Four Quick Reviews

It’s getting to that stage where every spare moment is spent on ‘end-of-year’ stuff, leaving precious little time for writing reviews. I’m taking a short-cut.  Continue reading

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A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson

It was a great risk to read Kate Atkinson’s A God in Ruins, so soon after I finished the extraordinary Life After Life. It was a risk that paid off.

A God in Ruins is the sequel to Life After Life, but a sequel in the loosest sense. Atkinson turns her focus to Teddy, Ursula’s beloved younger brother and the family darling.

‘Out of all of them, you are my favourite,’ and he knew it was true and felt bad for the others. (It was a relief, Sylvie thought, finally to know what love was.) Continue reading

Sample Saturday – three swimming stories

Sample Saturday is when I wade through the eleventy billion samples I have downloaded on my Kindle. I’m slowly chipping away and deciding whether it’s buy or bye.

This week, I discovered two titles after reading this article about cold water swimming and depression, and the book by Lee was chosen because I’ve followed her on Twitter for years. Continue reading

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

I dither writing reviews for books that I absolutely adored. It’s ludicrous. I should be shouting from the rooftops “EVERYBODY! READ KATE ATKINSON’S LIFE AFTER LIFE! IT’S A MARVEL!”

Atkinson’s carefully constructed story follows Ursula Todd, as she lives and dies over and over again. Ursula’s story begins in England, in 1910, when she dies at birth, the umbilical cord around her neck –

The little heart. A helpless little heart beating wildly. Stopped suddenly like a bird dropped from the sky. A single shot. Darkness fell.

And darkness falls multiple times – drowning, slipping off a roof, illness, gas inhalation, suicide. Continue reading

Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller

Claire Fuller has a great feeling for places – forests, the sea and in her latest book, Bitter Orange, crumbling country mansions – it makes her books immersive experiences.

Bitter Orange focuses on Lyntons, a dilapidated English estate. Over the summer of 1969, Frances Jellico, a middle-aged spinster grieving the death of her mother, is tasked with documenting the estate’s garden architecture for its absent American owner – Frances’s specialty is Palladian bridges and she is looking forward to quiet days of sketching the treasures of Lyntons.  Continue reading

Sweet Caress by William Boyd

Do not ask me why I kept reading William Boyd’s Sweet Caress, right up until the stupid end, but welcome to my second one-star review for 2018. I’ll get straight to the point (unlike Boyd).

Sweet Caress is the life story of fictional photographer Amory Clay and it begins in England, in 1908. The novel covers Amory’s childhood, her career as a photographer, her experiences during both World Wars and the Vietnam War, and her relationships. It’s astounding that a book about a female in an unconventional role (war photographer), could be so, so boring, Continue reading

The Party by Elizabeth Day

The individual elements of Elizabeth Day’s suspense novel, The Party, are promising – campus-lit, British society, and a very fancy party where an ‘incident’ occurs that threatens reputations and relationships. Unfortunately the story was a bit of a fizzer.

At the centre is Martin Gilmour, who wins a scholarship to the prestigious Burtonbury School. Usually the outsider, Martin meets the charismatic and wealthy Ben Fitzmaurice and via him, gains access to society’s elite. The boys develop a close relationship although it’s one that’s lopsided – Martin has deep feelings for Ben, which are further complicated by a secret he has promised to keep.

By the time I got to Cambridge, my reinvention as Ben Fitzmaurice’s surrogate brother was so convincing to me, I’d almost forgotten I had a different past – one that involved gas fires and sausages in tins… Continue reading

A Zoo in my Luggage by Gerald Durrell

I’m always astounded by the television program, Border Security. I’m not interested in the immigration issues or drug busts – it’s the people bringing fruit, vegetables, live seafood and meat into Australia that is fascinating. Invariably, they’re in the ‘nothing to declare’ line when airport officials open their suitcases to find kilos of unidentifiable meat, plants and seeds, and they feign surprise. For my overseas readers, you basically can’t bring ANYTHING into Australia – we have the world’s strictest quarantine and biosecurity laws (remember Johnny Depp’s dogs?).

So it was with a mixture of interest and amazement that I read Gerald Durrell’s memoir, A Zoo in My Luggage. It’s an account of Durrell’s trip to what was then the British Cameroons in West Africa (now part of northern Nigeria and Cameroon), during which he and his wife captured animals to start their own zoo. The book concludes with their return to England, and how he managed his menagerie while he found a permanent home for them (they lived in his back yard and then later in the basement of a department store). Continue reading