African fiction

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Five Star TBR Pile Predictions

Published August 22, 2017 by bibliobeth

Image from http://lithub.com/in-praise-of-the-book-tower/

Hello everyone and welcome to something a bit different on my blog today. One of my favourite book-tubers, Mercedes from Mercy’s Bookish Musings recently posted a brilliant video where she went through her TBR and tried to predict which five books would be five star reads for her. She then did a wrap up video after she had read the books to see how many she had got right. I thought this was a fantastic idea and immediately wanted to do the same as a blog post rather than a video. Honestly, none of you need to see me stammering away in front of a camera – it’s not a pretty sight. I’ll leave it to the experts! Without further ado, I’ve picked five books from my TBR that I think will be five star reads for me and I’ll give you a little bit of background information about how I got the book and why I think I might give it five stars.

1.) Stay With Me – Ayobami Adebayo

Stay With Me came across my radar when it was short-listed for the Baileys Women’s Prize For Fiction earlier this year. I was lucky enough to attend an event where I got to hear the short-listed authors read from their books and answer some questions. I had already heard brilliant things about this book from reviewers whose opinions I really respect and trust but hearing the author speak on the night had me determined that this book was going to be great. Why do I think it’s going to be a five star read? Mostly because people with very similar reading tastes to my own have praised it to the heavens and I’m anticipating I’m going to feel exactly the same way.

2.) The Clay Girl by Heather Tucker

Mercy from Mercy’s Bookish Musings is responsible for my interest in this little beauty. She raved about it in a recent video and after hearing her review, I knew I had to have it. I mean, check out this opening:

“Vincent Appleton smiles at his daughters, raises a gun, and blows off his head. For the Appleton sisters, life had unravelled many times before. This time it explodes.”

Why do I think it’s going to be a five star read? Again, a great review from a person with similar reading tastes to my own, the dark content and that opening is just too intriguing to resist.

3.) The Book Of Strange New Things – Michel Faber

This book has been languishing on my TBR for a ridiculous amount of time and it’s about time it gets read! I’m a big fan of Michel Faber, especially after his beautiful novel, The Crimson Petal And The White and I’ve been looking forward to reading this for the longest time. I feel like it’s going to be a bit like The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell and The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, both of which I loved. I understand Michel Faber is either taking a break from writing or has said that he’s not going to write any more novels at all and I think that’s one of the reasons I’ve been putting off reading this book – I just don’t want to admit to myself that I’m never going to read anything new by him again! Why do I think it’s going to be a five star read? Mostly due to the premise which immediately pulled me in and I have to say, that gorgeous cover. Okay I know, never judge a book by its cover! (But I do!).

4.) The Bear And The Nightingale – Katherine Arden

I’ve been coveting this book ever since I first saw it in a bookshop – I mean, just look at that cover! There’s a few buzz words that will guarantee I’ll buy a book and some of them are “fairy tale,” “Russian,” “with a dark edge,” and this book has all these things, I’m certain it’s going to be gorgeous. Why do I think it’s going to be a five star read? It looks to have everything I would want from a novel and yep…..that cover again!

5.) Girls Will Be Girls: Dressing Up, Playing Parts And Daring To Act Differently – Emer O’Toole

I love a bit of non-fiction, especially when it’s a topic that fascinates me, in this case gender stereotypes and feminist issues. There have been some brilliant reviews of this book and I can’t wait to get to it. I think it’s going to be interesting, eye-opening and I’m hoping to learn a lot too. Why do I think it’s going to be a five star read? Probably because of the subject matter which I’m always hungry for and the fact that I’ve heard nothing but good things.

So that’s five books from my TBR which I think (and hope!) are going to be five star reads for me in the future. I’ll get on with reading them in the next few months and then I’ll be back with a wrap up post where I’ll let you know if I was right in my predictions or not. I will also be reviewing each book separately as always but I’ll do that after my wrap up post so as to not give anything away ahead of time. 

