literary fiction

All posts in the literary fiction category

A Different Drummer – William Melvin Kelley

Published November 12, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Set in a mythical backwater Southern town, A Different Drummer is the extraordinary story of Tucker Caliban, a quiet, determined descendant of an African chief who for no apparent reason destroys his farm and heads for parts unknown–setting off a mass exodus of the state’s entire Black population.

Nearly three decades offer its first publication, A Different Drummer remains one of the most trenchant, imaginative, and hard-hitting works of fiction to come out of the bitter struggle for African-American civil rights.

What did I think?:

There are these special books that don’t come round very often but when they do, they evoke such strong feelings in the reader that makes them impossible to forget. That’s the way I’m still feeling about A Different Drummer a few days after finishing it. This is the kind of book that you finish reading and feel emotionally changed as a person. It’s also the kind of book that you instantly need to talk to everybody about to gauge if they had a similar response and you might even (if you’re like me) press it into the hands of your nearest and dearest and insist they read it too. I think I would have read this book eventually, I have become a lot more intrigued in African-American history recently but I certainly wouldn’t have read it as soon if it hadn’t been for the lovely people at Quercus Books providing me with a copy at a recent Word-Of-Mouth Bestsellers Evening and letting me know that it was “one of the most important books they would publish this year.” I wholeheartedly and passionately agree.

William Melvin Kelley, author of A Different Drummer.

A Different Drummer is Kelley’s extraordinary debut novel and was originally published in 1962. Described as a “lost masterpiece from a forgotten giant of American Literature,” this novel won Kelley much critical acclaim with comparisons rolling in to writers such as James Baldwin and William Faulkner. I don’t want to say too much about the narrative because the beauty of this novel is discovering its understated brilliance for yourself. It follows Tucker Caliban, a descendant of an African chief forced into slavery as one afternoon, he obliterates his farm suddenly and without warning and then proceeds to leave with his family in tow. This precipitates the entire black population from the town and surrounding areas to follow in his footsteps and move out and away. The reader is left with a multitude of questions – what was Tucker’s reasoning behind his actions? Furthermore, how did this inspire a whole race to follow his lead?

Although the town in Kelley’s story is fictitious, the novel is set in the American South.

This is the kind of book that sneaks up on you without you recognising the majesty of its power or the effect it might be having on you until you reach the very end. I began reading A Different Drummer and instantly admired the writing style and quiet confidence of the story-telling but initially, didn’t believe it was anything too special. I’m not sure when the switch happened in the novel for me but I don’t think it was long before I realised that I was reading something very unique and exciting indeed. We hear from the point of view of a number of different characters, across the historical period where Tucker grew from a boy into a man. Then, as we view Tucker through their eyes and sense the vicious undercurrent of racism and prejudice in the town, we begin to understand the actions that led to rising tensions for Tucker personally and eventually, the mass departure of the black population.

This is a slow-burning, deliciously literary novel that gradually assimilates piece by piece, the smaller pieces of a puzzle until we have the full, horrifying picture. It does feel languid and methodical at points but I believe that only makes the resulting climax at the finale of the book even more pertinent and shocking. There’s no big twist, that isn’t the kind of novel this is but the author is definitely not afraid to explore the darker, more brutal sides of prejudice. It really captured my attention, made me think and at many points, completely took my breath away. Quercus are right. This is SUCH an important book. It needs to be read and appreciated.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

 

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Banned Books 2018 – OCTOBER READ – Beloved by Toni Morrison

Published November 5, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Staring unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery, this spellbinding novel transforms history into a story as powerful as Exodus and as intimate as a lullaby.

Sethe was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. Her new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved.

Filled with bitter poetry and suspense as taut as a rope, Beloved is a towering achievement by Nobel Prize laureate Toni Morrison.

Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to the tenth banned book in our series for 2018! As always, we’ll be looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book. Here’s what we’ll be reading for the rest of the year:

NOVEMBER: King & King -Linda de Haan
DECEMBER: Flashcards Of My Life– Charise Mericle Harper
For now, back to this month:

Beloved by Toni Morrison

First published: 1987

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2006 (source)

Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH:  I can imagine this book being quite the force to be reckoned with with it was published in the late 1980’s. Its dark elements, tragic history of black slavery and quirky, fantastical moments make it quite a unique read but as always with many of our banned books, I’m struggling to understand the reasons why it has been challenged. As you may already know by now, I do understand offensive language isn’t for everyone and I respect people’s views on that. In fact, I don’t like to use bad language in my own reviews but that’s just my own personal thing, I don’t mind it when I see it in other bloggers reviews. However, I don’t think that you can challenge/ban a book based on this reason. After all, we can’t help but be exposed to offensive language, no matter how much we may try and avoid it – on the streets, on the television, interacting with strangers in normal, social instances….you get the picture. And for me, there wasn’t a single incident in this novel where I thought the language was extreme enough to warrant this challenge.

CHRISSI: Like Beth, I can see that when this book came out in the late 80’s that it would have been quite a challenging and ground breaking book. Personally, I don’t think there’s any point in banning a book because of offensive language. Goodness knows, I know some of my children in my class hear offensive language so often at home that it is almost like a ‘normal’ word to them. So to have it in literature, it doesn’t bother me too much? I didn’t think anything was overly offensive. Sure, some of the language isn’t what I’d call decent language but it’s not that vile to warrant a challenge in my opinion.

How about now?

BETH: If I don’t agree with challenging or banning Beloved back in the 1980’s, I certainly don’t agree with banning it now. ESPECIALLY for the reasons noted. Yes, sexual acts are alluded to but it’s never explicit or grossly indecent and as for “unsuited to age group” I wonder who this book is actually marketed for because I was under the impression that this is an adult novel or at least able to be read by young adults? And if it was written for the young adult market, I really don’t think there’s anything in there that the younger generation wouldn’t be able to handle. In fact, it could be a vitally important read for those wanting to learn a little something about African-American slavery.

CHRISSI: I don’t agree with it being challenged now. Language is heard so much more these days that some of the words don’t have as intense of a meaning as they do back then. I’m not sure who this book is aimed at, if it was teenagers I don’t think I’d use it educatively, but for young adults/adults, I really don’t see a problem with it. It touches on some very important moments in history so it SHOULD be read in my opinion.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I’ve already read two books by Toni Morrison – A Mercy before I became a blogger and The Bluest Eye, (which Chrissi and I covered on our Banned Books series way back in 2015!) the latter of which I thoroughly enjoyed. As a result, I was really looking forward to Beloved, particularly when I discovered the subject matter, a topic which I’m always happy to educate myself on a bit further. I’m sad to say that I have really mixed feelings about this book. There were points when I wanted to rate it four stars, others when I wanted to rate it two stars and generally, I was left somewhere around the middle. There were heart-breaking parts of the narrative and some moments of truly beautiful writing but overall, I was just left feeling a bit confused and underwhelmed. I’m not sure if the more fantastical side of the story really worked for me personally and consequently, my enjoyment of the novel as a whole suffered.

CHRISSI: I have to admit that I didn’t quite ‘get’ this book which does make me feel sad as I know that so many people love Toni Morrison. Like Beth, I did think there were brilliant moments, but on the whole I felt a little flat after reading it. There’s no denying that this is a beautifully written book and I can see why Toni Morrison is a popular author. I just didn’t feel like there was enough going within the story line to keep me enthralled. I am certainly a reader that loves a plot driven story and I feel like Beloved is more character driven. I didn’t connect with the characters like I wanted to and this affected my enjoyment of the story.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Maybe!

CHRISSI: It’s not for me!- I wasn’t blown away by this book. Perhaps my expectations were too high?

3 Star Rating Clip Art

Coming up on the last Monday of November: we review King & King by Linda de Haan.

Lullaby – Leïla Slimani, Sam Taylor (Translator)

Published October 22, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

When Myriam, a French-Moroccan lawyer, decides to return to work after having children, she and her husband look for the perfect caretaker for their two young children. They never dreamed they would find Louise: a quiet, polite and devoted woman who sings to their children, cleans the family’s chic apartment in Paris’s upscale tenth arrondissement, stays late without complaint and is able to host enviable birthday parties.

