White Houses by Amy Bloom

I’ve got so many deal-breakers when it comes to historical fiction that I sound like a pain. You can read about them here. Or you can simply ignore my carry-on and know that I really enjoyed Amy Bloom’s White Houses.

The story is told from the perspective of Lorena Hickok, known as ‘Hick’. Hick grew up in poverty in South Dakota, suffered abuse at the hand of her father, and was sent to work at a young age. Resourceful and tenacious, she soon carved a career as a journalist.  When she met Eleanor Roosevelt in 1932 (while covering Franklin’s first presidential campaign trail), a friendship developed, which soon turned to love.

Hick took a job in the Roosevelt administration and moved into the White House, where her status as ‘first friend’ was an open secret, as were Franklin’s own lovers.

Missy and Franklin put a smile on reporters’ faces. Eleanor and I were no one’s favourite secret. I tended to scowl. Continue reading

Advertisements

Two Aussie audios

Sometimes you leave a review so long that there hardly seems any point… Almost the case with these books, so I’ll mention just a few reasons why I enjoyed them – Continue reading

Queen Lucia & Miss Mapp by E. F. Benson

Should you ever need a lesson in passive-aggressiveness and/or the art of one-upmanship, look no further than the Queen Lucia series by E. F. Benson.

There are six books in the series, all of which are Georgian satires, focused on the everyday affairs of the upper-middle-class residents of the fictional villages of Tilling and Riseholme. I read the first two books, Queen Lucia and Miss Mapp.

There are similarities between the books. In both, there is no single plot – instead, the comings-and-goings of people to town; the politics of bridge parties and evening suppers; the providence of recipes; the importance of where one has had a new tea gown made; and a multitude of other minor occurrences drive the story.

The hours of the morning between breakfast and lunch were the time which the inhabitants of Riseholme chiefly devoted to spying on each other. Continue reading

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne

For a book to get five-stars, I want to laugh and cry. I want to whoop with joy when a character triumphs but equally, I want to have my heart broken (just a little). Basically, I want a million feelings and Cyril Avery, the star of John Boyne’s big, ramshackle novel, The Heart’s Invisible Furies, delivers it all.

There’s great emphasis from the outset that Cyril Avery is not a real Avery – he’s adopted by the peculiar but not inherently unkind, Charles and Maude Avery.

I was not a real Avery and would not be looked after financially in adulthood in the manner that a real Avery would have been. ‘Think of this more as a tenancy, Cyril,’ he told me – they had named me Cyril for a spaniel they’d once owned and loved – ‘an eighteen-year tenancy. But during that time there’s no reason why we shouldn’t all get along, is there?’ Continue reading

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

Stink. Bloody. Rotting. Decay. Putrid. Stench. Rancid. Filthy. These are the words that dominate Sarah Schmidt’s historical gothic novel, See What I Have Done. There’s also lots of sweat, bits of brains, vomit, decapitated pigeons, decomposing flesh, and blood spattered walls.

It’s the story of the 1892 axe-murder of Andrew and Abby Borden in their home in Massachusetts. Forensics wasn’t what it is today – the murderer left little evidence. Eventually, the youngest daughter, Lizzie Borden, was arrested, spent ten months in jail and stood trial but was ultimately acquitted (due to a technicality and inconclusive evidence from witnesses).

I won’t get into the nitty-gritty of the case, nor the accuracy of the detail as presented by Schmidt (there are hundreds of reviews of this book and others related to the murders, if that’s your thing). I should point out that I am apparently the only person in the world who knew nothing about this case until reading See What I Have Done. Absolutely nothing. So again, it’s pointless commenting on accuracy but I do have thoughts on Schmidt’s writing style and the way she tells the story. Continue reading

The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop

Homesickness is a peculiar thing. Unpredictable and urgent or gently tugging and constant. I have never really experienced homesickness (even as a 16-year-old exchange student in Germany) – not as an overwhelming sensation, anyway. But my brother would, even on our month-long family summers at McCrae – he just wanted his own bed and his usual routines. I was thinking a lot about people’s different experiences as I was reading Stephanie Bishop’s The Other Side of the World. Continue reading