literary fiction

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Five Books I’d Love To Receive For My Birthday – 2019

Published April 16, 2019 by bibliobeth

Happy Birthday to me! April is my birthday month and my birthday actually falls on Easter Sunday this year. Like any other regular bookworm, the only thing I want for my birthday is BOOKS. I did this post last year in 2018 and enjoyed doing it so much I thought I’d have another go this year. Let’s be honest, there’s no chance of my wish-list ever getting any smaller – there’s just too many good books out there people!! This post isn’t a hint to loved ones or family members but if I’m lucky enough to get any vouchers, this is what I’ll be buying. Let’s get on with it.

 

1.) My Sister The Serial Killer – Oyinkan Braithwaite

What’s it all about?:

My Sister, the Serial Killer is a blackly comic novel about how blood is thicker – and more difficult to get out of the carpet – than water…

When Korede’s dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what’s expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach. This’ll be the third boyfriend Ayoola’s dispatched in, quote, self-defence and the third mess that her lethal little sibling has left Korede to clear away. She should probably go to the police for the good of the menfolk of Nigeria, but she loves her sister and, as they say, family always comes first. Until, that is, Ayoola starts dating the doctor where Korede works as a nurse. Korede’s long been in love with him, and isn’t prepared to see him wind up with a knife in his back: but to save one would mean sacrificing the other…

Why do I want it?:

This book has been on my radar for a little while and now it’s been long-listed for the Women’s Prize For Fiction 2019 that’s just bumped it up on my wish-list even further. I’ve heard great things and that synopsis is far too intriguing to pass up, right?

2.) The Silence Of The Girls – Pat Barker

What’s it all about?:

The ancient city of Troy has withstood a decade under siege of the powerful Greek army, which continues to wage bloody war over a stolen woman—Helen. In the Greek camp, another woman—Briseis—watches and waits for the war’s outcome. She was queen of one of Troy’s neighboring kingdoms, until Achilles, Greece’s greatest warrior, sacked her city and murdered her husband and brothers. Briseis becomes Achilles’s concubine, a prize of battle, and must adjust quickly in order to survive a radically different life, as one of the many conquered women who serve the Greek army.

When Agamemnon, the brutal political leader of the Greek forces, demands Briseis for himself, she finds herself caught between the two most powerful of the Greeks. Achilles refuses to fight in protest, and the Greeks begin to lose ground to their Trojan opponents. Keenly observant and coolly unflinching about the daily horrors of war, Briseis finds herself in an unprecedented position, able to observe the two men driving the Greek army in what will become their final confrontation, deciding the fate not only of Briseis’s people but also of the ancient world at large.

Briseis is just one among thousands of women living behind the scenes in this war—the slaves and prostitutes, the nurses, the women who lay out the dead—all of them erased by history. With breathtaking historical detail and luminous prose, Pat Barker brings the teeming world of the Greek camp to vivid life. She offers nuanced, complex portraits of characters and stories familiar from mythology, which, seen from Briseis’s perspective, are rife with newfound revelations. Barker’s latest builds on her decades-long study of war and its impact on individual lives—and it is nothing short of magnificent.

Why do I want it?:

I’m a huge fan of Greek mythology and re-discovered my love for it after reading The Song Of Achilles by Madeline Miller and Mythos by Stephen Fry a little while ago. Again, I’ve heard great things about this re-telling and it’s on the long-list for the Women’s Prize For Fiction 2019.

3.) Remembered – Yvonne Battle-Felton

What’s it all about?:

It is 1910 and Philadelphia is burning. For Spring, there is nothing worse than sitting up half the night with her dead sister and her dying son, reliving a past she would rather not remember in order to prepare for a future she cannot face. Edward, Spring’s son, lies in a hospital bed. He has been charged with committing a crime on the streets of Philadelphia. But is he guilty? The evidence — a black man driving a streetcar into a store window – could lead to his death. Surrounded by ghosts and the wounded, Spring, an emancipated slave, is forced to rewrite her story in order to face the prospect of a future without her child. With the help of her dead sister, newspaper clippings and reconstructed memories, she shatters the silences that have governed her life in order to lead Edward home.

