contemporary fiction

All posts tagged contemporary fiction

Talking About Only Child by Rhiannon Navin with Chrissi Reads

Published December 14, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

For readers of Room and The Girls, a dazzling, tenderhearted debut about healing, family, and the exquisite wisdom of children, narrated by a seven-year-old boy who reminds us that sometimes the littlest bodies hold the biggest hearts and the quietest voices speak the loudest.

Squeezed into a coat closet with his classmates and teacher, first grader Zach Taylor can hear gunshots ringing through the halls of his school. A gunman has entered the building, taking nineteen lives and irrevocably changing the very fabric of this close-knit community. While Zach’s mother pursues a quest for justice against the shooter’s parents, holding them responsible for their son’s actions, Zach retreats into his super-secret hideout and loses himself in a world of books and art. Armed with his newfound understanding, and with the optimism and stubbornness only a child could have, Zach sets out on a captivating journey towards healing and forgiveness, determined to help the adults in his life rediscover the universal truths of love and compassion needed to pull them through their darkest hours.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: What were your first impressions of this book?

BETH: Wow. As soon as I read the initial few chapters I have to admit, I found it a struggle to put it down. It begins with Zach and his teacher in a closet desperately hiding from a gunman in their school with numerous other children and it was so powerful and moving I had trouble catching my breath at points. I have such strong opinions on gun violence myself and to read a book about a school shooting was poignant and troubling. It certainly left its impression on me.

BETH: As a teacher yourself, how was the reading experience of Only Child for you?

CHRISSI: Absolutely terrifying. Absolutely. It is my worst fear. I can’t even begin to imagine something this awful happening in my classroom which I try to create as a home away from home. Like many other educators, our classroom is our home and a place for the children to feel safe. A teacher likes to control their classroom and rightly so. Something this horrific makes you lose control and that is terrifying. I hope I am never in the position where I have to save my children’s lives. I’m not sure I could go back to the classroom if that happened to me. I’m in awe of educators that do return to the classroom. I can’t even begin to imagine how much strength that takes. Gun crime is horrific and I feel blessed that I work in a country where this kind of crime is incredibly rare. It doesn’t mean that dangerous things wouldn’t happen in the classroom. We’ve even had to develop a lock down policy, just in case, which is a terrifying idea. It really would be my worst nightmare.

Excuse my little rant. Aside from the fear it gave me, this book was utterly compelling to read. I was really impressed with Zach’s narration. How clever to tell the story from his point of view. It’s horrifying what children go through when this happens in their safe place. 😦

CHRISSI: Many books have been written about gun crime, but rarely from the point of view of a child as young as Zach. What did you make of Zach’s narration?

BETH: That’s true! I never realised that before. I think writing it from the point of view of a child was an incredibly clever thing for the author to do. In a way, it made it more horrific as you were seeing it directly through a child’s eyes and although in some instances, Zach came across a little older than his years, I think these parts were necessary so we could feel the full impact of what he has been through, how he continues to suffer and how he manages to pull himself and his family through the other side.

BETH: How do you think Zach, his mother and his father differed in their experiences of grief?

CHRISSI: Zach, his mother and his father definitely differed in their experiences of grief. Grief affects in all in different ways. Zach has nightmares, bed-wetting and feels guilt because initially he feels his life will be better without his brother. Zach’s father retreats into work. He tries to be there for Zach as much as he can. Zach’s mother is initially very shocked and then her shock turns to seeking revenge and justice for her son.

CHRISSI: Do you think this book should have been longer?

BETH: For me, I felt it was the perfect length. I don’t think there was anything else the author could have done or said – I think she got her point across and it ended on a rather hopeful note for the future which was pleasant to read amidst all the darkness and despair.

BETH: Reading the Magic Tree House books aloud “to Andy” helps Zach cope with his grief. Which books have helped you through difficult times in your life?

CHRISSI: One of the most powerful books I’ve read that have helped me is Matt Haig’s Reasons To Stay Alive. I was absolutely amazed and how Matt Haig just ‘got’ me. I believe I have suffered from anxiety since I was younger. Matt’s words were the only words that I’ve really connected with. I felt like he understood what was going on in my head which is a very powerful thing.

