Monthly Archives: April 2016

Fates and Furies – Lauren Groff

Fates and Furies - Lauren Groff

Fates and Furies – Lauren Groff

I was standing in the line to buy my copy of Take Six Girls: The Lives of the Mitford Sisters at the Writers Festival when I saw this one – the cover is quite eye catching, which had been recommended by a friend. I, of course, bought this one as well (in large format even though I am trying to buy novels digitally to save a bit of space).

Here’s the blurb …

Fates and Furies is a dazzling examination of a marriage, it is also a portrait of creative partnership written by one of the best writers of her generation.

Every story has two sides. Every relationship has two perspectives. And sometimes, it turns out, the key to a great marriage is not its truths but its secrets. At the core of this rich, expansive, layered novel, Lauren Groff presents the story of one such marriage over the course of twenty-four years.

At age twenty-two, Lotto and Mathilde are tall, glamorous, madly in love and destined for greatness. A decade later, their marriage is still the envy of their friends, but with an electric thrill we understand that things are even more complicated and remarkable than they have seemed. With stunning revelations and multiple threads, and in prose that is vibrantly alive and original, Groff delivers a deeply satisfying novel about love, art, creativity and power that is unlike anything that has come before it. Profound, surprising, propulsive and emotionally riveting, it stirs both the mind and the heart.

I had no pre-conceived notions when I started reading this novel – knew nothing about it or its author at all. It was fabulous. It tells the story of a (seemingly) happy marriage from two different perspectives – first the husband and then the wife. The difference is astounding and quite shocking: the husband’s version is happy, almost boastful and then, in the wife’s version, we read terrible of secrets and betrayals.

The characters are beautifully written – Lotto, Mathilde, Antoinette (the former mermaid who finds religion and food), Chollie (Lotto’s unattractive friend and hanger-on). The writing is magnificent – for example, a bus letting of passengers ‘knelt the passengers off like a carnival elephant’.

I liked both the plot and writing of this novel – it was surprising and clever (and certainly not predictable, which seems to be the case with most novels these days).

More reviews …

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/dec/24/why-the-fates-and-furies-this-years-most-talked-about-novel

https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/fates-and-furies-review-a-masterful-tale-of-marriage-and-secrets/2015/09/09/85cbadd4-4c08-11e5-84df-923b3ef1a64b_story.html

 

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The Swans of Fifth Avenue – Melanie Benjamin

The Swans of Fifth Avenue - Melanie Benjamin

The Swans of Fifth Avenue – Melanie Benjamin

It is school holidays here at the moment, which means there is a high degree of mayhem in my house. The youngest one has a friend over – this seems to involve shouting and jumping about and the older one is sewing (which means I am sewing or at least threading needles and unpicking). I did manage to get this novel finished before holidays started. The only Truman Capote novel that I have read is Breakfast at Tiffany’s, so knew nothing about his life.

Here is the blurb …

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Aviator’s Wife comes an enthralling new novel about Truman Capote’s scandalous, headline-making, and heart-wrenching friendship with Babe Paley and New York’s society “swans” of the 1950s.

Centered on two dynamic, complicated, and compelling protagonists—Truman Capote and Babe Paley—this book is steeped in the glamour and perfumed and smoky atmosphere of New York’s high society. Babe Paley—known for her high-profile marriage to CBS founder William Paley and her ranking in the International Best-Dressed Hall of Fame—was one of the reigning monarchs of New York’s high society in the 1950s. Replete with gossip, scandal, betrayal, and a vibrant cast of real-life supporting characters, readers will be seduced by this startling new look at the infamous society swans.

I did enjoy reading this – it was gossipy and scandalous (who doesn’t like a story about celebrities behaving outrageously?) – I do wonder if all of the main ‘actors’ are dead? For me this novel was all about the content – it was meticulously researched, but not obtrusively so (the ideal of historical fiction). I feel I have learnt something and I enjoyed the journey.

More reviews …

https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/the-swans-of-fifth-avenue-review-would-you-trust-truman-capote/2016/02/01/fd7059be-c888-11e5-88ff-e2d1b4289c2f_story.html

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/mar/30/book-review-the-swans-of-fifth-avenue-a-novel/?page=all

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Far from the Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy

Far from the Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy

Far from the Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy

Like many people I had to read Hardy at school – Tess of the D’Urbervilles and The Mayor of Casterbridge and I decided there would be no more Hardy after that. However, my book study group are having a Hardy year, so I have been forced to read some more and I have to say I am pleasantly surprised. So far I have read Under the Greenwood Tree and Far from the Madding CrowdUnder the Greenwood Tree was charming and delightful (and dare I say fun). Far from the Madding Crowd is darker, but still not the miserable affair I associate with Hardy.

Here is how Penguin describe Far from the Madding Crowd

Independent and spirited Bathsheba Everdene has come to Weatherbury to take up her position as a farmer on the largest estate in the area. Her confident presence draws three very different suitors: the gentleman-farmer Boldwood, soldier-seducer Sergeant Troy and the devoted Shepard Gabriel Oak. Each, in contrasting ways, unsettles her decisions and complicates her life, and when tragedy ensues, the stability of the whole community is threatened. The first of his works set in Wessex, Thomas Hardy’s novel of swift passion and slow courtship is imbued with his evocative descriptions of rural life and landscapes, and with unflinching honesty about sexual relationships.

This edition, based on Hardy’s original 1874 manuscript, is the complete novel he never saw published, and restores its full candour and innovation. Rosemarie Morgan’s introduction discusses the history of its publication, and the Biblical and classical allusions that permeate the novel.

Just a word of caution about the latest penguin edition it doesn’t have the chapter ‘All Souls and All Saints’ (it is an appendix). I personally think this is a mistake because without this chapter Troy just comes across as a cad.

Thomas Hardy describes the novel as ‘A pastoral tale about a young woman-farmer, a shepherd and a sergeant of cavalry’. I guess that’s true but it leaves out the delightful rustics (people like Cain Ball whose mother thought Abel killed Cain and not the other way round), the fallen woman (poor Fanny Robbin), the obsessed (and deranged) Farmer Boldwood and the sneaky former Bailiff Pennyways.

There are a large number of allusions – biblical, classical and literary (luckily I had an edition with notes because most of them would have passed me by). The introduction to my edition tells me that Victorian readers would have loved recognising all of the different allusions and I must say I felt quite smug when I appreciated the irony associated with some of the allusions.

It is one of those novels with a lot of symbolism – the storm wreaking havoc on Bathsheba’s crops reflecting the havoc her new husband wreaks on her workers (they have all passed out drunk and Gabriel is the only one attempting to cover the ricks), the sheep not able to ‘control their passion’ for clover and neither can Bathsheba resist Troy. However, you can just read it and enjoy it as a story of a young woman struggling to be a farmer in a man’s world whose life is complicated by three men: Shepherd Oak (loyal and dependable), Farmer Boldwood (repressed and obsessive) and Sergeant Troy (sexy but a rogue).

Here are few links

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Far_from_the_Madding_Crowd

http://www.online-literature.com/hardy/Madding/

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/apr/24/far-from-the-madding-crowd-hardys-novel

 

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