Why do I want it?:

This book looks absolutely fascinating and a must-read from everything I’ve heard. Again, it’s long-listed for the Women’s Prize For Fiction 2019. If you read my Birthday TBR from last year, you’ll notice I’m AGAIN mentioning mostly Women’s Prize books. Guys, I can’t help it if the long-list is released so close to my birthday! 😀

4.) Normal People – Sally Rooney

What’s it all about?:

At school Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other. He’s popular and well-adjusted, star of the school soccer team while she is lonely, proud, and intensely private. But when Connell comes to pick his mother up from her housekeeping job at Marianne’s house, a strange and indelible connection grows between the two teenagers—one they are determined to conceal.

A year later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years in college, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. Then, as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other.

Sally Rooney brings her brilliant psychological acuity and perfectly spare prose to a story that explores the subtleties of class, the electricity of first love, and the complex entanglements of family and friendship.

Why do I want it?:

There’s been so much buzz about Sally Rooney and although I still haven’t read her first novel, Conversations With Friends, I’m really intrigued about this one. It was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize last year and is also long-listed for the Women’s Prize 2019. Surprise surprise!

5.) My Year Of Rest And Relaxation – Ottessa Moshfegh

What’s it all about?:

A shocking, hilarious and strangely tender novel about a young woman’s experiment in narcotic hibernation, aided and abetted by one of the worst psychiatrists in the annals of literature. Our narrator has many of the advantages of life, on the surface. Young, thin, pretty, a recent Columbia graduate, she lives in an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan paid for, like everything else, by her inheritance. But there is a vacuum at the heart of things, and it isn’t just the loss of her parents in college, or the way her Wall Street boyfriend treats her, or her sadomasochistic relationship with her alleged best friend. It’s the year 2000 in a city aglitter with wealth and possibility; what could be so terribly wrong?

This story of a year spent under the influence of a truly mad combination of drugs, designed to heal us from our alienation from this world, shows us how reasonable, even necessary, that alienation sometimes is. Blackly funny, both merciless and compassionate – dangling its legs over the ledge of 9/11 – this novel is a showcase for the gifts of one of America’s major young writers working at the height of her powers.

Why do I want it?:

Yes! An outlier that isn’t on the Women’s Prize 2019 long-list! In all seriousness, although I’ve heard mixed reviews about this novel I’m too intrigued to pass up on it. It might be a love it or hate it kind of book but with those kind of reads I really love to make up my own mind.

 

I’d love to know what you think of my birthday wish-list selection. Have you read any of these books and what did you think? Or do you want to read any of them and why? Let me know in the comments below!

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The Dollmaker – Nina Allan

Published April 13, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Stitch by perfect stitch, Andrew Garvie makes exquisite dolls in the finest antique style. Like him, they are diminutive but graceful, unique, and with surprising depths. Perhaps that’s why he answers the enigmatic personal ad in his collector’s magazine.

Letter by letter, Bramber Winters reveals more of her strange, sheltered life in an institution on Bodmin Moor, and the terrible events that put her there as a child. Andrew knows what it is to be trapped, and as they knit closer together, he weaves a curious plan to rescue her.

On his journey through the old towns of England, he reads the fairy tales of Ewa Chaplin–potent, eldritch stories which, like her lifelike dolls, pluck at the edges of reality and thread their way into his mind. When Andrew and Bramber meet at last, they will have a choice–to break free and, unlike their dolls, come to life.

A love story of two very real, unusual people, The Dollmaker is also a novel rich with wonders: Andrew’s quest and Bramber’s letters unspool around the dark fables that give our familiar world an uncanny edge. It is this touch of magic that, like the blink of a doll’s eyes, tricks our own.

What did I think?:

The whimsical nature of The Dollmaker was first brought to my attention during an event held by Quercus Books last year where they showcased some of the fiction they were excited to be publishing in 2019. The Dollmaker was one of these books and marketed in such a gorgeous display that not only was it immediately eye-catching but I was instantly intrigued to read the novel. Thank you so much to the publishers for providing me with a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.