The couple and nanny become more dependent on each other. But as jealousy, resentment and suspicions increase, Myriam and Paul’s idyllic tableau is shattered…

What did I think?:

First of all, thank you so much to my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads for loaning me her copy of Lullaby (also published as The Perfect Nanny) to read after she had finished it. This is another one of those books that has been everywhere with mostly rave reviews and when it was picked for The Richard And Judy Late Summer Reads book club here in the UK, I knew I had to finally give it a shot. Lullaby is a work of translated fiction which is also another bonus for me as I’m trying to expand my horizons and read more translated work, and was originally published as Chanson douce in French back in 2016, winning the Prix Goncourt. By the time I finished this book, I was kicking myself for not having picked it up sooner. This was a remarkably short but powerful piece of fiction at just over 250 pages and I fair flew through the pages in less than 24 hours.

 Leïla Slimani, author of Lullaby.

It’s no spoiler to say that Lullaby has one of the most astounding opening lines I’ve ever come across in a novel:

“The baby is dead. It took only a few seconds.”

Already, the reader is fully aware that this story is NOT going to end well but the sheer might of this opening line propels us into a narrative that explores exactly how our characters get to this life-altering point and what could have potentially precipitated such a heinous act. It’s the story of an ambitious couple, Myriam and Paul and the nanny that they employ, Louise to look after their two young children whilst they spend more and more of their waking hours at work, building a life for their family. It follows a woman whom when we first meet her is already teetering on the brink of a precipice emotionally and financially and how events in her past and present collide together to push her off the edge of that cliff into complete turmoil. Could these events have been predicted? If the couple had spent more time with their children and not left so much of the responsibility and parenting to Louise would things have been different? Possibly, possibly not. This is a fascinating insight into a troubled individual with devastating and heart-breaking consequences for all parties concerned.

The Perfect Nanny? Julie Andrews as the inimitable Mary Poppins.

As I mentioned before, this is an incredibly short, engrossing novel that it took me no time at all to whizz through and I was completely absorbed every minute I spent reading it. I’m sure that staggering first line must chase away any residual hesitancy you might have as well? It certainly did for me. That was an incredibly savvy ploy by the author/editor to pull a reader into a novel and I can only applaud them for it, it worked a treat and before I experienced the story for myself, it was all anybody could talk about initially online. Lullaby feels quite literary in its execution so don’t be expecting major plot twists and turns, that’s not what this novel is all about. It does everything it needs to do quietly, intelligently and thoughtfully and I can certainly see why it’s been praised so highly. As I reached the “final bow” of the narrative, I have to admit to a slight tinge of disappointment at the ending at first. However, the longer I’ve sat thinking about it, the more I understand that it was pretty perfect the way it was and certainly fits the entire tone of the novel. I really don’t believe this needs any bells, whistles or exciting, unexpected moments – the story runs on a lot deeper level that that and it was a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 4):

four-stars_0

The Girls – Emma Cline

Published October 21, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Evie Boyd is desperate to be noticed. In the summer of 1969, empty days stretch out under the California sun. The smell of honeysuckle thickens the air and the sidewalks radiate heat.

Until she sees them. The snatch of cold laughter. Hair, long and uncombed. Dirty dresses skimming the tops of thighs. Cheap rings like a second set of knuckles. The girls.

And at the centre, Russell. Russell and the ranch, down a long dirt track and deep in the hills. Incense and clumsily strummed chords. Rumours of sex, frenzied gatherings, teen runaways.

Was there a warning, a sign of things to come? Or is Evie already too enthralled by the girls to see that her life is about to be changed forever?

What did I think?:

One of my favourite parts of the month is when I buddy read with my fellow bloggers. I read books with my sister, Chrissi Reads very regularly – we have a Banned Books, a Kid-Lit series and a “Talking About” feature and more recently, I’ve started a monthly buddy read with my good friend, Janel from the wonderful blog Keeper Of Pages. I had the pleasure of meeting her in person a couple of weeks ago at a Quercus Word-Of-Mouth Bestsellers Evening that she kindly invited me to and I’m delighted to announce that she’s just as fabulous in person as she is on her blog. Our buddy read for last month was The Girls by Emma Cline and although it wasn’t a five star read for us (like the majority of our co-reads have been) we both still thoroughly enjoyed it and there were parts of the narrative that DEFINITELY made a lasting impact that I’m still continuing to think about today.

Emma Cline, author of The Girls.

