Category Archives: Miscellaneous

The Memory Tree – Tess Evans

 

 

I read The Book of Lost Threads and loved it, consequently  I was very keen to read Ms Evans new novel.  I wasn’t disappointed, but I would think very carefully before recommending this novel – mostly because of the content (I don’t want to give anything away, but there is death and mental illness and it might just be too confronting for some people).
Here is the blurb …
 When Paulina dies mid-dance, she leaves 12-year-old Zav and 7-year-old Sealie with their loving but unstable father, Hal. The grieving family decides to plant a tree in her memory – a magnolia which, growing along with the children, offers a special place where secrets are whispered and feelings can be confessed.
But as the memory tree grows, Hal, bereft, and increasingly suspicious of the world, turns to his own brand of salvation to make sense of the voices that bewilder and torment him. Mrs Mac, housekeeper and second mother since Paulina’s death, cooks, cleans, loves and worries about her ‘family’. She is even more concerned when Hal brings a larger-than-life stranger to the house for a beer; but Pastor Moses B. Washbourne, founder of the Church of the Divine Conflagration, ex-sergeant of the US Army, soon becomes part of the family, with surprising and far-reaching consequences.
As the seasons pass, Sealie blossoms into young woman, the apple of Hal’s eye while Zav, having spent his childhood quietly trying to win his father’s lost attention, is conscripted for duty in Vietnam.
And all the while, the voices continue to murmur poisonous words to Hal who knows he must keep them hidden . . . until he is persuaded into the most tragic of acts.
Written with humour and compassion, The Memory Tree is a poignant and compelling story of love, loyalty, grief and forgiveness

It was beautifully written – the characters seemed very real and her portrayal of mental illness superb. We know Hal does something awful, but when we finally come to the event it is still shocking and tragic. But Hal is not the only ‘broken’ character; Zav can’t seem to get on with his life he is both  self absorbed and selfish dooming Sealie to a life of servitude. And Sealie sacrifices her life so easily I wonder if she had any real interest to live her life.

Along with fabulous characters, there was a real feeling of place. Whether it be the house by the river Hal built for Paulina or the j ward of the mental asylum you could picture the environment.  This story is about family, heredity, duty and sacrifice, but it is also about the family we make for ourselves – Mrs Mac, Godown, Will and Scottie.

More reviews …

http://www.writenotereviews.com/m-o.html (You might need to scroll down a bit to find this one)

http://bookdout.wordpress.com/2012/02/29/review-the-memory-tree-by-tess-evans/ 

 

 

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The Art of Mending – ELizabeth Berg

I wrote a post on The Art of Mending, but WordPress ate it and I don’t have the stamina to write it again.

Here are some other reviews …

 http://bookjourney.wordpress.com/2011/02/19/the-art-of-mending-by-elizabeth-berg/

http://muddypuddlemusings.blogspot.com.au/2011/02/12-art-of-mending-elizabeth-berg.html 

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2011 in Review

This I read (or at least blogged) 33 books – last year I did 37 (I blame the lower number on Bleak House and Little Dorrit!).

My favourite novels of 2011 (that’s when I read them) were Olive Kitteridge, Freedom, A Visit From the Goon Squad, Elegies for the Broken Hearted, Notes from an Exhibition and Because of the Lockwoods.

I don’t have any particular goals for 2012 – apart from the usual clearing of the to be read pile. Maybe I will try to read 50 books (or at least blog 50 books).

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The Hand That First Held Mine – Maggie O’Farrell

This book was recommended here (and she writes such fabulous reviews you should go and read it). I reserved it at the library – I was about fifth in line – and one day an email arrives to say it was waiting for me.

Lexie Sinclair cannot stay. Enclosed within her parents’ genteel country lawn, she yearns for more. She makes her way to the big city, hungry for life and love, where she meets a magazine editor, Innes, a man unlike any she has ever imagined. He introduces her to the thrilling underground world of bohemian postwar London, and she learns to be a reporter, to know art and artists, to live her life fully and with a deep love at the center of it. When that love is threatened, she nearly loses the self she worked so hard to find. But then, she will create many lives, all of them unconventional. And when she finds herself pregnant by a man wholly unsuitable for marriage or fatherhood, she doesn’t hesitate for a minute to have the baby on her own, to be shaped by her love for her child.

Later, in present-day London, a young painter named Elina dizzily navigates the first weeks of motherhood. Her boyfriend, Ted, traumatized by nearly losing her in labor, begins to recover lost memories. He cannot place them. But as they become more disconcerting and return more frequently, we discover that something connects these two stories – these two women – something that becomes all the more heartbreaking and beautiful as they all hurtle toward its revelation.

