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Posts Tagged ‘coming of age’

On the day before her 9th birthday, while eating her mother’s lemon cake, Rose Edelstein realises that she has a unique ability – when she eats anything, she can taste the emotions of the person who made the food.  In this way she discovers that her apparently happy and contented mother is in fact hiding feelings of sadness and fear.

Soon, all food becomes a chore to Rose – she can’t eat her brother’s toast, and even cookies from the local bakery reveal secrets about people she doesn’t know.  Worst of all is realising the true feelings of her family, despite their attempts to hide them.  As she grows older, her ‘skill’ sharpens and she is able to tell where each individual ingredient in a meal was grown or produced.  If she never really accepts her ability, she somehow learns to live with it.  But there are some things that her ability can’t tell her, and eventually she discovers another secret – one which she never could have predicted.

This was such an unusual book.  I definitely enjoyed reading it – it was obviously necessary to suspend disbelief, and sometimes I find that hard to do, but in this instance it was not a problem at all (although a storyline involving Rose’s brother Joseph did have me scratching my head at one point).  The whole story seems infused with an air of melancholy and dreaminess.  It’s narrated by Rose herself, and I thought her character was very well drawn, as were the characters of Rose’s parents and brother.  I found it difficult to warm to the mother, but I really liked the father; however my favourite character was George, the best friend of Joseph and the object of Rose’s crush.  He was also the only person who Rose felt able to confide in about her secret.

The writing flows well, and this book is actually a very quick read; with more time on my hands I would probably have read it in one sitting.  I was eager to find out how it ended, and if it wasn’t the ending I might have hoped for, it was certainly the ending that seemed most appropriate.

One word of warning – there are no speech marks in this book!  It didn’t particularly bother me, but I know that some people find this off-putting, and very occasionally it did lead to slight confusion about where Rose’s narration to the reader ended and her dialogue with another character began.  However, this did not detract from my enjoyment of the book.

This story was unusual and held my attention throughout – I would definitely read something else by this author.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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Catherine Morland is a young lady, naive but well intentioned and good natured, and a lover of Gothic novels.  When friends of her family take her to Bath, to introduce her into society and increase her social circle, she makes friends with two particular families.  The first are the Thorpes, and a close friendship quickly develops between Catherine and the eldest Thorpe daughter, Isabella.  Isabella’s pompous brother John takes a fancy to Catherine, but the feeling is not returned.  The other family she befriends are the Tilneys – and she is immediately attracted to Henry Tilney, a witty and charismatic young man, although she is not sure that her feelings are reciprocated.  When Henry and his sister Eleanor invite Catherine to stay at their home, Northanger Abbey, her over-active imagination, caused by her love of novels, starts to go into overdrive!  But more adventures await Catherine at the Abbey, and her resolve will be tested…

After reading this book, I looked at some reviews of it, and it would appear that this is probably the most maligned book that Jane Austen wrote.  However, I found it delightful and perhaps more accessible than some of her other works (all of which so far I have enjoyed).  Austen’s famous wit shines throughout; my favourite sequence was the teasing conversation which passed between her and Henry on the way to Northanger Abbey, where he played on her imagination – in consequence, she imagines all sorts of things when she arrives at their destination, with hilarious results.

Catherine is a lovely heroine, although a less obvious one than some of Austen’s other heroines.  In fact, Austen herself often addresses the reader directly, acknowledging that this is a book which she has written, and making reference to Catherine’s qualities as the heroine of such a story.  The other characters are also very well drawn, in particular Henry Tilney and the vivacious but self-absorbed Isabella Thorpe.

Essentially, this is a charming coming-of-age story, where we see Catherine learn about herself and the world around her, and deals with disappointments and uncertainties in life and love.

The writing is fabulous – descriptive and witty, and capable of first making the reader laugh out loud, and then in the turn of a page, making them wonder what is going to happen.  It was impossible not to warm towards the main characters, and I certainly found myself caring about what happened to them.

I won’t give away the conclusion of the story for anyone who has not read it – Austen fans may well be able to guess at the flavour of the ending of it in any event.  However, as is so often the case with Jane Austen, the destination is less the object of reading than the journey.  Highly enjoyable, very charming, and definitely recommended!

(For more information about the author, please click here and here.)

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Landon Carter is a 17 year old young man living in North Carolina in the 1950s.  Through a twist of fate, he finds himself becoming friends with Jamie Sullivan, the daughter of the local preacher.  Although Landon has known Jamie for many years, he lives in a different world to her, and has never really bothered to get to know her .  However, as they spend more time together, he comes to know her, and gradually he finds himself falling in love with her.  But Jamie has a big secret, which will change all of their lives when Landon discovers what it is.

On the plus side, this is an undemanding read, best suited to a lazy day curled up on the sofa.  The story at its heart is sweet and somewhat old fashioned.    However, reading it felt a bit like being preached to.  There are a number of references and verses from the Bible throughout it, and the emphasis is very much on living in the way God teaches us to.  It was also somewhat formulaic, and the big secret was pretty easy to guess from fairly early on.

Not a lot of time is spent on characterisation, although this doesn’t really matter – the novel is more plot driven than character driven.  Overall, not a bad read for a lazy New Years Day (which is when I read it), but I wouldn’t be rushing to read anything more by this author.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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