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review 2018-11-13 20:16
A powerful and poignant drama recommended to book clubs
The Swooping Magpie - Liza Perrat

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (author, check here if you are interested in getting your book reviewed) and was provided with an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

This is the fifth of Liza Perrat’s novels I read, so you won’t be surprised to hear that I am a fan. I have read her historical novels in The Bone Angel Series, and also The Silent Kookaburra, set, like this novel, in the 1970s. It seems that the author intends to write a new series of independent novels, set in Australia in the 1970s, reflecting the everyday lives and realities of women in the period, and this is the second one. All of the author’s novels have female protagonists and closely explore their subjectivities and how they adapt to their social circumstances in the different historical periods. They might be fictional but the pay close attention to details and are the result of careful research.

Here, the main character is Lindsay Townsend, who narrates the story in the first person, in three different time periods, the early 1970s, the early 1990s, and the final fragment, set in 2013. The first part, and the longest shows us, Lindsay, when she is about to become 16. She is (at least on the surface), a very confident girl, clever, pretty, with plenty of money, from a good family, although not all is at it seems. She seems to lead a charmed life, but her home life is rather sad, with a violent father more interested in keeping up appearances than in looking after his wife and daughter, and a mother hooked on pills and spending as much time as possible out of the house on her charity work. Despite all that, Lindsay is not a particularly sympathetic character, and I know that might be a problem for readers who are not that keen on first-person narratives, as placing you in the skin of a character you don’t like might make for an uncomfortable reading experience, even if it is for a very good reason. She is a typical teenager, overconfident, and a bit of a bully, showing no sympathy for anybody’s circumstances at the beginning of the book. She dismisses her peers, feeling superior to all of them, and, as usual at that age, she believes she knows better than anybody and is invincible. That lands her in a lot of trouble, as she falls for one of the teachers, with consequences that readers might guess but that, at the time, don’t cross her mind. At a time when society was far less tolerant of alternative families, and women’s liberation had not taken hold, Lindsay is faced with an impossible decision and is suddenly confronted with a reality miles away from her everyday life. Her intelligence (unfortunately not accompanied by common sense) and her stubbornness don’t provide her with any answers when confronted with a teenage pregnancy. Faced with hard work, and thrown in the middle of a group of girls from different walks of life and social classes, she discovers what she is really made off and learns a very bitter lesson.

Although Lindsay herself is not likeable, especially at the beginning of the story, when she goes to St. Mary’s we learn about the varied experiences of other girls in her same circumstances and it is impossible not to feel touched and care for them. We have girls from the rural outback, abused by relatives, others who are the children of immigrant families who have no means to look after their babies, and with Downey, the little aboriginal girl whose story is, perhaps, the most heart-wrenching because she is a child herself, we get a representation of the scale of the problem (and a pointed reminder of the aboriginal experience in Australia). This was not something that only happened to girls of a certain social class or ethnic origin. It happened to everybody.  Through the different timelines, we get to follow the historic and social changes that took place, how laws affected adopted children and their biological parents, and we also get a picture of the ongoing effect those events had on those women, the children, and their families. We have women who never want to learn what happened to their babies, others who try but cannot get any information, others who get reunited with their children many years later, some who suffer ongoing negative consequences from their experiences, whilst others manage to create new lives for themselves. But the wound of the loss is always present.

The author deals with the tragic topic skilfully. If at times some of the scenes seem to have come out of a horrific version of a fairy tale (there are characters who are like evil witches, and Lindsay and her friends confront tasks that would put Cinderella to shame), and the degree of corruption and conspiracy stretches the imagination, we only need to read the news and listen to personal accounts of women who have been in such situation to realise that, whatever the concessions to fiction, the writer has done her research and has managed to capture the thoughts and feelings of the many women affected by this issue.

The action is set in Australia, mostly in Wollongong, New South Wales, with some events taking place in Sidney and other areas of the country. I have always admired the author’s talent for recreating the locations of her stories and for making us experience them with all of our senses, submerging us in the smells, the sounds, the tastes (I don’t know some of the foods and labels included, but they do add to the feel of authenticity), the flora and fauna, the clothing, the music, and the language of the time. Although forced adoptions are a widespread problem and it has affected a number of other countries (we might not know its full scale yet), the realistic location (and the family connection and research the author refers to in the author’s note at the back of the book) makes it more immediate and real still.