I don’t want to go too deeply into the topics this book covers, the synopsis above from Goodreads does that more than adequately and is just teasing enough not to give anything further away. I think what I would like to talk about is how this book seems to have divided readers, especially in the strength of reviews/difference in star ratings it has received. The average rating for this novel on Goodreads is 3.47, kind of a middle-of-the-road rating which I’m both surprised by and not surprised by at all, if that makes any sense? First of all, I don’t think this novel is for everyone and I believe that explains the difference in opinions that people clearly seem to have. It seems like for The Girls, you either really like this book or you don’t get on with it at all. As I scanned my eyes down the page for star ratings the vast majority seemed to be either 4/5 star reviews or 2 stars. Why is this? Perhaps, in part it’s down to the pacing of the narrative which is quite slow, methodical and written at times almost like a stream of consciousness which I realise isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

1960’s America, the time period in which The Girls is set.

Image from video: The Top 10 Defining Moments of 1960’s America @ https://www.watchmojo.com/video/id/11930

Personally, I really enjoyed this novel. I have to admit, it took me a little while to get used to the writing style and the hazy, almost other-worldly feeling that I think perfectly embodied both the mind of the cult and the drugs that fourteen year old Evie Boyd was exposed to once indoctrinated within Russell’s unique little group. We see Evie as both an adult (where she has a startlingly similar mindset to her adolescent self) and the time period of the late 1960’s where she meets, becomes infatuated with Suzanne and enters the dangerous world of the cult for the very first time. It’s true to say that Evie completely frustrated me at points and I found myself wanting to shake her for certain things that she becomes involved with but whenever I felt this way, I reminded myself how intensely vulnerable I was too as a teenager.

It’s amazing how much influence certain people can have over you when you are a more naive, trusting individual and by the end of the novel, I was genuinely shocked by how much I had in common with Evie after all. It was quite a sobering and illuminating reflection but also had the effect of making me connect with her character on a deeper level so as a result I enjoyed this novel even more that I might have done without this frightening similarity in parts of our personalities!

As a piece of literary fiction, I feel like The Girls is almost like a work of art. Not everybody is going to enjoy it but there are going to be others that see something in it so fascinating that the story will linger in their memories for some time to come.

Thank you to Janel @ Keeper Of Pages for another brilliant buddy read! Check out her amazing review of The Girls HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Previous buddy reads with Janel @ Keeper Of Pages 

The Fireman by Joe Hill – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

Sleeping Giants (Themis Files #1) by Sylvain Neuvel – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

 

The Girls by Emma Cline was the forty-ninth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

Talking About Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon with Chrissi Reads

Published October 8, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

There are three things you should know about Elsie.
The first thing is that she’s my best friend.
The second is that she always knows what to say to make me feel better.
And the third thing… might take a little bit more explaining.

84-year-old Florence has fallen in her flat at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. As she waits to be rescued, Florence wonders if a terrible secret from her past is about to come to light; and, if the charming new resident is who he claims to be, why does he look exactly like a man who died sixty years ago?

From the author of THE TROUBLE WITH GOATS AND SHEEP, this book will teach you many things, but here are three of them:
1) The fine threads of humanity will connect us all forever.
2) There is so very much more to anyone than the worst thing they have ever done.
3) Even the smallest life can leave the loudest echo.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: We both read The Trouble With Goats and Sheep by the same author. How do you think this book compared?

BETH: I really enjoyed The Trouble With Goats and Sheep but for some reason, it wasn’t a five star read for me like I know it was for so many other readers. I wasn’t expecting to be completely blown away by Three Things About Elsie at all. I knew I would probably enjoy it as I thought with her first novel, Joanna Cannon had a very engaging writing style and wrote fantastic characters but I still wasn’t prepared for how much I would end up enjoying this. It was an emotional. poignant and stellar piece of fiction that had a huge impact on me.

BETH: Without spoilers, how fitting did you think the title of this book was?

CHRISSI: I thought it was a very fitting title to the story. Throughout the story, we know two things about Elsie and there’s something else about her too…which I can’t spoil. I think the title was a good match and there was lots of reference to it within the story which was a lovely touch.

CHRISSI: What feelings did this book evoke for you?