A stunning portrait of motherhood and the artist’s life in all their terror and glory, Maggie O’Farrell’s newest novel is a gorgeous inquiry into the ways we make and unmake our lives, who we know ourselves to be, and how even our most accidental legacies connect us.

I loved this book. I tried to find more of O’Farrell’s work, but all of my local book stores (both chain and independent) didn’t have any.

It is written in two different time periods – one in the past and one in the present. You know at some stage the stories are going to merge/cross, but at first they seem disparate and as the story unfolds obvious, but how it all comes robe that way is a mystery to the very end.

The story set in the past involves Lexie and Innes. Free-spirited journalists who write about art and culture. The modern story involves Elina and Ted who have just had a baby. The birth was extremely traumatic and Ted starts to remember things long forgotten. O’Farrell writes beautifully about the exhaustion, confusion and overwhelming love involved with a newborn baby.

This story is well plotted and the tension rises with each chapter as you become aware of the final outcome, but how does it come about? I don’t want to reveal too much. This novel is excellent, the dialogue is superb, the relationships brilliantly imagined.

More reviews …

http://giraffeelizabeth.wordpress.com/2011/02/20/the-hand-that-first-held-mine-maggie-ofarrell/

http://myporchblog.blogspot.com/2010/03/book-review-hand-that-first-held-mine.html

http://harrietdevine.typepad.com/harriet_devines_blog/2010/03/the-hand-that-first-held-mine.html

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Nancy Wake – Peter FitzSimons


I’ve read this biography of Nancy Wake. She was an amazing women and lead a fascinating life – check it out here. I wasn’t all that impressed with this biography. More to do with the style than the content – it was too chatty and long-winded for my liking.

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2010 Book Club Reviews

I read 37 books for this blog last year (I read other books for JaneAustenReviews.com) and  I upset one author (check out the comments). So a good reading year. My three favourite reads were:

Good to a Fault by Marina Endicott

The Legacy by Kristen Tranter

Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey.

My least favourite book was The Bookshop on Jacaranda Street – fortunately I lent it to a friend and she never returned it!

I feel quite proud (of myself) that I managed to finish both Bleak House and Little Dorrit.

In 2011 I plan to read my pile – it was a 2010 resolution as well.

I’m currently reading Magic Island: The Fictions of LM Montgomery by Elizabeth Waterson.

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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larrson

As there was so much hype about this novel (even Mr H read it or at least listened to it), I thought I should read it too.

I don’t think I’ll be reading two or three. It was too violent for me. I prefer to remain ignorant of all of the evil people do to one another.

Here’s the blurb …

The Industrialist
Henrik Vanger, head of the dynastic Vanger corporation, is tormented by the loss of a child decades earlier and convinced that a member of the family has committed murder.

The Journalist
Mikael Blomkvist delves deep into the Vanger’s past to uncover the truth behind the unsolved mystery. But someone else wants the past to remain a secret and will go to any lengths to keep it that way.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Lisbeth Salander, the enigmatic, delinquent and dangerous security specialist, assists in the investigation. A genius computer hacker, she tolerates no restrictions placed upon her by individuals, society or the law.

I am glad I read this – I feel slightly more informed when people discuss it. However, I don’t feel I can encourage or discourage anyone from reading it.

Here’s some other reviews …

http://www.krittersramblings.com/2010/11/review-girl-with-dragon-tattoo-by-stieg.html

http://letseatgrandpa.com/2010/11/07/70-the-girl-with-the-dragon-tattoo-by-steig-larsson/

http://age30books.blogspot.com/2010/11/girl-with-dragon-tattoo.html

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The Tenant of Wildfell Hall – Anne Bronte

This is the first Anne Bronte novel I have read. I’ve read Emily Bronte  Wuthering Heights (which I hated), and Charlotte Bronte  Jane Eyre (I liked it) and Shirley (I liked it).

I must say I was pleasantly surprised. It was very long and religious – not for a modern audience – but still I finished it.

Here is the plot summary from Wikipedia …

The novel is divided into three volumes. In the first part, narrated by prosperous farmer Gilbert Markham, a mysterious widow, Mrs. Helen Graham arrives at Wildfell Hall, a nearby old mansion. A source of curiosity for the small community, the reticent Helen and her young son Arthur are slowly drawn into the social circles of the village. Initially, Gilbert Markham casually courts Eliza Millward, despite his mother’s belief that he can do better. His interest in Eliza wanes as he comes to know Mrs. Graham. In retribution, Eliza spreads (and perhaps originates) scandalous rumours about Helen.