Wonderful display for The Dollmaker from the team at Quercus Books.

From the very beginning, The Dollmaker felt like a very “me” book. From the quirky subject matter to the inclusion of fairy-tales and the nods to magical realism, I was incredibly excited to read it, desperately hoping I would be instantly captivated and under the author’s spell. Now that I’ve finished it, I can finally report back with a mixture of both positive and more tentative thoughts that I’ll do my best to get across coherently. First of all, I don’t think this book is going to be for everyone. Stay with me though because that isn’t necessarily a negative statement. Very much like the dolls within the narrative, the story itself is quite disjointed and has a tendency to shift as you’re reading it, almost at times like a stream of consciousness.

Nina Allan, author of The Dollmaker.

We see most of the story through the eyes of Andrew and Bramber who have struck up a correspondence and are beginning to feel quite strongly towards each other, sharing their innermost thoughts and feelings through the letters they write and receive. When we begin the novel, we learn about Bramber, who has spent much of her life in an institution for reasons unknown and as she gradually opens up to Andrew, we learn more about the events that led to her present situation. Unknown to Bramber, her correspondent Andrew, who has mastered the fine art of doll-making is on his way to where she is to finally meet her face to face and build on their relationship. Interspersed between their stories and letters are fairy-tales from Ewa Chaplin (also a doll-maker) which Andrew is reading on his journey. However, as the stories continue, there appear to be some strange cross-overs between characters in Chaplin’s tales and events in Andrew and Bramber’s own lives.

I have to say, the fairy-tale aspects of this novel were one of my favourite parts. I didn’t enjoy all of them to the same degree but some of them were incredibly dark, delicious and gripping. However, this is also where the difficulty rose for me with this novel. I appreciated the beautiful, unusual style of writing and the clever way in which the author intertwined parts of the fairy-tales with the main narrative. Yet it was only when I read the fairy-tales that I found myself fully invested in the story. Sadly, I didn’t feel a connect with either Andrew or Bramber and although I was intrigued to find out what would happen if and when they met face to face, I didn’t get as much out of their characters or personalities as I would have liked. Sometimes it felt as if it went off in too many directions for me to catch hold of the thread and unfortunately, I found myself looking forward to the next fairy-tale rather than the story between the two main protagonists.

There’s no denying that The Dollmaker is a very unique and accomplished read and there are real sparks of magic, suspense and darkness that were wonderful to experience but it was just a shame I couldn’t find a connection with the primary characters or their individual stories. Nevertheless, I would still be interested in reading other works by this author on the strength of her storytelling ability.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi (buddy read with Jennifer from Tar Heel Reader)

Published March 23, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Effia and Esi: two sisters with two very different destinies. One sold into slavery; one a slave trader’s wife. The consequences of their fate reverberate through the generations that follow. Taking us from the Gold Coast of Africa to the cotton-picking plantations of Mississippi; from the missionary schools of Ghana to the dive bars of Harlem, spanning three continents and seven generations, Yaa Gyasi has written a miraculous novel – the intimate, gripping story of a brilliantly vivid cast of characters and through their lives the very story of America itself.

Epic in its canvas and intimate in its portraits, Homegoing is a searing and profound debut from a masterly new writer.

What did I think?:

An enormous thank you to one of my brilliant blogger besties, Jennifer from Tar Heel Reader whom I got to experience this incredible novel with for the very first time and holy moley – what a powerful and riveting experience it was! I think when you read a book like this, with so many complexities and difficult subject matter, it gives you an almost endless ream of discussion opportunities and I think I can speak for both of us when I confirm that this was such a rewarding experience as we got to talk about so many different things at the time we were both encountering the same events in the narrative. As there is a bit of a time difference between our countries of residence, Jenni and I deliberately try and schedule our chats at the weekend so that we can talk “in the moment,” and believe me, with a novel like this, you’re going to want to talk to somebody immediately after reading certain passages.

Yaa Gyasi, author of the debut novel, Homegoing.

