Monthly Archives: September 2012

The Scandal of the Season – Sophie Gee

This was a fun easy read and it provides a bit of background to The Rape of the Lock.

Here is the blurb …

London, 1711. As the rich, young offspring of the city’s most fashionable families fill their days with masquerade balls and clandestine court-ships, Arabella Fermor and Robert, Lord Petre, lead the pursuit of pleasure. Beautiful and vain, Arabella is a clever coquette with a large circle of beaus. Lord Petre, seventh Baron of Ingatestone, is a man-about-town with his choice of mistresses. Drawn together by an overpowering attraction, the two begin an illicit affair.

Alexander Pope, sickly and nearly penniless, is peripheral by birth, yet his uncommon wit and ambition gain him unlikely entrance into high society. Once there, privy to every nuance and drama, he is a ruthless observer. He longs for the success that will cement his place in society; all he needs is one poem grand enough to make his reputation.

As the forbidden passion between Arabella and Lord Petre deepens, an intrigue of a darker nature threatens to overtake them. Fortunes change and reputations — even lives — are imperiled. In the aftermath, Pope discovers the idea for a daring poem that will catapult him to fame and fortune.

I enjoyed this novel. I even googled the characters to find out what happened next! Nothing seemed anachronistic in the story (I’m not an historian so I could be wrong) and I enjoyed the mystery and intrigue (would there be a Jacobite uprising?). It is light and entertaining (and I might have learnt a bit of history). I think fans of historical drama will enjoy this novel.

More reviews …

http://www.smh.com.au/news/book-reviews/the-scandal-of-the-season/2007/06/01/1180205489067.html

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2007/sep/15/featuresreviews.guardianreview20

 

 

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Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal – Jeanette Winterson

I saw Jennifer Byrne interview Jeanette Winterson about this book and I was keen to read it.

Here is the synopsis …

 In 1985 Jeanette Winterson’s first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, was published. It tells the story of a young girl adopted by Pentecostal parents. The girl is supposed to grow up and be a missionary. Instead she falls in love with a woman. Disaster. Written when Jeanette was only twenty-five, her novel went on to win the Whitbread First Novel award, become an international bestseller and inspire an award-winning BBC television adaptation. Oranges was semi-autobiographical. Mrs Winterson, a thwarted giantess, loomed over that novel and its author’s life. When Jeanette finally left her home, at sixteen, because she was in love with a woman, Mrs Winterson asked her: Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? This book is the story of a life’s work to find happiness. It is a book full of stories: about a girl locked out of her home, sitting on the doorstep all night; about a tyrant in place of a mother, who has two sets of false teeth and a revolver in the duster drawer, waiting for Armageddon; about growing up in an northern industrial town now changed beyond recognition, part of a community now vanished; about the Universe as a Cosmic Dustbin. It is the story of how the painful past Jeanette Winterson thought she had written over and repainted returned to haunt her later life, and sent her on a journey into madness and out again, in search of her real mother. It is also a book about other people’s stories, showing how fiction and poetry can form a string of guiding lights, a life-raft which supports us when we are sinking. Funny, acute, fierce and celebratory, this is a tough-minded search for belonging, for love, an identity, a home, and a mother.

This is a touching story full of sadness, abuse and thwarted passion, but told with a light, positive touch. I even had some sympathy for Mrs Winterson (who is a complete monster). It is a story about learning to be loved, finding one’s place in the world, and coming to terms with adoption (ultimately realising that her life is probably better than it would have been if she hadn’t been adopted.

I think this book will lead me back to Winterson’s novels.

More reviews …

http://literaryminded.wordpress.com/2012/05/01/dallas-angguish-on-why-be-happy-when-you-could-be-normal-by-jeanette-winterson-guest-review/

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/25/books/review/jeanette-wintersons-new-memoir.html?pagewanted=all

 

 

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Bring Up the Bodies – Hilary Mantel

As I enjoyed reading Wolf Hall, I was keen to read the sequel.

Here is the blurb …

Though he battled for seven years to marry her, Henry is disenchanted with Anne Boleyn. She has failed to give him a son and her sharp intelligence and audacious will alienate his old friends and the noble families of England. When the discarded Katherine dies in exile from the court, Anne stands starkly exposed, the focus of gossip and malice.

At a word from Henry, Thomas Cromwell is ready to bring her down. Over three terrifying weeks, Anne is ensnared in a web of conspiracy, while the demure Jane Seymour stands waiting her turn for the poisoned wedding ring. But Anne and her powerful family will not yield without a ferocious struggle. Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies follows the dramatic trial of the queen and her suitors for adultery and treason. To defeat the Boleyns, Cromwell must ally with his natural enemies, the papist aristocracy. What price will he pay for Anne’s head?

In Wolf Hall I found Cromwell to be a sympathetic character and I wanted to like him in this one too, but the whole Anne Boleyn conspiracy was too much for me. I do like to like the main character. This novel is beautifully written and brings the past alive (the good and the bad – the whole Anne Boleyn saga was a legal travesty). Ms Mantel refers to Cromwell as he, but in this novel (unlike Wolf Hall) there was clarification if there was the chance of confusion between two he’s.

I think if you have read and enjoyed Wolf Hall, then this novel is a must, but I also think it could stand alone and anyone who enjoys lovely writing or historical fiction would enjoy it.

More reviews …

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/may/13/bring-up-bodies-hilary-mantel-review

http://laurasmusings.wordpress.com/2012/09/02/review-bring-up-the-bodies-by-hilary-mantel/

 

 

 

 

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The Keep – Jennifer Egan

I like Jennifer Egan – I’ve read Look at Me and A Visit from the Goon Squad so when I found The Keep in our book shelves I was quite pleased – I think someone must have given it to Mr H as a present.

Here’s the blurb …

 After twenty years apart, two cousins reunite in Eastern Europe to renovate a medieval castle. The cousins are irrevocably bound to one another through the shared experience of their youth, when a childhood prank with devastating consequences changed both their lives forever. In an environment of desolation, isolation and paranoia, the cousins are falling under the gothic spell of the castle and its violent history. The crimes of the past and present are about to collide, and with unthinkable results …

This novel has a fabulous construction – there are links and twists and unexpected connections, not to mention the aging vindictive baroness. Is it a fiction written by a prison inmate or is he re-telling a true tale? There is an under-current of menace, but is that real or in Danny’s head?

I loved reading this book – it was gothic and mysterious and romantic (all three genre type things), but incredibly clever and well-written.

More reviews …

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/30/books/review/30bell.html?pagewanted=all

 http://readinginwinter.com/2012/05/24/the-keep-by-jennifer-egan/

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Filed under Fiction, Recommended