Category Archives: 4

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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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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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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Parable of the Sower – Octavia E Butler

Parable of the Sower – Octavia E Butler

I am not sure where I first heard about this author, but we took Miss P to visit Stefan’s books (definitely worth a visit) and there it was on the shelf.

It was very prescient. My copy has it first being published in 1993 and here it is 2021 and the US is retreating into chaos and madness.

Here’s the blurb …

When global climate change and economic crises lead to social chaos in the early 2020s, California becomes full of dangers, from pervasive water shortage to masses of vagabonds who will do anything to live to see another day.

Fifteen-year-old Lauren Olamina lives inside a gated community with her preacher father, family, and neighbors, sheltered from the surrounding anarchy. In a society where any vulnerability is a risk, she suffers from hyperempathy, a debilitating sensitivity to others’ pain.

Precocious and clear-eyed, Lauren must make her voice heard in order to protect her loved ones from the imminent disasters her small community stubbornly ignores. But what begins as a fight for survival soon leads to something much more: the birth of a new faith…and a startling vision of human destiny.

I found it compelling and I am looking forward to another trip to Stefan’s to pick up the next book The Parable of the Talents.

4 out of 5.

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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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Weather – Jenny Offill

Weather – Jenny Offill

I loved The Dept of Speculation, so was super keen to read Weather. I thought I would reserve it at the library and surprisingly I was first (the other people must be idiots).

Here’s the blurb …

From the author of the nationwide best seller Dept. of Speculation–one of the New York Times Book Review‘s Ten Best Books of the Year–a shimmering tour de force about a family, and a nation, in crisis

Lizzie Benson slid into her job as a librarian without a traditional degree. But this gives her a vantage point from which to practice her other calling: she is a fake shrink. For years, she has tended to her God-haunted mother and her recovering addict brother. They have both stabilized for the moment, but Lizzie has little chance to spend her new free time with husband and son before her old mentor, Sylvia Liller, makes a proposal. She’s become famous for her prescient podcast, Hell and High Water, and wants to hire Lizzie to answer the mail she receives: from left-wingers worried about climate change and right wingers worried about the decline of western civilization. As Lizzie dives into this polarized world, she begins to wonder what it means to keep tending your own garden once you’ve seen the flames beyond its walls. When her brother becomes a father and Sylvia a recluse, Lizzie is forced to address the limits of her own experience–but still she tries to save everyone, using everything she’s learned about empathy and despair, conscience and collusion, from her years of wandering the library stacks…And all the while the voices of the city keep floating in- funny, disturbing, and increasingly mad

I really enjoyed this novel – it has the same style as Dept of Speculation those paragraphs that are separate, but connected. 4 out of 5.

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The Jane Austen Society – Natalie Jenner

The Jane Austen Society – Natalie Jenner

I normally avoid Jane Austen fan-fiction – Austen is just too hard an act to follow, but this came highly recommended, and I have been unwell, so pleasant reads are a must.

I liked it – well written and a little bit unexpected.

Here is the blurb…

Just after the Second World War, in the small English village of Chawton, an unusual but like-minded group of people band together to attempt something remarkable.

One hundred and fifty years ago, Chawton was the final home of Jane Austen, one of England’s finest novelists. Now it’s home to a few distant relatives and their diminishing estate. With the last bit of Austen’s legacy threatened, a group of disparate individuals come together to preserve both Jane Austen’s home and her legacy. These people—a laborer, a young widow, the local doctor, and a movie star, among others—could not be more different and yet they are united in their love for the works and words of Austen. As each of them endures their own quiet struggle with loss and trauma, some from the recent war, others from more distant tragedies, they rally together to create the Jane Austen Society

If you are a Jane Austen fan, I think you would enjoy this and even if you’re not, it’s a lovely story about grief, family, doing your duty and there is a bit of romance as well. 4 out of 5.

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