BETH: SO many feelings. In her first book, Joanna Cannon chose to focus on two young girls as protagonists, with Elsie she has gone to the other end of the spectrum and we see the lives of Florence, Elsie, Jack and many others in a retirement home. I loved the relationship between Florence and Elsie in particular but also liked that this novel had a hint of a mystery about it regarding the re-emergence of a character from their past and why it evokes such feelings of fear in Florence as a result. This novel also touches on memory loss and dementia which was quite hard to read about and heart-breaking in points but ultimately, I think the author handled it very sensitively and it was an intensely moving read for me.

BETH: Did Florence’s failing memory change your understanding of events at Cherry Tree? Does it make her a less reliable narrator?

CHRISSI: I do think that Florence’s failing memory did make her a less reliable narrator for sure. I wasn’t sure if she was talking to herself, remembering things wrong or hiding secrets that she wanted to keep locked away. The story really did unravel slowly, with a very mysterious element, it took me a while to understand what was going on.

CHRISSI: Did you feel engaged with the story all the way through?

BETH: I honestly did. I adored the way in which we got little throwbacks to Flo and Elsie’s past as the mystery of the new resident at the retirement home continues to unravel but I think my favourite parts about this novel were the little pearls of wisdom that Joanna Cannon throws in, some of which really spoke to me on a personal level and I even tweeted about, I felt so strongly at the time! For example: “Sometimes you go through an experience in life that slices into the very bones of who you are, and two different versions of yourself will always sit either side of it like bookends.”

BETH: What do you think makes Florence ultimately realise that she HAS lived an extraordinary life, in the end?

CHRISSI: I think when Florence is lying reminiscing about what she does remember of her life, her memories with Elsie make her realise that her life has been quite remarkable. She is forced to think of secrets that she’s kept hidden. It is her interactions with Elsie that makes her think about her life and all of the events that have happened to her.

CHRISSI: Did you have a favourite character? If so, who?

BETH: I loved all the characters to be honest, even the ones who were meant to have a more malevolent side to them! Obviously, I had a soft spot for our leading lady Florence and often wanted to be there having a chat, a cup of tea and some Battenberg cake with her but I also really enjoyed the character of Jack who is so supportive to Flo that it made my heart burst a little bit. Handy Simon is also a fabulous character and I found myself really rooting for him to find happiness all the way through the novel.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I’m not sure. Personally, I don’t think I gel with this author’s writing style. It’s nothing against Joanna Cannon’s writing. I can see and appreciate that she’s a talented writer. It just doesn’t work for me. I found this book to be a little drawn out and I lost interest in it. Don’t get me wrong, there were some lovely moments within this story and some very quotable moments. I was extremely busy when I was reading it (so may not have invested as much in it as I wanted to) and I enjoy a faster paced story. I feel really bad because I know so many people love this book. However, we can’t love them all and the blogosphere would be very boring if we all agreed.

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Yes!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S
CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):
3 Star Rating Clip Art

October 2018 – Netgalley Month

Published October 3, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone! Every other month I alternate what I’m reading quite specifically between three things. It’s either Chrissi Cupboard Month where I try my best to get through all the books my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads lends me (and that’s a lot!).

Then there’s Real Book Month where I try and read all the physical books just waiting to be devoured on my bookshelves (also a LOT!)

Finally, there’s Book Bridgr/NetGalley/ARC Month where I try and catch up on all those ARC/review copies sent to me by authors, publishers, NetGalley and Book Bridgr. (A LOT!)

At the moment, I’m desperately trying to catch up on my Netgalley reviews to finally achieve that much longed for and ideal 80% ratio. Unfortunately there’s not much chance of me achieving it this year – I went a bit crazy when I was first approved for review copies on Netgalley. Oops. However, I’ve done much better this year at closing the gap and will work on it again next year before I request anything else. Once I’m on top of things, I’m planning to be much more sensible!

Anyway, here’s what I’ve got planned to read this month:

An Act Of Silence by Colette McBeth (with kind thanks to Headline publishers)

What’s it all about?:

MOTHER. WIFE. POLITICIAN. LIAR.

THEN: How far did she go to conceal the truth?

Politician Linda Moscow sacrificed everything to protect her son: her beliefs, her career, her marriage. All she wanted was to keep him safe.

NOW: What will she risk to expose the lies?

When the voices she silenced come back to haunt her, Linda is faced with another impossible choice. Only this time, it’s her life on the line . . .

An Act of Silence is about the abuse of power, the devastating effects of keeping the truth buried, and the lengths a mother will go to save her child.

