Posts Tagged ‘dual narrators’

This is the story of two very different men who went to the same prestigious school, but years later neither of their lives have turned out the way they were expected.

Since the incident that caused James DeWitt to suffer a severe brain injury, robbing him of his job, his friends and his girlfriend, James lives back at home with his parents and spends his days watching DVDs.

Meanwhile, Danny Allen, former scholarship pupil at the school and destined to have a successful and industrious career, has more or less given up on life. He is a recovering alcoholic, with a failing relationship and no job. It is only when he is told that he needs to find employment or lose his benefits that he ends up working in a care home, where he encounters James and they strike up a friendship.

I’ll leave the description at that, as I don’t want to give away any spoilers.

The story is narrated by James and Danny, with each taking alternate chapters. I really liked the book and found it to be an undemanding read, despite the subject matter. Mike Gayle has always written enjoyable novels, but usually on a much lighter note. Here he delves into more serious issues, such as learning to live with a brain injury which meant that James had lost his independence, and Danny struggling as he blamed himself for a tragic event in his past. I think I could see where the book was going and the ending was no real surprise; however, it is not a thriller or a whodunnit and every ending doesn’t need to have a twist.

If you are a fan of Mike Gayle or authors such as Nick Hornby, I would certainly recommend this book.

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Nadia and Daniel are two commuters who get the same tube every morning (or whenever Nadia gets up on time to make it). They don’t know each other but Daniel would like to get to know Nadia so places an advertisement in ‘Missed Connections’ a local newspaper section dedicated to people who have seen someone on their commute who they would like to get to know.

And so begins a series of messages between the two, a number of failed attempts at meeting, and several near misses. Will ‘train guy’ and ‘coffee spill girl’ get it together? Read on and find out…

I listened to the audiobook of Our Stop, and thank goodness I did. Because honestly if I had been reading the physical book, I would probably have thrown it across the room in annoyance. To give them their due, Carrie Hope Fletcher and Felix Scott did a great job of narrating Nadia and Daniel, who both told the story from their point of view. I also liked the idea of it – two people meeting in what is essentially an old fashioned way; there was scope for romance, humour and surprise. But this book unfortunately did not work for me. The main problem was with the two main characters; in Nadia’s case, the author gave Nadia a highly skilled job in artificial intelligence as a shortcut to demonstrating that Nadia was an intelligent, modern and independent woman. What would have been more convincing would have been to have actually portrayed her as those things. Instead, she is shown as incapable of setting an alarm because she keeps getting drunk (you’re an adult for crying out loud – you should know how to set an alarm and get to your well paid job on time). She misreads obviously signals, and gets jealous when her best friend and work best friend grow close.

Daniel is portrayed first and foremost as a very woke (I bloody hate that expression but it’s appropriate here) and socially aware young man. So far, so good. Except that I really don’t need it ramming down my throat in every sodding scene. At one point he and his mate are discussing a TV show called Lust Villa (obviously based on the actual abominable TV show Love Island) and he is saying things like, “I just think it’s so hetero-normative.” Purrlease!!! He is almost a parody character at times, and drove me potty. And the date at the end of book was vomit inducing.

Sorry, but it’s just my opinion, and I’ve no doubt that lots of people probably loved this book, so don’t be put off if chick-lit is your thing. I listened to the end because once I’ve started a book I feel the need to finish it, but it definitely is not my thing!

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From the cover and title of this book, you might be forgiven for thinking it’s a light hearted comedy, or an undemanding chicklit novel. But it’s neither of those things. This is the story of Jean Collins, who is in a coma after having been knocked down while crossing the road. Her daughter Anne, who has always had an uneasy relationship with her mother, and is now married to a selfish husband and has two – frankly horrible -teenage sons, travels to be with her mother in the hospital.

Narrated in alternating chapters by Jean and Anne (with the very occasional chapter narrated by other characters) this tells the story of their family history, which contains secrets and tragedy which they have not addressed for years. Both mother and daughter hold guilt about the past, and through their memories, the reader pieces together the truth about a mystery which has created a hole in their lives and their hearts.

