Claire Fuller

All posts tagged Claire Fuller

Bitter Orange – Claire Fuller

Published May 8, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

‘A compulsive page-turner. Fuller creates an atmosphere of simmering menace with all the assurance of a latter-day Daphne du Maurier’ The Times

Frances Jellico is dying. A man who calls himself the vicar visits, hoping to extract a deathbed confession. He wants to know what really happened that fateful summer of 1969, when Frances – tasked with surveying a dilapidated country house – first set eyes on the glamorous bohemian couple, Cara and Peter. She recalls the relationship they forged through sweltering days, lavish dinners and elaborate lies, and the Judas hole through which she would spy on the couple.

Were the signs there right from the beginning?

Or was it impossible to avoid the crime that split their lives open like rotten fruit?

What did I think?:

I first came across Claire Fuller’s remarkable writing in Our Endless Numbered Days which remains one of my favourite books of all time and a signed copy sits with pride of place on my favourites shelf. After being quite frankly astounded by her debut novel, it was a very easy decision to read her second novel, Swimming Lessons which I also thoroughly enjoyed and hence to make sure I got my hands on the beautiful hardback copy of her third offering, Bitter Orange. Shamefully, it has been sat on my shelves for months now as I just haven’t been able to get my act together and prioritise it before now. Thank you so much to Jane Gentle from Penguin UK for letting me know that the paperback had been recently released and I thought it was a perfect opportunity to finally settle down with my copy and disappear into the author’s delicious writing style once more.

If I had to describe this novel in three words I’d probably choose the phrases sumptuous, evocative and captivating which I have now realised appears to be a pattern whenever I lose myself in a Claire Fuller story. She has a beautiful way of capturing characters, atmosphere and settings which pull the reader in immediately and makes them feel instantly part of the world that they are reading about. In Bitter Orange, we follow three characters staying in the same country house for research purposes. They are Peter and Cara, who are romantically involved with each other and Frances who arrives on her own after the death of her mother to survey some historical aspects of the building.

When the novel first opens, we encounter Frances close to death and the local vicar is trying to unlock the secrets of what really happened back in 1969 between the three main protagonists. We are immediately thrust into a world of secrets, mistrust, unreliable characters and a compelling mystery as the reader slowly begins to unravel not only what happened to Cara, Peter and Frances in the end, but what particular events unfolded to lead them there in the first place.

Bitter Orange is a incredibly rich and compelling narrative, gloriously packed with quiet moments with our characters, slow teasers and tasters of the personality of each one of our protagonists and the constant intrigue throughout that makes you want to keep turning the pages. Cara, Peter and Frances are all unique and fascinating in their own right and I adored the fact that they all oozed imperfection. At no point did I find any one of these individuals reliable but oh my goodness, that just made for an even more bewitching reading experience! It’s the sort of book I can’t tell you anymore about for fear of spoilers but it’s also the sort of book that once you finish it, you immediately want to go back to the beginning and read it again, fresh with the knowledge you possess by the end.

Everything is gorgeous in Bitter Orange, from the intricate characterisation to the way the orange was used to represent particular parts of the relationships and the way the setting felt so alive and vibrant that you could almost imagine yourself there. Through Claire Fuller, I walked through a building where parts of it were dilapidated and crumbling and other parts were filled with magnificence, I spied with Frances on Peter and Cara in the bathroom, I listened (or read!) with rapt attention when Cara told us some of her tragic back story and I wondered at Peter’s intentions. It’s very easy to become enraptured with a story like this if you allow yourself to sink in and enjoy it and I’ll certainly be remaining an avid fan of Claire Fuller’s work.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

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Swimming Lessons – Claire Fuller

Published February 7, 2017 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Ingrid Coleman writes letters to her husband, Gil, about the truth of their marriage, but instead of giving them to him, she hides them in the thousands of books he has collected over the years. When Ingrid has written her final letter she disappears from a Dorset beach, leaving behind her beautiful but dilapidated house by the sea, her husband, and her two daughters, Flora and Nan.

Twelve years later, Gil thinks he sees Ingrid from a bookshop window, but he’s getting older and this unlikely sighting is chalked up to senility. Flora, who has never believed her mother drowned, returns home to care for her father and to try to finally discover what happened to Ingrid. But what Flora doesn’t realize is that the answers to her questions are hidden in the books that surround her. Scandalous and whip-smart, Swimming Lessons holds the Coleman family up to the light, exposing the mysterious truths of a passionate and troubled marriage.

What did I think?:

I fell in love with Claire Fuller’s writing after I read her amazing debut novel Our Endless Numbered Days in the summertime of last year. If you haven’t read it, please you absolutely must – it’s a brilliant, shocking read which I highly recommend. I knew Claire was working on her second book, Swimming Lessons but when she kindly contacted me and asked if I’d like to read it, I literally jumped at the chance. I’m so glad I did. It’s slow paced at the beginning but by the time I was a third of the way through I was completely hooked and it was difficult to pry the book away from me!