I have to admit, I’ve been putting this novel off for a while. It’s been taunting me from my bookshelves and I’ve heard so many brilliant things about the author’s writing and the way in which this book is set out but I was a teeny bit nervous. I was aware that the novel begins in 18th century Ghana and follows the descendants of two half-sisters, Esi and Effia from that time until the present day. Now, I love a novel with multiple points of view but when I heard that each chapter follows a completely different character and even initially, when I picked the book up and glanced at the family tree at the beginning, I was ever so slightly intimidated. Would I be able to keep all the characters in my head? Would a chapter be sufficient to tell a portion of that character’s particular life or would I be left wanting more? Well, the answers to those questions were both “no,” but funnily enough, not in any negative connotation at all.

Esi and Effia, who both have no idea of the others existence, are two young women whose lives fan out in very different directions. However, both sisters and their descendants end up having very individual struggles ranging from slavery, single parenthood, loss, heart-break, addiction and poverty that makes the reading experience an incredibly humbling one. There isn’t an “easy,” life for either branch of the family and watching each character go through their own hardships as Ghana and America changed through the years was a fascinating and at times, very uncomfortable journey.

Modern day Ghana, 2017.

Image from: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/02/health/ghana-kfc-obesity.html

Personally speaking, I was really affected by some of the passages in this book. Yaa Gyasi does not shy away from gritty, realistic and detailed descriptions of how slaves were treated and at some points, I felt as if I had to put the book down, the horrific abuse of the women in particular was gut-wrenching and hard to stomach. Throughout it all, I had to applaud the author’s honesty and her bravery in the way she wasn’t scared to expose the nastier details of what these poor people went through and indeed, how race relations are still a major, hugely important issue in modern times.

Yes, there ARE a lot of characters to get to grips with and I did find myself getting slightly confused about which part of the family tree that particular individual came from. However, this is exactly why we have a family tree at the beginning that can be easily referred to for a quick reminder! Thinking about the novel a little while after finishing, it’s true that I haven’t kept a lot of the characters in my head due to the sheer volume we meet but the ones that have stayed with me appear to be permanently etched on my memory because of the power and strength of Gyasi’s writing and that particular character’s struggle, some of whom imprinted on me more than others.

Did I want some more time with certain individuals? Of course! Yet this is the beauty of the novel too – it constantly keeps you wanting more and led me to wondering about certain characters and where they might have ended up. Their story certainly continues on in my own imagination. I only have very small things that I wished would have been different but it hasn’t affected my enjoyment, memories of the book or rating in the slightest. First of all, I did prefer the more historical aspects of the narrative where for me, the writing felt impactful and more affecting. Secondly, it was slightly unfortunate that the might behind the author’s words faded as we entered modern times and I would have loved if the ending had been as much of a sucker punch to the gut as the majority of the rest of the novel had been. Taking everything into consideration, my minor niggles and the knowledge that this is the author’s debut offering, I can’t give this any less than the full five stars. I am incredibly excited to see what the author produces next and I’ll be one of the first in line to read it.

Thank you to Jennifer for another wonderful buddy read!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

 

Golden Child – Claire Adam (buddy read with Jennifer from Tar Heel Reader)

Published March 7, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

It’s dark now; the bats are out. Insects knock against the light on the patio and the dog sits at the gate. A boy has not returned home and a family anxiously awaits. A father steps out into the night to search for his son.

As the hours turn into days, this man will learn many things. He will learn about being a father to twin boys who are in no way alike. He will learn how dangerous hopes and dreams can be. He will learn truths about Trinidad, about his family, and himself. He will question received wisdom and question his judgement. He will learn about sacrifice and the nature of love – and he will be forced to act.

Claire Adam’s electrifying first novel reckons with the secrets of the human heart. It tells a story about wanting more for our children; it casts its spell with uncommon wisdom and grace.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Crown Publishing via Penguin Random House for sending me two copies of this astonishing novel (one of which I immediately passed on to blogger bestie, Janel @ Keeper Of Pages) and to another blogger bestie, Jennifer from Tar Heel Reader for not only recommending that I be sent this book, but for being fabulous enough to buddy read it with me and enrich my reading experience. Golden Child is a debut novel filled with so much glorious detail that it’s hard to believe the author isn’t already highly established in the literary world. I have to admit, it took me a little while to become invested in the story but once I was, it was impossible to tear my eyes away until I had completed the entire novel.

