Richard and Judy bookclub

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Talking About Lie With Me by Sabine Durrant with Chrissi Reads

Published March 16, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

“I suppose what I am saying is, how much do we collude in our own destruction? How much of this nightmare is on me?

You can hate and rail.
You can kick out in protest.

You can do foolish and desperate things, but maybe sometimes you just have to hold up a hand and take the blame.”

Breathless.
Claustrophobic.
Unsettling.
Impossible to put down.

From the author of Under Your Skin and Remember Me This Way, Sabine Durrant. The dazzling new must-read for all fans of The Girl on the Train, Gone Girl, and The Widow.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: What was your first impression of this book?

BETH: To be perfectly honest, it wasn’t a great first impression! It was quite a slow start to the story although I had read some GoodReads reviews that mentioned that it got a lot better so I was kind of prepared for this. I was hopeful that it would pick up though and once our main character, Paul finally goes away on holiday with the woman he is seeing, the tension and action crept up a notch.

BETH: The (female) author has chosen to write from a male point of view. How well do you think she achieved this?

CHRISSI: Interesting question. I didn’t even think to take note of the fact that she was writing from a male point of view. To me, that says Sabine Durrant pulled it off. It never even crossed my mind that it was a female writing from a male point of view. Well done, Sabine!

CHRISSI: This novel is built on tension. Discuss how the author builds the tension and structures the novel.

BETH: I’m very wary of giving spoilers but I’ll do my best! I think the opening of the novel is absolutely brilliant. Let’s just say that Paul is in a place that we don’t expect him to be in (being deliberately vague, sorry!) and after this initial chapter, the story goes back in time to the events that occurred in the build up to the situation he now finds himself in. So we know where he ends up but we have no clue initially how on earth he got there! He seems, by all accounts to be a “normal,” man (apart from his compulsive lying, that is) and it makes the reader really rack their brains to try and figure out how and why he got where he ended up.

BETH: Discuss where the line falls between a few acceptable fibs and harmful lying. Is it ever ok to tell a small lie?

CHRISSI: Ooh, another good question. Lies are so difficult, because I would say that you shouldn’t lie if it is going to affect another person. However, sometimes I feel that some individuals need to be protected by a little white lie. It made me think though, is that okay? Is it okay to alter the truth a little to protect someone you care about? Argh, I really don’t know. In the end, the truth often comes out, so is it better to tell the truth from the start even if it causes some hurt? Harmful lying is obviously always a no, no for me, but ‘acceptable fibs’… hmm. It depends on your definition of acceptable. Some might consider something acceptable that others don’t. Ooh, such a good discussion subject and I haven’t even really come up with a decent response. All I’ll say is that line is very very unclear.

CHRISSI: Without spoilers- discuss the ending of the novel – did you see the twist coming?

BETH: Not really, no. I knew something wasn’t right with certain characters but I hadn’t figured out exactly what was going on. It was a big surprise when it came and I was shocked how it ended up. Did he deserve it? Some people might say yes, he wasn’t a very likeable character to say the least! However, what he ends up suffering is incredibly extreme in comparison to what he did wrong in my opinion. Loved the twist though, I’m really glad I didn’t predict it!

BETH: This novel has quite a slow pacing to it, did this affect your enjoyment of the story?

CHRISSI: To be honest, yes it did. I am not a fan of a slow paced novel, especially when I have a lot going on. I like to be picking up a book and immediately flying through the pages. I want something to get back to and want to get back to without worrying that I’m going to be bored. I just don’t think this book’s pacing worked for me, although I know some people really enjoyed it and got over the slow pace.

CHRISSI: How does this book compare to others in its genre?

BETH: I thought this book was quite different to other psychological thrillers that I’ve read and I thought it was quite brave in a lot of ways. It read to me almost like a literary psychological thriller (no offence meant to other psychological thrillers). I just mean that the pacing compared to other thrillers was quite slow and you usually find with other books in the genre it’s all quite action-packed and not really focused on character development, unlike Lie With Me. By the end of the book, I actually thought it was the most interesting novel in the genre that I’ve read for a long time and has stayed with me for a while, always a good sign that a book’s got under your skin!

