British Books Challenge 2018

All posts in the British Books Challenge 2018 category

Atonement – Ian McEwan

Published August 8, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Ian McEwan’s symphonic novel of love and war, childhood and class, guilt and forgiveness provides all the satisfaction of a brilliant narrative and the provocation we have come to expect from this master of English prose.

On a hot summer day in 1934, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses a moment’s flirtation between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant and Cecilia’s childhood friend. But Briony’s incomplete grasp of adult motives—together with her precocious literary gifts—brings about a crime that will change all their lives. As it follows that crime’s repercussions through the chaos and carnage of World War II and into the close of the twentieth century, Atonement engages the reader on every conceivable level, with an ease and authority that mark it as a genuine masterpiece.

What did I think?:

I’m so, so glad I made the decision to go back and re-read the books on my favourites shelves alongside a non fiction read and a “main,” read. Atonement is one of my all time favourites and it definitely deserved every single one of its five stars and a spot on the shelf. I don’t keep every single book that I rate five stars – ha, I just don’t have the room sadly! So how does a book end up on this shelf? It has to move me, be memorable and stay with me long after finishing it and finally, it has to be a book I can see myself re-reading again in the future. It’s also a great way of seeing if re-visiting a book after a period of time away from it will lead me to rating it differently and potentially getting rid of it from the shelves – something I was very nervous about! Luckily, Atonement remains both a firm favourite, maintaining its illustrious position and making me consider if I might re-read it again in a few years once again.

Ian McEwan, author of Atonement.

Set just before the outbreak of the Second World War, we are initially following the Tallis family – Briony the youngest, Cecilia the eldest girl and their brother, Leon who is returning with a friend for a rather swanky dinner party at home that same night. The family also have their cousins staying with them under quite unhappy circumstances as their parents marriage is going through severe difficulties. So in order to cheer them up and distract them from the rumours surrounding their parents, Briony (an inspiring and precocious writer) is determined to put on a play she wrote herself. For childish reasons, she might also be clamouring for attention, desperate that her family especially her mother and beloved older siblings, would take pleasure in her talent.

A scene from the movie adaptation of Atonement with Keira Knightly and James McAvoy.

As you may have suspected, Briony’s grand plan doesn’t end up going off to plan and she becomes sulky, distant and incredibly vulnerable. It’s at this particular point of her mood that she witnesses an altercation between her sister, Cecilia and her childhood friend Robbie Turner that she doesn’t help matters by deploying her vivid imagination to mistakenly think of what “might” have been happened. The situation is only exacerbated when Briony comes across a note from Robbie to Cecilia that shocks her to her core and then once more happens upon them in the library alone together. All these little happenstances and coincidences leads Briony to make the most life-changing accusation she has ever perpetuated in her life and permanently alters one man’s dreams and wishes into something a whole lot different. Briony must atone for what she has done but the problem is, can she ever be forgiven?

Okay, I’ll admit….when this book started at first I wasn’t into it at all. I found myself confused as to why this book was so highly rated (by myself as well!) and this was mainly because of the extra slow speed and occasional complexity of the narrative. It is literary fiction at its most beautiful and moments, characters, situations are described so picture postcard perfectly, you might wonder why I hesitated. I DO love all of these things and much more besides, but I felt like if McEwan had threw more weight behind to what was going on with his lesser characters, like the elusive Mrs Emily Tallis and the suffering of cousin Lola Quincey, I would have become invested in the story at an earlier point.

Then THE EVENT occurs. This is when Atonement really starts to hit its stride and I could breathe a sense of relief and wipe an anxious drop of sweat from my brow. One of our main characters ends up in quite a difficult, dangerous situation, fighting overseas as a soldier in France and the things he sees and has to deal with on a daily basis as well as trying to remain alive himself are nothing short of horrific. Briony is back home herself working as a student nurse and attempting to do her part for the war effort but she still cannot stop thinking about the awful things she did when she was a child and begs her estranged sister, Cecilia for contact and a forgiving ear.

