Category Archives: Rating

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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Filed under 4, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Recommended

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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Filed under 5, Fiction, Recommended

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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Filed under 3, Fiction

A Wedding in the Country – Katie Fforde

A Wedding in the Country – Katie Fforde

I have always liked Katie Fforde’s novels, and I always get them as soon as they are released. This one caught me by surprise, I bought it in Bunbury while attending a rowing regatta. This one was a little bit different from her previous novels in that it is a period piece (set in 1963).

Here is the blurb …

Lizzy has just arrived in London and is determined to make the best of her new life.

Her mother may be keen that she should meet a Suitable Man and have a nice wedding in the country, but Lizzy is determined to have some fun first.

It is 1963 and London is beginning to swing as Lizzie cuts her hair, buys a new dress with a fashionably short hemline, and moves to a grand but rundown house in Belgravia with two of her best friends.

Soon Lizzie’s life is so exciting that she has forgotten all about her mother’s marriage plans for her.

All she can think about is that the young man she is falling in love with appears to be engaged to someone else…

I particularly enjoyed all of the references to fabric and sewing, but that is because I love textiles.

If you like romance novels, then I think you would enjoy this one. 4/5

A review.

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Filed under 4, Fiction - Light, Recommended

Almost French – Sarah Turnbull

Almost French – Sarah Turnbull

I have been trying to learn French for a number of years, and last year, before Covid, I had planned a trip to France to see the Bayeux Tapestry, the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries and the Apocalypse tapestries.

Here’s the blurb …

After backpacking her way around Europe journalist Sarah Turnbull is ready to embark on one last adventure before heading home to Sydney. A chance meeting with a charming Frenchman in Bucharest changes her travel plans forever.

Acting on impulse, she agrees to visit Frederic in Paris for a week. Put a very French Frenchman together with a strong-willed Australian girl and the result is some spectacular – and often hilarious – cultural clashes. Language is a minefield of misunderstanding and the simple act of buying a baguette is fraught with social danger.

But as she navigates the highs and lows of this strange new world, from the sophisticated cafes and haute couture fashion houses to the picture postcard French countryside, little by little Sarah falls under its spell: passionate, mysterious, infuriating, and charged with that French specialty – seduction. And it becomes her home. ALMOST FRENCH is the story of an adventurous heart, a maddening city – and love.

I enjoyed it; the differences between French and Australian culture, the food, fashion, etc. Three out of five.

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Filed under 3, Miscellaneous

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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Filed under 4, Fiction, Recommended

The Piano Shop on the Left Bank – Thad Carhart

The Piano Shop on the Left Bank – Thad Carhart

This was in the pile of books left by my neighbour and I picked it up thinking it was a novel. It’s not it’s non-fiction, bit memoir, bit piano history and a bit Parisian lifestyle.

Here’s the blurb …

Walking his two young children to school every morning, Thad Carhart passes an unassuming little storefront in his Paris neighborhood. Intrigued by its simple sign — Desforges Pianos — he enters, only to have his way barred by the shop’s imperious owner.

Unable to stifle his curiosity, he finally lands the proper introduction, and a world previously hidden is brought into view. Luc, the atelier’s master, proves an indispensable guide to the history and art of the piano. Intertwined with the story of a musical friendship are reflections on how pianos work, their glorious history, and stories of the people who care for them, from amateur pianists to the craftsmen who make the mechanism sing. The Piano Shop on the Left Bank is at once a beguiling portrait of a Paris not found on any map and a tender account of the awakening of a lost childhood passion

I liked it, it made me want to play the piano. It also made me appreciate the complexities of pianos.

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Filed under 3, Non-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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Filed under 4, Fiction, Science Fiction

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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Filed under 4, Fiction, Recommended

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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Filed under 4, Fiction, Recommended, Short Stories