The Book Of Mirrors by E.O. Chirovici (with kind thanks to Random House, UK)

What’s it all about?:

One Man’s Truth Is Another Man’s Lie.

When big-shot literary agent Peter Katz receives an unfinished manuscript entitled The Book of Mirrors, he is intrigued.

The author, Richard Flynn is writing a memoir about his time at Princeton in the late 80s, documenting his relationship with the famous Professor Joseph Wieder. One night in 1987, Wieder was brutally murdered in his home and the case was never solved.

Peter Katz is hell-bent on getting to the bottom of what happened that night twenty-five years ago and is convinced the full manuscript will reveal who committed the violent crime. But other people’s recollections are dangerous weapons to play with, and this might be one memory that is best kept buried.

The Boy That Never Was by Karen Perry (with kind thanks to Penguin UK)

What’s it all about?:

You were loved and lost – then you came back . . .

Five years ago, three-year-old Dillon disappeared. For his father Harry – who left him alone for ten crucial minutes – it was an unforgivable lapse. Yet Dillon’s mother Robyn has never blamed her husband: her own secret guilt is burden enough.

Now they’re trying to move on, returning home to Dublin to make a fresh start.

But their lives are turned upside down the day Harry sees an eight-year-old boy in the crowd. A boy Harry is convinced is Dillon. But the boy vanishes before he can do anything about it.

What Harry thought he saw quickly plunges their marriage into a spiral of crazed obsession and broken trust, uncovering deceits and shameful secrets. Everything Robyn and Harry ever believed in one another is cast into doubt.

And at the centre of it all is the boy that never was . . .

The Sex Lives Of Siamese Twins by Irvine Welsh (with kind thanks to Random House UK)

What’s it all about?:

When Lucy Brennan, a Miami Beach personal-fitness trainer, disarms a gunman chasing two frightened homeless men, the police and the breaking-news cameras are not far behind and, within hours, Lucy is a media hero. The solitary eye-witness is the depressed and overweight Lena Sorensen, who becomes obsessed with Lucy and signs up as her client – though she seems more interested in the trainer’s body than her own. When the two women find themselves more closely aligned, and can’t stop thinking about the sex lives of Siamese twins, the real problems start…

In the aggressive, foul-mouthed trainer, Lucy Brennan, and the needy, manipulative Lena Sorensen, Irvine Welsh has created two of his most memorable female protagonists, and one of the most bizarre, sado-masochistic folies à deux in contemporary fiction. Featuring murder, depravity and revenge – and enormous amounts of food and sex – The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins taps into two great obsessions of our time – how we look and where we live – and tells a story so subversive and dark it blacks out the Florida sun.

Sisters Of Treason by Elizabeth Fremantle (with kind thanks to Penguin UK)

What’s it all about?:

Early in Mary Tudor’s turbulent reign, Lady Catherine and Lady Mary Grey are reeling after the brutal execution of their elder seventeen-year-old sister, Lady Jane Grey, and the succession is by no means stable.

Neither sister is well suited to a dangerous life at court. Flirtatious Lady Catherine, thought to be the true heir, cannot control her compulsion to love and be loved. Her sister, clever Lady Mary, has a crooked spine and a tiny stature in an age when physical perfection equates to goodness — and both girls have inherited the Tudor blood that is more curse than blessing. For either girl to marry without royal permission would be a potentially fatal political act. It is the royal portrait painter, Levina Teerlinc, who helps the girls survive these troubled times. She becomes their mentor and confidante.

But when the Queen’s sister, the hot-headed Elizabeth, inherits the crown, life at court becomes increasingly treacherous for the surviving Grey sisters. Ultimately each young woman must decide how far she will go to defy her Queen, risk her life, and find the safety and love she longs for.

BUDDY READS/COLLABORATIONS FOR THE REST OF THE MONTH

I’ve got myself quite a good mixture of contemporary fiction, thrillers and a historical fiction but I’ve also got some fantastic buddy reads planned for this month. Firstly, my monthly read with the wonderful Janel from Keeper Of Pages is the second book in The Themis Files – Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel. If you’re intrigued for my review from the first book in the trilogy, Sleeping Giants which was also read with Janel, please check out my review HERE.