The story is extremely well-written, with enough description, both of the place and of the period, to ground the action without making it drag, but although it manages to combine action and surprises with reflective passages, the strongest point of the novel is its exploration of the psychological effects of losing a child, especially in those circumstances. The author manages to capture the thoughts and feelings of the character and through her conversations; we also get some insight into the experiences of others. In the first part of the book we have a young girl, and we get to share her thought process, her hesitations, doubts, and we feel trapped with her by a situation she is not in control of, and even though we might not have much in common with her, we do empathise and get to see things from her point of view. We do suffer with her and her friends, and although we might not like everything she says or does, we appreciate her kindness and the way she gets to bond with the other girls at St. Mary’s. Lindsay lives through much heartache, and grows and changes as a result, but people reading this book need to be aware that there are disturbing scenes and the topic of adoptions and depression might hit close home for many.

This is another great novel and although it can be read simply as fiction, I would recommend it in particular to readers interested in adoptions, particularly forced adoptions, and the perspectives of the families involved. I think it would make for a great book club choice, as the subject is one that will interest many readers, and it will bring much discussion, and the author includes a detailed list of some of the resources she has used to research the topic, providing extra material for those interested. Personally, I felt more empathy for other characters than for Lindsay, but no matter how much or how little we like each individual who went through such experiences, this novel will give readers pause and make them reflect upon the horrors that have been enforced in the recent past in the name of morality and decency. A powerful and poignant novel, to add to the catalogue of an accomplished and talented writer.

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review 2018-09-06 07:17
Right
Fat Chance (The Kingsley Series) - Brandi Kennedy

Cassaundra AKA Cass meets Andrew AKA Drew at their mutual therapist's office.  At first, she is not sure if she has more than friendship to give.  They are both in therapy, after all.  Denying the attraction is not working, so she might as well give it a shot.

 

Andrew AKA Drew is excited the hot woman is willing to go out with him.  They have a lot in common.  She makes him feel better than he has in a long time.  Being a police office takes it toll after a while and she is a soothing balm.

 

These characters needed one another and it was so nice to read how they came to be a couple.  The attraction and heat was there from the beginning.  This was a great story that helps you understand and feel for the main characters plight.  I enjoyed this and am excited to read the rest of the Kingsley series.  I give this a 3/5 Kitty's Paws UP!

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review 2018-07-18 23:24
THE LEAVERS by Lisa Ko
The Leavers: A Novel - Lisa Ko
The story of Deming and his mother.  The story is told from both points of view, past and present, alone then together.
 
I did not care for any of the characters.  Deming as a child is great but as an adult, as Daniel, he is a jerk.  His adoptive parents are also jerks.  I felt bad for Polly, his mother, but she did not have her act together either.  Had I not read this for book club I would probably never picked it up.  The story was interesting enough but I never developed any empathy for the characters.
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review 2018-05-08 14:51
[Kurz-Rezension] Shilpi Somaya Gowda - Geheime Tochter
Geheime Tochter - Shilpi Somaya Gowda,Ulrike Wasel,Klaus Timmermann

Beschreibung:
Somers Leben ist genauso, wie sie es sich immer vorgestellt hat. Frisch verheiratet, mit einem neuen Job als Ärztin in San Francisco. Doch dann stellt sie fest, dass sie keine Kinder bekommen kann.Zur gleichen Zeit wird in einem abgelegenen indischen Dorf ein Mädchen geboren. Kavita, die Mutter, erkennt, dass sie das Leben ihrer Tochter nur retten kann, wenn sie sie weggibt. Als Somer und ihr Ehemann ein Foto des Mädchens in einem Waisenhaus in Mumbai sehen, entscheiden sie sich für eine Adoption. Somer ahnt, dass dieser Weg nicht leicht wird. Aber sie hofft, dass Liebe alle Probleme lösen kann.
Shilpi Somaya Gowdas Debüt war in den USA und Kanada ein Sensationserfolg – es stand über viele Monate auf Platz eins der Bestsellerlisten. Der große Roman über eine Suche nach den Wurzeln und nach dem, was das Leben ausmacht, bewegt inzwischen Leserinnen auf der ganzen Welt.