I’ve read a few other things by Ian McEwan, some I’ve enjoyed, others I haven’t liked at all sadly, but I honestly think this is his most wonderful piece of writing yet. The betrayal, the secrets, the lives they have had to lead and the guilt and turmoil that follows every single character round is hugely fascinating and occasionally emotional to read about. Short-listed for The Man Booker Prize back in 2001, it was a worthy contender for such a prestigious prize and I really hope, because of this accolade you will be interested to give it a shot if you’ve never read any of the author before. I truly believe this is the most perfect place you could start with his writing but I beg, please push through the slow parts, it becomes an undeniably stupendous novel that I will continue to treasure.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

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Mini Pin-It Reviews #23 – Four Graphic Novels

Published August 7, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to another mini pin-it reviews post! I have a massive backlog of reviews and this is my way of trying to get on top of things a bit. This isn’t to say I didn’t like some of these books – my star rating is a more accurate reflection of this, but this is a great, snappy way of getting my thoughts across and decreasing my backlog a bit. This time I’ve got four graphic novels for you – please see my pin-it thoughts below!

1.) Coraline – Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell

What’s it all about?:

When Coraline steps through a door in her family’s new house, she finds another house, strangely similar to her own (only better). At first, things seem marvelous. The food is better than at home, and the toy box is filled with fluttering wind-up angels and dinosaur skulls that crawl and rattle their teeth.

But there’s another mother there and another father, and they want her to stay and be their little girl. They want to change her and never let her go. Coraline will have to fight with all her wit and all the tools she can find if she is to save herself and return to her ordinary life.

This beloved tale has now become a visual feast. Acclaimed artist P. Craig Russell brings Neil Gaiman’s enchanting nationally bestselling children’s book Coraline to new life in this gorgeously illustrated graphic novel adaptation.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

2.) Full Metal Alchemist Vol 1 – Hiromu Arakawa, Akira Watanabe (Translator)

What’s it all about?:

Alchemy: the mystical power to alter the natural world; something between magic, art and science. When two brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric, dabbled in this power to grant their dearest wish, one of them lost an arm and a leg…and the other became nothing but a soul locked into a body of living steel. Now Edward is an agent of the government, a slave of the military-alchemical complex, using his unique powers to obey orders…even to kill. Except his powers aren’t unique. The world has been ravaged by the abuse of alchemy. And in pursuit of the ultimate alchemical treasure, the Philosopher’s Stone, their enemies are even more ruthless than they are…

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

3.) Manga Classics: Pride And Prejudice – Jane Austen, Stacy King, Po Tse (Illustrator) Morpheus Studios (Illustrator)

What’s it all about?:

Beloved by millions the world over, Pride & Prejudice is delightfully transformed in this bold, new manga adaptation. All of the joy, heartache, and romance of Jane Austen’s original, perfectly illuminated by the sumptuous art of manga-ka Po Tse, and faithfully adapted by Stacy E. King.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

4.) Lighter Than My Shadow – Katie Green

What’s it all about?:

Like most kids, Katie was a picky eater. She’d sit at the table in silent protest, hide uneaten toast in her bedroom, listen to parental threats that she’d have to eat it for breakfast.

But in any life a set of circumstance can collide, and normal behavior might soon shade into something sinister, something deadly.

Lighter Than My Shadow is a hand-drawn story of struggle and recovery, a trip into the black heart of a taboo illness, an exposure of those who are so weak as to prey on the vulnerable, and an inspiration to anybody who believes in the human power to endure towards happiness.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

COMING UP NEXT TIME ON MINI PIN-IT REVIEWS: Four Books from Netgalley.

Short Stories Challenge 2018 – The Underhouse by Gerard Woodward from the collection The New Uncanny: Tales Of Unease edited by Sarah Eyre and Ra Page.

