Penguin UK

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Bitter Orange – Claire Fuller

Published May 8, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

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

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

Were the signs there right from the beginning?

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

What did I think?:

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

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

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

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

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

October 2018 – Netgalley Month

Published October 3, 2018 by bibliobeth

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s it all about?:

MOTHER. WIFE. POLITICIAN. LIAR.

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

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

NOW: What will she risk to expose the lies?

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

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

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

What’s it all about?:

One Man’s Truth Is Another Man’s Lie.

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

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

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

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

What’s it all about?:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s it all about?:

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

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

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

What’s it all about?:

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

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

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

BUDDY READS/COLLABORATIONS FOR THE REST OF THE MONTH

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

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

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

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

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

Lots Of Love

Beth xxx