Posts Tagged ‘family’


This book jumps backwards and forwards in time, and chapters are alternately told from the memory of Mrs Threadgoode, an elderly lady in a nursing home who is reminiscing to Evelyn Crouch, a deeply unhappy housewife who attends the home to visit her mother-in-law and in the third person during the 1930s – 1960s, which is when the majority of the story itself takes place. There are also inserts from The Weems Weekly, an informal gossip paper from the town of Whistle Stop, and various other newspapers from places around Alabama.

As the story would suggest, the majority of the story revolves around the Whistle Stop Cafe, which was run by Imogen ‘Idgie’ Threadgoode, and her friend Ruth, and which became a communal point for many people in the little town of Whistle Stop.

Although the book features such themes as murder, racism and marital abuse, it does somehow manage to be light reading and even what I would describe as fluffy in some parts. That is in no way a criticism however; like Evelyn – who does get a few chapters devoted to her personally and her own ‘journey’ from depression – I enjoyed Mrs Threadgoode’s reminiscences and memories of a different time, when people trusted one another, and everybody knew everybody else’s business.

It’s definitely an undemanding read, filled with memorable characters – my favourite was Idgie, who was feisty, funny and fiercely devoted to those around her. Some of the racial epithets jarred a little, but for the main part they were reflecting attitudes of the time that the story was set in, so I could see why they were there, but it is still something that we are not as used to in more modern books.

Still though, if you are looking for a feel-good book to curl up on the sofa with and lose yourself in, you could do a lot worse than this. I don’t think I enjoyed it quite as much as Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven, by the same author, but I did like it a lot, and would certainly like to read more by Fannie Flagg.

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This film opens with Leanne (Saoirse Ronan), who was kidnapped at the age of 4 and has lived with her benevolent but disturbed abductor Ben (Jason Isaacs) for 17 years, being returned to her parents, having escaped/been discovered at Ben’s home (it is never made clear how she gets away). Her mother Marcy (Cynthia Nixon) and father Glen (David Warshofsky) are delighted to have her home, but their joy soon turns to heartbreak as they realise that they don’t know their daughter – renamed Leia by Ben – at all, and not only does she not remember them, but she also identifies more with Ben, who has been her sole companion for most of her life. As the family struggle to find a way to tread this unfamiliar ground, events take a sinister turn in Marcy’s desperation to make a connection with her daughter.

I enjoyed this film a lot, despite the disturbing subject. The acting – particularly from Ronan, Nixon and Isaacs (albeit Jason Isaacs took a small role, with his character’s life with Leia being told in flashback and just one scene in the present day) was outstanding, and really made me invest in the characters.

It is a slow moving story, certainly not a film for fans of action movies, but I found that that suited the mood perfectly. The ambiguous ending also fitted the rest of the film, and I found myself thinking about this film and the characters for several days after viewing it.


Year of release: 2015

Director: Nikole Beckwith

Writer: Nikole Beckwith

Main stars: Saoirse Ronan, Cynthia Nixon, Jason Isaacs, David Warshofsky


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One day in Melbourne, happily married mother-of-three Cecilia Fitzpatrick finds a letter in the attic with instructions on the envelope from her husband John-Paul, telling her that the letter should only be opened in the event of his death. With John-Paul being very much alive, Cecilia is naturally curious about what the letter might contain, and wrestles with her conscience over whether or not she should open it…

Meanwhile Rachel Crowley living in Sydney, school secretary and grandmother to two year old Jacob, is reeling from the news that her son and his wife are planning to move to New York and take Jacob away from her. Rachel’s daughter Janie was murdered 28 years earlier and nobody has ever been brought to justice and it seems that Jacob is her only joy in life. But Rachel has her own idea about who killed Janie…

Tess O’Leary is – she thinks – happily married to husband Will. So she is devastated when she discovers that Will and her cousin/best friend Felicity have fallen in love. She decides to get away and goes to visit her mother in Sydney, and tries to put her life back together…

My thoughts

This book started out fairly light-heartedly, but soon developed into something of a mystery. Like Cecilia, I was eager to find out what was in John-Paul’s letter, but I actually ended up guessing the contents before the story revealed them. However, while I was initially disappointed because I thought I had guessed the ending of the book early on, it transpired that the story was less to do with the mystery behind the letter, and more to do with how the characters coped with what was in it.