 

Details:
Taschenbuch: 448 Seiten
Verlag: KiWi-Taschenbuch (16. August 2012)
Sprache: Deutsch
ISBN-10: 3462044451
ISBN-13: 978-3462044454
Originaltitel: Secret Daughter
Größe: 13 x 2,8 x 19,9 cm

 

Fazit:
Somer und Krishnan, die in San Francisco leben und an sich glücklich sind, aber keine Kinder bekommen können und Jasu und Kavita, die zwar Kinder bekommen können, aber in ihrem Leben in Indien keine Möglichkeit haben, die Mitgift für das Mädchen aufzubringen, zudem kommt noch dazu, dass Töchter in den Dorf als Unglücksbringer gelten, sind zwei Familie aus komplett unterschiedlichen Lebenswelten, aber die Geburt von Usha verbindet die Familie auf eine emotionale Weise. Denn während Somer auf Wolke Sieben mit ihrem Kind schwebt, ist Kavita in tiefer Trauer um ihre Tochter...
Shilpi Somaya Gowda gewöhrt zu Beginn des Buches erstmal einen Einblick in das Leben in Indien - und das ist bei weiten nicht alles Bollywood, wie man gerne in den Filmen zeigt. Die Realität ist hart und schonungslos und das Leben ist nicht leicht und so müssen manchmal Entscheidungen getroffen werden, wie emotional nur schwer zu verkraften sind. Töchter gelten in den Dörfern Indien als Unglücksbringer und dann wird Usha geboren - und verbindet 2 Familie als unterschiedlichen Welten auf eine sehr tiefe emotionale Weise.
Shilpi Somaya Gowda gelingt in ihrem Buch ein schwieriger Spagat zwischen zwei Lebenswelten und sie zeigt emotional, wie schwer es für alle ist, wenn ein Kind aus Indien in die USA adoptiert wird und welche Schwierigkeiten auf alle Beteiligten zukommen. Sie schafft es durch ihre gefühlvolle Art, die verschiedenen Probleme und Schwierigkeiten sehr nach an den Leser zu bringen und das Gefühl, was alle Beteiligen schütteln, auch an den Leser weiter zu vermitteln. Unterstützt wird die Vermittlung an den Leser durch die verschiedenen Blickwinkel aus denen das Buch erzählt wird, so lernt man dann auch alle Protagonisten recht gut kennen.
Etwas Abzug gibt es aber, weil das Buch etwas zu sehr kulturell an der Oberfläche bleibt, da fehlt etwas die Tiefe um zu zeigen, wie verschiedenen die Kulturen doch sind und auch der Abschluss der Geschichte ist zwar realistisch, aber irgendwie etwas unbefriedigend.

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review 2018-04-22 16:31
Slow And Disjointed
The Bookshop of Yesterdays - Amy Meyerson

A young woman unravels her life one clue at a time after the death of a family member and finds a truth that changes everything. She slowly follows clues with literary ties, that tie in with a bookstore from her youth. She goes down the rabbit hole and does not come out the same.
This has been such a long read, interesting but dragged on with the drama. The author just took so long to get the mystery solved and didn't spend enough time writing about the books she obviously loves. The mystery was apparent early in the story, so that part of the story didn't hold my interest. I was reading to follow the clues because they had to have some really cool outcome, right ? The tricky clues so elaborate delivered after death must lead to an extraordinary truth. No, there was no great reveal I'm not sure if I enjoyed it or was annoyed more by the meandering slow pace. I was left wondering what happened to the emerald earrings, yeh that bugged me, they came into the story at a pivotal point and then just disappeared and nobody asked about them. There were at lot of dangling points in the story, I wanted more family history answers, or more book store. The two parts of the story felt separate, the book store part felt complete, leaving the family drama feeling incomplete.

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