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Emma George has a job in TV, which is less exciting than it sounds, and a long term boyfriend Ned, who is less reliable than a boyfriend should be. And then she finds herself accidentally pregnant in the same week that she loses her job, and breaks up with Ned.

She is lucky enough to inherit a cottage and find temporary work, and an accidental lodger, but she still realises that soon she is going to be wholly responsible for another person, and things are going to have to change…

SPOILERS CONTAINED BELOW!!

I listened to the audiobook of this novel, narrated by Rosie Jones. I would have to say that the narration was excellent; unfortunately that’s the only thing that I *can* say was excellent. My main issue is that clearly the reader/listener is supposed to identify with Emma and root for her, and…well, she is just a terribly selfish, judgemental and spiteful human being. Horrible human beings can make for interesting main characters but the reader/listener is supposed to be well aware that they are horrible characters; we are not supposed to be expected to support their behaviour!

This started out quite amusing in parts, but what ruined it for me was when Emma constantly fat-shamed another character. Martha’s size and eating habits were completely irrelevant to the story, yet literally every sentence that mentioned her (and there were a LOT) made an unkind reference to the character’s weight. Furthermore, when Martha correctly chastised Emma for not doing her job properly, Emma videoed Martha after she had had sex with someone, and then blackmailed her with the footage top stop Martha reporting Emma’s behaviour. And we were supposed to think this was hilarious!

Additionally, Ned was just the most feckless and unreliable boyfriend, who stole Emma’s money after sponging off her for years, had not contributed any money towards rent or living costs, and preferred dreaming up ultimately unsuccessful get-rich-schemes with his mate. When one such scheme accidentally works out, all of a sudden Ned is painted as a wonderful character and an example to us all not to give up on your dreams.

I listened to the end, because I was too far in to give up before I realised what a truly selfish character Emma was and because of the narration. However, although I would certainly listen to more books narrated by Rosie Jones, I won’t be checking out any more books written by this author.

 

 

 

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1947: Tommy Elliot, widowed when her husband was killed during WWII, runs the family seat Kings Harcourt. Life is tough for Tommy and her family and when a particularly harsh winter cuts them off from the rest of the world, things only get tougher. Her brother Roger has returned from the war with his friend Fred, who stirs long forgotten feelings in Tommy. And then there is Barbara, an old acquaintance of Tommy’s who causes trouble when she comes to stay.

Present day: Caitlyn and Patrick have a happy marriage albeit is on his terms. But they love each other, and Patrick is the one person in Caitlyn’s life who has always been immune to the charms of her best friend Sara. But when tragedy strikes, she starts to uncover hidden truths which lead her to question whether she ever really knew her husband at all. Seeking solace in an old manor house, Caitlyn tries to piece together the truth.

I am in two minds about this book. There were plenty of things I liked about it – I always enjoy a dual timeline, because I like seeing the two threads come together. The writing flowed and it was on the whole an undemanding read.

On reflection I think I preferred Tommy’s story, probably because I really liked Tommy and her sister Gerry. They were both intelligent and resourceful and battling against the conventions of the day.

Caitlyn’s story initially really intrigued me. However, I thought it was stretched out – Caitlyn could have got the answers she wanted a lot more easily and quickly, but she seemed to choose the most circuitous route. Also the denouement of her story when it came was ludicrous. Not only was the truth she was searching for completely unbelievable, but the method of her finding it was also ridiculous. I actually didn’t like Caitlyn much – she was pleasant, but such so subservient to everyone around her.

Overall this is the first book that I’ve read by this author, and I rattled through it, so I must have enjoyed it somewhat – I really struggle to pick up books that I am not liking. Would I read another one by this author? Yes, probably but it won’t be next on my list.

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Quickie review: This is a collection of David Mitchell’s** columns in The Observer newspaper from around 2009 – 2013. He has put them into chapters loosely based on particular themes, and a lot of the columns have introductory paragraphs. It can feel quite strange reading about events that were present day news stories at the time but are now almost a decade on.

As with all collections, some of the pieces resonate more than others, but all are infused with Mitchell’s wit, and I did find myself hearing his voice narrate them in my head. In short, if you like his comedy on shows such as Would I Lie To You?, QI, etc., you will probably enjoy this book.

It’s probably more of one to dip in and out of (which is how I read it – a column here and there between full length novels), rather than reading it straight through from beginning to end, but either way, there is plenty here to enjoy.

 

**Note: this is the British comedian David Mitchell, not the author of such works as Cloud Atlas and The Bone Clocks. It would have been a very different book if that were the case!