The first few chapters threw a lot of seemingly unrelated characters out and I generally prefer stories that let you get to know characters gradually rather than all at once, but it didn’t take long before the different relationships between the characters were peeled away. I felt extremely sorry for Rachel, who had been living in a kind of limbo since Janie’s murder, and I also liked Cecilia and Tess. However, a lot of the other supporting characters annoyed me (unfortunately, husbands generally do not come off well in this story!) The ending did take a surprising turn, and I wasn’t entirely satisfied with it, but to say why would be to reveal spoilers and I definitely think that this book is better read with no knowledge of what it is to come.

It’s definitely a quick read – the writing flows really well and the story moves on at a quick pace, keeping you alert to what might be coming next. Based on this book, I would definitely try more by Liane Moriarty and would recommend the book to fans of drama or thrillers.

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It’s 1912, and the Torrington family are at their grand old house Sterne, for daughter Emerald’s 20th birthday. Once rich, but now on the verge of financial ruin, Emerald’s stepfather has gone to try and borrow money to save the property. Meanwhile, Emerald, her thoughtless brother Clovis, their manipulative mother Charlotte and eccentric youngest child Smudge are awaiting the arrival of their guests. But the evening is interrupted by a group of strangers who arrive at Sterne. They have been in a train accident and there is nowhere else for them to go while they await help from the railway company.

With little choice, the Torringtons invite the rag-tag group of victims into the house, but before long events take a strange turn and the family start to wonder if they have invited something more malevolent into their home. Over the course of an evening and a night, secrets are revealed, true colours are shown and everybody learns something about themselves and each other.

I’m not entirely sure what to make of this book. I definitely enjoyed it and it was a fairly quick read for me; however it started out as one thing and then took a different turn. If you asked me to put it into a particular genre, I would struggle – it is described as a dark comedy of manners (and it certainly was funny in parts – the descriptions made me giggle, often). However there was a more sinister undertone, and a definite sense that evil was never too far away from the Sterne house.

I felt that the characters were well described, if not all particularly likeable. My favourite characters were Smudge, and siblings Patience and Ernest. Most of the others featured somewhere on a scale of unpleasant to horrible.

I enjoy books that take place in a single location, and also books that take place in a short span of time, so for me this was ideal. I was never able to predict exactly what was going to happen next, although I did guess the twist at the end- that said, their were clues to the twist throughout the story.

Reviews for this book seem very mixed, and I can see why it would not appeal to people. It’s hard to get a hold of, and almost defies description. However, I liked it a lot – certainly enough for me to seek out other work by this author. I would recommend with caution.

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Adrian Wolfe seems to have the perfect life. Although he has two ex-wives with whom he has five children altogether, everybody gets along well, and even all go on holiday gather with Adrian and his third wife Maya.

But when Maya steps in front of a bus and dies, after an evening spent getting uncharacteristically drunk, Adrian’s world falls apart. A mysterious woman named Jane appears to be stalking him, his children all seem to be going through personal crises, and then he makes a discovery which causes him to question whether Maya’s death was really the accident he had thought it was, or whether she might have done it deliberately.

As the story moves between present day and flashbacks, secrets are revealed, and the veneer of the perfect extended family starts to crack.

I really enjoyed this book, and read it in two sittings. I thought the storyline seemed believable, even the unconventional relationship between the family. The characters were also very well drawn, and although I didn’t particularly like some of them (Adrian himself seemed charming but ultimately irresponsible, always leaving one woman when someone better came along, but somehow managing to keep relations harmonious), they were certainly easy to find interest in.

The mystery part of the novel – without revealing spoilers all I can say about it is that it revolved around whether Maya killed herself deliberately or not, and what might have driven her to consider it – also added an element of tension, which kept me turning the pages. I was genuinely surprised by the ending, and it’s always pleasant when that happens.