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I’m not sure. It would depend on the subject matter. I thought it was interesting enough, but the pace did affect my enjoyment.

Would we recommend it?:

BETH: Of course!

CHRISSI: Yes!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

 

Talking About Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon with Chrissi Reads

Published March 2, 2017 by bibliobeth

29757982

What’s it all about?:

A new Sunday Times bestseller from Bryony Gordon, Telegraph columnist and author of the bestselling The Wrong Knickers. For readers who enjoyed Matt Haig’s Reasons to Stay Alive and Ruby Wax’s Sane New World, Mad Girl is a shocking, funny, unpredictable, heart-wrenching, raw and jaw-droppingly truthful celebration of life with mental illness.

‘I loved it. A brilliant fast and funny and frank look at something that absolutely needs to be talked about in this way’ Matt Haig

Bryony Gordon has OCD.

It’s the snake in her brain that has told her ever since she was a teenager that her world is about to come crashing down: that her family might die if she doesn’t repeat a phrase 5 times, or that she might have murdered someone and forgotten about it. It’s caused alopecia, bulimia, and drug dependency. And Bryony is sick of it. Keeping silent about her illness has given it a cachet it simply does not deserve, so here she shares her story with trademark wit and dazzling honesty.

A hugely successful columnist for the Telegraph, a bestselling author, and a happily married mother of an adorable daughter, Bryony has managed to laugh and live well while simultaneously grappling with her illness. Now it’s time for her to speak out. Writing with her characteristic warmth and dark humor, Bryony explores her relationship with her OCD and depression as only she can.

Mad Girl is a shocking, funny, unpredictable, heart-wrenching, raw and jaw-droppingly truthful celebration of life with mental illness.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: What do you make of the cover, its subtitle and the title? I find it interesting that this particular cover is yellow!

BETH: Well, I had to actually pick your brain on this one as you had a lot more insights than me, haha! So the title and subtitle is Mad Girl – A Happy Life With A Mixed-Up Mind and is bright yellow. The colour yellow is notoriously quite a cheery and happy cover which is ironic considering the subject matter, a woman talking about her OCD, depression and other mental health issues. The cover immediately attracted me because of the bright cover and the suggestion that although OCD and depression are far from a barrel of laughs (I should know!) the author would take us on a journey with some dark points but some light, funny moments along the way. Mental health is not funny on any level but making light of certain experiences can give other people the bravery to face their own demons and be better equipped to deal with their problems. It certainly felt that way to me and I got a lot out of this book.

BETH: How did you feel that anxiety and depression was portrayed in Bryony’s story?

CHRISSI: Hmm… good question. I liked how there were some lighter, funnier moments within the story. I think that Bryony Gordon mixed humour in really well. But I also appreciated the moments where there were darker points to her story. It’s not sunshine and showers and it’s certainly not something to be laughed at, but in making some light jokes on the situation, Bryony is showing the reader that she’s human too and is going through a constant battle. I know for many sufferers, if not all, mental illness will always be present. It’s how you battle it that matters/

CHRISSI: Mad Girl talks about some difficult issues. Discuss how Bryony Gordon mixes humour with her descriptions of darker emotions and situations.

BETH: As I rambled on about in my previous answer (maybe I should start reading questions ahead of typing?!) Bryony deals with some very difficult issues in her book. There are eating disorders, emotional abuse, addiction… to name a few. However, it never felt too much as there was always a note of humour to make even the darker situations easier to read and experience. I felt like I had scarily so much in common with Bryony and I tend to use humour as a defence mechanism myself to deal with horrible stuff. It just made me warm to her more to be perfectly honest.

BETH: Mad Girl is described as a celebration of life with mental illness. Do you think this came across in the author’s writing?

CHRISSI: I do feel like Mad Girl does celebrate Bryony’s life with a mental illness. Despite everything that Bryony goes through, she still comes across as someone that’s enjoying her life in the main part and is desperate to not let the mental illness dictate how she lives her life. That’s inspiring!

CHRISSI: Was the humour ever too much?

