Historical fiction

All posts tagged Historical fiction

Blog Tour – Blackberry And Wild Rose by Sonia Velton

Published January 10, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

WHEN Esther Thorel, the wife of a Huguenot silk-weaver, rescues Sara Kemp from a brothel she thinks she is doing God’s will. Sara is not convinced being a maid is better than being a whore, but the chance to escape her grasping ‘madam’ is too good to refuse.

Inside the Thorels’ tall house in Spitalfields, where the strange cadence of the looms fills the attic, the two women forge an uneasy relationship. The physical intimacies of washing and dressing belie the reality: Sara despises her mistress’s blindness to the hypocrisy of her household, while Esther is too wrapped up in her own secrets to see Sara as anything more than another charitable cause.

It is silk that has Esther so distracted. For years she has painted her own designs, dreaming that one day her husband will weave them into reality. When he laughs at her ambition, she strikes up a relationship with one of the journeyman weavers in her attic who teaches her to weave and unwittingly sets in motion events that will change the fate of the whole Thorel household.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Ella Patel for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and to Quercus Books for providing a complimentary copy of the novel on a recent Word-Of-Mouth Bestsellers Evening/bloggers event which showcased some of the books they were excited about for 2019. I was lucky enough to meet the author herself and her editor at the event and they made Blackberry and Wild Rose come alive in my imagination before I had the good fortune to read it leaving me in no doubt at all that this book HAD to make my January TBR. Now I’ve read it, I can see why Quercus were excited. This gorgeous, sumptuous novel is abundant in historical detail and provides a fascinating insight into the work and politics of Huguenot silk merchants in the late eighteenth century.

Sonia Velton, author of the debut novel Blackberry And Wild Rose.

Historical fiction is one of my favourite genres to devour and I always believe, must be the most difficult but rewarding niches to write within. The amount of research that has to go into your chosen time period/setting must be astronomical because at the end of the day, the reader has to feel transported to that particular place. It has to be evocative, believable and encapsulating and certainly with the historical fiction I read, I like to be able to visualise everything I’m reading about so succinctly. In Blackberry And Wild Rose, it is obvious that Sonia Velton knows her topic inside out and upside down. More importantly, she is able to produce a compelling, rich narrative that immediately captures the readers attention with some glorious, authentic characterisation that puts you immediately within the grimy, vivid and impoverished heart of eighteenth century London.

Spitalfields woven silk court dress from the 18th century.

Image from: https://www.museumoflondonprints.com/image/138334/spitalfields-woven-silk-court-dress-18th-century

Blackberry And Wild Rose is a beautiful story of two very different women, the wife of a Huguenot master silk weaver, Esther Thorel and a young woman, Sara Kemp who has been working as a prostitute since she arrived in London. Esther “rescues” Sara from the brothel and the demanding madam she is working under and sets her to work in her home as a maid, believing she is doing a good, Christian deed. Before long, we start to realise that there is a lot more bubbling under the surface for both women that will have drastic implications for the rest of their lives. I loved that nothing about either of the characters that Velton creates is black or white, good or bad. We get a unique impression of each woman along with their thoughts, feelings and potential motives for their actions. Additionally, as we get to know them a bit better, we realise that each woman has their own particular flaws that make them imperfect but, provide them with an increased resilience. They are then able to battle through their problems and focus on making a better life for themselves with minimal damage to their dignity and characters.

Set against the backdrop of the seedier side of London at this time period, I loved how this novel was a story of two halves. That is, the rich Huguenot wife who seemingly, never wants for everything and the “down on her luck” young woman who resorts to selling her body just to be able to survive. The clash of two such different women with the realisation that in fact, they’re more similar than they realise was fascinating to read and with the addition of the silk-weaving politics at the time, made for a hugely enjoyable reading experience. Sonia Velton writes with such beauty and elegance that I was delighted by this novel and certainly made a little note to myself to seek out whatever she writes in the future.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Sonia Velton has been a solicitor in Hong Kong, a Robert Schuman Scholar in Luxembourg and spent eight years being a full-time Mum of three in Dubai. She now lives in Kent. Her first novel, BLACKBERRY AND WILD ROSE, tells the story of a fictional household of master silk weavers living in eighteenth century Spitalfields. The protagonist is loosely inspired by Anna Maria Garthwaite who was the foremost silk designer of the mid-eighteenth century and the title takes its name from an actual silk design. The novel was shortlisted as a work in progress for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize 2015 and longlisted for the Myslexia Novel Competition.

