This book, written in two
quite distinct parts, documents a child’s immigrant life in New York in the
first section, and imagines his mother’s wartime life in the second. I
particularly enjoyed the childhood memoir in which there were memorable
‘She had calves as big and
smooth as bowling pins, and she always sat on the sofa with her legs to one
side as if glued at the knees, and smelled sweet and sad, like a dusty pastry.’
‘He had a square block of a
head silvered by stubble and ears like miniature lettuces’.
The author has a masterly way
with words and a melodic style.
The second part I found more
problematic. A son writing about his mother’s sexual encounters did not sit
easy with me, though I fully understand his need to try to find the cause of
her deep unhappiness with life. Despite these misgivings, my interest was held
to the end.
I think the most fascinating
aspect of this book is the description of the life and experiences of the Czech
refugees in New York in the late 1940’s. The author skillfully draws us into
his childhood. We find ourselves in a somewhat alien environment which is of
course normality for the child.
This is a strange and intriguing book
which explores the paranormal and toxic relationships. Set in France, the story
revolves around an extraordinary child who appears to be extremely accident
prone. At first, the reader believes that his mother is in a high state of
anxiety due to the constant struggle of trying to keep her child safe. Little
Louis is impulsive and angry, a misfit in society, unlikeable and unsettling.
‘I’m not most kids, I’m Louis Drax. Stuff
happens to me that shouldn’t happen, like going on a picnic where you drown.’
The opening of the book is compelling and
shocking. The reader is hooked from the very first sentences.
This is a mystery, a dark crime novel and
a supernatural story.
The characters are well delineated. The
setting in France is believable, though I was uncertain of the era. At times it
felt like it was set in the1950’s but the medical science suggested later.
I did not like the characters much, but
they intrigued me and the story was gripping.
I would advise readers to approach this
book with caution if you have an accident-prone child.
A film has been made of this novel in 2016
which I cannot comment on as I have not seen it.
This is the story of Belle Hatton who
travelled to Rangoon in the 1930s to work as a nightclub singer. She was born
and lived the first years of her life in this city, and was drawn to go back to
revisit a childhood she barely remembered. After her father’s death, she
discovered papers relating to a missing child. To her horror and consternation,
Belle realised that the child was her younger sister, who she had known nothing
about. She determines to discover the truth.
The author’s descriptive narrative leads
the reader through the colourful and exciting times of colonial Burma. The
authenticity of the place and the complexity of society in those times before
the Second World War are enthralling.The heroine, a feisty young woman, pursues her
investigation into the missing child, teaming up with an American journalist
with whom she becomes romantically involved. The mystery leads her into
dangerous situations and proceeds at a pace which captivates the reader up until
the surprising and satisfying ending.
This book paints a vivid picture of a
society that is long gone and weaves a romantic and thrilling element through
it. The story is somewhat contrived but that does not take away from the
readability and flow of the narrative. It is a book that provides a great
escape from urban normality, researched in impeccable detail, grounding the
reader into a world of glamour and intrigue.
This is the first book by Dinah Jeffries
that I have read and I would certainly be interested in delving into her other
novels. She will join the list of authors whose works I would be happy to take
away on holiday. This is a book to relax with and enjoy and be transported back
to a different lifestyle and era. I have no hesitation in recommending it.
book is the third in a series of time-traveling novels. The concept of a
magical mirror that can transport a person to another time zone is almost
familiar and definitely not unique. It provides a reliable physical point of
contact between the different time eras.
of the story is related through conversation. Descriptive passages are short
and the social context of the era in question is identified by discussion
between characters about music, news, and football, for example. At times, this
device appears stilted and the conversation does not flow authentically.
plot meanders somewhat and the characterization is superficial.The synopsis suggests an interesting
storyline, but the novel fails to deliver its potential to the reader. There
are shifts in tense and repetitive passages. Many of the characters appear to
have a cough and when in an emotional situation develop raspy voices. There is
much pondering throughout the book and clumsy sentence construction.