BETH: For me personally, no it wasn’t. I think some of the things she talked about, especially when she talked about her first serious relationship could have really got to me and put me back into quite a dark place. However, when I felt close to feeling that way, I felt the situation in my head was defused by a hilarious line that made me smile (or laugh out loud…sorry fellow train passengers!) that cheered me up and got me out of my own head again. Without that I think it would have been too much.

BETH: You’re not normally a fan of non-fiction. How much did you enjoy this book compared to other non-fiction you’ve read?

CHRISSI: Indeed, I’m not a fan of non-fiction. However, I enjoy reading non-fiction books when they centre around a subject I’m interested in or a subject close to my heart, which in this case, is Mad Girl. I am a ‘mad girl.’ There’s an awful lot I could relate to in this book, so it didn’t feel like I was being bogged down with information. It felt like I was chatting to a friend.

CHRISSI: What do you feel you have gained from reading this book?

BETH: The knowledge that I’m not the only weirdo in the village?! No, seriously I loved reading about Bryony’s life and as I mentioned before, felt I had an awful lot in common with her. You look at other people and the success they’ve had, especially if they’ve had a lot to deal with in their past and present (and probably future) and I’m in awe of what she’s achieved. It makes me hopeful for my own future. I also think it’s so so important to talk about mental health issues and your thoughts and feelings out there so people can realise they are definitely not on their own.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I would! I enjoyed her writing style and humour!

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

 

Talking About The Trouble With Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon with Chrissi Reads

Published February 16, 2017 by bibliobeth

26141706

What’s it all about?:

Part coming-of-age story, part mystery, The Trouble with Goats and Sheep is a quirky and utterly charming debut about a community in need of absolution and two girls learning what it means to belong.

England, 1976. Mrs. Creasy is missing and the Avenue is alive with whispers. The neighbors blame her sudden disappearance on the heat wave, but ten-year-olds Grace and Tilly aren’t convinced. As the summer shimmers endlessly on, the girls decide to take matters into their own hands. Inspired by the local vicar, they go looking for God—they believe that if they find Him they might also find Mrs. Creasy and bring her home.

Spunky, spirited Grace and quiet, thoughtful Tilly go door to door in search of clues. The cul-de-sac starts to give up its secrets, and the amateur detectives uncover much more than ever imagined. As they try to make sense of what they’ve seen and heard, a complicated history of deception begins to emerge. Everyone on the Avenue has something to hide, a reason for not fitting in.

In the suffocating heat of the summer, the ability to guard these differences becomes impossible. Along with the parched lawns and the melting pavement, the lives of all the neighbors begin to unravel. What the girls don’t realize is that the lies told to conceal what happened one fateful day about a decade ago are the same ones Mrs. Creasy was beginning to peel back just before she disappeared.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: What were your first impressions of this book?

BETH: I was already pre-disposed to like this book, I had heard really good things about it from a friend of mine and the title was just too good to resist! I almost couldn’t believe it was a debut novel when I first started reading it, it felt like I was reading a book where the author had been established and writing for years. I was initially confused by some aspects of the story – but in a good way, I just wanted to know what exactly was going on and the author is very good at the “slow reveal,” shall we say?

BETH: Who were your favourite characters in the novel and why?

CHRISSI: I really liked Grace and Tilly because I felt like their friendship was incredibly realistic. I found myself excited to read Grace’s point of view because I really wanted to read about her perspective on the whole situation. I love reading from children’s point of view because they can be so honest, be incredibly wise, yet they can be incredibly naive at the same time.

CHRISSI: The cover of this book is quite simple. Why do you think they went for this choice?

BETH: I actually love how simple the cover is. It’s a lovely shade of blue with just a single goat on the front. No sheep though! 🙂 The title is actually described quite early on in the book but I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that the two young girls are trying to find God and they have been told by the local vicar that God prefers his people to be a flock of sheep rather than goats. The story is quite simple in the end, coming down to separating these people into the two categories (or can they really be separated?) so I think the cover is perfect for what the novel is.

BETH: What did you think about the relationship between friends Grace and Tilly? Was it typical of a female friendship at that impressionable age?