I really enjoyed this book, even though it is not always an enjoyable read. The characters have had a lot of heartache in their lives, and it is clear that they have not properly dealt with it before now. Both Anne and Jean are very believable and real characters – both basically good people, but deeply flawed and certainly not always likeable.

Jenny Eclair is very talented to have written such an easy to read (the writing flows beautifully) book, while at the same time handling some very tough and delicate subjects. I had one, and only one, slight niggle and that is that near to the very end, there is a almighty coincidence, which I feel was very unfeasible. But I’m just nitpicking with that. Overall, I would definitely recommend this book.

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When a mysterious and reticent young woman moves into the country abode of Wildfell Hall, with a young son but no husband, the interest and suspicions of the villagers are soon aroused.  Gilbert Markham, a young farmer in the village is intrigued by the newcomer, Helen Graham.  They become friends and before long Gilbert falls for Helen.  However, the other residents of the village start imagining all kind of things about Helen’s past and start spreading gossip and half-truths, especially regarding her apparent relationship with her landlord Mr Lawrence.  Gilbert confronts Helen, and it is only when she allows him to read her diary that he understands her reluctance to make friends or discuss her past – Helen has left her alcoholic and cruel husband, and has taken their son in order that her husband cannot be a bad influence upon him.  But can she ever escape the spectre of her unhappy marriage, and find happiness again…?

Anne Bronte is far less celebrated than her two sisters, Charlotte and Emily.  Most readers are familiar wtih Charlotte’s most famous novel, Jane Eyre (one of my personal favourites), and Emily’s only novel, Wuthering Heights.  (Even people who have not read the books usually have an idea of the storylines,due to the numerous television and film adaptations.)   This is the first time I have read Anne Bronte, and I am at a loss as to why she is less well known than her sisters, because I thought this book was superb.

The narrative has three distinct parts – the first and third take the forms of letters written to an unseen friend, by Gilbert Markham, in which he tells his friend about the mysterious stranger who has taken up tenancy in Wildfell Hall, and the  events surrounding her arrival in the village.  The middle section consists of Helen’s diary entries, which detail the events in her marriage and her flight from her husband.

For the time it was written, this was a very brave subject to tackle – no matter how badly a husband treated his wife, a wife was simply not expected to leave him.  Indeed at the time, it was not possible for a woman to obtain a divorce from her husband – although there was nothing to stop a husband divorcing his wife.  Helen comes across as a strong character, reluctantly but necessarily flying in the face of social convention, and finding herself the subject of salacious gossip rather than sympathy for her troubles.

Comparisons to the works of Charlotte and Emily Bronte are inevitable, and whereas Emily depicted Heathcliff as a passionate and incredibly romantic hero, Anne portrays a far more realistic picture of life with such a man – her husband is certainly attractive and passionate in the beginning, but she soon realises that he is selfish, cruel and concerned more for himself than anybody else.  I rather admire Anne for daring to show this less than savoury aspect of his character.

The characters were extremely well drawn, and while Helen verges on being overly pious and religious, it is important to remember the time that the book was written, when people were expected to be devoutly Christian, and not to go to church was seen as a serious transgression (early on in the book, the local Vicar calls on Helen to admonish her for her non-attenance at church).  Helen does however come across as wilful and strong in extrremely difficult circumstances, and is determined to do what she believes to be right, even if it is not what others believe to be right.  She was an admirable heroine.

Gilbert was a very likable and believable haracter.  He was essentially a decent young man, but perhaps due to his mother who pandered to his every whim, he sometimes could behave in a selfish or childish manner – a fact that he himself was not blind to.  However, this just served to make him all the more believable and realistic.

The other main character is that of Arthur Huntingdon, Helen’s husband.  He does not narrate any of the book himself, but is fully brought to life in Helen’s diary, and was a despicable and ultimately rather pathetic character.

