Posts Tagged ‘great read’

In Baltimore in the 1860s, Roger Button welcome their son Benjamin into the world…but there is something very strange about him. Benjamin is born with the body and mind of a 70 year old man, which is naturally very disturbing to his parents. They eventually realise that he is aging backwards, and as he gets older, he actually becomes younger! In his prime of life when he appears to be a handsome man of 50 (but in truth is in his 20s), he meets a woman named Hildegarde and falls in love with her. But how can a man who becomes more like a child while his wife becomes more like an old lady ever really be happy?

I read this book in about an hour, and thought it was a lovely story. As it was a short story, there was less characterisation than there would be in a full length novel, but nonetheless, Benjamin evoked sympathy and the story held my attention from the first word, as I found myself wanting to know how his tale would end.

The writing is wonderful – evocative and descriptive, and the problems which a man with Benjamin’s condition would face were well portrayed. This book definitely made me want to read more by the author. My only complaint is that it ended too quickly! Highly recommended.

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

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Night club singer Benna Carpenter lives in a flat across the hall from Gerard Maines. Gerard is in love with Benna and suffers when he hears her bring other men home at night.  Or Benna is an aerobics teacher who was Gerard’s lover for nineteen months. Or Benna and Gerard live together in a house and hold a yard sale with Benna’s friend Eleanor.  Or Benna is a poetry teacher dating a mature student, whose best friend is Gerard, a pianist who aspires to be an opera singer…

There are a few things we know about Benna.  She is delightfully clever and witty, and makes some wonderful plays on words (”All the world’s a stage we’re going through” being my favourite example).  Gerard is her best friend, whatever other form their relationship takes.

With Benna as narrator, this book weaves in and out of her real life and her fictional life, until the reader is no longer sure which is which.  But when reality suddenly bursts through with a vengeace, the safety net that Benna has built for herself with her fantasies, suddenly snaps.  It is an unusual narrative, and one which took some getting used to – however, it was well worth the effort, as eventually the words flowed freely and I felt able to immerse myself in whatever world Benna was inhabiting at the time.

Despite the fact that so much of this novel blurs the lines between fiction and reality, Benna is an extremely well rounded character, and I found it easy to believe in her. It is clear that she feels that something is lacking in her life, and doesn’t know how to find out what it is, or how to do anything about it. Instead, she invents alternative realities which are all too easy for her to retreat into.

I don’t want to say much more about the plot of this book, because I feel that to give too much away would be to do a great injustice to anyone planning to read it.  I will say though that I thought it was a thought provoking book with a heroine who – ironically because of the fiction she creates for herself – was very believable.

The writing flows easily and I found constantly myself thinking “I’ll just read a few more pages.”  It’s a quick and easy read, but certainly not lightweight. Highly recommended.

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“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”

So begins what is probably Daphne Du Maurier’s most famous novel.

Our unnamed narrator is a young girl working as a companion to a lady in Monte Carlo, when she meets Maxim De Winter, a handsome and mysterious widower, who has come to get away from the aftermath of his wife’s death.  The narrator is instantly taken with de Winter, and a swift engagement and wedding soon follows.

However, when de Winter takes her back to his Manderley, his family home and estate, she discovers a very different way of life, which is still very much consumed with de Winter’s dead wife, Rebecca.  The staff and local residents are very intrigued by de Winter’s young wife, and she feels that she can never compare to Rebecca, especially in the eyes of Mrs Danvers, the cold housekeeper at Manderley, who seems to resent the new Mrs de Winter.

And our narrator soon learns that nothing at Manderley is quite what it seems, and she finds herself wondering who exactly she married, and what secrets are held in by the walls of Manderley….

I have meant to read this book for a very long time, and I wish I had read it sooner. There is a dark and sinister atmosphere thoughout the whole book, and the reader knows only as much as the narrator, so that her discoveries and worries become our own.

Manderley is effectively another character in the book, with it’s brooding intensity. Rebecca also, despite not being alive, is a major presence throughout the story.

The writing is very clever, and there are twists and turns in the story which, if I was not already familiar with the story, would not have guessed.  In truth, any reader who does not know the story would be kept guessing until the end.

The characters are also all very believable, from the hateful Mrs Danvers, to Maxin’s well meaning sister in law Beatrice, our narrator, and most of all, Maxim himself, who at times is a mass of contradictions.

I can certainly see why this novel has become a modern classic, and it is deserving of all the acclaim it has received.

Highly recommended.  I shall be seeking out more work by Daphne Du Maurier.

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

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