Find Sonia on her Goodreads page at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17154363.Sonia_Velton

or on Twitter at: @soniavelton

Thank you so much once again to Ella Patel and Quercus Books for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. Blackberry And Wild Rose is published on 10th January 2019 and will be available as a hardback 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 Blackberry And Wild Rose on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36222190-blackberry-and-wild-rose?ac=1&from_search=true

Link to Blackberry And Wild Rose on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Blackberry-Wild-Rose-Sonia-Velton/dp/178747075X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1546941572&sr=8-1&keywords=blackberry+and+wild+rose

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Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2018 – NOVEMBER READ – Number The Stars by Lois Lowry

Published December 1, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen and her best friend Ellen Rosen often think of life before the war. It’s now 1943 and their life in Copenhagen is filled with school, food shortages, and the Nazi soldiers marching through town. When the Jews of Denmark are “relocated,” Ellen moves in with the Johansens and pretends to be one of the family. Soon Annemarie is asked to go on a dangerous mission to save Ellen’s life.

What did I think?:

I had a sneaking suspicion before I suggested this title to Chrissi for our Kid-Lit list this year that I was going to enjoy it and I’ve got to say, I love it when my hunches about a novel are spot on! I’ve already read two books in Lowry’s infamous Giver series so I was aware of the power of her writing style and when reading the synopsis and discovering it was set during World War II (another of my favourite time periods to read about) I was quietly confident that I was on to a winner. I was anticipating an emotional and dramatic narrative considering the atrocities that were perpetuated against the Jewish people during the war but I wasn’t expecting such beautiful and understated characters that carried out unbelievable feats of bravery where it made for an astonishing and compelling read.

Lois Lowry, author of Number The Stars.

This is the story of ten year old Annemarie Johansen and her Jewish best friend, Ellen Rosen, two ordinary little girls living in Copenhagen, Denmark whose lives like everyone elses is turned upside down when Denmark surrenders to the Nazi’s and German soldiers enter their town, assuming control and terrifying everyone at any given opportunity. The brutality of the Nazi’s increases exponentially as they begin to carry out their twisted ideals in Copenhagen by slowly removing any Jewish members of the population. Desperate to help, Annemarie’s family takes Ellen into their home, pretending she is one of them and with the help of the Danish Resistance, make new plans to help all the other Jewish people in the town that haven’t already been “re-located” so they may escape almost inevitable death.

King Christian X of Denmark making his regular pilgrimage by horse through Copenhagen in 1940, as referenced in Number The Stars.

What a lovely and moving story this was! I’m always in two minds about how I feel after reading World War II narratives but I particularly enjoy reading stories set in different countries that I haven’t read about before so as to learn how they coped, especially if they had to suffer Nazi occupation. Part of me feels disgusted and devastated by the treatment shown, particularly to the Jewish contingent but another part of me is always compelled to keep reading and absorbing as much as I can about this terrible period of our worlds history, to ensure it is never forgotten and (fingers crossed) will hopefully never happen again.

The story felt remarkably authentic and it’s obvious the author did her research on Denmark at this troubled time. I adored the inclusion of King Christian X who defiantly continued to ride through the town on his horse and see his people despite the ominous presence of the Nazi soldiers who wondered at his audacity! The fact that this actually used to happen made me feel quite emotional and it made me consider the terrible decision he had to make about surrendering to the Germans. Denmark was a small country with a relatively small army in comparison to the German military and I completely understand why he made the decision he did – in order to save many more lives than if he had stood against them in war.

Number The Stars has an intriguing, very readable and gripping plot coupled with some fantastic characterisation in Annemarie and her family. Although Annemarie was perhaps the most developed of the characters (I would have liked to have known a bit more about the characters within the Danish Resistance), she was an instantly loveable and endearing part of the story and I appreciated her journey from a frightened ten year old girl to a brave, determined fighter who is put into the most horrific situations but takes it all in her stride in order to protect her friends and family.

This is a stunning story with an important message and I really hope it continues to be read by children all over the world for years to come.

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

COMING UP IN DECEMBER ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: Time Travelling With A Hamster by Ross Welford.