The story had sufficient twists and turns to suprise me on many occasions, and the ending was very satisfying.  There were also moments of unexpected humour, although unlike some other reviewers, I did not see any similarity with the humour of Jane Austen.

Above all, this is an exciting story, with a heroine who was ahead of her time in many ways, but trapped by the social conventions of the time in which she lived.  The book kept me gripped throughout, and I would recommend this without hesitation, especially to anyone who may have read books by the other Bronte sisters, but have yet to give Anne’s work a try.

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

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This is the story of Rose and Ruby Darlen, conjoined craniopagus twins who live in Canada.  Born on the same day as a giant tornado, and abandoned at the hospital by their teenage mother, the girls were adopted and raised by Lovey Darlen, the midwife who helped to deliver the twins, and her husband, Stanislaus (‘Stash’).  The book is narrated mostly by Rose, with occasional chapters by Ruby, and is written as their autobiography, telling about their lives with their adoptive parents, and the difficulties of living as conjoined twins, as well as the love and affection that they feel for each other.  The histories of the characters are also explored.

The beauty of the story is that it makes the reader see the girls as two distinct characters; their conjoinment soon stops being the thing that defines them, and instead their different personalities, likes and dislikes and idiosyncracies become the reasons for how we view them.

Rose is more bookish, and loves reading, writing and baseball, whereas Ruby loves to watch television, and explore local Indian archeology.  She seems to be the slightly more immature of the two girls (although there are moments when she displays real strength of character).  Due to the nature of their condition, Rose seems the more dominant twin, both in terms of personality, and also physically; she has to carry Ruby everywhere, with Ruby’s legs wrapped around her waist.

The girls naturally share a very close emotional bond and deep love for each other, but it is clear that both girls sometimes wish that they were not conjoined, or at the very least, imagine how different life would have been if they had been born separately.

As well as the almost unique difficulties they face due to their physical condition, the girls also face problems that many people would be familiar with (Rose, for instance, tells how she became pregnant and had to give her child up for adoption; something that haunts her permanently).

I found the characters very real and likeable, and especially liked Aunt Lovey and Uncle Stash, who are extremely well developed.  Their human flaws and strengths are well depicted, making it easy for the reader to care about these people.

The writing flowed well, and although the story jumped about between the present day and the past, it was not difficult to follow.  The personalities of Rose and Ruby came through well in their respective narratives, so that I never lost track of who was speaking (it was interesting to see how they both remembered the same events differently, even though it would seem that due to sheer logistics, their memories would be expected to be almost identical).

I didn’t find the book perhaps as moving as I thought it might be, but it was an engrossing read nonetheless, and I would certainly consider reading more by this author.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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Micka is a 10 year old boy, who has a hard life to say the least.  His mother can’t be bothered with looking after him, and takes no interest in his education, his father is nowhere to be seen, and at least one of his two older brothers is frequently in prison and physically abuses Micka when he’s at home.

He soon becomes friends with Laurie, a new boy at his school.  Laurie may come from a better background, but his parents are splitting up, and while his mother behaves irrationally, his father is emotionally distant.

Laurie has a vivid imagination, and dreams of cruelty and magic, and as Micka is pulled into his world, the lines between fact and fiction become blurred until both boys find themselves on a seemingly inevitable course towards a horrifying conclusion…

This book was amazingly well written.  It is narrated by Micka and Laurie in turn; in the proof copy I read, each narrator is distinguished by a different font.  However, the difference between the language which the two boys used also distinguished them from each other.

It is certainly a disturbing book to read, which was expected as the book was apparently informed by the Mary Bell and Jamie Bulger cases.  Before we even get to the troubling ending of the story, there are descriptions of physical abuse in the home and cruelty to animals.  However, one of the hardest parts to stomach was the reasoning behind the boys’ actions.

I thought the characterisation of the two boys was excellent.  Micka seemed like an innocent child stranded in a violent world, whereas Laurie was by far the colder and more calculating of the two.

Overall, this is a quick read, but certainly one that will linger in the memory.  Highly recommended – but perhaps not for readers of a nervous disposition.


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