Published August 5, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s The Underhouse all about?:

The Underhouse follows an odd gentleman who decides to remodel his house in an upside down fashion.

What did I think?:

I’ve mentioned before that one of the reasons I love short story collections that feature multiple authors is that I get to read work from an author I’ve never heard of before. Gerard Woodward was another one of those authors for me. On doing a little bit of research on him, I can’t believe his work has passed me by. He is probably most famous for his trilogy of novels that followed a troubled family, the second of which – I’ll Go To Bed At Noon was short-listed for the 2004 Man Booker Prize. He is also a prolific poet, his first collection being published in the late eighties and his most recent, The Seacunny in 2012. The Underhouse is one of the shorter stories in this collection as as a result, I don’t have a whole lot to say about it except that it’s perfectly obvious that Woodward has a talent for sucking the reader into his world in a very short space of time.

Gerard Woodward, author of The Underhouse.

This story follows our unnamed narrator who becomes obsessed with a peculiar aspect of his house. At first, he wants to make his cellar and the room above (the sitting room) exactly the same height so he lowers the cellar floor to make this just right. This isn’t quite good enough and he then becomes fixated on making the cellar an exact replica of the room above i.e. the same furniture, curtains, light fixtures and fittings BUT (and here’s the twist) as an “upside down” version so the cellar looks like an exact mirror image of the room above. He goes to extraordinary lengths to make sure everything matches exactly and is delighted with the eventual outcome. However, you might be wondering why this story is in a collection entitled The New Uncanny? Well, he uses this strange gravity-defying room to deliberately unnerve other people, making them feel quite uncomfortable and uneasy in this abnormal, incredibly unique setting.

Well, this was an odd little tale! I liked the imaginative idea behind it and have to admit I was wondering how it was going to become “uncanny.” In the end, I found what our narrator did quite unnerving but perhaps not as disturbing as I was expecting. It’s certainly a strange situation to find yourself in and even that picture is making me feel a bit ill just looking at it so I can imagine if I was placed in those circumstances, it would probably have the desired effect on me! I don’t really have any strong criticism or feelings towards the story either way, I enjoyed the writing style and appreciated what the author was trying to do but I couldn’t help but wish it had been a bit longer so that the narrator had a bit more of a chance to tell the reader how exactly he was using the room for his own devious plans.

However, I would definitely check out Gerard Woodward’s work in the future as he’s clearly an intriguing writer with a plethora of interesting ideas.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

NEXT SHORT STORY: The Adventure Of The Copper Beeches by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes.

August 2018 – Real Book Month

Published August 2, 2018 by bibliobeth


It’s time for one of my favourite months – real book month! This is where I try to bring down that pesky TBR as much as I can. I try to focus on books I’m really excited about and roll my eyes that I haven’t managed to get to them before now. I normally have a list of about ten I want to read, however, because I also participate in Banned Books and Kid-Lit with my sister as well as reading the Richard and Judy book club titles, I’ve felt under too much pressure lately so am just easing that slightly. This month I want to focus on some more of the titles my sister Chrissi Reads and I bought on our trip to the wonderful Mr B’s Emporium Of Reading Delights in Bath. This is what I’ll be reading:

1.) The Name Of The Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle #1) – Patrick Rothfuss

What’s it all about?:

MY NAME IS KVOTHE

I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.

You may have heard of me.

So begins a tale unequaled in fantasy literature–the story of a hero told in his own voice. It is a tale of sorrow, a tale of survival, a tale of one man’s search for meaning in his universe, and how that search, and the indomitable will that drove it, gave birth to a legend.

2.) My Name Is Lucy Barton (Amgash #1) – Elizabeth Strout

What’s it all about?:

LONGLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2016 AND THE BAILEYS WOMEN’S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2016 

THE NEW YORK TIMES NUMBER ONE BESTSELLER 

An exquisite story of mothers and daughters from the Pulitzer prize-winning author of Olive Kitteridge

Lucy Barton is recovering slowly from what should have been a simple operation. Her mother, to whom she hasn’t spoken for many years, comes to see her. Her unexpected visit forces Lucy to confront the tension and longing that have informed every aspect of her life: her impoverished childhood in Amgash, Illinois, her escape to New York and her desire to become a writer, her faltering marriage, her love for her two daughters.

