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Posts Tagged ‘dual timelines’

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Jessica Ball does an excellent job of narrating this audiobook about the relationship between young married couple Adam and Eva. The story opens with the two of them stumbling home after a drunken night out with friends – and more or less ends just a few pages later with the sudden, heartbreaking death of Adam. I was actually not expecting this, and it came as a real shock – it was not as the result of a dramatic accident of heroic incident; there was no prior illness or telltale signs – a young seemingly healthy young man simply goes to sleep and doesn’t wake up.

From there the story alternates between chapters where Eva is struggling to move on with her life in the present day, and chapters which tell the story of how Adam and Eva met, and how their relationship developed. So there is a dual storyline, and the one set in the past is not told chronologically, but it’s actually far less complicated than that sounds.

I’m in two minds about this book – I can definitely appreciate it, because the writing (and also the aforementioned narration) were both terrific. But I never quite loved this book. Somehow it didn’t quite hit the spot for me.

The death scene and immediate aftermath were so eloquently written – not overly dramatic or overblown, but just believable and moving. I also liked Adam and Eva’s friends Henry and Carmen, both of whom have their own stories and troubles (I would have liked to have read some events from Carmen’s points of view, as she was a really interesting character).

The relationship between Adam and Eva was entirely believable too – they loved each other, but yes they got irritated with other, yes they went through bad patches, and it wasn’t all wine and roses. But they wanted to be together. It’s life, and their relationship was easy to invest in.

There were some parts that delved into Eva’s family history, and events surrounding the division of Berlin by the Berlin Wall, and while this should have proved interesting to me – it’s a fascinating subject – it detracted from the overall story.

Objectively I can see that this is a well written book and that many people would love it. I didn’t love it, but I did like it, just…for me there was something missing, but I feel that was more to do with me the listener, than the book itself.

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1984: 10 year old junior detective Kate Meaney spends her days wandering around Green Oaks Shopping Centre, in Birmingham, looking for suspicious activity.  Living with her disinterested grandmother after the desertion of her mother and the death of her father, Kate finds it hard to make friends and her closest confidante is her toy monkey, Mickey.

2003: Kurt, a security guard at Green Oaks Shopping Centre, who has few friends and suffers with a sleep disorder, is haunted by the image of a little girl with a toy monkey, which he sees on the security camera at the centre, and which invokes memories of young Kate Meaney, who went missing almost 20 years earlier.  Meanwhile, Lisa – a manager at Your Music, in the shopping centre finds a toy monkey stuffed behind a pipe in the centre, and is also reminded of when Kate disappeared.  Gradually, the truth of what happened all those years ago is revealed…

I really liked this book.  I had a particular interest in reading it as the author is local to the area where I live, and I am very familiar with the shopping centre on which the book is partly based. 

The first part of the story centred on Kate Meaney and her life.  All she wants to do is become a detective – and maybe find someone who understands her.  The only friends she has are Teresa – a schoolfriend, who for different reasons to Kate is also something of an outsider, and Adrian – the son of the local newsagent.  Kate feels largely invisible, and certainly it seems as if she is often overlooked by others.

The second part of the book shifted to life at the shopping centre, and in particular for Lisa and Kurt, who don’t know each other, but become friends.  The author used to work at just such a shopping centre, and it shows through in some of the anecdotal stories of awkward or eccentric customers, and the trivial incidents which get blown out of all proportion. There was a lot of humour in this section of the book, but also a lot of tenderness.  Both Lisa and Kurt seem to be drifting through their lives, finding little satisfaction anywhere and having let go of all of their dreams.

I thought the three main characters of Lisa, Kurt and Kate were all very well drawn, and the author seems to have a real talent for getting into the minds of these slightly off-beat characters. 

The writing also flowed beautifully and I found the book hard to put down.  Most of the chapters are short and choppy, which makes it a quick and absorbing read.  I also particularly liked the little thoughts of various anonymous people around the centre, some of which were very funny and some of which were sad or poignant.  One of the things that did jump out at me was how for some people, a huge shopping centre such as the one in this book becomes almost the centre of their lives.  It’s a social meeting place, a way of avoiding boredom, somewhere where people can become anonymous and get lost in the crowds.

The book isn’t perfect – a couple of the things that happened struck me as too unrealistic – but it was a very enjoyable read, and I will certainly be looking out for more work by Catherine O’Flynn.

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