Then we’ve got another buddy read with the fantastic Stuart from Always Trust In Books. This time around we’ll be reading The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton. It’s a book I’ve heard so much hype about and I was delighted when Stuart hauled it recently as it seems like every blogger I know has read and absolutely adored it. I need to get on this bandwagon.

I’ll also be buddy reading for the very first time with the lovely Jennifer from Tar Heel Reader. We’ll be reading Elmet by Fiona Mozley, again another book that I’ve been very excited to get to!

Finally, I’ll be reading the “usual suspects” with my fabulous sister, Chrissi Reads. Our Kid-Lit book for the month of October is Nightbirds On Nantucket, the third book in The Wolves Chronicles by Joan Aiken and our Banned Book for the month is Beloved by Toni Morrison.

A busy, busy reading month but I wouldn’t have it any other way! I’d love to know if you’ve read any of these titles and what you thought of them? Hope everyone else has a brilliant reading month!

Lots Of Love

Beth xxx

 

My Name Is Lucy Barton – Elizabeth Strout

Published September 25, 2018 by bibliobeth

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.

What did I think?:

This novel was EVERYWHERE a little while ago due to being long-listed for both the Women’s Prize For Fiction and The Man Booker Prize. With books like these, I always seem to be among one of the last to read them (or it feels that way anyway!). I’m not sure why, the hype monster always worries me slightly, especially if everyone is singing a novel’s praises to the sky…..what if I don’t feel the same? Luckily, the lovely people at Mr B’s Emporium Of Reading Delights finally convinced me to pick this book up sooner than I might have done otherwise and whilst it may not have been a five star read for me, I can completely understand why other people treasure it and why it has received all the critical acclaim and fantastic reviews.

Elizabeth Strout, author of My Name Is Lucy Barton.

As the title may suggest, this is the story of a woman called Lucy Barton whom when we meet her is recovering in hospital after complications from a routine surgery. Her husband isn’t a big fan of hospitals so she has been unable to see either him or her two daughters and is feeling generally miserable and fed up until one day she gets an unexpected visitor – her mother, whom she hasn’t seen for many years. Lucy has quite a strained, uneasy relationship with her entire family we soon come to learn which all harks back to her childhood, a poverty-stricken, isolating and lonely time. We also find out that the arrival of Lucy’s mother is quite a big deal, considering she rarely makes trips outside in big cities and although she is unwilling to discuss anything too emotional or triggering with her daughter, she entertains her with gossip and memories regarding people from their local town. This is the story of fraught family relationships, desolate feelings, art and writing and how a passion for the latter can fuel the desire to be happy again. We also discover how marriage, motherhood and the kindness of strangers can have a huge impact on an individual without them even being aware of the effects.

Illinois, USA where our female lead spends her difficult childhood.

As a piece of literary fiction, I was always prepared for this book to have beautiful, lyrical writing but I wasn’t prepared for the emotions that it would precipitate in such a short amount of pages. This book is probably best read in as few sittings as possible, even one if you can manage it as once you begin, I feel you get the true measure of the journey our narrator has been through in her life if you can swallow it all in one gulp. Generally, we see Lucy mostly in the present time, in the hospital room with her mother but throughout the narrative, we get various flashbacks from her childhood, moments in her marriage, moments with friends and her children that give us a fuller idea of who Lucy is as a person, giving the reader a fascinating insight into her character, thoughts and feelings.

Some parts of this story feel very much like streams of consciousness and other, perhaps more darker parts of the novel are merely hinted at implicitly but I quite enjoyed trying to figure out Lucy as a person from the very early pages when she is quite the closed book to the end of the novel where I really started to look on her as a dear friend. Lucy starts to realise she has much more in common with her mother than she would have ever thought and ruminates on her own experience as a mother and how this has been different or similar to what she personally experienced growing up. Not everything is resolved between the two as you might expect but I didn’t mind this at all. It felt much more authentic and reflective of real life and real relationships that there were awkward moments of communication between mother and daughter and obvious tensions bubbling below the surface. However, by the end you are filled with genuine hope for a deeper connection in the future and potential closure on many issues for our female lead.

As an author of literary fiction, Elizabeth Strout is a wonder with words and a genius at recounting a heart-felt story in such a relatively short space of time. I will definitely be picking up more books by her in the future!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout was the forty-seventh book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!