CHRISSI: Should Zach have returned to school earlier?

BETH: Absolutely not. He had obvious PTSD about the terrifying incident that he had to go through and was amazingly resilient considering how he suffered. I know if it was me, I’d have trouble going back into that situation, especially if I was still having nightmares so a child as young as Zach was certainly shouldn’t have been forced into going back before he was ready. Yes, it’s important to move on and realise that it was a rare occurrence that was unlikely to happen again but the extent of the trauma that people go through in these situations is not realised enough, in my opinion.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I would definitely. I was really impressed with this book.

Would WE recommend it?

BETH: Of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

CHRISSI’S Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

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Blog Tour – Attend by West Camel

Published December 7, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

When Sam falls in love with Deptford thug Derek, and Anne’s best friend Kathleen takes her own life, they discover they are linked not just by a world of drugs and revenge; they also share the friendship of the uncanny and enigmatic Deborah. Seamstress, sailor, storyteller and self-proclaimed centenarian immortal, Deborah slowly reveals to Anne and Sam her improbable, fantastical life, a history of hidden Deptford and ultimately the solution to their crises.

What did I think?:

First of all, thank you so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and to Karen Sullivan from Orenda Books for the complimentary digital copy in exchange for an honest review. I have to admit, when Anne first emailed me about this book I was immediately entranced by that simplistic yet stunning front cover. It really draws the eye (and perhaps also threads the eye?!) and is a perfect example of how beautiful cover art can entice a reader to want to know more about the story. Luckily it had a fantastic synopsis too – I mean, “self-proclaimed centenarian immortal?” I simply HAD to read this book when that line jumped out at me! Please pardon the pun but this is a beautifully woven story that I thoroughly enjoyed. It has its darker moments, which to be honest, I’m always a fan of but there were softer, more gentle periods too that I really appreciated.

West Camel, author of Attend.

This is the story primarily of three people. Anne is a former heroin addict, mother to Julie and grandmother to Tom. She has been away from her family for some time while she recovers from her addiction and is determined not to see any of them until she can ensure she won’t succumb to her demons and let them down again. As a result, she hasn’t even met her grandson and at the time the novel is set, she is slowly trying to integrate herself back into their lives whilst attempting to fight her own personal battles. Sam is a young gay man who has also had some hardships in his life and eases his loneliness by going out a lot, desperate to find someone who will finally “see” and appreciate him. Our final protagonist is Deborah, an older lady with a plethora of stories to tell, primarily how she has become immortal through working on a small piece of sewing. All three characters are drawn together by seminal events that occur in their lives and by finding each other, there is an opportunity for each one to eventually find happiness and contentment.

Deptford, South-East London, England where Attend is set.

The more I think about this novel, the more I realise what the author might have been trying to say and how moving the narrative is in general. We have three characters, all three are intriguing, have a story to tell, have had difficulties in their lives in the past and present and crucially, all of them are struggling with being seen by other people. I think my favourite part of the narrative had to be Deborah’s story, particularly when she told parts of her past that were incredibly heart-breaking. There’s a particular moment during the war when she is trapped in a shelter that was so moving and written so beautifully I couldn’t put the book down until I had finished that specific chapter. Additionally, I loved how all the characters find that inner strength they eagerly desire from each other and they emerge more resilient by the end.

Finally, I really appreciated that you can’t really categorise this novel. It’s such a heady mixture of contemporary fiction with a dashing of historical and crime elements and a sprinkling of magical realism. I feel like the more fantastical, whimsical parts of the story worked very well as a whole and it never strayed into the realms of unbelievable. From that beautiful front cover, to an equally beautiful story within the pages, Attend is an imaginative piece of work that will touch your heart and potentially make you believe in magic all over again.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Born and bred in south London – and not the Somerset village
with which he shares a name – West Camel worked as an editor in
higher education and business before turning his attention to the
arts and publishing. He has worked as a book and arts journalist,
and was editor at Dalkey Archive Press, where he edited the Best
European Fiction 2015 anthology, before moving to new press
Orenda Books just after its launch. He currently combines his
work as editor at Orenda Books with writing and editing a wide
range of material for various arts organisations, including ghostwriting
a New-Adult novel and editing The Riveter magazine for the
European Literature Network. He has also written several short
scripts, which have been produced in London’s fringe theatres,
A highly anticipated debut, blending the magical realism of Angela Carter
and the gritty authenticity of Eastenders
and was longlisted for the Old Vic’s 12 playwrights project. Attend is his first novel.