Knitting this powerful narrative together is the brilliant storytelling voice of Lucy herself: keenly observant, deeply human, and truly unforgettable. In My Name Is Lucy Barton, one of America’s finest writers shows how a simple hospital visit illuminates the most tender relationship of all-the one between mother and daughter.

3.) Lighthousekeeping – Jeanette Winterson

What’s it all about?:

The young orphan Silver is taken in by the ancient lighthousekeeper Mr. Pew, who reveals to her a world of myth and mystery through the art of storytelling. A magical, lyrical tale from one of Britain’s best-loved literary novelists. of the Cape Wrath lighthouse. Pew tells Silver ancient tales of longing and rootlessness, of the slippages that occur throughout every life. One life, Babel Dark’s, a nineteenth century clergyman, opens like a map that Silver must follow, and the intertwining of myth and reality, of storytelling and experience, lead her through her own particular darkness. Stevenson and of the Jekyll and Hyde in all of us, Lighthousekeeping is a way into the most secret recesses of our own hearts and minds. Jeanette Winterson is one of the most extraordinary and original writers of her generation, and this shows her at her lyrical best.

4.) Get In Trouble – Kelly Link

What’s it all about?:

The first new collection in almost a decade from a bewitchingly original writer hailed by Michael Chabon as “the most darkly playful voice in American fiction.”

One of today’s most celebrated short story writers, Kelly Link creates brilliantly detailed, layered fictional worlds pulsing with their own energy and life. The situations are at first glance fantastical, but the emotional insights are piercing and the characters vividly real. In “The Summer People,” a young girl in rural Florida serves as uneasy caretaker to the mysterious, never-quite-glimpsed visitors who inhabit the cottage behind her house. In “I Can See Right Through You,” a one-time teen idol movie vampire takes a disturbing trip to the set where his former on- and off-screen love interest is shooting a bizarre new reality show; in “The New Boyfriend,” a suburban slumber party takes an unusual turn when the spoiled birthday girl opens her big present, a new animated doll. Funny, uncanny, always deeply moving, these stories demonstrate a writer of wondrous gifts operating at the height of her powers.

5.) Undermajordomo Minor – Patrick deWitt

What’s it all about?:

Lucy Minor is the resident odd duck in the hamlet of Bury. He is a compulsive liar, a sickly weakling in a town famous for begetting brutish giants. Then Lucy accepts employment assisting the majordomo of the remote, foreboding Castle Von Aux. While tending to his new post as undermajordomo, he soon discovers the place harbours many dark secrets, not least of which is the whereabouts of the castle’s master, Baron Von Aux. Thus begins a tale of polite theft, bitter heartbreak, domestic mystery, and cold-blooded murder.

Undermajordomo Minor is an ink-black comedy of manners, an adventure, and a mystery, and a searing portrayal of rural Alpine bad behaviour, but above all it is a love story. And Lucy must be careful, for love is a violent thing.

 

So if my calculations are correct, after I finish this little list I will have finally read all the books that were recommended to my sister and I at our two reading spas that we’ve had with Mr B’s Emporium Of Reading Delights! I feel a sense of achievement at getting them all completed but a strange sense of relief too as there’s plenty more physical books on my shelves I’ve been excited about but have been putting to one side to try and get all of these books read.

Out of this list, I’m particularly excited about The Name Of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss which I’ve only heard amazing things about but have been a bit intimidated by so far as it’s a beast of a book at 662 pages! My fellow bloggers have also given rave reviews of My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout so I’m looking forward to that and I’m trembling with nerves about Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick deWitt as I loved his novel The Sisters Brothers so much I’m worried this one might not meet my very high expectations. We shall soon see.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think? I’d love to know in the comments below! Have a great month everyone. 