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In Liverpool in 1985 Adam, Kathleen and Jocelyn are teenagers and best friends, who are brought together by an unusual nativity play. They all have high hopes for their future – Adam wants to be a writer, Jocelyn wants to be a singer, and Kathleen wants to be an embalmer (yep!) Their lives might be messy and chaotic, but they are filled with friendship and laughter.

Fast forward 30 years, and Kathleen is an alcoholic, Adam is consumed with guilt over a big secret, and Jocelyn is dead.

This is where the story starts, but from then on, it jumps backwards and forwards in time between 1985, 2015 and the intervening years. It also switches narrators between the three main characters, and another character named Billy, whose role in the story I won’t reveal.

The constant character and timeline switches were handled well, and I didn’t feel that they got confusing, although it would have been easy for them to do so. I read this book in two days, which – for me anyway – means that it was easy to get into, and that the writing flowed well. I found myself looking forward to picking it up again each time I had to put it down. However, it was darker in tone than I was expecting. The cover quotes led me to anticipate a dark comedy, and this was more of a drama with a bit of comedy thrown in. I didn’t like Jocelyn much, and I didn’t particularly feel invested in Adam’s character. I quite liked Kathleen, although her behaviour left a lot to be desired at times. But of all the characters, she seemed the most hopeful, the most eager to believe in the possibility of a decent future.

There was a plot twist at the end, which I guessed about halfway through, but this is not a mystery where a plot twist can change your perspective about everything that has gone before, so it didn’t really affect my enjoyment of the book. No. if I had to have one major gripe, it was that the events that took place relied VERY heavily on coincidence, which did require me to suspend my disbelief several times.

I won’t spoil the ending for anyone, but suffice to say that while this was not what I was expecting and I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as I had hoped, it was still a worthy read and I would definitely check out more novels by Jonathan Harvey.

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Just a short review for this one, as it is the third (I think) time that I have read it. I remember the first time I read this book, not long after it was written, and I was howling with laughter. A couple of reads further on, and I still think it’s funny, and I still think that Fielding captured the viewpoint of a particular type of woman in the mid 1990s.

I did feel a bit more cynical about it this time around though, and got annoyed with Bridget for her constant need for approval and her desperation to feel attractive to men. But yes, it’s funny, and I still love the parallels with Pride and Prejudice. Looking forward to rereading the sequel, and reading for the first time the third book in the series.

45 Years (2015)

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45 Years is a British film, about a couple named Geoff and Kate Mercer, who have been married for 45 years. The story takes place over the week leading up to their anniversary party.At the beginning of the week Geoff receives a letter telling him that the body of his former girlfriend Katya, from before he ever met Kate, has been found perfectly preserved in a mountain glacier.

The news has a profound effect on Geoff, making him angry and frustrated, and in turn upsetting his wife – although he is largely oblivious to the effect it has on Kate.

Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling are outstanding in this understated film about a seemingly happy marriage which is thrown into a quiet and civilised crisis. It actually focuses more on the effect that Geoff’s behaviour has on Kate, than the news of Katya’s discovery upon Geoff, and Rampling’s acting is such that it is hard not to empathise with her pain and jealousy.

This is certainly not an action packed film – in one sense, not a lot happens, but so MUCH happens on Kate’s face, in her thoughts – which we sense through her expressions. It’s weirdly compelling and hard to tear your eyes away from – at least that was how I found it. So it’s bleak and sad, but also the actions of both main characters are so utterly understandable.

If you don’t need lots of action and special effects in your films, but enjoy a thoughtful character study, give this little known gem a try, and revel in acting at it’s finest.

I listened to this audiobook while out on a longish run. It’s a shortish audiobook at about an hour and a half, so perfect for my purposes.

Told entirely through letters, this is the story of a growing friendship between Carrie and David, who each discover that their spouses are having an affair with each other. What initially starts as Carrie’s attempt to find out her husband’s motivations for sleeping with someone else becomes a real friendship, as the two support each other, and help each other through the tough time.

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this audiobook. The narrators were Julia Whelan, George Newburn, James Daniels and Dara Rosenberg, although we only hear from the cheating spouses Ken and Janet through Carrie and David reading the letters which they have sent to each other. All the narrators were excellent and I really liked both David and Carrie, even though it was only a short story. It was interesting seeing their different reactions to the affair and their contrasting hopes for the future.

I would definitely read/listen to more by this author and recommend this book highly.