The story segues perfectly from a family drama to a psychological thriller and back again, and it was one of the few books which I didn’t want to put down and kept thinking about going back to to read some more.

Very highly recommended.


Author’s website can be found here.


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Mary Gibson’s debut novel takes place between 1911 – 1919, and revolves around Nellie Clarke, one of the ‘custard tarts’ who works at Pearce Duff biscuit factory in East London. It begins with her meeting the charismatic Eliza James, who encourages female factory workers to strike for better wages and living conditions, and follows Nellie through the first world war, as she sees the young men in her neighbourhood go off to fight for their country.

As Nellie is just sixteen at the start of the book, the story sees her grow up and have to work hard to keep her family safe and together. She faces numerous challenges, both romantic and financial, and has to make the transition from child to adult very quickly.

I think the book was well written, and it certainly seems that the author has done a lot of research about the era. There were quite a few twists and turns, and while some parts were predictable, there were some surprises along the way too. Having said that, it didn’t ever completely engage me, although I think that is more down to my personal taste – I’m not really a big fan of cosy historical sagas, which I would categorise this as, despite the fact that it demonstrates the hardship of Nellie’s life, and the effect of the war upon her and her friends.

Nellie though was a likeable central character, as was Sam Gilbie, a young man who played a very central role in the story, and even if it was not really my kind of book, I still found myself reading large chunks of it at a time.

If this is the kind of genre that you enjoy, then I would certainly recommend this book, but on a personal level, while I enjoyed it in part, I am not sure that I would try another book of this type for a while.

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This Woody Allen directed contemporary musical, which boasts a star-studded cast revolves around the love lives of an extended family, and takes place in Manhattan, Paris and Rome.

I only really wanted to watch this film because Tim Roth is in it, and I wasn’t sure whether I was going to enjoy it – I’ve not actually seen many Woody Allen films – but in fact it is utterly charming and really rather lovely.

The story is narrated by Djuna (known to everyone as DJ, and played by Natasha Lyonne). She starts by introducing the viewers to her family – stepfather Bob (Alan Alda), mother Steffi (Goldie Hawn), step-sisters Skylar (Drew Barrymore), Lane (Gaby Hoffman) and Laura (Natalie Portman) and step-brother Scott (Lukas Haas). Not forgetting her actual father Joe (Woody Allen).

While Holden (Edward Norton) and Skylar get engaged, Joe is bemoaning the demise of his latest relationship, and DJ decides to set him up with Von (Julia Roberts) the patient of DJ’s friend’s psychiatrist mother! Von is in an unhappy relationship, and Joe is determined to win her over.

Meanwhile, Lane and Laurie are both in love with the same young man, Bob is distraught that son Scott is turning into a young conservative, despite have extremely liberal parents, and DJ is busy falling in love with various young men. Things get even more complicated when recently paroled prisoner Charles Ferry (Tim Roth) turns up!

The cast mostly sing all their own songs (Barrymore is dubbed) and all the songs are well known musical classics. Obviously these actors are not professional singers, but for the most part they hold their own pretty well – in fact Goldie Hawn and Ed Norton apparently had to be told NOT to sing as well as they were able, as they were not believable as the characters randomly bursting into song which they were meant to be portraying.

There is also some quite amazing dancing, with lots of extras (obviously professional dancers) being used – and this film also contains probably the happiest funeral scene you will ever see! There is also a quite stunning dance towards the end of the film, featuring Goldie Hawn and Woody Allen – it is very cleverly and beautifully done.

The whole cast shines, but I would give special mention to Alan Alda and Goldie Hawn, and also to Tim Roth, who has a great time with his own relatively small role. Edward Norton is also terrific in a role that is very much unlike the kind of parts we are used to seeing him play.

Overall, if you are looking for a film that will make you laugh and feel warm and happy inside, I would strongly recommend you give this one a go. I loved it.


Year of release: 1996

Director: Woody Allen

Writer: Woody Allen

Main cast: Alan Alda, Natasha Lyonne, Goldie Hawn, Edward Norton, Drew Barrymore, Woody Allen, Julia Roberts, Tim Roth, Gaby Hoffman, Natalie Portman, Lukas Haas


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