Make sure to check out Mercy’s video on her channel to see which books she has predicted will be five star reads for her. If anyone else wants to do this, I would absolutely love to see your choices, please leave a link to your post (or just tell me your choices) in the comments section below!

 

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Circling The Sun – Paula McLain

Published October 20, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Brought to Kenya from England as a child and then abandoned by her mother, Beryl is raised by both her father and the native Kipsigis tribe who share his estate. Her unconventional upbringing transforms Beryl into a bold young woman with a fierce love of all things wild and an inherent understanding of nature’s delicate balance. But even the wild child must grow up, and when everything Beryl knows and trusts dissolves, she is catapulted into a string of disastrous relationships.

Beryl forges her own path as a horse trainer, and her uncommon style attracts the eye of the Happy Valley set, a decadent, bohemian community of European expats who also live and love by their own set of rules. But it’s the ruggedly charismatic Denys Finch Hatton who ultimately helps Beryl navigate the uncharted territory of her own heart. The intensity of their love reveals Beryl’s truest self and her fate: to fly.

What did I think?:

You may be familiar with the name Paula McLain from her wonderful novel The Paris Wife about the first wife of Ernest Hemingway i.e. Hadley Richardson. I was delighted to hear that she was bringing out a new work of fiction about another strong female individual based once more on a real person that I shamefully knew very little about. Again, as when I finished The Paris Wife, the author writes such a compelling story that it instantly makes me want to go and research everything I can about the real woman behind this narrative.

The person McLain chooses to explore is Beryl (Clutterbuck) Markham, who spends much of her childhood on her father’s farm in Kenya, learning the art of training racehorses from her father and running wild with her childhood friend, a native Kenyan from the nearby Kipsigis tribe. Life is quite carefree for Beryl and she enjoys the simple pleasures in life until her mother decides to return to England, effectively abandoning her. However, Beryl was never the conventional “lady,” and grows up fiercely independent and proud, fulfilling her dreams of becoming the first successful female horse trainer in Africa, having a few “interesting” relationships with men before she meets the love of her life, suffering various heart-breaks and eventually breaking a record attempt for flying solo across the Atlantic in 1936, something which she is most famous for today.

There was so much to like about this book and to be honest, I wasn’t sure at first. I’m not a particularly “horsey” kind of girl and obviously, a big part of this book is Beryl’s relationships with horses so I wasn’t sure how much that would interest me. I do love being proved wrong though – the story of her trials and tribulations with people who doubted her and her fierce attitude towards achieving her status as a world-class horse trainer totally won me over. Beryl is, in essence, a flawed character and a lot of times, I didn’t particularly agree with some of the decisions she made, especially concerning her love life (which at points, had me actually quite exasperated!). However, she was real, she made mistakes, she loved, learned and lost like everyone else has to and this made the story so much more believable and poignant in my eyes. Beryl Markham was obviously a remarkable woman and I’ll definitely be reading her memoir, West With The Night to view her life once again from her own point of view.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

 

Fortunate – Andrew J.H. Sharp

Published April 6, 2014 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Beth Jenkins – semi-bereaved wife, rootless doctor – runs away from home at the age of twenty-eight and a half and becomes a heroine of a revolution.

Locked into a lonely future by a cruel twist of fate, Beth reaches breaking point, abandons her husband, and flees to faraway Zimbabwe. Her attempts to create a new life falter when she finds herself at the center of a deadly struggle for the ownership of a farm. From a guest of honor at the President’s table to a disastrous decision that betrays a good man, her new start threatens to end in catastrophe.

But the land and its painted rocks hold clues to a path to atonement and re-found love if she has the courage to search.

What did I think?:

First of all, many thanks to the lovely people at Troubador Publishing for this ARC which I requested from NetGalley. The synopsis of the story was intriguing to me as I have quite a lot of interest in the history of Zimbabwe so I was looking forward to a contemporary view and what looked like an interesting plot-line for a novel. Our protagonist is a woman called Beth Jenkins who is currently working as a locum GP but is becoming increasingly disillusioned by her work and longs to be able to give a little more time to each of her patients and perhaps explore fresh avenues career-wise. This is hampered by her personal life however as her husband has had a devastating brain haemorrhage which has left him requiring constant care while erasing most of his previous memories and leaving him quite dependent on her. Her demanding mother-in-law does not provide much support for Beth, emotionally or otherwise and she begins to feel trapped in a life that she had not anticipated.

