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Posts Tagged ‘dual narrative’

On the morning of Nick and Amy’s fifth wedding anniversary, Amy disappears and foul play is suspected.  As the police investigate, fingers are pointed straight at Nick; all the evidence suggests that he has hurt Amy (or worse), and as he protests his innocence, nobody, including the reader, is sure who to believe.

There is a split narrative, with Nick describing events on the day of and the days following the disappearance, and also talking about his marriage to Amy, and through Amy’s diary entries leading up to their fifth wedding anniversary.  Through their two voices, a tale is told of two people who meet, fall in love and get married, and seem to have it all – until they don’t.  Until job losses, financial worries and parental problems threaten their happiness, and slowly but surely, the truth is revealed.

It’s really hard to review this book, because I think it is absolutely essential that there are no spoilers for anyone reading it.  However, I will say that I really really liked the first part, where it was never quite clear what had happened.  Then comes a twist, and a change of pace, which I initially was quite disappointed by, and I thought that the book would suffer because of it – but I was wrong.  The level of tension was kept up, and I found the book hard to put down.

I thought the characters were really well written, even if I didn’t particularly like some of them.  (Nick was not that likeable, and Amy’s parents were vomit inducing!)

My only gripe with this book was the ending, which, while well written, and which was actually very clever when I look back at it, didn’t satisfy me,  but I can’t say why without giving away important plot points.  Overall though, this book was a terrific read, and I will be seeking out Gillian Flynn’s other works.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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The psychiatric hospital in Roscommon, Ireland is due to be shut down, and it is the task of Doctor William Grene to assess all the patients in order to see if they can be released back into the community, or if they will have to go to the new hospital when it is built.  He becomes preoccupied with trying to uncover the history of a 100 year old patient, Roseanne McNulty, and with trying to determine the circumstances that led to her being put into the hospital in the first place.  He is one of two narrators of the story, and in giving his account of events, he not only uncovers the secrets of Roseanne’s past, but also talks about difficulties in his own life and marriage.

Roseanne, who has spent over half of her life in the institution chronicles her life, from her childhood with her beloved father, and then the marriage which she believed would bring her happiness, despite the fact that she was a Presbyterian and married into a Catholic family, who were largely unwelcoming to her.  As the book covers the 1920s and 1930s extensively, she talks about the troubles in Northern Ireland and the impact it had both on herself, the lives of the people around her and the country as a whole.

I’m not really sure what I thought of this book, and I don’t even know if I really enjoyed it or not.  I was initially ambivalent towards both narrators, but while I warmed up to Roseanne and ended up feeling for her, I never felt able to like Doctor Grene.  For a man who was entrusted with the care of others, he seemed far too wrapped up in his own worries and troubles, and often seemed to use 20 words when one would do.  (Put another way, he was not nearly as interesting a character as he could have been.) Roseanne’s use of grammar also grated on me somewhat – her descriptions seemed clunky at times, which made reading it slightly laborious.  I don’t think this was the fault of the author of the book, rather it was a trait of the character he created.

The story itself was interesting enough, but I felt that it could have been shortened and would have benefitted from some editing  I had little interest in Doctor Grene’s marital woes and didn’t feel that they added anything to the book.

There was a twist at the end, which I did work out (but not too far before it was revealed), which I felt was just slightly too unbelievable, but nonetheless it did tie things up fairly neatly.

There have been many extremely favourable reviews of this book, and my opinion places me in the minority in that I found it slightly disappointing.  I wouldn’t want to put anyone else off reading it, but it wasn’t one that I particularly enjoyed.

 

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A very interesting book, which weaves fact and fiction to great effect.  There are two threads to the narrative, and the two stories are linked.

In the present day, Jordan Scott, who was excommunicated from his community of First Latter Day Saints, is returning to Utah for the first time in several years.  His mother, with whom he has had no contact since leaving the community, stands accused of murdering his father.  The Latter Day Saints still practice polygamy and she was his 19th wife.

Meanwhile, the story of another famous 19th wife – Ann Eliza Young, nineteenth wife of Brigham Young, leader of the Latter Day Saints in the 19th century, escapes from the devout religious community and then fought to bring about an end to polgamy. Brigham and Ann Eliza Young were of course actual people, and while the author states that the book is a work of fiction, he has clearly researched the subject well.

I really enjoyed both parts of the book; the present day story showed clearly the effect of growing up in a polygamous community, as well as being an intriguing mystery.  As a narrator, Jordan grew on me (and also grew up a lot), as he used his natural intelligence and resourcefulness to try to save the mother who abandoned him years earlier.  His vulnerability really shone through, and it was interesting to see the character develop.  I also genuinely had no idea how the story would turn out.  The only slight disappointment was that the ending seemed very abrupt.