Find West on Goodreads at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8283285.West_Camel

or on Twitter at: @west_camel

Thank you so much once again to Anne Cater, Karen Sullivan and Orenda Books for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. Attend will be published on 13th December 2018 and will be available as a paperback and a digital e-book. If you fancy more information don’t forget to check out the rest of the stops on this blog tour for some amazing reviews!

Link to book on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41967084-attend

Link to book on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Attend-West-Camel/dp/1912374390/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1544092398&sr=8-1&keywords=attend+west+camel

And So It Begins – Rachel Abbott

Published November 25, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

So this is how it ends. It is clear to me now: one of us has to die.

Mark and Evie had a whirlwind romance. Evie brought Mark back to life after the sudden death of his first wife. Cleo, Mark’s sister, knows she should be happy for him. But Cleo doesn’t trust Evie…

When Evie starts having accidents at home, her friends grow concerned. Could Mark be causing her injuries? Called out to their cliff-top house one night, Sergeant Stephanie King finds two bodies entangled on blood-drenched sheets.

Where does murder begin? When the knife is raised to strike, or before, at the first thought of violence? As Evie stands trial, the jury is forced to consider – is there ever a proper defence for murder?

And So It Begins is a darkly compulsive psychological thriller with all the hallmarks of a Rachel Abbott bestseller – a provocative dilemma, richly-layered mystery, knife-edge tension, and brilliant characterization.

What did I think?:

First of all, thank you so much to Becky Hunter and Wildfire Publishers for sending me a copy of Rachel Abbott’s latest stand-alone novel in exchange for an honest review. The aim of the new imprint from Headline according to publishing director Alex Clarke is to publish books that “spread like wildfire,” and with an objective like that, it definitely sounds like something I want to be part of! I was lucky enough to be part of the blog tour for Rachel’s previous novel (the seventh book in her DC Tom Douglas series), Come A Little Closer and really enjoyed my first experience of reading the author’s work so jumped at the chance to try something new, especially when the initial rave reviews from my fellow bloggers came flooding in. Ultimately, I was delighted to find And So It Begins to be an even more enjoyable experience than Come A Little Closer and really believe the author has found a very special niche within the psychological thriller genre.

Rachel Abbott, author of And So It Begins, a stand-alone thriller and courtroom drama.

As with most novels in the genre, it really helps for future readers if I’m as annoyingly vague as possible because with this particular book, believe me, I’m going to have to be. It’s a fascinating and compelling story of a couple, Evie and Mark who fall in love, have a baby and move in together relatively quickly. To anyone on the outside, they appear to be the picture of matrimonial bliss with Mark’s high-flying career as a talented, sought after photographer, a gorgeous baby girl and a stunning, opulent house with sea views. The thorn in their side initially appears to be Mark’s sister Cleo whom for many years had taken on the role of care-giver with her younger brother Mark and is incredibly protective of him, including his relationship with women which so far has been demonstrably shaky over the past few years. Then one night, Sergeant Stephanie King is called to the extravagant house and finds two bodies on a bed, covered in blood. What has happened? Furthermore, can people on the outside ever know what really goes on between a couple in the privacy of their own home?

I know it probably doesn’t look anything like this as the story is set in England (!!) but when I read about the house that Evie and Mark live in with views of the sea on just one side, making it feel quite isolated, I immediately pictured the house from Sleeping With The Enemy, one of my favourite ever films starring Julia Roberts.

Well. What can I say? Since Come A Little Closer, I feel Abbott’s writing has got a whole lot murkier – in a good way! I was immediately entranced by the synopsis and the promise of a mystery that would take the entire novel to unravel – this is obviously the best kind of course and I wasn’t disappointed. Instantly, I needed to know what on earth happened to this couple where we find them in such a horrendous situation and piece by piece, the answers are gradually revealed with more surprises than you could have ever imagined. I think what really sold this book to me however was the inclusion of the courtroom drama, adding a different dimension and layer to the author’s style and it had me captivated throughout, right to that final, tantalising moment where the jury pronounce their verdict.