Claire Adam, author of Golden Child.

Set on the vibrant island of Trinidad, Claire Adam takes the story of one family – mother and father Joy and Clyde and their two twin sons Peter and Paul. I really can’t give too much away as this is the kind of story you definitely need to discover for yourself but it’s a beautiful literary exploration of family, poverty, tension and life-altering decisions. Each character is written so splendidly that I could feel their individual personalities bursting off the pages but what impressed me further was the way in which the author describes the country and culture. I’ve mentioned in previous reviews that I’m always hungry to experience a new way of life through the fiction/non fiction that I read and she provides such an illuminating look at a place and its people that I felt as if I could have been walking the streets for myself.

Trinidad, the setting for Claire Adam’s Golden Child.

Golden Child may be a bit of a slow burner, particularly in the first half of the novel but I feel the events that occur afterwards make all the build up completely worth it. You may be slightly unsure about the steady, languid pace initially but prepare yourself – it’s about to get all kinds of crazy. From this moment onwards, it almost becomes a different kind of novel and I didn’t have a “Scooby Doo” what was going to occur or how much it was going to affect me emotionally. I love when stories take me by surprise like that and additionally, lead me to the realisation that I cared a lot more about the characters within the narrative than I had believed previously. This is a gut-wrenching, thought-provoking tale that really needs to be talked about to be fully appreciated, in my opinion. I’m so grateful to Jennifer for being that person and sharing my moments of worry, disbelief and heart-break as we made our way through this gorgeous debut novel.

For Jennifer’s beautiful review, please see her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Book Tag – Books Beginning With W.I.N.T.E.R.

Published February 8, 2019 by bibliobeth

Hi everyone and hope you’re all well! Today I’m celebrating Winter as part of my seasonal book tag. I was actually meant to do this tag in December but had a major blogging slump and had to postpone it for a little while but as we’ve had a little snow recently here in the UK, it finally seemed like the perfect time.

I came up with this idea after seeing one of my favourite book tubers, Lauren from Lauren And The Books do a video at Christmas. She took each letter of the word CHRISTMAS and presented a title from her bookshelves that began with that letter. I’m going to nab that great idea and today I will be taking each letter of the word SUMMER and showing you a book from my TBR that begins with that letter which I hope to get round to very soon.

Check out my books beginning with S.P.R.I.N.G. HERE my books beginning with S.U.M.M.E.R. HERE and my books beginning with A.U.T.U.M.N. HERE

So without further ado, let’s get on with it!

W

What’s it all about?:

Washington Black is an eleven-year-old field slave who knows no other life than the Barbados sugar plantation where he was born.

When his master’s eccentric brother chooses him to be his manservant, Wash is terrified of the cruelties he is certain await him. But Christopher Wilde, or “Titch,” is a naturalist, explorer, scientist, inventor, and abolitionist.

He initiates Wash into a world where a flying machine can carry a man across the sky; where two people, separated by an impossible divide, might begin to see each other as human; and where a boy born in chains can embrace a life of dignity and meaning. But when a man is killed and a bounty is placed on Wash’s head, Titch abandons everything to save him.

What follows is their flight along the eastern coast of America, and, finally, to a remote outpost in the Arctic, where Wash, left on his own, must invent another new life, one which will propel him further across the globe.

From the sultry cane fields of the Caribbean to the frozen Far North, Washington Black tells a story of friendship and betrayal, love and redemption, of a world destroyed and made whole again–and asks the question, what is true freedom?

I was sent a copy of this book by my lovely blogging bestie, Janel from Keeper Of Pages when she was sent two copies. That beautiful synopsis really draws me in and I’m also intrigued as it was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize last year (2018).

I

What’s it all about?:

A supernatural superthriller from the author of Let the Right One In

Molly wakes her mother to go to the toilet. The campsite is strangely blank. The toilet block has gone. Everything else has gone too. This is a place with no sun. No god.