The historical parts of the story were very interesting, and definitely left me wanting to learn more about Brigham Young, his brave nineteenth wife, and the legacy of their actions and beliefs.  Ann Eliza was shown as not perfect (which made the story more credible, but a very strong, courageous and intelligent lady.  Brigham himself probably received a fair portrayal – Ann Eliza was scathing about him, but was able to recognise his many achievements.

Overall, I found this a fascinating and absorbing read, and would definitely recommend it.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

 

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Vida is 19, has a heart condition, and has spent her whole life waiting to die.  When she receives a transplanted heart, she is given a second chance at life.  But how does someone who has never really lived know how to start?  And why does she think she can remember things which she has never experienced?

Richard’s life falls apart when his wife is killed in a road accident.  He donates her heart, and feels compelled to meet the young recipient.  However, the first time he meets Vida, she tells him that she loves him.  He dismisses her as a silly young girl – but could she possibly be right?  Could it be that her new heart remembers it’s former life?

I have very mixed feelings about this book.  On the plus side, I thought the writing flowed well, and the story moved along quickly, but still had plenty of time to focus on each character.  It was narrated alternately by Vida and Richard, so we got to see both points of view, and to see events from both sides, as it were.  The premise of the story is strongly connected to the possibility of cellular memory – enabling organ recipients to retain the memories of the donors.  I’m not at all sure that I believe in this, but it was not hard to suspend my disbelief for the duration of the book.

There were a small number of other characters – Vida’s mother Abigail, Richard’s mother-in-law Myra, Victor – a friend of Vida, and her best friend Esther.  My favourite character was Esther – a 90 something women who had survived life in a concentration camp in Germany before coming to live in San Francisco, and who was perhaps the only person in Vida’s life who knew what it was like to expect death at every turn.

On the negative side, I found Vida to be an intensely irritating character, especially at first.  While I could understand that due to her mother’s over-protectiveness, she had never really had a chance to mix a lot with other people, and was therefore perhaps lacking in some social skills, I felt that her attitude and some of her actions towards Richard were beyond stupid and insensitive.  He actually came across as very patient under the circumstances.

I also really disliked the ending, especially in regard to Richard’s actions.  I don’t want to reveal any spoilers, but I thought it was inappropriate and not in keeping with the way the story had played out prior to that.

Overall, while this book was not terrible, it left me feeling ultimately a bit disappointed.  It had it’s good points, but an irritating main character and an ending which took me by surprise (and not in a good way) made it feel like a bit of a let down.

(I’d like to thank Transworld Publishers for sending me this book to review.  Transworld Publishers website can be found here.  Catherine Ryan Hyde’s website can be found here.)

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Carthew Yorston is a Texan businessman, who takes his two young sons to breakfast in Windows on the World, the restaurant at the top of the North Tower of the World Trade Centre, on September 11th 2001.  What unfolds is all too familiar to the reader, and we see tragedy and horror unfold through Cathew’s eyes (and occasionally the eyes of one of his sons).

In a dual narrative, Frederic Beigbeder examines the effect that September 11th 2001 has had on him, the world and in particular (understandably) New York.

Each chapter in this book represents one minute.  In Cathew’s narrative, which runs in chronological order, he describes that particular minute, stuck at the top of what was the most dangerous place in the world to be on that day.

Beigbeder’s narrative describes a particular minute at varying times of his life since that date, and takes him from Paris to New York, as he considers what moved him to write the book, and describe different aspects of his life.

It’s hard to say that this book was enjoyable, and perhaps, given the subject matter, it was never going to be an enjoyable story.  As the reader knows all too well what happened on that day, it can be read with a sense of apprehension, knowing that Carthew’s hopes of rescue and assurances to his sons are in vain.  The ending is inevitable (it is revealed very early on that Carthew, Jerry and David do not survive, and as nobody who was this high up in North Tower did survive the attacks, it could not be written any other way.  

Carthew also talks about his life, his marriage and divorce, and his job and girlfriend.  This part of the book made for uncomfortable yet compelling reading. However, I did feel somewhat voyeuristic while reading it – I’m not sure that such a tragic event should be served up as entertainment.

When Beigbeder writes as himself, the book is less interesting.  It started well – Beigbeder talks about the idea behind the tower, and gives plenty of facts about how it was built, dimensions etc.  But his narrative soon seems to turn into an exercise in navel gazing…at times he seems simply to be indulging himself in thoughts about his own life.  I ended up feeling that if he wanted to write an autobiography, he should have just written one, instead of trying to smuggle it into a book about the worst terrorist attack in history.

Overall though, I am not sorry I read this book.

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