As with all my favourite thrillers, And So It Begins focuses on a multitude of characters – Evie, Mark, his sister Cleo and Sergeant Stephanie King and each individual brings something fresh and intriguing to the narrative, making you wonder exactly what is going on and who exactly you can trust. Everyone has their part to play and story to tell and it’s certainly a book that you might find difficult to put down once you become invested. This was definitely the case for me and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

One More Chance – Lucy Ayrton

Published November 16, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Dani hasn’t had an easy life. She’s made some bad choices and now she’s paying the ultimate price; prison.

With her young daughter Bethany, growing up in foster care, Dani is determined to be free and reunited with her. There’s only one problem; Dani can’t stay out of trouble.

Dani’s new cellmate Martha is quiet and unassuming. There’s something about her that doesn’t add up. When Martha offers Dani one last chance at freedom, she doesn’t hesitate.

Everything she wants is on the outside, but Dani is stuck on the inside. Is it possible to break out when everyone is trying to keep you in . . .

What did I think?:

One More Chance landed on my doorstep courtesy of Millie Seaward and the team at Dialogue Books, a new imprint from Little, Brown publishers that “source, nurture and publish writing talent – and reach audiences – from areas currently under-represented or not covered by the mainstream publishing industry. This will include people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, the LGBTQI+ community and those with disabilities.” 

I thoroughly support this initiative and a huge thank you to Millie and Dialogue for providing me with a copy of this gripping debut novel in exchange for an honest review. As soon as I realised this was a story set inside the British prison system, and specifically focused on the life of female prisoners, I knew it was a book I had to pick up. There’s been a lot of negative press recently about the state of British prisons and generally, it’s a topic I’m very intrigued by, both here and in other countries. I was delighted to discover an instantly compelling narrative with characters that felt completely authentic and I sped through it in no time at all.

Lucy Ayrton, author of the novel One More Chance.

This is the story of Dani, who has spent a fair few spells in prison after recurrent drugs-related offences. However, when we currently meet her, she becomes desperate that her current stay in jail is going to be her last. For Dani has something now to fight for – her young daughter, Bethany who has been taken away from her and placed with foster parents. Dani is determined to get her back but before this can happen, she has to resist any drama within the prison system (which is harder than it initially appears) go through a drug programme service so that she can “get clean,” and reduce the risk of re-offending in the future and finally, prove she can have a career and a way of providing for her baby on the outside. Things start to look up for Dani when she gets a mysterious new cell-mate, Martha who insists that she can help Dani get to her daughter. However, is it really is easy as that? Will Dani be able to resist temptation and keep out of trouble or will the thought of Bethany prove too difficult to pass up?

Notorious H.M. Prison Holloway in London, one of the largest female jails in Europe where our character Dani is incarcerated. It was closed in 2016 as part of the government’s overhaul of the prison system.

For what I expected from this novel, One More Chance ticked all the relevant boxes. It was a fascinating insight into the world of female prisoners and felt remarkably gritty and genuine. The author, Lucy Ayrton, is Communications Manager of a prison charity and much of this story was inspired by women she met and talked with on visits, particularly within the Holloway Mother And Baby Unit. This really comes across in the narrative, you can feel the characters bouncing off the pages with their authenticity. These people feel very real and believable and although they may have issues, it’s impossible not to feel some sort of sympathy for the situation they find themselves in.

Our female lead, Dani in particular is wonderfully interesting and I really enjoyed getting to know her. She drove me absolutely crazy with the decisions she made sometimes but in the end, I just felt a great deal of pity for her, especially the inner turmoil she experienced in being apart from her daughter. Dani often felt she needed to put on a front, especially in a system that promotes violence and the importance of never showing your fear but I could sense her vulnerability and appreciated the emotional roller-coaster that rocked her childhood and adolescence life.

One More Chance is a page turning and at times, eye-opening read about the world of female incarceration from an exciting new voice in fiction that really understands what she’s writing about. I’m looking forward to seeing what Lucy Ayrton does next!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

The Stranger Diaries – Elly Griffiths

Published November 14, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

A dark story has been brought to terrifying life. Can the ending be rewritten in time?