On a routine visit to a cranky and resilient elderly patient in a care home Beth’s life takes a dramatic turn when he entrusts her with a deed for some land which he is the owner of in Zimbabwe. Mr de. Villier is dying of lung cancer and insists that he wishes the deed to be placed in the hands of his son only, which leads to Beth taking up the adventure and travelling to Africa. Zimbabwe at this time has just been liberated and Beth meets a host of different characters, some a bit frightening, others warm and incredibly helpful to her with her task which has become more mammoth than she expected. She finds out that delivering a piece of paper is a lot harder than it looks, especially when politics and African laws get in the way, facing dangers and new challenges which opens her eyes to the beauty of life and the possibilities of love.

This book left me with mixed up feelings I have to say. I hadn’t realised that it was based on a true story until I reached the end and I don’t know if I would have felt differently about the book if I had known this from the beginning. I did think that the book was a good read overall but something prevented it from being a brilliant read for me personally. The plot is intriguing and I was sympathetic to Beth’s plight of looking after her disabled husband, but when Beth’s friends came over to “save” her in Zimbabwe it became slightly sensationalist. Saying that though I thought the ending was quite beautiful, and I didn’t expect what happened, so there is a possibility that Beth may get the happily-ever-after that she longs for.

Would I recommend it?:

Not sure.

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

Ghana Must Go – Taiye Selasi

Published May 27, 2013 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Kweku Sai is dead. A renowned surgeon and failed husband, he succumbs suddenly at dawn outside his home in suburban Accra. The news of Kweku’s death sends a ripple around the world, bringing together the family he abandoned years before. Ghana Must Go is their story. Electric, exhilarating, beautifully crafted, Ghana Must Go is a testament to the transformative power of unconditional love, from a debut novelist of extraordinary talent.

Moving with great elegance through time and place, Ghana Must Go charts the Sais’ circuitous journey to one another. In the wake of Kweku’s death, his children gather in Ghana at their enigmatic mother’s new home. The eldest son and his wife; the mysterious, beautiful twins; the baby sister, now a young woman: each carries secrets of his own. What is revealed in their coming together is the story of how they came apart: the hearts broken, the lies told, the crimes committed in the name of love. Splintered, alone, each navigates his pain, believing that what has been lost can never be recovered—until, in Ghana, a new way forward, a new family, begins to emerge.

What did I think?:

This novel is the April read for the Waterstones Eleven debut authors, please see my previous post HERE. This book centres around the sudden and unexpected death of one man – a remarkable surgeon and father of four. As each of his children hear about his death, we learn how much of a failure he was as a father, and how much each child has been affected by their fathers abandonment. There is Olu, the first-born son, under a great deal of pressure from his parents to perform. He ends up following in his fathers footsteps by also becoming a surgeon, but who undergoes considerable emotional problems in his private life. The two twins, who were probably my favourite characters were very intriguing. Unable to cope with the marriage breakdown, their mother sends them to live with their uncle where a traumatic experience for both twins unfolds. I enjoyed the way this was continually hinted at in the novel, and how different the reactions of both twins were to their shared experience and their parents divorce.  Finally, the baby of the family, Sadie appears to have more of an issue with her mother than her father, and also harbours a secret.

The language in this book is rich and beautifully descriptive, and I found it slightly difficult at the beginning like a couple of other reviews of the book I have read. However, once getting used to the style, it became almost a treat to read. I cannot believe that this is a debut novel, the author writes like she has been writing for years, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this book ended up a contender for the Man Booker prize this year. Although I probably wouldn’t read this book again, I’m glad I’ve read it once, even just to appreciate the author’s stunning way with words.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art