CHRISSI: I’ve mentioned in the previous answer that I really enjoyed the relationship between Grace and Tilly. I did like reading about them because it was so realistic. I felt like Grace was the more dominant friend and I do feel that friendship at that impressionable age can be like that. I felt like Grace thought she had to watch over Tilly and I loved that protective quality that Grace had. There are moments when Grace doesn’t treat Tilly well and I think that is true of a female friendship at that age. Children can be insensitive towards others and hurt them deeply because they still have a lot to learn.

CHRISSI: What do you think the setting of the heat wave of 1976 adds to the story?

BETH: The heatwave is almost a character in itself, it is mentioned so often and people are obviously suffering because of it. I think people have heard about the heat doing funny things to people’s characters…making them snap, do odd things etc and I think the heat actually has a huge affect on the characters in the story in exactly this way. Perhaps the heat exacerbates the situation and causes people to over-react where they might not normally do so?

BETH: How do you think the mystery of where Mrs Creasy had gone was played out in this novel?

CHRISSI:  The mystery of Mrs Creasy was very intriguing throughout the story. I have to agree that it’s very much a slow reveal and at times, I did start to lose a bit of interest in the story which is why I haven’t rated it higher. I enjoyed reading about the worry of the secrets that Mrs Creasy had taken with her. I felt like that was more important to her neighbours, rather than genuine concern about where she was.

CHRISSI: Many characters in the story have secrets and regrets – how do you judge the actions they have taken? Does it make you consider how we judge people without really knowing them?

BETH: Yes, yes, yes. I don’t think any character really comes out and apologises for their behaviour outright but you can definitely sense the guilt, the regret and a cooling of tempers, especially to the object of most of the characters anger. It felt very much when I was reading it sort of like a mob mentality with each character being “egged on” by what another would say/feel or do. This kind of behaviour becomes very dangerous when multiple people jump on the bandwagon so as to speak, as we can see from the events that occur.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: Yes! I can’t believe that this book was a debut. It seemed incredibly accomplished! I enjoyed this book.

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Yes!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

 

 

Talking About Baby Doll by Hollie Overton with Chrissi Reads

Published February 8, 2017 by bibliobeth

29905584

What’s it all about?:

For fans of Gone Girl and Girl on the Train, Baby Doll is the most tense thriller you will read this year.

Held captive for eight years, Lily has grown from a teenager to an adult in a small basement prison. Her daughter Sky has been a captive her whole life. But one day their captor leaves the deadbolt unlocked.

This is what happens next…

…to her twin sister, to her mother, to her daughter…and to her captor.#

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: Hollie Overton is a TV scriptwriter- does this show in the way that she has structured this thriller?

BETH: Yes, I definitely think it does! It’s a fast paced, exciting thriller that had me on the edge of my seat but in the way it was written, it was almost like seeing a film in my head as each scene unfolded. I could picture every character and every moment so completely it was like the images were right there in front of me.

BETH: Discuss the relationship between Lily and Abby before and after her disappearance.

CHRISSI: I actually felt that the relationship between Lily and Abby was quite intense. I don’t know if it’s because they were twins, they had an even stronger connection than ‘normal’ sisters. I felt that their relationship became even more intense after her disappearance. It was clear to me that Abby felt so much love for her sister. She would do anything for her and was eager to protect her. My interpretation was that Abby felt more strongly for her sister, I felt that Lily could potentially be a little manipulative…

CHRISSI: We read a LOT of books in this genre. Do you think that this book stand out in a such a populated genre?

BETH: We certainly do. I think it’s one of our favourite genres to read but there is a risk that the market can get over-saturated with novels that all read like the same book. With Lily being captive for eight years and having had her jailer’s baby it felt very much like Room by Emma Donoghue and I was slightly worried that it was going to be the same thing. Then I was worried that it would have a lot to live up to being compared to Room (which is one of my favourite books ever) and wasn’t going to compare well. Luckily, Hollie Overton throws in many different plot devices and characters that kept it from being too similar. Especially with the ending!

BETH: What do you think Rick’s reasons were for capturing Lily and how do you think his attitude was to women in general?

CHRISSI: Rick honestly made my skin crawl. Just thinking of him now creeps me out and he’s a fictional character. I feel like Rick had an idea of what his perfect, young partner would be and that was Lily. I really disliked his attitude towards women. The fact that he was a teacher as well just didn’t sit right with it, it being my profession. I think he saw women as an object he could just manipulate. Ew. Didn’t like him.