Love Beth xxx

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit – JULY READ – Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens

Published July 30, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Deepdean School for Girls, 1934. When Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong set up their very own deadly secret detective agency, they struggle to find any truly exciting mysteries to investigate. (Unless you count the case of Lavinia’s missing tie. Which they don’t, really.)

But then Hazel discovers the Science Mistress, Miss Bell, lying dead in the Gym. She thinks it must all have been a terrible accident – but when she and Daisy return five minutes later, the body has disappeared. Now the girls know a murder must have taken place . . . and there’s more than one person at Deepdean with a motive.

Now Hazel and Daisy not only have a murder to solve: they have to prove a murder happened in the first place. Determined to get to the bottom of the crime before the killer strikes again (and before the police can get there first, naturally), Hazel and Daisy must hunt for evidence, spy on their suspects and use all the cunning, scheming and intuition they can muster. But will they succeed? And can their friendship stand the test?

What did I think?:

I’ve had this middle grade novel on my TBR for a long time now, wondering when on earth I was going to get round to reading it. Then I thought I could suggest it to Chrissi as part of our next Kid Lit list, of course! So on it went and I’m so pleased it did. Everything about this book is so appealing, from the eye-catching cover design to the clever title but most importantly, the story within is so charming and utterly delightful that I was captivated throughout. This is the sort of book that obviously isn’t marketed towards someone of my age range but if I had read this as a child I would have fallen head over heels in love with it and would probably have begged my parents for the next one in the series immediately. I have a very small, hardly worth mentioning niggle but it’s nothing to do with the writing and is purely because of my own individual experience with attending boarding school from the ages of 11-16.

Robin Stevens, author of Murder Most Unladylike.

This is the story of two young girls, Hazel Wong and Daisy Wells who attend Deepdean School For Girls in 1930’s England. The two become fast friends and decide to set up a detective agency to solve mysteries – even if their most exciting case so far is their dorm-mate’s missing tie. However, things are about to get a whole lot more interesting when Hazel finds the body of Miss Bell lying in the gym, only to disappear when she runs to get help. As Watson to Daisy’s Holmes, Hazel’s job is to keep meticulous notes about the evidence they manage to collect, their suspects for the horrendous crime and any motives they might have for killing the Science teacher. Thus, the two girls begin their mission to crack the case and bring the perpetrator to justice, not realising that their investigations could be proving very dangerous for themselves if they are discovered with a murderer on the loose.

An example of a dormitory in a boarding school – looks kind of familiar to me!

One of the most endearing things about this novel was how similar it felt to the boarding school stories I used to read as a child by Enid Blyton. It reminded me of the Malory Towers/St Clare’s adventures (I’m not sure if anyone else remembers them?) and it was these tales that made me desperate to go to boarding school in the first place. However this was also my tiny little niggle. Boarding school is often given the representation in fiction as being all “jolly hockey sticks,” midnight feasts and sharing bedrooms with your best friends but unfortunately, the reality of being away at school is quite different and often a very difficult experience, especially if you have troubles whilst at school i.e. bullying and are unable to escape back home on a nightly basis. For this reason, it was why I had mixed feelings. On one hand it was lovely and comforting to be taken back to a more innocent time fictionally speaking, but on the other hand, having lived through that experience myself, I couldn’t quite believe in it as much as I wanted to (and certainly as much as I did when I was a child) because I’m all too aware of what really goes on behind closed doors.

Saying that, if you’re after a fun, easy and exciting reading experience for your middle grade reader, especially if they’re a budding detective, you can’t go wrong with this novel. It’s got everything you could want from a mystery story plot wise, and also has the advantage of having some terrific female lead characters for children to enjoy and connect with. There’s nothing but pleasure to be had for youngsters from this entertaining, well-written series and it deserves a spot alongside Blyton’s Malory Towers as an excellent boarding school adventure story.

