Category Archives: Fiction

The End of Longing – Ian Reid

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The End of Longing – Ian Reid

Mr Reid lives in the same city as me and he came to my book club (historical books) to give a presentation. As that was such a kind thing to do, I wanted to buy one of his books (we did read one for that particular book club).

Here’s the blurb …

Frances, a New Zealand woman, is laid to rest in an unmarked grave in Jamaica in 1892. Her enigmatic husband, the Reverend William Hammond, cannot be found. Frances is not Reverend Hammond’s first wife, and his movements have always been elusive. Reverend Hammond has travelled by steamship and rail across continents, but when Frances joins him, the thrill of exotic travel is soon overshadowed by a sense of foreboding. Does he really want her or is she in the way? Later on, reports are sent to Frances’s brothers, alleging cunning, fraud, and possible murder. The End of Longing is a thrilling, bitter-beautiful novel which skillfully explores identity through circumstance, redemption, and love. It is a lyrical, mature, and interesting story about a confidence trickster in the late 19th/early 20th century, set as a travelogue of escape through Melbourne, Canada, Japan, the US, and through to New Zealand. There is a substratum of fact to The End of Longing. A couple bearing the same names as the two main characters did travel to the places described in this novel at the times indicated, and had some similar experiences. Indeed, the main female character is based on author Ian Reid’s distant relative.

I found it to be compelling – very much a page turner. I am not sure if it would be possible now to move on and escape your past.

4 out of 5.

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Edie Richter is Not Alone – Rebecca Handler

Edie Richter is Not Alone – Rebecca Handler

I waited and waited for this book to be released and I wasn’t disappointed. Bek is my friend and her writing is magnificent.

Here is the blurb …

Funny, acerbic Edie Richter is moving with her husband from San Francisco to Perth, Australia. She leaves behind a sister and mother still mourning the recent death of her father. Before the move, Edie and her husband were content, if socially awkward?given her disinclination for small talk. In Perth, Edie finds herself in a remarkably isolated yet verdant corner of the world, but Edie has a secret: she committed an unthinkable act that she can barely admit to herself. In some ways, the landscape mirrors her own complicated inner life, and rather than escaping her past, Edie is increasingly forced to confront what she’s done. Everybody, from the wildlife to her new neighbors, is keen to engage, and Edie does her best to start fresh. But her relationship with her husband is fraying, and the beautiful memories of her father are heartbreaking, and impossible to stop. Something, in the end, has to give. Written in clean spare prose that is nevertheless brimming with the richness and wry humor of the protagonist’s observations and idiosyncrasies, Edie Richter is Not Alone is Rebecca Handler’s debut novel. It is both deeply shocking and entirely quotidian: a story about a woman’s visceral confrontation with the fundamental meaning of humanity.

It is witty, sad and shocking, but ultimately hopeful. And the writing – not a wasted word (as a reader this is definitely my favourite writing style).

Here is another review.

Five out of five (my first for the year!)

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Spring – Ali Smith

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Spring – Ali Smith

Ali Smith is a very popular novelist amongst the bloggers, booktubers and podcasters that I follow that it seemed imperative to read one of her novels. Spring was the one the library had.

Here’s the blurb …

What unites Katherine Mansfield, Charlie Chaplin, Shakespeare, Beethoven, Brexit, the present, the past, the north, the south, the east, the west, a man mourning lost times, a woman trapped in modern times?

Spring. The great connective.

With an eye to the migrancy of story over time, and riffing on Pericles, one of Shakespeare’s most resistant and rollicking works, Ali Smith tells the impossible tale of an impossible time. In a time of walls and lockdown, Smith opens the door.

The time we’re living in is changing nature. Will it change the nature of story? Hope springs eternal.

I liked it, but not as much as I expected given all of the rave reviews from others. Is it because I started with this one rather than Autumn? Possibly I am not literary enough.

Here is a much better review.

3 out of 5.

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Hinton – Mark Blacklock

Hinton – Mark Blacklock

I like historical fiction and I like maths. So when I read about this on the Walter Scott prize instagram, I bought a copy immediately.

Here’s the blurb …

Howard Hinton and his family are living in Japan, escaping from a scandal. Hinton’s obsession is his work, his voyages into mathematical pure space, into the fourth dimension, but also his wife and sons, each of whom are entangled in the strange and unknown landscapes of Hinton’s science fictions.

In a bravura and startling meeting of real and philosophical elements, Mark Blacklock has created a ravishing period piece of late-Victorian social, scientific and domestic life. Hinton is about extraordinary discoveries, and terrible choices. It is about people who discover and map other realms, and what the implications might be for those of us left behind.

I can’t say that I was that taken with it. I did try to read it while I was on holiday in Broome, so not conducive to concentration.

Here’s a much better review.

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High Rising – Angela Thirkell

High Rising – Angela Thirkell

I can’t remember where I first heard about Angela Thirkell – the Backlisted podcast perhaps?

It was easiest to find a Kindle version.

Here’s the blurb …

Successful lady novelist Laura Morland and her boisterous young son Tony set off to spend Christmas at her country home in the sleepy surrounds of High Rising. But Laura’s wealthy friend and neighbour George Knox has taken on a scheming secretary whose designs on marriage to her employer threaten the delicate social fabric of the village. Can clever, practical Laura rescue George from Miss Grey’s clutches and, what’s more, help his daughter Miss Sibyl Knox to secure her longed-for engagement?