CHRISSI: This book is as much about the consequences that a crime like this can have on a family as it is about the crime itself. Discuss how the different characters react to what has happened.

BETH: Lily’s poor family definitely go through the mill when she is captured and kept hostage for eight years in a basement. They have no idea whether she is alive or dead and their lives are ruined. Her father ends up passing away although the relationship between father and mother appears to be fraught and difficult just after Lily’s disappearance and prior to his death. After that, her mother has casual relationships with a few different men but doesn’t seem to be able to settle down again. Probably the worst affected though is Lily’s twin sister, Abby who blames herself for what happened to Lily, becomes depressed and suicidal and a bit of a “wild child.,” as she struggles to cope with what happened to her sister.

BETH: You’ve given this book quite a high rating. Was there anything about it you disliked?

CHRISSI: Apart from Rick? Ew. I thought that there were some unnecessary scenes in the book. I also didn’t think the relationship between Abby and Wes was overly believable which is why it didn’t get a 5 star treatment from me. I was actually quite surprised that this book has such mixed reviews. I couldn’t put it down!

CHRISSI: Without spoilers, did you predict the ending?

BETH: No way! The author really surprised me, to be honest. I expected this novel to be a bit predictable but right at the end she throws in a major plot twist which I totally wasn’t expecting and which I was delighted by. I had found some parts of the book a teensy bit unrealistic/unbelievable but how she chose to end the novel really altered my opinion of the entire book.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: Definitely! I thoroughly enjoyed this book!

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):

4-5-stars

Talking About I’m Travelling Alone by Samuel Bjørk with Chrissi Reads

Published January 26, 2017 by bibliobeth

23346510

What’s it all about?:

A six year old girl is found hanging from a tree. Around her neck is an airline tag which says ‘I’m travelling alone’.

A special homicide unit in Oslo is re-opened with veteran police investigator Holger Munch at the helm. He must convince his erstwhile partner, Mia Kruger, an extremely talented but eccentric investigator, to leave the solitary island to which she has retreated in order to take her own life.

When scrutinising the murder files, Mia spots the number One carved into the dead girl’s fingernail. She returns to duty to prevent more little girls falling victim to a terrifying, revenge-driven serial killer…

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: What were your first impressions of this book?

BETH: From the very basic….yaay, a crime novel to (even better) a Scandinavian crime novel! I’ve always been a bit of a fan of crime fiction from the Scandinavian region so I was excited to begin. My very high expectations were completely fulfilled as it is everything I could possibly want from this genre – a thrilling plot, a great mystery and intriguing characters.

BETH: Mia had a very strong relationship with her twin sister. How do you think what happened to her sister affected her as a person and as a police detective?

CHRISSI: A good question! I think Mia’s relationship with her sister did have such an impact on her. After the situation with her sister, Mia has completely changed. She sees no point in carrying on and wants to be with her sister again. I loved how a case did bring her out of isolation though. Mia had always been a dedicated and wonderful police detective and I feel she felt compelled to take the case on and help to solve the crime.

CHRISSI: This is a Scandinavian thriller – do you feel there is a distinctive tone to books and TV from Scandinavian countries?

BETH: Definitely. These authors are not afraid to go dark and disturbing and the darker the book is, the more it affects me personally and leads me to think on it for days after finishing. It also helps that they have some beautiful (and sometimes very remote) settings to describe so that adds to the chill factor. Also, being set in a country that I don’t know too much about and don’t speak the language is a greater form of escape for me and I love that sense of escapism in a novel.

BETH: There are a few twists in this tale, did you expect them and do you think they worked?

CHRISSI: I think the twists in this tale are exactly what kept a good pace of the story. I’m not one for crime fiction, but I felt compelled to read on. I think it’s the twists that kept me working through this story. I thought the twists and turns within the story were actually very smart and I think that’s what captured my attention and kept it there. I think there were some twists that were executed better than others, but on the whole, I really enjoyed this book!

CHRISSI: The relationship between the detectives Holger Munch and Mia Kruger is a key part of the novel. Discuss what this adds to the novel.