Just four families remain. Each has done something to bring them here – each denies they deserve it. Until they see what’s coming over the horizon, moving irrevocably towards them. Their worst mistake. Their darkest fear.

And for just one of them, their homecoming.

This gripping conceptual horror takes you deep into one of the most macabre and unique imaginations writing in the genre. On family, on children, Lindqvist writes in a way that tears the heart and twists the soul. I Am Behind You turns the world upside down and, disturbing, terrifying and shattering by turns, it will suck you in.

This book was also a lovely gift from one of my blogger friends, Stuart from Always Trust In Books who I buddy read with on a regular basis. I’m sorry Stu, I still haven’t got to it yet but hopefully at some point this year! 😦

N

What’s it all about?:

DID YOU SEE ANYTHING ON THE NIGHT THE ESMOND FAMILY WERE MURDERED? 

From the author of CLOSE TO HOME and IN THE DARK comes the third pulse-pounding DI Fawley crime thriller.

It’s one of the most disturbing cases DI Fawley has ever worked. 

The Christmas holidays, and two children have just been pulled from the wreckage of their burning home in North Oxford. The toddler is dead, and his brother is soon fighting for his life.

Why were they left in the house alone? Where is their mother, and why is their father not answering his phone?

Then new evidence is discovered, and DI Fawley’s worst nightmare comes true.

Because this fire wasn’t an accident.

I’ve been an avid fan of Cara Hunter since her first two books in this series, Close To Home and In The Dark. No Way Out is the third book in the series and it comes out later this month. I’m so excited to get to it and a big thank you to Penguin Random House for sending it my way!

T

What’s it all about?:

The magical adventure begun in The Bear and the Nightingale continues as brave Vasya, now a young woman, is forced to choose between marriage or life in a convent and instead flees her home—but soon finds herself called upon to help defend the city of Moscow when it comes under siege.

Orphaned and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya’s options are few: resign herself to life in a convent, or allow her older sister to make her a match with a Moscovite prince. Both doom her to life in a tower, cut off from the vast world she longs to explore. So instead she chooses adventure, disguising herself as a boy and riding her horse into the woods. When a battle with some bandits who have been terrorizing the countryside earns her the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow, she must carefully guard the secret of her gender to remain in his good graces—even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop.

This is the second book in the Winternight trilogy and even though the third one is now out, the second one is STILL sitting on my shelves waiting to be read. Sigh! I must try and get to it this year.

E

What’s it all about?:

An extraordinary story of love and hope from the bestselling author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist 

In a city swollen by refugees but still mostly at peace, or at least not yet openly at war, Saeed and Nadia share a cup of coffee, and their story begins. It will be a love story but also a story about war and a world in crisis, about how we live now and how we might live tomorrow. Before too long, the time will come for Nadia and Saeed to leave their homeland. When the streets are no longer useable and all options are exhausted, this young couple will join the great outpouring of those fleeing a collapsing city, hoping against hope, looking for their place in the world . . .

This is another one of those books that was nominated for the Man Booker prize back in 2017 and has been sitting on my shelves for quite some time! I’ve now heard mixed reviews since it was released and it has made me slightly wary of bumping it up my TBR. 

R

What’s it all about?:

Five women. One question. What is a woman for?

In this ferociously imaginative novel, abortion is once again illegal in America, in-vitro fertilization is banned, and the Personhood Amendment grants rights of life, liberty, and property to every embryo. In a small Oregon fishing town, five very different women navigate these new barriers alongside age-old questions surrounding motherhood, identity, and freedom.

Ro, a single high-school teacher, is trying to have a baby on her own, while also writing a biography of Eivør, a little-known 19th-century female polar explorer. Susan is a frustrated mother of two, trapped in a crumbling marriage. Mattie is the adopted daughter of doting parents and one of Ro’s best students, who finds herself pregnant with nowhere to turn. And Gin is the gifted, forest-dwelling homeopath, or “mender,” who brings all their fates together when she’s arrested and put on trial in a frenzied modern-day witch hunt.

