Category Archives: 3

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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The Dictionary of Lost Words – Pip Williams

The Dictionary of Lost Words – Pip Wiliams

I bought this as part of my ‘I’m going to chemo today. so I am buying a book’ plan. The cover and the blurb reduced me.

Here’s the blurb…

In 1901, the word ‘Bondmaid’ was discovered missing from the Oxford English Dictionary. This is the story of the girl who stole it.

Esme is born into a world of words. Motherless and irrepressibly curious, she spends her childhood in the ‘Scriptorium’, a garden shed in Oxford where her father and a team of dedicated lexicographers are collecting words for the very first Oxford English Dictionary. Esme’s place is beneath the sorting table, unseen and unheard. One day a slip of paper containing the word ‘bondmaid’ flutters to the floor. Esme rescues the slip and stashes it in an old wooden case that belongs to her friend, Lizzie, a young servant in the big house. Esme begins to collect other words from the Scriptorium that are misplaced, discarded or have been neglected by the dictionary men. They help her make sense of the world.

Over time, Esme realises that some words are considered more important than others, and that words and meanings relating to women’s experiences often go unrecorded. While she dedicates her life to the Oxford English Dictionary, secretly, she begins to collect words for another dictionary: The Dictionary of Lost Words.

Set when the women’s suffrage movement was at its height and the Great War loomed, The Dictionary of Lost Words reveals a lost narrative, hidden between the lines of a history written by men. It’s a delightful, lyrical and deeply thought-provoking celebration of words, and the power of language to shape the world and our experience of it

I really enjoyed the first two thirds of this novel. The setting, the talk of words were beautifully written. And then my enthusiasm waned (could be because I was having chemotherapy). I passed my copy on the my mother-in-law whose book club is reading it. 3 out of 5.

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The Other Bennet Sister – Janice Hadlow

The Other Bennet Sister – Janice Hadlow

As I said in my last post, I don’t often read Jane Austen fan fiction and now I have done two in a row. This was recommended by a friend whose opinion I trust, so I decided to give it a go.

I liked it – it was refreshing to see things from Mary’s point of view. It was long though, and I felt a bit of editing would make a crisper story.

Here’s the blurb …

Mary, the bookish ugly duckling of Pride and Prejudice’s five Bennet sisters, emerges from the shadows and transforms into a desired woman with choices of her own.

What if Mary Bennet’s life took a different path from that laid out for her in Pride and Prejudice? What if the frustrated intellectual of the Bennet family, the marginalized middle daughter, the plain girl who takes refuge in her books, eventually found the fulfillment enjoyed by her prettier, more confident sisters? This is the plot of The Other Bennet Sister, a debut novel with exactly the affection and authority to satisfy Austen fans.

Ultimately, Mary’s journey is like that taken by every Austen heroine. She learns that she can only expect joy when she has accepted who she really is. She must throw off the false expectations and wrong ideas that have combined to obscure her true nature and prevented her from what makes her happy. Only when she undergoes this evolution does she have a chance at finding fulfillment; only then does she have the clarity to recognize her partner when he presents himself—and only at that moment is she genuinely worthy of love.

Mary’s destiny diverges from that of her sisters. It does not involve broad acres or landed gentry. But it does include a man; and, as in all Austen novels, Mary must decide whether he is the truly the one for her. In The Other Bennet Sister, Mary is a fully rounded character—complex, conflicted, and often uncertain; but also vulnerable, supremely sympathetic, and ultimately the protagonist of an uncommonly satisfying debut novel.

I would recommend this to Jane Austen fans. 3 out of 5.

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Such a Fun Age – Kiley Reid

Such a Fun Age – Kiley Reid

It has been a long time – since April – and I have 22 books that need to be blogged (eventually).

This was recommended by a friend and I enjoyed it. Another friend, couldn’t finish it, so it might not be for everyone.

Here’s the blurb …

When Emira is apprehended at a supermarket for ‘kidnapping’ the white child she’s actually babysitting, it sets off an explosive chain of events. Her employer Alix, a feminist blogger with a ‘personal brand’ and the best of intentions, resolves to make things right.

But Emira herself is aimless, broke and wary of Alix’s desire to help. When she meets someone from Alix’s past, the two women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know – about themselves, each other, and the messy dynamics of privilege

I am giving this one 3/5. I liked it, but I probably won’t read it again.

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A Common Loss – Kristen Tranter

A Common Loss – Kristen Tranter

Years ago I read The Legacy – and enjoyed it, so when I saw this at a library sale I purchased it. It then took me three years to get around to reading it.

Here’s the blurb

From the critically acclaimed author of The Legacy comes a riveting new novel about a group of friends whose longtime tensions and rivalries are suddenly exposed after one of them dies suddenly.

A WASHINGTON SQUARE PRESS PAPERBACK ORIGINAL THEY WERE ORIGINALLY FIVE.

Elliot. Brian. Tallis. Cameron. And Dylan—charismatic Dylan—the mediator, the man each one turned to in a time of crisis. Five close friends, bonded in college, still coming together for their annual trip to Las Vegas. This year they are four. Four friends, sharing a common loss: Dylan’s tragic death. A common loss that, upon their arrival in Vegas, will bring with it a common threat: one that will make them question who their departed friend really was, and whether he was ever worthy of their grief.

“Brimming with blackmail and deception” and “laced with simmering emotional tension” (Australian Bookseller & Publisher), A Common Loss is a hypnotic tale from an exciting new voice in literary fiction.

I enjoyed this one too – although it did take me awhile to realise the narrator was a man. 3/5

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Mothering Sunday – Graham Swift

Mothering Sunday – Graham Swift

This is the first book of 2020 for my historical book club.

Here’s the blurb …

It is March 30th 1924.

It is Mothering Sunday.

How will Jane Fairchild, orphan and housemaid, occupy her time when she has no mother to visit? How, shaped by the events of this never to be forgotten day, will her future unfold?

Beginning with an intimate assignation and opening to embrace decades, Mothering Sunday has at its heart both the story of a life and the life that stories can magically contain. Constantly surprising, joyously sensual and deeply moving, it is Graham Swift at his thrilling best.

I really enjoyed the first two-thirds and was not taken with the last third. 3/5

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