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Posts Tagged ‘families’

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27 year old Elvira Carr, lives a very sheltered with her overbearing mother; due to Elvira’s ‘condition’ (Autism, although this is never specified), her mother does not allow Elvira out on her own, other than to the local Asda, and relationships with other people are non-existent, as Elvira takes people at face value and believes what they say to be absolutely literal. Consequently her life revolves around her beloved Mills and Boon novels, and eating, learning about and collecting packets from various types of biscuits.

However, when her mother has a stroke and has to live in a care home, Elvira is forced to look after herself and engage with the world. With the help of a neighbour, she compiles a list of seven rules to help her navigate a scary world she learns that while some people are kind and willing to help, others can be cruel and ready to take advantage.

She also finds out secrets about her past which her mother had kept hidden – I don’t want to say more on this aspect as it is a fairly important part of the plot, so I am wary of revealing spoilers.

I enjoyed the book a lot. I think comparisons with Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine are inevitable. Both are about young women who have domineering mothers, and who have trouble fitting into society. So there are some basic similarities. Both both Eleanor and Elvira are very much their own people. I really enjoyed reading about Elvira, and as it is written in the first person, I felt that I got to know her well. There are moments of humour in the book but also some very poignant parts. I would definitely recommend this novel and will look out for more by Frances Maynard.

 

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It’s March. We are a quarter of the way through the year and already I have found a book that I believe is a serious contender for my book of the year.

The Leftovers takes place three years after an event known as the Rapture by some, and the Sudden Departure by many. Basically, 2% of the earth’s population just disappeared in a split second. The monumental event, whatever it was, did not discriminate across gender, sexual, religious, colour or race lines. Set in the fictional town of Mapleton, New York, this novel examines the effect the Sudden Departure has had on the residents, focusing mainly on the Garvey family – father Kevin, the town mayor, who tries to maintain a positive outlook and a sense of normalcy; wife Laurie, who has left the family to join a cult known as the Guilty Remnant; daughter Jill, who is rebelling as a form of coping with seeing her oldest friend disappear; and son Tom, who put his faith in a man who calls himself Holy Wayne and who believes he has the power to absorb other people’s pain.

A lot of the events in the book could be described as mundane, in that it is people just trying to live their lives, coping with loss, not knowing what happened or why, and searching for ways to get through the pain and confusion. It does make you think ‘what if’, but what I loved about it was the fact that although the Sudden Departure itself is implausible, the reactions of the townsfolk to it do seem entirely believable. I wouldn’t class it necessarily as dystopia, and definitely not as sci-fi, but perhaps alternative reality. A reality that I personally would not want to contemplate!

Lives go off on their own trajectories, and people react in different ways. I loved reading about the residents of this small town, and I only wish there was a sequel. Incidentally, I tried watching the TV adaptation before I even knew that it was based on a book, and while the premise fascinated me, I couldn’t get past two episodes before giving up. The second long flashbacks annoyed me and there seemed to be too many storylines going on, but in the book the storylines all meld together perfectly.

Highly, highly recommended.

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This saga tells the story of the Tolliver and the Warwick families, who are two of the three founding families of the town of Howbutker in the Southern States of America.  Along with the third family, the Dumonts, they agree that if one ever offends the other, they would send a red rose to ask forgiveness.  The other family would send a white rose to say that forgiveness had been granted.  They lived alongside each other as neighbours and great friends, until in 1916, young  Mary Tolliver inherits Somerset, their cotton plantation from her father, against the wishes and expectations of her mother and brother.  A rift develops, and matters are made worse when Mary turns down the proposal of handsome Percy Warwick, the timber magnate.  The scene is set for a story that will have consequences for all  families concerned, and for their future generations.

This book was obviously influenced by Gone With The Wind (a precocious Southern belle, who is determined to save her family’s cotton farm at any cost), but it has its own story to tell.  It relates events from three points of view, and only by reading all of them, does the whole picture become clear.

I enjoyed every page of the book – the story had plenty of twists and a few shocks, and I thought it brought the periods described into clear focus.  I liked most of the characters; Mary (like Scarlett O’Hara before her) was not always easy to warm to, but the book did a good job of explaining things from her perspective.

The writing flowed beautifully, even if it had an occasional tendency to get ‘flowery’ and it was one of those books where I kept thinking, “I’ll read just a few more pages.”  I liked the earlier parts of the story – those set in the 1920s and 1930s, more than the modern(ish) section, which showed how the events of years earlier were still reverberating down through the decades.  Nonetheless, the last part did round things off very well.

Although this is quite a big book at more than 600 pages, it didn’t feel like a long read.  I would recommend it, and will look out for more by Leila Meacham.

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