Red Clocks will definitely be getting read this year – hooray! Jennifer from Tar Heel Reader and I have chosen it as one of our (many) buddy reads and so this WILL be happening at some point. I can’t wait. 

Here ends my Books Beginning With W.I.N.T.E.R! What I’d love to know from you guys is if you’ve read any of these books before and what you thought? Let me know in the comments below. Also, if you’d like to do your own books of W.I.N.T.E.R. from your TBR, I’d love to see them so please feel free.

Hope you all have a cosy Winter (what’s left of it anyway)!

Love Beth xx

Where The Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens

Published January 21, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Grace Vincent for drawing my attention to this book and inviting me to read a complimentary copy from Corsair Publishers in exchange for an honest review. Where The Crawdads Sing is one of those books where you read the synopsis and instantly know that you have to be a part of whatever this novel is offering. However, I still wasn’t prepared for such a lyrically gorgeous and beautifully descriptive love song to nature, to harsh and difficult living environments and to outsiders living on the cusps of communities which is what this novel provided in abundance. I’ve mentioned in reviews relatively recently that I love being transported to new places in fiction/nonfiction and the author has done exactly that with Crawdads. Throughout the narrative, I felt an expert blend of the wild and unkempt (both in nature and within our characters) and careful, considered plot development that made me constantly want to keep turning the pages.

Delia Owens, author of debut novel, Where The Crawdads Sing.

When I read that this was the author’s debut novel, I couldn’t help but be blown away. Her background as a wildlife scientist stands her in extremely good stead for the creatures she describes and they certainly flew off the pages for me as a reader due to her vivid and colourful way with words. As a bit of an animal nut myself, I very much appreciated the nods to nature in all its glory but the author clearly proves that she can write her human characters just as well, if not better. We hear the heart-breaking story of Kya, a vulnerable young woman who is left to fend for herself on the marsh land with very primitive accommodation after her family start to disappear one by one. Locally, she is known as Marsh Girl and very much mocked and looked down upon, to the point where she only attends one day of school in her life after being teased mercilessly.

However, Kya is far from stupid and as the story continues and she learns to interact, connect and trust certain individuals we discover a new side to her character – an intelligent, knowledgeable and caring woman whose daily experiences surviving on the marsh mean that there isn’t much she doesn’t comprehend about the creatures she shares her life with. Sadly, her eagerness and child-like naivety to find a replacement family and perhaps someone to love again becomes her cross to bear and having always been on the periphery of the town, Kya becomes a figure of fun and potential target for other, unscrupulous individuals.

The Roanoke Marshes of North Carolina, similar to where our female protagonist Kya may have spent all her time searching for food and observing the wildlife.

Image from: http://www.ncwetlands.org/scene-marsh-channel-roanoke-marshes-game-land-ncwetlands-kg-3-2/

This is such a stunning piece of work that perfectly encompasses the raw beauty of nature and the innocence of childhood and really made me stop to think and appreciate my own surroundings compared to material things that I might own. The author is obviously fond of nature and this really comes across throughout the narrative where the environment was described in such minute detail that I could picture myself there completely. Delia Owens doesn’t shy away from tough subject matters, especially regarding Kya’s family and at times, my heart broke for what she had to suffer and then soared when she became such an independent, strong young woman despite her hardships, bitter disappointments and unconventional start to life.

Kya is one of those fantastic characters that go on a real “journey” through the novel. We see her as a scared young girl, a determined, gullible young adolescent and then when she learns to read and unleashes her talent for painting, the world *almost* becomes her oyster. I really felt for Kya throughout this story – mainly because if she had been born in a different place to perhaps a different family, her life could have been a lot different. She is treated horrendously by members of her family and occasional other individuals she comes across as she grows up and at times, it all began to feel a bit hopeless for her ever getting a happy ending, purely because of prejudices she faced due to her impoverished upbringing. I found myself really rooting for her throughout Crawdads, desperately hoping she’d come out the other side but one of the things I most adored about this novel? NOTHING is ever guaranteed, expected or black or white. Delia Owens is fantastic at providing both the realistic and the surprise elements for the reader and I was really excited to find out at the end of this novel that I still had questions.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Elmet – Fiona Mozley

Published January 2, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Fresh and distinctive writing from an exciting new voice in fiction, Elmet is an unforgettable novel about family, as well as a beautiful meditation on landscape. 