A gripping contemporary Gothic thriller from the bestselling author of the Dr Ruth Galloway mysteries: Wilkie Collins and MR James meet Gone Girl and Disclaimer.

Clare Cassidy is no stranger to murder. As a literature teacher specialising in the Gothic writer RM Holland, she teaches a short course on it every year. Then Clare’s life and work collide tragically when one of her colleagues is found dead, a line from an RM Holland story by her body. The investigating police detective is convinced the writer’s works somehow hold the key to the case.

Not knowing who to trust, and afraid that the killer is someone she knows, Clare confides her darkest suspicions and fears about the case to her journal. Then one day she notices some other writing in the diary. Writing that isn’t hers…

What did I think?:

First of all, thank you so much to the lovely people at Quercus Books, not only for hosting a fabulous Word-Of-Mouth Bestsellers Evening which I was delighted to attend with my blogger bestie, Janel from Keeper Of Pages but for kindly providing me with a copy of Elly Griffiths new stand-alone novel to check out and review prior to its publication this month. Elly Griffiths is probably best known for her archaeologist Ruth Galloway series of books that began with The Crossing Places back in 2009 and currently boasts ten books, the most recent, The Dark Angel published earlier this year and the eleventh in the series, The Stone Circle due to be released in 2019. For some reason, she’s always been on the edge of my radar, particularly this series which I know is well loved with Val McDermid herself calling it “my favourite series.” However, I just haven’t managed to get round to reading anything – occasionally when I know I already have so many books to catch up on in a crime series, it can be a little daunting and slightly intimidating!

Now I have FINALLY experienced what a great writer Elly Griffiths is, I have immediately put the first Galloway book on my wish list with a view to reading it in the very near future. The Stranger Diaries has everything you might want from a thriller, including great characterisation, an exciting and unique plot and an ending you just don’t see coming. I was instantly entranced by the mystery, delighted by the thought of a story within a story and although there were plenty of red herrings thrown in the readers way, never guessed what was really going on which came as a very welcome surprise when I reached the tantalising finale.

Elly Griffiths, pen name for Domenica de Rosa, British crime novelist and author of The Stranger Diaries.

The Stranger Diaries follows our female protagonist, teacher Claire Cassidy who teaches English at a local school and a creative writing course on the side. Currently, she is also hard at work on a biography of the famed Gothic author R.M. Holland who also shares a strong connection with the school, having a study in the uppermost parts of one of the buildings. Holland was perhaps most famous for his short story The Stranger and his tragic life when his wife fell down the very steps that lead to his study within the school, her ghost still reported to haunt the building.

The tension and terror increases exponentially when a teacher’s body is found murdered with a quote from Holland’s famous story beside her and it’s not long before the suspicious deaths start to pile up, revealing strange parallels and comparisons to The Stranger. DC Harbinder Kaur is tasked with investigating and cracking the case however her job becomes infinitely more difficult when Claire starts to find messages in her diary that she hasn’t written. More importantly, these are messages written in the same hand that wrote the notes at the crime scenes of Claire’s murdered acquaintances.

Shoreham By Sea, Sussex, England – setting for The Stranger Diaries.

When I first picked up this book at the Quercus event I was instantly intrigued by that fascinating synopsis. Notes in a diary written by a stranger? Chilling! I was overjoyed to discover once I began reading that this teaser of the situation our main character finds herself was a mere prelude to a wonderfully Gothic and nail-biting story. The inclusion of The Stranger short story that Claire teaches in her course and how it ties in with the contemporary narrative was magical to read and brought a beautiful sense of atmosphere and drama to the proceedings. The novel is told by three different characters – Claire herself, her teenage daughter Georgie and Detective Harbinder Kaur who were all written perfectly with their own separate personalities and completely believable. I didn’t particularly warm to any of them on the initial meeting but what’s wonderful about Elly Griffiths writing is that you really feel you get to know them on a deeper level as the story continues and they become more “real.”