I found many instances of grammatical and contextual errors that should have
been picked up in the editing process.
took position in front of a board, which encompassed her body.’
vibrant individual has a stylish red top and tight black trousers, therefore,
pleasing on the eye.’
spotted and empty chair, where a woman wearing a nurse’s uniform underneath a
door banged to and fro, therefore, I hadn’t secured it’.
blond hair in a ponytail added to a pleasant appearance.’
to begin the story still ponders, however, I’ve gone for an ideal location’.
Munro spoke eloquently about his book in a talk I attended. I looked forward to
reading it and have been greatly disappointed. During his talk, he mentioned
that he watched films and seldom read books. It is clear from his writing that
he is greatly influenced by screen drama and unfortunately his lack of literary
awareness impacts negatively on his novel.
is a fast paced read. Description is kept to a minimum and action prioritised.
At first I found the alternating viewpoints of the two main characters a bit
stilted, but reading on, it worked better as the story unfolded.
Egan is an undercover cop who launches into situations with a complete lack of
consideration for his own safety . He fails to keep his boss up to speed and
suffers numerous assaults from which he remarkably recovers.
Boyd is a Detective Inspector with a reputation for doggedly pursuing crime and
getting results. She has survived a number of shooting incidents and struggles
with a dependency on alcohol.
the plot develops with numerous twists and turns, the two main characters cross
paths, and many hardened criminals bite the dust. A rapist and murderer is
brought to justice and a high profile corruptpolitician comes to a sticky end.
is a great read for a tedious journey but unlikely to make the pile of books to
be read a second time.
It is often said that the stuff of dreams fuels the
imagination. For some, the fantastical quality of dreams can be a powerful
stimulus to writing. Those early morning thoughts are often little pearls to
treasure, and a notebook by the bed is a must to scribble them down before they
are lost in the rush of normal daytime activity.
What about my dreams? It would be quite a challenge
to convert my sleeping experiences into good narrative. For example, one
morning I woke feeling exhausted having spent what seemed like the whole night
searching in a huge building complex for a working shower, getting more and
more angry as every one I found was non functioning. No, we didn't have a
plumbing problem at home, and I had definitely showered that morning, so it
remains a mystery why my consciousness insisted on this long, fruitless search.
This morning I woke with the image of a young hare
in a field, sitting surrounded by buttercups. A red squirrel in a tree close by
was chattering awarning to the little
hare as a giant red cabbage came careering down the hill towards the buttercup
patch. Powerful imagery for a children's
The notebook is on the bedside table, with a pen,
waiting for those inspirational ideas. Perhaps the story of the hare will continue
tonight and I will find out where the giant cabbage came from.
my opinion, this is a modern day fairy story focussing on loneliness in a young
city dweller. Eleanor, the main character, is an intriguing and engaging young
woman who has, against the odds, found a place in society, albeit with limited
horizons. She is undoubtedly on the autistic spectrum with obsessive-compulsive
features and suffers from social isolation as a result. She is seriously
damaged by a disastrous childhood and lacks an ability to fully understand
affection. Her conversation is overly formal, with disarming directness.
story unfolds by introducing minor changes to her well-ordered lifestyle which
begin to tip the balance. A crush on a local musician ends traumatically when Eleanor realises that it was all pure fantasy
on her part and plummets her into an acute state of despair. To her
astonishment, her work colleague, Raymond, cares enough about her to save her
from her suicidal situation. Referral to a counsellor allows her to unravel the
facts about her damaged childhood. The story ends hopefully with Eleanor
finally accepting emotions and embracing friendship for the first time. We
wonder whether she has had the courage to try ' the seductive power of sausage
rolls' in her blossoming relationship with Raymond.
is somewhat unbelievable that Eleanor's autistic characteristics, addressed
through counselling, have resolved so significantly in such a short time.
Barring this and some other unrealistic expectations, the story is a delight
and poses some interesting questions about how people who blatantly don't fit
in can be helped to lead happy and successful lives in the organised society of
is a heart-warming story that dilutes the more serious aspects of the story with
elements of humour. I would thoroughly recommend it.