For Chrissi’s fabulous review, please see her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

COMING UP IN AUGUST ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: The Creakers by Tom Fletcher.

Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens was the fortieth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

Short Stories Challenge 2018 – The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter from the collection The Story: Love, Loss & The Lives Of Women.

Published July 29, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s The Bloody Chamber all about?:

This story follows our female narrator as she marries a wealthy French Marquis and discovers the secrets lurking in his castle.

What did I think?:

Full disclosure, I have already reviewed The Bloody Chamber And Other Stories by Angela Carter some time ago on my blog however when I realised the title story of that collection was the next story in Love, Loss & The Lives Of Women I jumped at the chance to review it individually and in more detail. I have a lingering memory of the events in this little tale and in fact, it remains so far my very favourite Angela Carter short story so as you can imagine, I can already highly recommend it. Angela Carter never fails to blow me away with her proficiency of the English language and her stark, poetic choice of words and phrases. Re-reading this story gave me the perfect opportunity to enjoy her talent even more as I already knew how it was all going to play out in the end. I could simply sit back and just enjoy a true master at work.

Angela Carter, author of The Bloody Chamber
From the Fay Godwin Archive at the British Library

The Bloody Chamber, like the rest of the stories in the collection of the same name is based on an old fairy-tale but I’m afraid I couldn’t possibly tell you which one. It would give away simply far too many details! I can tell you it involves a seventeen year old girl who marries a rich man and is spirited away to his castle to begin married life. She has her doubts about her new husband, particularly when she finds out he has been married three times before but he is prepared to give her everything she could ever dream of, including a grand piano on which she can indulge her one obsession, playing music. It’s not long however, as she explores the castle when her husband is away on business that she discovers his greatest secret and everything from here on will never be the same again.

I have to admit, this story does start off a little slow. It’s one of Angela Carter’s longer works of short fiction I’ve experienced so far and it takes a while to set the scene with our heroine mainly describing her relationship with her mother, nurse and the beginnings of the relationship with her husband to be. We get a sense of a very naive, innocent young girl at first who then quickly realises the ways of the world when she comes across some pornographic images in her husband’s library on first entering the castle. It’s not until this point that the story really starts to kick into gear and the reader begins to understand the kind of situation that our protagonist may have entered into.

As always, Angela Carter’s writing is nothing short of exquisite and each word appears to have been lusciously chosen to illustrate impending doom and the hopelessness of our main character’s mood. From the choker of rubies round the young wife’s neck to the way she describes her husband i.e. comparing him to a lily and wearing a mask that she wishes she could remove so she could see the real man underneath, everything is told in such glorious detail it’s an absolute pleasure to experience and makes for an shocking, unforgettable story. I do understand that some people might not gel with Carter’s style, particularly if you’re not a fan of magical realism but if you haven’t read any of the author’s work before this is one of the most perfect places to start. It’s a shining example of her writing, it’s not too “out there” or quirky and it’s immensely readable.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT SHORT STORY: The Underhouse by Gerard Woodward from the collection The New Uncanny: Tales Of Unease edited by Sarah Eyre and Ra Page.

Talking About The Party by Elizabeth Day with Chrissi Reads

Published July 28, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

A gripping story of obsession and betrayal, privilege and hypocrisy, set in the unassailable heart of the British establishment.

As the train pressed on, I realised that my life was in the process of taking a different direction, plotted according to a new constellation. Because, although I didn’t know it yet, I was about to meet Ben and nothing would ever be the same again.

Martin Gilmour is an outsider. When he wins a scholarship to Burtonbury School, he doesn’t wear the right clothes or speak with the right kind of accent. But then he meets the dazzling, popular and wealthy Ben Fitzmaurice, and gains admission to an exclusive world. Soon Martin is enjoying tennis parties and Easter egg hunts at the Fitzmaurice family’s estate, as Ben becomes the brother he never had.

