Category Archives: Fiction

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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The Rain Heron – Robbie Arnott

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I bought this from a lovely book store in Bussleton – Viva Books.

Here is the blurb …

Ren lives alone on the remote frontier of a country devastated by a coup. High on the forested slopes, she survives by hunting and trading—and forgetting.

But when a young soldier comes to the mountains in search of a local myth, Ren is inexorably drawn into her impossible mission. As their lives entwine, unravel and erupt—as myths merge with reality—both Ren and the soldier are forced to confront what they regret, what they love, and what they fear.

The Rain Heron is the dizzying, dazzling new novel from the author of Flames. 

This is beautifully written – part fable, part epic quest. This is one of my favourite books for this year. 4 out of 5.

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A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry

A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry

A dear friend passed this onto me. I read it while doing chemotherapy. My thoughts might be tainted.

Here is the blurb …

With a compassionate realism and narrative sweep that recall the work of Charles Dickens, this magnificent novel captures all the cruelty and corruption, dignity and heroism, of India.

The time is 1975. The place is an unnamed city by the sea. The government has just declared a State of Emergency, in whose upheavals four strangers–a spirited widow, a young student uprooted from his idyllic hill station, and two tailors who have fled the caste violence of their native village–will be thrust together, forced to share one cramped apartment and an uncertain future.

As the characters move from distrust to friendship and from friendship to love, A Fine Balance creates an enduring panorama of the human spirit in an inhuman state.

I have to say upfront that I know nothing about India. (I thought Mrs Ghandi was a relaive of Ghandi). For me the best part of this novel was watching the relationships between the characters develop. These four people trying to have agency in their own lives – find a job, make enough money, find somewhere to live, while the country is in turmoil, political unrest and indiscriminant violence (forced sterialisation anyone?).

I did find the story emotionally draining, just when things were improving for a character something terrible would happen. It was bleak, very bleak. Beautifully written with a fabulous sense of time and place. Three out of five.

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The Wife and the Widow – Christian White

The Wife and The Widow – Christian White

This was my book club book – back when I was still reading the books even if I wasn’t attending.

Here’s the blurb …

Set against the backdrop of an eerie island town in the dead of winter, The Wife and The Widow is an unsettling thriller told from two perspectives: Kate, a widow whose grief is compounded by what she learns about her dead husband’s secret life; and Abby, an island local whose world is turned upside when she’s forced to confront the evidence of her husband’s guilt. But nothing on this island is quite as it seems, and only when these women come together can they discover the whole story about the men in their lives.

I like to read the occasional crime novel between other types of fiction and this novel was cheap at target, so I thought I would give it a go.

It was good, the twist wasn’t particularly twisty (I guessed it quite early), but I still found the story compelling. I think if you’re a fan of crime, ten you will like this novel. Three out of five.

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After Me Comes the Flood – Sarah Perry

After Me Comes the Flood – Sarah Perry

This book languished in my pile for quite some time. I have made a concerted effort this year to reduce my pile.

Here’s the blurb …

Elegant, sinister, and psychologically complex, After Me Comes the Flood is the haunting debut novel by the bestselling author of The Essex Serpent and Melmoth.

On a hot summer’s day, John Cole decides to shut his bookshop early, and possibly forever, and drives out of London to see his brother. When his car breaks down on an isolated road, he goes looking for help and finds a dilapidated house. As he approaches, a laughing woman he’s never seen before walks out, addresses him by name and explains she’s been waiting for him. Entering the home, John discovers an enigmatic clan of residents all of whom seem to know who he is and claim they have been waiting for him to arrive. They seem to be waiting for something else, too—something final

Written before Sarah Perry’s ascension to an internationally bestselling author, After Me Comes the Flood is a spectacular novel of obsession, conviction and providence—a startling investigation of the nature of determination in all senses of the word. Wrote Katherine Angel, author of Unmastered, Perry’s novel “made me think of Fowles’s The Magus, Maxwell’s The Chateau, and Woolf’s To the Lighthouse.” Indeed.

This is not my favourite novel by Sarah Perry – that would be The Essex Serpent, but this was interesting, quirky and a bit confusing. Three out of five.

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The Narrow Land – Christine Dwyer Hickey

The Narrow Land – Christine Dwyer Hickey

This won the Walter Scott Historical Prize for Literature, so clearly I had to read it.

Here’s the blurb …

1950: late summer season on Cape Cod. Michael, a ten-year-old boy, is spending the summer with Richie and his glamorous but troubled mother. Left to their own devices, the boys meet a couple living nearby – the artists Jo and Edward Hopper – and an unlikely friendship is forged.

She, volatile, passionate and often irrational, suffers bouts of obsessive sexual jealousy. He, withdrawn and unwell, depressed by his inability to work, becomes besotted by Richie’s frail and beautiful Aunt Katherine who has not long to live – an infatuation he shares with young Michael.

A novel of loneliness and regret, the legacy of World War II and the ever-changing concept of the American Dream

I enjoyed it, certainly more than To Calais in Ordinary Time, which was on the short list. Three out of five.

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Filed under 3, Fiction, Historical Fiction