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

 

Nonfiction November Week 2: Fiction/Nonfiction Book Pairings

Published November 7, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to the second week of Nonfiction November! If you’d like to find out what it’s all about, please see my post last week where I revealed my Nonfiction November TBR. and my post for Week 1 where I talked briefly about my year in nonfiction so far.

This week as the title suggests, it’s all about Fiction/Nonfiction Book Pairings and is hosted by Sarah from Sarah’s Bookshelves – check out her post HERE.

“It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story.”

Today I’ve decided to choose three pairings with three very different themes, hopefully one of these pairings will be intriguing to you!

Here we go!

PAIRING ONE – Historical fiction/historical nonfiction

Fiction – The Tattooist Of Auschwitz (based on a real story) by Heather Morris

This is the tale of Lale Sokolov who is transported to Auschwitz in the 1940’s and employed as the Tätowierer, marking the prisoners with their infamous numbers, falling in love with a fellow prisoner, Gita as he tattoos her with her personal number. I read this book with my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads recently and we both really enjoyed it. Check out our review HERE.

PAIRED WITH

Nonfiction – The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz: A True Story Of World War II by Denis Avey

This book has been on my TBR for the longest time! I’m intrigued by the synopsis which follows a British soldier who willingly breaks into Auschwitz and swaps places with a Jewish inmate for the purposes of witnessing and then telling others on the outside of the brutality that he saw.

PAIRING TWO – historical fiction/fantasy and biography

Fiction – The Looking Glass House by Vanessa Tait

This story, told by the real-life grand-daughter of the Alice who inspired Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland investigates what may have happened BEFORE Alice fell down the rabbit hole through the eyes of a naive and deceived governess. I received this gorgeous book through my regular Book And A Brew monthly subscription box and mean to get to at at some point in the near future!

PAIRED WITH

Nonfiction – The Story Of Alice: Lewis Carroll And The Secret History Of Wonderland by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst

This does what it says on the tin really, need I say more? This is the story of Charles Dodgson and his alter ego or other self, Lewis Carroll and the history of what made Wonderland and Alice so special to him. I’m a big fan of the classic children’s tale and looking forward to diving into this after The Looking Glass House.

PAIRING THREE – historical fiction/romance and psychology/popular science

Fiction – The Ballroom by Anna Hope

I adored this novel when I read it in winter last year! It’s the story of Ella, a woman committed to an asylum in Yorkshire in the early part of the twentieth century for a “slight misdemeanour” at work in her own words. She meets a young man called John (in the asylum on the men’s side) whilst she is there so there is some romance but what I found most fascinating was how it touched on mental health and the apparent fragility of women at this period in our history. Check out my review HERE.

PAIRED WITH

Nonfiction – Mad, Bad and Sad: A History Of Women And The Mind Doctors From 1800 To The Present – Lisa Appignanesi

What better way to explore how “madness” in women has been approached historically speaking than to read a giant nonfiction tome about it? This is the story of how we have understood extreme states of mind over the last two hundred years and how we conceive of them today, from the depression suffered by Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath to the mental anguish and addictions of iconic beauties Zelda Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe. It looks like an absolutely fantastic and illuminating read and I can’t believe I keep putting off reading it!

 

So there you have it, my fiction/nonfiction pairings for the second week of Nonfiction November, I really hope you enjoyed these and found something that interests you!

Coming up next week on Nonfiction November Week 3 – Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert (hosted by Julie @ JulzReads)

Cop Town – Karin Slaughter

Published November 6, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Karin Slaughter, author of the bestselling Will Trent novels, is widely acclaimed as “one of the best crime novelists in America” (The Washington Post). Now she delivers her first stand-alone novel: an epic story of a city in the midst of seismic upheaval, a serial killer targeting cops, and a divided police force tasked with bringing a madman to justice.

Atlanta, 1974: As a brutal murder and a furious manhunt rock the city’s police department, Kate Murphy wonders if her first day on the job will also be her last. She’s determined to defy her privileged background by making her own way—wearing a badge and carrying a gun. But for a beautiful young woman, life will be anything but easy in the macho world of the Atlanta PD, where even the female cops have little mercy for rookies. It’s also the worst day possible to start given that a beloved cop has been gunned down, his brothers in blue are out for blood, and the city is on the edge of war.