With gossip flying, Gilbert is led to believe that his friend, Mr. Lawrence is courting Mrs. Graham. At a chance meeting in a road, a jealous Gilbert strikes (with a whip) the mounted Lawrence, who falls from his horse. Unaware of this, Helen refuses to marry Gilbert, but gives him her diaries when he accuses her of loving Lawrence.

Part two is taken from Helen’s diaries and describes her marriage to Arthur Huntingdon. The handsome, witty Huntingdon is also spoilt, selfish, and self-indulgent. Helen marries him blinded by love and resolves to reform Arthur with gentle persuasion and good example. Upon the birth of their child, Huntington becomes increasingly jealous of their son (also Arthur) and his claims on Helen’s attentions and affections.

Huntingdon’s pack of dissolute friends frequently engage in drunken revels at the family’s home, Grassdale, oppressing those of finer character. Both men and women are portrayed as degraded, with Lady Annabella Lowborough shown to be an unfaithful spouse to her melancholy but devoted husband.

Walter Hargrave, the brother of Helen’s friend Milicent Hargrave, vies for Helen’s affections. While not as wild as his peers, Walter is an unwelcome admirer: Helen senses his predatory nature, something revealed when they play chess. Walter tells Helen of Arthur’s affair with Lady Lowborough. When his pack of friends depart, Arthur pines openly for his paramour and derides his wife.

Arthur’s corruption of their son — encouraging him to drink and swear at his tender age — is the last straw for Helen. She plans to flee to save her son, but her husband learns of her plans from her journal, and burns her artist’s tools (by which she had hoped to support herself). Eventually, with help from her brother, Mr. Lawrence, Helen finds a secret refuge at Wildfell Hall.

Part Three begins after the reading of the diaries when Helen bids Gilbert to leave her because she is not free to marry. He complies and soon learns that she returned to Grassdale upon learning that Arthur is gravely ill. Helen’s ministrations are in vain. Huntingdon’s death is painful, fraught with terror at what awaits him. Helen cannot comfort him, for he rejects responsibility for his actions and wishes instead for her to come with him, to plead for his salvation.

A year passes. Gilbert pursues a rumour of Helen’s impending wedding, only to find that Mr. Lawrence (with whom he has reconciled) is marrying Helen’s friend, Esther Hargrave. He goes to Grassdale, and discovers that Helen is now wealthy and lives at her estate in Staningley. He travels there, but is plagued by worries that she is now far above his station. He hesitates at the entry-gate. By chance, he encounters Helen, her aunt, and young Arthur. The two lovers reconcile and marry.

I didn’t like it enough to spend too much time on it, but here are some other reviews.

http://helenlovesbooks.blogspot.com/2010/02/review-tenant-of-wildfell-hall-by-anne.html

http://flyhigh-by-learnonline.blogspot.com/2009/08/tenant-of-wildfell-hall-by-anne-bronte.html

 

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Reading Resolutions

This year I plan to consume less. I’m not going to buy any new books this year (except for the book club books). I’m going to read the books in my pile, the books hidden in my book shelves plus make more use of the library.

Currently in my pile I have:

The Lacuna Barbara Kingsolver

Surfacing Margaret Atwood

Magic IslandElizabeth Waterston

The Six Wives of Henry the V111 Antonia Fraser

The Longest Journey E M Forster

Brideshead Revisited Evelyn Waugh

Ballet ShoesNoel Streatfeild

The BrontesPatricia Ingham

The Tennant of Wildfell Hall Anne Bronte

Of those hidden in my shelves I want to read

Daniel Deronda George Eliot

Our Mutual Friend Charles Dickens

Bleak House Charles Dickens

The Forsyte Saga John Galsworthy

Wings of the Dove Henry James

Anna Karenina Tolstoy

Words and Rules Steven Pinker

Women who run with the WolvesClarissa Pinkola Estes

I’m sure I’ll find others throughout the year…

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New Aquisitions

This is my latest collection of new books.

newaquisitions

Her Fearful Symmetry Audrey Niffenegger

Ballet ShoesNoel Streatfeild

The Brontes Ingham

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall Anne Bronte

The Year of the Flood Margaret Atwood

And some more from the second hand book store.

secondhand

The Longest Journey E. M. Forster

A Wreath of Roses Elizabeth Taylor

Brideshead Revisited Evelyn Waugh

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