But Martin has a secret. He knows something about Ben, something he will never tell. It is a secret that will bind the two of them together for the best part of 25 years.

At Ben’s 40th birthday party, the great and the good of British society are gathering to celebrate in a haze of champagne, drugs and glamour. Amid the hundreds of guests–the politicians, the celebrities, the old-money and newly rich–Martin once again feels that disturbing pang of not-quite belonging. His wife, Lucy, has her reservations too. There is disquiet in the air. But Ben wouldn’t do anything to damage their friendship. Would he?

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but what were your initial impressions of this book from its cover?

BETH: I have a confession to make. I do that judgey thing and judge a book by its cover. I have been proved wrong in the past – for example, I really didn’t like the cover of Me Before You by Jojo Moyes and as you know Chrissi, I adore that book. What can I say? I think a cover really sells a book and if you can market it “prettily,” you’re onto a winner (with me at least!) I have to admit for this cover? I just found it a little bit dull and unfortunately, it didn’t inspire me to read the book at all. In fact, if I saw it in a bookshop I wouldn’t pick it up on the basis of this cover alone. Luckily what was inside proved to be much more fascinating in the outside so time and time again, I must not judge!!

BETH: What did you make of Martin’s relationship with his wife, Lucy?

CHRISSI: Oh good question! I felt a bit sorry for Lucy actually. I feel like she always came second for him. He was far more concerned with his friendship with Ben than his relationship with his wife. She must have seen his neediness for his friend and wondered why that wasn’t there in their relationship. I felt like she was so loyal to him despite him constantly pushing her boundaries.

CHRISSI: How can we tell Martin is an unreliable narrator?

BETH: From the very beginning. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that when we first meet Martin, he is being questioned in a police station. That isn’t to say he’s done anything wrong, there was an “incident” at a party and he is being asked what he knows. We soon find out what’s gone on in due course. As a reader, it does make you think what could have happened though, especially with the evasive way he is answering some of the questions…..
Then we get more information about his childhood and his relationship with the host of the party and the way he talks to and reacts to certain people makes him all the more intriguing.

BETH: Can money buy you happiness? Does being part of a wealthy elite change the way the Fitzmaurices behave to others not in their circle?

CHRISSI: I don’t think money can buy you happiness. I think it can help your life and help to reach the goals you may have for yourself. I definitely felt like the Fitzmaurices behaved in an incredibly entitled manner. They were obsessed with the power money held over others. Martin certainly enjoyed the high life when he was with Ben. I don’t think they were very kind to others in a lower class than themselves.

CHRISSI: To what extent did the narrative structure (where the bulk of the plot takes place over the course of one evening with flashbacks to the past) heighten the tension?

BETH: I love narratives like this. We hear about the present time, where as I mention, Martin is being questioned about what happened on that night, then it flits back and forward from the present day, to episodes where Martin is at school and as a young adult. As a reader, I wanted to get back to the questioning parts to try and get a clue about what exactly had happened but at the same time I wanted to get back to Martin’s past too as there’s definite clues there about his relationships and the reasons why they end up the way that they do.

BETH: Did you anticipate where this story would lead? Were you surprised by the outcome?

CHRISSI: I wasn’t really sure where this book was going to go. I did love the element of mystery. I also loved how I thought I was steps ahead and knew what was going on, but I wasn’t always right. For me, the ending was a little abrupt and it left me wondering what was going on or going to happen.

CHRISSI: Does this book fit into a genre?

BETH: This is such a hard question! On Goodreads it’s defined into quite a few categories – mystery, thriller and contemporary to name a few but I think it falls quite nicely into literary fiction too. It certainly has aspects of all of these genres, the intrigue where we don’t know what’s going on, a modern setting and a thrilling plot where we’re never quite sure of our characters’ motives.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I would! I did enjoy reading it, even if it felt a little slow in places for me.

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Yes!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars