set in Britain, short-stories and Blithe Spirit
The Keeper of Lost Things: A Novel - Cecily Ruth Hogan

Thanks to NetGalley and Two Roads for offering me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

Although I am not sure this is ‘the feel-good novel of the year’ I’d have to agree it is a feel-good novel, although perhaps not for everybody.

The novel tells many stories, although it tells two in more detail, those of Anthony and Laura (later of Laura and her new family) and Eunice and Bomber. Although those stories are separated by forty years, they are parallel in many ways: an older man who puts an advertisement for an assistant, a younger woman —very young in Eunice’s case— who ends up becoming a personal friend of the man and whose life ends up enmeshed and entangled with that of her employer, both men’s work relates to literature (Anthony is a fairly successful writer of short stories and Bomber is a publisher), both males die leaving some sort of legacy to these women (and also asking them to fulfil their final wishes). As we read on, we might suspect that the relationship between these two stories runs deeper than at first appears, but it is not confirmed until very close to the end.

There are other important elements in the novel, which functions also as a collection of short stories, as Anthony, after experiencing a terrible loss, started to collect lost things, cataloguing them and using his study for safe keeping, in an attempt at recovering something he had lost himself. Throughout the novel, there are stories about those objects (written in italics so it is easy to differentiate them to the rest) interspersed with the two main stories. We are told, later in the book, that Anthony used those objects as inspiration for several collections of short stories, but the novel allows for several possible interpretations of what these stories really are. Are they imaginary stories? Are they the real stories behind the objects? If they are imaginary short-stories who has written them? Anthony? Somebody else? Each reader can choose whatever explanation s/he prefers and I’m sure there are more possibilities.

I mentioned the two main stories that frame the novel and the short stories within. Each chapter is told (in the third person) from one of the characters’ point of view (mostly Laura or Eunice) and this is is clearly indicated, as it is the year, because Eunice and Bomber’s story develops from the 1970s up to the current days. We get to know his family and follow his father’s illness (Alzheimer’s) that unfortunately later also afflicts Bomber himself. There are comments on movies of the period; there is the wonderful relationship with Bomber’s parents, the two dogs that share his life and an unrequited and impossible love story. Ah, and Bomber’s sister, Portia, her awful behaviour and her even worse attempts at getting her brother to publish one of her rip-offs of well-known and loved classics, that make for hilarious reading, especially for authors and book lovers. I must confess that, perhaps because their story develops over time and it has none of the paranormal elements added to the other, I particularly warmed to it. I found the depiction of the dementia sufferers (both father and son) touching, humorous and bittersweet, and although we don’t get to know Eunice well (other than through her devotion to Bomber and his life-work), she is a character easy to like and some of her actions make us cheer her on.

Laura’s story is that of somebody lost, perfectly in keeping with Anthony’s life mission. She made some questionable decisions when she was younger, married too young and her knight in shining armour turned up to be anything but. She is very insecure and full of self-doubt and that makes her a less likeable character as she pushes people away rather than risk being rejected, but she is also the one who has to change more and work harder to get out of her shell. Sunshine, a young neighbour, Down’s syndrome, also shares her point of view with the reader at times and becomes a member of the family, although she has her own too. She is less hindered by concern about what others’ might think, or what is right and wrong, and she has a special connection (not sure ‘power’ is the right word) with the objects and with the paranormal elements that later appear in the novel. Fred, the gardener, is the love interest, handsome and kind, but he seems to be there to provide the romance and second chance more than anything else, and he is not very well developed.

I’ve mentioned the paranormal elements. There is a ghost in the house and that takes up a fair amount of the book as Laura keeps trying to work out how to make things right. I am not sure this added much to the story but references to Blithe Spirit (that is being performed by an amateur theatrical group in the neighbourhood) put an emphasis on the effect the writer might have been aiming for (each reader can decide how well it works for them).

This is a well-written novel, with effective descriptions of objects, locations and people. There are elements of chick-lit (the descriptions of Laura’s disastrous date, her chats with her friend…), romantic touches, some elements of mystery, plenty of loss, death and second chances, a fair bit about literature… The whole feeling of the story is somewhat old-fashioned (and very British. I’ve lost count of how many ‘lovely cups of tea’ are prepared and drunk during the novel, and although that is partly in jest, yes, there is a fair amount of repetition, foreshadowing and signposting, perhaps unnecessary in this kind of story). Some of the references, including songs and films, will be lost on the younger generations. Everything is fairly gentle; even the bad characters (Portia) are only moderately nasty and they are the object of fun rather than being truly evil. There are gossip and misunderstandings but nothing really awful happens. No gore details, no huge surprises, no hot sex (I think you’ll have to buy Portia’s stories of Hotter Potter for that), and even technology only appears by the backdoor (people send text messages and a laptop and a website  appear towards the end, but this is not a book where characters follow mother trends).

Funnily enough, a publisher (rival of Anthony) sums up what the books he publishes should be like, thus:

I know what normal, decent people like, and that’s good, straightforward stories with a happy ending where the baddies get their comeuppance, the guy gets the girl and the sex isn’t too outré.

The structure of the novel and some of the short-stories are not at all like that, but the spirit behind it perhaps it and its charm might be lost on some readers who prefer more action and adventures and a more modern style of writing.

In summary, a gentle read, bittersweet, with plenty of stories for those who love short stories, of particular interest to lovers of books and movies set in Britain, stories about writers, the publishing world and women’s stories. It has sad moments and funny ones but it is unlikely to rock your world.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-01-03 04:14
BELGRAVIA by Julian Fellowes
Julian Fellowes's Belgravia - Julian Fellowes

BELGRAVIA

Julian Fellowes

Hardcover, 402 pages
Published July 5th 2016 by Grand Central Publishing (first published June 30th 2016)
ISBN
1455541168 (ISBN13: 9781455541164)

 

I usually enjoy Julian Fellowes' writing. And he does well in Belgravia developing the story line and characters. This story follows mainly the upper class and the "new money" upper class. What I read I liked, but I found myself skipping ahead and reading parts just to quickly get through it. I don't feel it was the author's writing style or the story. I think I was not into reading about the subject because of reading so much on similar subjects.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2016-08-04 03:48
The Last Detective (Peter Diamond Book 1) - Peter Lovesey

I don't know how I hadn't previously come across Peter Lovesey's police procedurals featuring the irascible Det. Peter Diamond, but I'm very thankful to have been introduced to this series. Though The Last Detective didn't end exactly the way I wanted it to, what's important is that I actually cared enough about the characters to want things to end a certain way, and I even searched online to see if I could find any kind of sequel or any information about what happened after I turned the final page. I need to know where three of the characters go next! That need to know more about the characters' lives means I was invested in the book, and I love it when that happens. Peter Diamond, as cranky as he can be, has found himself a new fan in me, and I'm looking forward to working my way through the rest of series. I thoroughly enjoyed getting caught up in this, and I'm excited about digging into the series!

 

Lagniappe: Det. Diamond is apparently a fan of Fabian of the Yard, so I did an online search to see if that was an actual person, and I was tickled to find out he was. Here's a link to an old black-and-white episode that, coincidentally enough, also has to do with death by drowning. This is called The Executioner from 1955. Enjoy!
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=70sxNZdZTa4

 

Thanks to Netgalley and Soho press for the digital copy, which did not influence my review.

 

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2015-08-18 09:12
All creatures big and small of the exotic sort and the effect they had on the imagination of Londoners.
The Georgian Menagerie: Exotic Animals in Eighteenth-Century London - Christopher Plumb

 

My thanks to I.B. Tauris & Co. and Net Galley for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This is a fascinating book. I’m one of those people who find the history of the good and great all very well but I’m more interested in what everybody else and society at large was up to while the battles and big political debates took place. And the more curious the topic and the angle used to shine a light on an era, the better.

Christopher Plumb’s choice of topic works well on many levels. Most of us have been fascinated by animals when we were children (and into adult life, whether we admit it or not), and the more exotic to us, the better. Imagining a period in history when many westerners would have never seen a parrot, a kangaroo, or a lion, might be difficult now, but it wasn’t all that long ago. The circumstances of the exhibition and sale of many of these animals provide a fascinating insight into human curiosity, enterprise, and society. And it goes from the Royals to the people who would manage to get a few shillings to pay for a ticket to see the latest attraction. If not everybody could afford their own aviary or menagerie at home, towards the end of the era canaries were affordable by many. The topic is well-researched, with beautiful illustrations of the period, references and footnotes for those interested in further enquiry, but it never becomes arid or tedious. This is not a list of sources and data. The era, the personalities of the merchants, anatomists, and even the animals are brought to life through anecdotes, fragments of poems, songs, newspaper articles, letters…Although readers might not share the point of view and feelings of the people of the period, it’s easy to imagine being there and looking on.

We learn about the uses of bear grease, civet as perfume, turtle feasts as symbols of power, eels and sexuality, parrots and jokes about women, Queen Charlotte’s zebras and the jokes to follow, the prices of animals and tickets in relation to salaries, the opinions of the general population about their monarchs, sexual mores and allusions, famous elephants, sickly giraffes, lions roaring in London’s Strand, the Tower of London menagerie, and how all changed with the arrival of the Zoological Garden at Regent’s Park. Christopher Plumb draws interesting conclusions (or rather guides the reader to notice certain things) that emphasise how the external manifestations of human nature might change, but at heart, perhaps we aren’t that different from our ancestors and we’re not as enlightened and modern as we’d like to think.

This book can be enjoyed by all readers, even if they don’t know much about the Georgian period of English history (also referred in the book as the long eighteenth century), but I think it will be an invaluable resource to anybody studying or researching the era, as it provides vast amounts of background and information (without seemingly doing so) from an unexpected angle, and many of the anecdotes could become full stories in themselves. Vividly described, each chapter can be read individually for specific research purposes, but I feel the whole is much more than the sum of its parts.

A book that will keep me thinking for a long time.

Like Reblog Comment
review 2015-05-09 23:06
The Color of Secrets by Lindsay Ashford
The Color of Secrets - Lindsay Ashford

The Color of Secrets

Lindsay Ashford

Paperback, 402 pages
Published April 14th 2015 by Lake Union Publishing
ISBN 1477828435 (ISBN13: 9781477828434)
Lindsay Ashford's The Color of Secrets follows Eva and her family after she gives birth to her 2nd child, Louisa. Eva meets a black American soldier after finding out that her husband is mia during WWII, and has a child. The story moves quickly, and actually much of the story is about the daughter, Louisa's story as she grows up mixed race in Great Britain. The plot starts in the 1940's and goes to the late 1970's. Ashford includes a lot of pop culture in the story such as popular music and dance styles pertinent to the time frame of the story, hippie communes in the 1960's, as well as what race relations in Great Britain were at the time. She also describes the smaller towns and villages where the story is set very well.
There is one character that I thought was a little too forgiving, and Eva becomes almost a minor character in the later part of the book. Those were really the only 2 things I was not thrilled with in the book.
***This book was received from a Goodreads First Reads giveaway given by Amazon Publishing.****
More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?