I’m definitely not going to be fearful any more of finally starting this talented author’s other series of books, namely the Galloway and Mephisto series! Furthermore, I’m hugely grateful to Quercus for giving me the opportunity to experience Griffiths’ gripping writing in a stand-alone novel. It’s easy to see why she has such a legion of fans and I’m so pleased to call myself one of them.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Talking About The Innocent Wife by Amy Lloyd with Chrissi Reads

Published November 8, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Twenty years ago, Dennis Danson was arrested and imprisoned for the brutal murder of a young girl. Now he’s the subject of a true-crime documentary that’s whipping up a frenzy online to uncover the truth and free a man who has been wrongly convicted.

A thousand miles away in England, Samantha is obsessed with Dennis’s case. She exchanges letters with him, and is quickly won over by his apparent charm and kindness to her. Soon she has left her old life behind to marry him and campaign for his release.

When the campaign is successful and Dennis is freed, however, Sam begins to discover new details that suggest he may not be quite so innocent after all.

But how do you confront your husband when you don’t want to know the truth?

The winner of the Daily Mail First Novel Competition, Amy Lloyd’s The Innocent Wife is gripping psychological suspense from a brilliant new voice in crime fiction.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: What were your expectations for this book? Did it live up to them?

BETH: I didn’t really have any expectations to be honest! I’ve read quite a lot of either psychological or domestic thrillers recently so I was hoping (as I always do with this genre) that it would be something a bit unique and would keep me engaged throughout. First of all, I did think this novel had a really interesting premise, especially in the beginning when Samantha is writing to Dennis in prison but unfortunately, I don’t really feel that it hooked me in the way I wanted to be hooked. It’s a quick, easy read but I didn’t really connect to any of the characters.

BETH: How do you think this novel compares to other books in the genre?

CHRISSI: Sadly, I don’t think this book stands out in its genre. It has brilliant moments, but I was left a little underwhelmed by the story. It didn’t grip me right from the start which I usually expect from books in this genre. For me, it was an okay read but I don’t think I would remember it months on when I read so widely in the genre.

CHRISSI: Did you find this book predictable in any way?

BETH: I’m afraid so. It was pretty obvious to me from the start what was going to happen in Samantha and Dennis’ relationship and how it would then develop as they got to know each other a bit better. Sadly, I did anticipate the slight twists and turns in the narrative so I was never surprised or shocked about the direction the story took.

BETH: Did you find Samantha relatable? What advice would you give her if you were her friend?

CHRISSI: I personally didn’t relate to her. I think she’ll be relatable to many in a way because so many people have dysfunctional relationships and that’s certainly what Samantha’s relationship is like with Dennis! If I was Samantha’s friend I think I’d encourage her to seriously think about the company she kept!

CHRISSI: Was the relationship between Samantha and Dennis plausible?

BETH: Not for me, I’m afraid to say. I can understand that Samantha had insecurities and vulnerabilities and she became quite carried away with the idea of a relationship with Dennis but I think the reality of what that relationship was going to be like hadn’t really dawned on her until she was trapped in that situation. However, I didn’t quite understand why when she had initial misgivings about the relationship she didn’t use that opportunity to remove herself and that was slightly frustrating. I guess it wouldn’t have made a good story if she had, right?! Personally, I’m not very good at suspending my disbelief and although the author has artistic license to do whatever she wants to do with her own narrative, I couldn’t find it believable enough to become invested in the relationship of her characters.

BETH: What did you think of the ending? Were you surprised/satisfied?

CHRISSI: I was a little disappointed by the ending. I don’t really want to spoil it, so I can’t say too much, but I wasn’t satisfied. I felt like it was incredibly rushed. I was left with some questions and found myself re-reading it to try and get my head around it. In my opinion, that’s not a sign of a great ending.

CHRISSI: At which point in the book were you the most engaged?

BETH: There were several points where I was quite intrigued. Firstly, the beginning where Samantha was first communicating with Dennis and the story had the potential to go in any direction. Secondly, where she first meets Dennis at the prison and I was curious to read about their initial reactions on meeting and communicating with each other and lastly, the ending which was quite fast-paced until the eventual climax.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: It would depend on the plot. I think the premise of this book was interesting, it just wasn’t an amazing read for me!

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: Probably!

CHRISSI: Yes!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

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