We see the drama unfold from multiple different perspectives. Firstly from Gil who swears that he sees his wife Ingrid standing outside a bookshop window. The strange thing is, Ingrid disappeared many years previously and is thought to have drowned in a tragic accident. Gil follows the woman he thinks to be Ingrid and ends up falling and ending up in hospital. This is where we meet his two daughters, Nan and the younger sister Flora who are completely different personalities but come together to help their father as they receive some heart-breaking news. We then get some insights into the past of this fascinating family from Flora’s memories of her childhood, her parents and from Ingrid herself.

This was the part that I just adored as Gil begins to find old letters addressed to him from Ingrid hidden in his precious books. They start from the very beginning of their relationship (which was frowned upon from some individuals due to the age difference between them) to their married life, berating him for certain behaviours and admitting other secrets. Basically, telling their whole story, warts and all, from her point of view. It’s the story of a dysfunctional relationship that also holds a lot of love which beggars belief at some points and intrigues you at other times. Do we ever really find out what has happened to Ingrid? Maybe…maybe not, but we certainly understand her and Gil a lot better through the process.

Like Claire’s debut novel, this story took me completely by surprise with how attached I became to the characters and their story. I never really felt like I understood Gil and his reasons for doing what he did but I certainly sympathised with Ingrid and the situation she found herself in and even understood her reasons for being attracted to Gil in the first place. I probably actually preferred Gil in the “present day” situation, being looked after by his daughters and perhaps feeling guilt and remorse for events that occurred in the past. On finishing it, I immediately wanted to go back to the beginning and perhaps pick up on things I may have missed in the narrative, not having the full information I had at the end and it’s definitely a novel I will look forward to re-reading in the future. Claire Fuller can do no wrong in my eyes as an author and with Swimming Lessons, she has certainly cemented herself in my heart as one of my favourites.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

British Books Challenge 2016 – The Round Up

Published January 1, 2017 by bibliobeth

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2016 was my fourth year of participating in the British Books Challenge. I love doing this every year and think it’s important to support our authors here in the UK, old and new. Here’s what I’ve managed to review this year in British Books!

Frost Hollow Hall – Emma Carroll

The Horse Dancer – Jojo Moyes

We Were Just Driving Around – Jon McGregor

Bella Broomstick – Lou Kuenzler

The Chamois – Daphne du Maurier

Silent Saturday – Helen Grant

The Demons Of Ghent – Helen Grant

Urban Legends – Helen Grant

The Demon Headmaster – Gillian Cross

Under The Pylon – Graham Joyce

The Versions Of Us – Laura Barnett

The Quality Of Silence – Rosamund Lupton

In A Dark, Dark Wood – Ruth Ware

Duet – Kate Mosse

Carrie’s War – Nina Bawden

The Coral Strand – Ravinder Randhawa

Defender Of The Realm (Defender Of The Realm #1) – Mark Huckerby and Nick Ostler

Strange Girls And Ordinary Women – Morgan McCarthy

The Samaritan (Carter Blake #2) – Mason Cross

Moving – Jenny Eclair

Enough Of This Shit Already – Tony Black

The Boy In The Dress – David Walliams

Jamaica Inn – Daphne du Maurier

Create Your Own Spy Mission – Andrew and Chris Judge

Charm For A Friend With A Lump – Helen Simpson

A Year Of Marvellous Ways – Sarah Winman

Noble Conflict – Malorie Blackman

The Girl On The Train – Paula Hawkins

The Inventory: Iron Fist (The Inventory #1) – Andy Briggs

Alfie Bloom And The Secrets Of Hexbridge Castle (Alfie Bloom #1) – Gabrielle Kent

Alfie Bloom And The Talisman Thief (Alfie Bloom #2) – Gabrielle Kent

Notes From The House Spirits – Lucy Wood

Our Endless Numbered Days – Claire Fuller

How I Finally Lost My Heart – Doris Lessing

The Bones Of You – Debbie Howells

According To Yes – Dawn French

The Borrowers – Mary Norton

Random Acts Of Unkindness – Jacqueline Ward

The Adventure Of The Speckled Band – Arthur Conan Doyle

Maggot Moon – Sally Gardner

Sweet Caress – William Boyd

The Girls – Lisa Jewell

The Oasis Of Time – Carolyn Waugh

Author Requests – Off Key by Mark Robertson, Piano From A 4th Storey Window by Jenny Morton Potts and The Death Of Danny Daggers by Haydn Wilks