Daniel is heading north. He is looking for someone. The simplicity of his early life with Daddy and Cathy has turned sour and fearful. They lived apart in the house that Daddy built for them with his bare hands. They foraged and hunted. When they were younger, Daniel and Cathy had gone to school. But they were not like the other children then, and they were even less like them now. Sometimes Daddy disappeared, and would return with a rage in his eyes. But when he was at home he was at peace. He told them that the little copse in Elmet was theirs alone. But that wasn’t true. Local men, greedy and watchful, began to circle like vultures. All the while, the terrible violence in Daddy grew.

Atmospheric and unsettling, Elmet is a lyrical commentary on contemporary society and one family’s precarious place in it, as well as an exploration of how deep the bond between father and child can go.

What did I think?:

So, I finally got round to reading Elmet! After being short-listed for a number of prizes including the Man Booker and The Women’s Prize For Fiction here in the UK I had heard so much about this work of literary fiction and knew it was something I just had to experience. Luckily for me, I didn’t have to do it alone. The wonderful Jennifer from Tar Heel Reader, blogger extraordinare, beautiful bookstagrammer, all round good egg and one of my blogger besties read this with me as our very first buddy read and that’s just one of the many reasons why this book will now always have a special place in my heart. Elmet is not only a literary masterpiece and one of the very best examples of the genre for those wishing to dip their toes into literary fiction but is a debut novel for crying out loud! It’s almost impossible to believe, the author writes with such beauty and conviction that you’d assume she’d been mistress of her art for decades.

Fiona Mozley, author of the debut novel, Elmet.

Jennifer and I had such a wonderful discussion about Elmet and it really was a pleasure to share this quiet but powerful read with her and feed off each others insights. The story of Daniel, Cathy and their Daddy who live quite a simple, meagre existence out in the wilderness moves along at the beginning at a relatively slow pace but the emotional punch it ends up packing is truly a mighty one. There are so many questions and reasons for wanting to carry on reading and each moment we stopped to discuss what we had read, I found myself eagerly anticipating not only how the narrative would continue but how interesting our chat was going to end up being! Why have the family isolated themselves in the woods? What has happened to Daniel and Cathy’s mother? Furthermore, when their way of living is threatened, how will each character individually respond and what will be the ramifications of their actions?

Imagine our contemporary world right now and a dwelling built right here in these woods where our characters live, surviving on what the forest gives them for food and comfort. Enter the world of Elmet.

It was fairly obvious to me from the very start that Mozley is a spectacularly gifted writer. Her words drip from the pages like honey and she talks about the landscape in particular so vividly and in so much glorious detail that you could almost smell the mud under your feet. Elmet is a celebration of nature and how we can harness it to live a far less complicated existence but more importantly, this is a story of the bond between a father and his children. Daniel, Cathy and Daddy are such outstanding and impressively drawn characters, all with their own unique personalities that it was exciting to follow their journey, celebrate their eccentricities and worry about their futures.

If you like your fiction to have a clear and distinct resolution, I have to say this might not be the novel for you. Elmet can be kind of vague, nothing is wrapped up neatly with a little bow, occasionally the reader makes up their own mind about what a specific individual might be thinking or indeed, by the end, how their story may continue. However, the subtle little clues the author expertly drops along the way left me in no doubt about my particular interpretation of events. Even now, weeks after finishing this novel, I’m still thinking about where our characters might be and how they might be coping after a dramatic finale that left both Jennifer and I reeling.

Elmet is a book that works even better when the finer points of the narrative are chewed over with a friend and I’m so grateful to Jennifer for being that person that I was fortunate enough to experience it with. If you like your literary fiction descriptive, full of heart and thought-provoking, I would definitely suggest this novel and hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

For Jennifer’s fabulous review please see her post HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):