BETH: Holger and Mia are both fascinating characters, especially Mia who had a twin sister who sadly died from a drug overdose. From the very beginning you can tell they both have a few skeletons in their closet or quite a colourful past which is alluded to throughout the story. As they both come with their own separate and very different histories, they seem to be somewhat kindred spirits and I loved watching their working relationship and how they both looked after and out for each other, no matter the cost to themselves.

BETH: You are not normally a big fan of crime fiction, how did this one compare to others you have read?

CHRISSI: You’re right. I’m not a fan of crime fiction. I usually find the plot quite same-y and a little predictable. However, I thought this book was particularly smart and had some really interesting story-lines that really worked well and seemed to come together. I wasn’t bored when I was reading this book and sometimes I find myself losing interest in crime fiction.

CHRISSI: How does this book compare to others in it’s genre?

BETH: Very well I think. I’ve already mentioned that I’m a bit of a fan of Scandinavian noir and this sits perfectly alongside authors such as Jo Nesbo and Camilla Lackberg (two of my favourites). The plot was terrific but it was the strength of the characters themselves that would make me come back and read another book in the series by the author.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: Whilst I wouldn’t race at the chance to read another book by this author (it’s not my genre!) I wouldn’t say I’d avoid the author in the future. If I was interested in the book, I’d certainly read it!

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Yes!

Star rating (out of 5):

BETH:

four-stars_0

CHRISSI:

3-5-stars

Talking About The Muse by Jessie Burton with Chrissi Reads

Published January 11, 2017 by bibliobeth

27213208

What’s it all about?:

The Sunday Times Number One Bestseller

A picture hides a thousand words . . .

On a hot July day in 1967, Odelle Bastien climbs the stone steps of the Skelton gallery in London, knowing that her life is about to change forever. Having struggled to find her place in the city since she arrived from Trinidad five years ago, she has been offered a job as a typist under the tutelage of the glamorous and enigmatic Marjorie Quick. But though Quick takes Odelle into her confidence, and unlocks a potential she didn’t know she had, she remains a mystery – no more so than when a lost masterpiece with a secret history is delivered to the gallery.

The truth about the painting lies in 1936 and a large house in rural Spain, where Olive Schloss, the daughter of a renowned art dealer, is harbouring ambitions of her own. Into this fragile paradise come artist and revolutionary Isaac Robles and his half-sister Teresa, who immediately insinuate themselves into the Schloss family, with explosive and devastating consequences . . .

Seductive, exhilarating and suspenseful, The Muse is an unforgettable novel about aspiration and identity, love and obsession, authenticity and deception – a masterpiece from Jessie Burton, the million-copy bestselling author of The Miniaturist.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: How does The Muse compare to The Miniaturist?

BETH: The Muse is Jessie Burton’s second novel after the roaring success of her debut, The Miniaturist which I thought was great but I actually enjoyed this one more. Physically speaking, they are both beautiful specimens with some gorgeous art but more specifically, they are both works of historical fiction that tell their stories from the perspective of strong women. In The Muse, we actually follow the stories of two women in different countries and time periods but who are strikingly similar in some aspects. There is a link between both stories which is brought together towards the end of the novel but part of the fun of this book is watching it all being brought together.

BETH: There are a number of supporting characters in this novel. Which one was your favourite and why?

CHRISSI: Ooh interesting question. I think my favourite character would have to be Cynth. I really liked their friendship and thought it came across really well in the beginning. It is their friendship that immediately hooked me in the story. I wish we would’ve seen more from her!

CHRISSI: The story is split between London in 1967 and Spain in 1936 – what parallels do you see between the two stories?

BETH: There are a lot of parallels between the two, one being as I mentioned above is the similarity between Odelle and Olive’s strength of characters. Both stories also feature a love interest that at some point in both narratives causes the women some concern for different reasons. Odelle and Olive are also both artists – Olive in the literal sense of the word is a very talented painter and Odelle is a writer. In both narratives they struggle with their art, being in both the thirties and sixties as something not many women did.

BETH: Discuss the character of Marjorie Quick and her relationship with Odelle.