The Love Song Of Miss Queenie Hennessy – Rachel Joyce

A Dictionary Of Mutual Understanding – Jackie Copleton

Garlic And Gauloises – Hemmie Martin

Looking For JJ (Jennifer Jones #1) – Anne Cassidy

If It Keeps On Raining – Jon McGregor

Reasons To Stay Alive – Matt Haig

Stranger Than We Can Imagine: Making Sense Of The Twentieth Century – John Higgs

The Lordly Ones – Daphne du Maurier

Roseblood – Paul Doherty

The Last Act Of Love – Cathy Rentzenbrink

Tiger Moth – Graham Joyce

The Widow – Fiona Barton

The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase – Joan Aiken

The Puppet Master – Abigail Osborne

Under My Skin – James Dawson

Red Letter Day – Kate Mosse

Missing, Presumed – Susie Steiner

Getting It Wrong – Ramsey Campbell

Disclaimer – Renée Knight

Ballet Shoes – Noel Streatfeild

Among Others – Jo Walton

Chinese Whispers – Ben Chu

The Last Leaves Falling – Fox Benwell

Hogmanay Homicide – Edward Marston

 The Loving Husband – Christobel Kent

The Boy Who Sailed The Ocean In An Armchair

So if I’ve calculated correctly, that makes it 72 books for the British Books Challenge this year. It isn’t as much as last year but I’ve still made the target of 12 books a year which I’m very happy with, especially as I haven’t had a great blogging year with a lot of illness. 😦

Highlights from this year include Disclaimer by Renee Knight which I will treasure as not only is it a fantastic book but I also managed to meet the lady herself at Crime At The Court (hosted by Goldsboro Books, London) with my blogger buddy Cleopatra Loves Books. She’s lovely and so very talented and I will probably read anything she ever writes! The Last Act Of Love was also a hugely important and emotional book for me and I loved reviewing it with my sister, Chrissi Reads in our little “Talking About” feature which we do on occasion. Other honourable mentions go to Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig, Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller, Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier, the Forbidden Spaces Trilogy by Helen Grant and the fabulous Emma Carroll who wrote the beautiful Frost Hollow Hall. I could go on and on. I’m certainly looking forward to reading some more “best of British” books in 2017! Look out for my sign up post coming soon.

Our Endless Numbered Days – Claire Fuller

Published June 18, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Peggy Hillcoat is eight years old when her survivalist father, James, takes her from their home in London to a remote hut in the woods and tells her that the rest of the world has been destroyed. Deep in the wilderness, Peggy and James make a life for themselves. They repair the hut, bathe in water from the river, hunt and gather food in the summers and almost starve in the harsh winters. They mark their days only by the sun and the seasons.

When Peggy finds a pair of boots in the forest and begins a search for their owner, she unwittingly begins to unravel the series of events that brought her to the woods and, in doing so, discovers the strength she needs to go back to the home and mother she thought she’d lost.

After Peggy’s return to civilisation, her mother learns the truth of her escape, of what happened to James on the last night out in the woods, and of the secret that Peggy has carried with her ever since.

What did I think?:

I first came across this astounding book on Twitter where it was receiving many rave reviews and I’ve been meaning to read it for so long so when Richard and Judy chose it for their Spring Book Club here in the UK I was delighted and now I’m left wondering just what took me so long? This is a truly beautiful and yes, disturbing read but one I will be eternally glad that I’ve experienced. From the very first page I was suckered in through the eyes of a young girl whom we hear from at her current age of seventeen and as an eight year old girl when something happened to her that has the potential to change her entire life – and has been far from an easy one so far.

Re-united with her mother Ute, a concert pianist, Peggy has to rebuild her relationship with her and a nine year old brother that she has never even met or heard of. For Peggy was taken away by her father, a survivalist, when she was eight years old and was told that the world had ended and everybody she loved had died. Of course, this wasn’t true but she was made to believe that their only hope was to move to die Hütte, a remote cabin surrounded by miles of woodland and live off the land, something her father has had plenty of training for.

The story skips backwards and forwards in time as the author builds tension and mystery in perfection, showcasing the naivety of young Peggy and the obsessive behaviour of her troubled father. At first, Peggy treats it as a big adventure and there are many happy memories as she learns to hunt for food and even play the piano on a special noiseless piano that her father makes for her, teaching her how each note should sound by humming the melodies. However, there are bad times in abundance, particularly in winter when food grows scarce and father and daughter come desperately close to starvation. As she becomes a teenager, Peggy starts to have serious doubts about everything her father has told her and when she finds a pair of boots in the forest, she realises that they may not be completely alone.

That’s all I really want to say about the plot of the book as I think to read it is to experience it in all its wonder, intrigue and darkness. Peggy as a character stole my heart from the very beginning and I loved how she developed independence and questioning of her father’s curious behaviour as the story continued. I found myself really rooting for her strength and despairing at how much of her childhood she had lost as she returned to her mother. Claire Fuller has played an absolute blinder with this, her debut novel and expertly weaves past and present into a cohesive whole that has the reader questioning everything while completely breaking your heart. I’m eagerly anticipating her second novel next year that I’m in no doubt will leave me on tenterhooks once more.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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