Utterly charming and very funny, High Rising is irresistible comic entertainment.

It was fabulous – my favourite book so far this year. Four out of five.

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Parable of the Talents – Octavia E Butler

Parable of the Talents – Octavia E Butler

This is the second book to Parable of the Sower.

Here’s the blurb …

Originally published in 1998, this shockingly prescient novel’s timely message of hope and resistance in the face of fanaticism is more relevant than ever.

In 2032, Lauren Olamina has survived the destruction of her home and family, and realized her vision of a peaceful community in northern California based on her newly founded faith, Earthseed. The fledgling community provides refuge for outcasts facing persecution after the election of an ultra-conservative president who vows to “make America great again.” In an increasingly divided and dangerous nation, Lauren’s subversive colony–a minority religious faction led by a young black woman–becomes a target for President Jarret’s reign of terror and oppression.

Years later, Asha Vere reads the journals of a mother she never knew, Lauren Olamina. As she searches for answers about her own past, she also struggles to reconcile with the legacy of a mother caught between her duty to her chosen family and her calling to lead humankind into a better future.

Like the first one, this is told through Lauren’s journals, but there are other voices (or written testaments) as well. Bankole, Marc and Asha all tell part of the story from their perspective. These books are eerily prescient; global warming, communities breaking down, democracy breaking down, survival of the fittest and the rise of right-wing christian groups. There’s violence and despair, but hope too.

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Lucky Us – Amy Bloom

Lucky Us – Amy Bloom

After reading Come to Me, I was very pleased to find this in the secondhand book store.

Here’s the blurb …

A thrilling and resonant novel from the author of Away, about loyalty, ambition, and the pleasures and perils of family, set in 1940s America.

When Eva’s mother abandons her on Iris’s front porch, the girls don’t seem to have much in common – except, they soon discover, a father. Thrown together with no mothers to care for them and a father who could not be considered a parent, Iris and Eva become one another’s family. Iris wants to be a movie star; Eva is her sidekick. Together, they journey across 1940s America from scandal in Hollywood to the jazz clubs and golden mansions of Long Island, stumbling, cheating and loving their way through a landscape of war, betrayals and big dreams.

I enjoyed this novel the writing is beautiful. We get different perspectives – Eva mostly tells the story, but there are also letters from Iris, Gus and Danny. It is a story about kindness and looking after one another, about love in all of its various guises.

Here’s a review from the Guardian.

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Come to Me – Amy Bloom

Come to Me – Amy Bloom

A friend left this book behind when they returned home (on the other side of the planet). It has taken me a few years to get to it, which is a shame because I really enjoyed it.

Here’s the blurb …

Amy Bloom’s first collection of short stories takes the reader into the inner lives of characters who encounter the everyday mysteries of need and desire. They include a frightened father in need of redemption, a psychiatrist who oversteps professional boundaries and a small girl eager for love.

The stories are beautifully written, quirky with an old-fashioned feel.

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The Viscount Who Loved Me – Julia Quinn

The Viscount Who Loved Me – Julia Quinn

I am sure we have all been watching the fabulous The Bridgertons – well this is the second novel in the series. This is the one where Anthony gets married. I think this might be my favourite so far – Kate is a fabulous heroine.

Here’s the blurb …

1814 promises to be another eventful season, but not, This Author believes, for Anthony Bridgerton, London’s most elusive bachelor, who has shown no indication that he plans to marry. And in all truth, why should he? When it comes to playing the consummate rake, nobody does it better…

–Lady Whistledown’s Society Papers, April 1814

But this time the gossip columnists have it wrong. Anthony Bridgerton hasn’t just decided to marry–he’s even chosen a wife! The only obstacle is his intended’s older sister, Kate Sheffield–the most meddlesome woman ever to grace a London ballroom. The spirited schemer is driving Anthony mad with her determination to stop the betrothal, but when he closes his eyes at night, Kate’s the woman haunting his increasingly erotic dreams…

Contrary to popular belief, Kate is quite sure that reformed rakes to not make the best husbands–and Anthony Bridgerton is the most wicked rogue of them all. Kate’s determined to protect her sister–but she fears her own heart is vulnerable. And when Anthony’s lips touch hers, she’s suddenly afraid she might not be able to resist the reprehensible rake herself…

This is a fun, easy read with lots of period detail. Georgette Heyer, but sexier!

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Filed under Fiction, Fiction - Light, Historical Fiction

Final Post 2020

I have fallen behind in my book reviews and I am simply going to list them all here:

The Silk House – Kayte Nunn
The Promise of Happiness
The Natural Way of Things – Charlotte Wood
Lincoln in the Bardo – George Saunders
Bath Tangle – Georgette Heyer
Dead Lions – Mick Herron
Hamnet – Maggie O’Farrell
The Discomfort of Evening – Marieke Lucas Rijneveld
Wakenhyrst – Michelle Paver
Midnight Library – Matt Haig
The Dutch House – Ann Patchett
Jack – Marilynne Robinson
Grownups – Marian Keyes
The Living Sea of Waking Dreams – Richard Flanagan
Fortune and Glory – Janet Evanovich
The Survivors – Jane Harper
Ten Things I Hate About the Duke – Loretta Chase
Only Happiness Here – Gabrielle Carey
The Duke and I – Julia Quinn
Honeybee – Craig Silvey

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