Kate isn’t the only woman on the force who’s feeling the heat. Maggie Lawson followed her uncle and brother into the ranks to prove her worth in their cynical eyes. When she and Kate, her new partner, are pushed out of the citywide search for a cop killer, their fury, pain, and pride finally reach the boiling point. With a killer poised to strike again, they will pursue their own line of investigation, risking everything as they venture into the city’s darkest heart.

Relentlessly paced, acutely observed, wickedly funny, and often heartbreaking, Cop Town is Karin Slaughter’s most powerful novel yet—a tour de force of storytelling from our foremost master of character, atmosphere, and suspense.

What did I think?:

I had been eagerly anticipating Karin Slaughter’s stand-alone novel, Cop Town for a while now and had been putting it off in favour of the new, shiny books jumping out at me from bookshops or tempting me from afar in my fellow bloggers reviews. Luckily for me, Mr B my long-suffering partner took control and chose my TBR in September this year as it was when he decided I finally need to get round to the book I had been banging on about all year! Now I say this as a huge Slaughter fan and mean no respect to an author I ardently admire but I have to be honest – I don’t think Cop Town is her best stand-alone. You may not realise how devastating it is to have to say that as I adore her Grant County/Will Trent series with every fibre of my being but for some reason, this novel just didn’t work for me. It’s not a bad story, not by any stretch of the imagination. There’s some absolutely wonderful moments and kick-ass female leads (ALWAYS a good thing) but I feel that there was something about the plot that just didn’t draw me in personally as a reader.

Karin Slaughter, author of the stand-alone novel, Cop Town.

This novel has an unbelievably exciting premise, set in 1970’s Atlanta and focusing on the lives of two specific policewomen – Kate Murphy and Maggie Lawson. Kate is a newbie on the force and quickly learns through her partner Maggie that being a woman in the police in 1970’s America is not an easy task. Misogyny, favouritism of male police officers and belittling of women is rampant and completely uncontrolled. Unfortunately, at this point in time, it was something women put up with and just attempted to do their jobs to the best of their ability, almost accepting the abuse and prejudice was just “the way things were.”

As Kate worries if joining the force was one of the biggest mistakes of her life, we also learn about a mysterious ongoing case which involves an unknown assailant deliberately targeting and killing police officers. This turns into a race war with the perpetrator reported to be black and with racial tensions already high in Atlanta, it’s about to reach boiling point and spill over into very dangerous violence between the police, their community and of course, their fellow officers, black and white. Kate and Maggie must work together (without being rumbled by the boys) to try and crack the case and unmask the serial cop killer before the whole city finds itself in a deadly war.

Atlanta, USA in the 1970’s where the novel is set.

Sounds fantastic, right? Of course, there were some brilliant parts to this novel, particularly in the way Slaughter creates an atmosphere of tension and mistrust between the white and black community. She’s so fantastic at setting a scene that feels so authentic you could almost imagine yourself directly within the time frame, cognisant of everything that’s going on around you, including the knowledge of each character’s individual personality. That’s another thing that this author is so great at – creating memorable and believable characters that all feel remarkably life-like. I was a particular fan of the two female leads, Kate and Maggie who both had their own skeletons in the closet or insecurities which are gradually revealed as the narrative continues.

However, what I really loved about them was how they grew as individuals as events in Atlanta unfolded but more importantly, through the harrowing events that they go through together as partners on the police force. In the very early days of their relationship the mistrust between the two is blindingly obvious but then slowly and gradually develops into a mutual respect and appreciation. It felt as if this is the crucial bond that two police officers on any force across the world must develop with each other in a relatively short amount of time if they are to do their jobs safely and efficiently.

Saying all this – what was my problem with Cop Town? It’s difficult to say with any certainty. So, premise and characters = great stuff, intriguing and instantly captivating for sure and I was completely hooked (and at times horrified) by the sexism/racism element. I just wasn’t sold on the plot of the cop killer to be honest. At times, it felt overly complicated and slightly unnecessary. I wonder if it would have worked better for me if had been a different case for Maggie and Kate to investigate? Possibly. One thing is for definite, it won’t put me off Slaughter as an author and I’m already lining up the next of her stand-alone novels, Pretty Girls to read soon. If you’ve read Cop Town, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Were you of a similar opinion to me or did you love it? Let’s talk down below in the comments!

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

Cop Town by Karin Slaughter was the fiftieth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in The Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

 

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.

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!