CHRISSI: Marjorie Quick is an incredibly interesting character. I found her really intriguing right from the start. I think she saw something in Odelle right from the start which was really intriguing. Majorie really was an no nonsense character. She seemed incredibly protective over Odelle and I wondered why she was so keen to stifle the interest in the painting. She also seemed cautious over Odelle’s relationship. I found her to be an incredibly complex character and their relationship too seemed complex!

CHRISSI: Jessie Burton evokes two very different settings in London and Spain – how does she create the sense of place and time for both these storylines?

BETH: First of all, I loved that we got two such colourful stories with a multitude of intriguing and diverse characters. The author evokes the sense of London perfectly, from the fashions that were worn to places that were mentioned. It was quite a contrast between sections to be transported from a cold, dreary London to a hot, tempestuous Spain but the author’s use of descriptive prose meant that each setting was available in glorious and vivid detail.

BETH: Did you find any parts of this book difficult to read and why?

CHRISSI: If I’m honest, as I got further into this book I began to lose interest in it. I find Jessie Burton’s writing to be quite flowery and sometimes that doesn’t capture my imagination as much as I want it to. Don’t get me wrong, she is a brilliant writer, she’s just not my cup of tea.

CHRISSI: What was your favourite part of this book?

BETH: That’s such a hard question as I really loved every single minute from start to finish. There wasn’t even a narrative that I preferred, both were perfect and equally fantastic. If I had to choose though it would be a certain scene in Spain when a certain shocking event occurs that I was NOT expecting. (no spoilers!)

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I don’t think so. A great writer- sure, but not one that I’ve connected with during both of her books.

Would we recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Yes!

Star rating (out of 5):

BETH:

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CHRISSI:

3 Star Rating Clip Art

The Ballroom – Anna Hope

Published January 10, 2017 by bibliobeth

26797014

What’s it all about?:

Where love is your only escape ….

1911: Inside an asylum at the edge of the Yorkshire moors,
where men and women are kept apart
by high walls and barred windows,
there is a ballroom vast and beautiful.
For one bright evening every week
they come together
and dance.
When John and Ella meet
It is a dance that will change
two lives forever.

Set over the heatwave summer of 1911, the end of the Edwardian era, THE BALLROOM is a tale of unlikely love and dangerous obsession, of madness and sanity, and of who gets to decide which is which.

What did I think?:

The Ballroom is the last book in the Richard and Judy Winter Book Club 2016 here in the UK and what a blinder they’ve ended with! This is the author’s second novel after her debut and critically acclaimed novel The Wake (which I still have on my shelves to read and I shall certainly be “bumping,” it on the strength of her second book). Set in the early twentieth century this book is a captivating tale of love and madness that kept me gripped until the very end.

It is the tale primarily of Ella, a young woman who finds herself admitted to an asylum in Yorkshire for (according to her) a slight misdemeanour at work that has led to her being pronounced mad and committed to the asylum for an indefinite period of time or until she appears to recover her senses. John is also in the asylum on the men’s side after having being driven mad with grief after a terrible event in his past. The two first meet properly when the men and women are brought together for a weekly dance, led by one of the medical professionals who insists that the music will have beneficial effects for the poor people that seem to have lost their minds.

Slowly but surely, love develops between Ella and John, a love that seems quite pointless and doomed if they are never to be released from the asylum and never allowed to be together. This is the story of how they cope in the asylum, what day to day life is like for them and also focuses on the other characters in the institution – friends of both Ella and John and on the medical professional and music master, Dr Charles Fuller. He is preparing a paper for the Eugenics Society on the benefits of music for the asylum inhabitants and has a rather sad past/present situation of his own.

The lines between madness and sanity are blurred extraordinarily in this fantastic novel and it makes us question the fragility or strength of our own mind if we were placed in certain situations. I loved Ella and John as characters, both were strong yet somehow very vulnerable and their love story made for delicious reading. I was also deeply intrigued by the character of Charles Fuller, for reasons I dare not disclose for fear of spoilers. At points, it was his story, attitude and actions that made me keep turning the pages, especially at a particularly tense scene involving John near the end…. This is a beautiful piece of writing from a very talented author and I cannot wait to now read her debut, if the brilliance of The Ballroom is anything to go by.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0