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Posts Tagged ‘grief’

This book is set in 2016 and is narrated by Nuri, a Syrian beekeeper who has a happy life with his wife Afra and their young son Sami, until their world is torn apart by their country’s civil war.

With their lives destroyed, they have no option but to flee their country and seek asylum elsewhere. There are two timelines in this book; one is in England, where they have arrived and hope to be allowed to stay, and the other charts their journey there, during which they face constant upheaval and terrible dangers.

I did enjoy the book on one level, but must also admit to being somewhat disappointed because I think I expected so much more. It’s such an important topic – and very eye opening regarding the harrowing experiences that asylum seekers face and the lengths that they will go to simply to find somewhere to live where they might not face death on a daily basis. However, while the story itself was interesting, I felt a strange kind of disconnect with the characters – they never felt very fleshed out and I found it hard to invest in them. Even though Nuri narrated the book, he still seemed very much to be at arms length throughout.

Overall, a book worth reading and very relevant in the current times, but could have been much more.

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Originally published in Swedish, this book revolves around a curmudgeonly man named Ove, who is exasperated by – well, everything really. He just wants to be left alone in his misery and annoyance at the world, but then a young gregarious family move into the road and they are determined to befriend him. And that’s when Ove finds himself unwillingly drawn back into the community.

There’s so much more than the above to this story, but I don’t want to give too much away. I really enjoyed this story, and how it revealed Ove’s childhood and early youth, which explained why he is the way he is. His marriage to the vivacious Sonja seemed on paper like a match made in hell, but as the story progresses, the reader can see what Sonja saw and loved in Ove. He may be a grump but he has a strong sense of right and wrongs and is never afraid to stand up for what he believes in. Oh, and the cat! My favourite character of the lot!

There is lots to enjoy here, with plenty of humour, but also a lot of poignancy and sadness. I admire the author for going where I absolutely did not expect at the end, and I will definitely read more by Fredrik Backman.

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Okay, full disclaimer: I watched this film because Tim Roth is in it. Partly also because it’s about running and I love running, but mainly the Tim Roth thing. So to make it clear for any fellow Rothians – he’s not in it much at all!! Anyway onto the film itself…

Kevin Schuler (Graham Rogers) is an athlete in a high school team, coached by Coach Jared (Roth). Kevin’s girlfriend Ellie is also in the team and is Coach Jared’s daughter. When Ellie and several of Kevin’s team mates are killed in a roac accident, he turns to running to help him cope with his loss. He starts at a new school with the unconventional Coach K (Billy Crudup) who helps with Kevin’s running training.

Kevin finds himself trapped by memories of the past byt hoping to forge a new future and is torn between his life before the crash and his life after it.

If I’m honest, I was slightly disappointed by this film. Not just because Tim Roth’s involvement ended after about 15 minutes, but because I unfortunately don’t have much patience with teenage angst. While I totally understand that losing your girlfriend and best mates in a crash is far more than just normal teenage problems, Kevin was never really that likeable to me. I did like Coach K though and thought this was a great performance from Crudup. Overall, a perfectly passable way to pass an evening, but not the great running movie I had been expecting.

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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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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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1947: Tommy Elliot, widowed when her husband was killed during WWII, runs the family seat Kings Harcourt. Life is tough for Tommy and her family and when a particularly harsh winter cuts them off from the rest of the world, things only get tougher. Her brother Roger has returned from the war with his friend Fred, who stirs long forgotten feelings in Tommy. And then there is Barbara, an old acquaintance of Tommy’s who causes trouble when she comes to stay.

Present day: Caitlyn and Patrick have a happy marriage albeit is on his terms. But they love each other, and Patrick is the one person in Caitlyn’s life who has always been immune to the charms of her best friend Sara. But when tragedy strikes, she starts to uncover hidden truths which lead her to question whether she ever really knew her husband at all. Seeking solace in an old manor house, Caitlyn tries to piece together the truth.

I am in two minds about this book. There were plenty of things I liked about it – I always enjoy a dual timeline, because I like seeing the two threads come together. The writing flowed and it was on the whole an undemanding read.

On reflection I think I preferred Tommy’s story, probably because I really liked Tommy and her sister Gerry. They were both intelligent and resourceful and battling against the conventions of the day.

Caitlyn’s story initially really intrigued me. However, I thought it was stretched out – Caitlyn could have got the answers she wanted a lot more easily and quickly, but she seemed to choose the most circuitous route. Also the denouement of her story when it came was ludicrous. Not only was the truth she was searching for completely unbelievable, but the method of her finding it was also ridiculous. I actually didn’t like Caitlyn much – she was pleasant, but such so subservient to everyone around her.

Overall this is the first book that I’ve read by this author, and I rattled through it, so I must have enjoyed it somewhat – I really struggle to pick up books that I am not liking. Would I read another one by this author? Yes, probably but it won’t be next on my list.

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45 Years is a British film, about a couple named Geoff and Kate Mercer, who have been married for 45 years. The story takes place over the week leading up to their anniversary party.At the beginning of the week Geoff receives a letter telling him that the body of his former girlfriend Katya, from before he ever met Kate, has been found perfectly preserved in a mountain glacier.

The news has a profound effect on Geoff, making him angry and frustrated, and in turn upsetting his wife – although he is largely oblivious to the effect it has on Kate.

Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling are outstanding in this understated film about a seemingly happy marriage which is thrown into a quiet and civilised crisis. It actually focuses more on the effect that Geoff’s behaviour has on Kate, than the news of Katya’s discovery upon Geoff, and Rampling’s acting is such that it is hard not to empathise with her pain and jealousy.

This is certainly not an action packed film – in one sense, not a lot happens, but so MUCH happens on Kate’s face, in her thoughts – which we sense through her expressions. It’s weirdly compelling and hard to tear your eyes away from – at least that was how I found it. So it’s bleak and sad, but also the actions of both main characters are so utterly understandable.

If you don’t need lots of action and special effects in your films, but enjoy a thoughtful character study, give this little known gem a try, and revel in acting at it’s finest.

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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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This book has dual time frames told in alternating chapters:

In 1985 in Chicago – and across the United States – AIDS has devastated the gay community. The story starts with a group of friends mourning the AIDS related death of their friend Nico. These chapters are largely told from the point of view of Yale Tishman and through Yale, we witness the ongoing crisis, and it’s effects.

In 2015, Nico’s sister Fiona, now in her early 50s, has gone to Paris to track down her estranged daughter Claire. Through these chapters we learn about the fates of various characters in the earlier timeline, and understand what Fiona went through, watching not only her brother, but so many of their friends die at the hands of a virus which the government at the time seemed largely unbothered about.

This is without question my favourite book that I have read so far this year – and I’d put it into at least my top 10 of all-time favourites. I absolutely adored Yale, and appreciated that Makkai drew so many believable and distinct characters which made up his friendship group and other acquaintances. She does not portray heroes and villains, just incredibly ‘real’ characters, who I felt like I genuinely knew and cared for. I do feel that the early timeline on its own would have made for an interesting and wonderful novel, but the 2015 story added to it, in that we could see what an effect Fiona’s experiences had had on her as an adult.

I could write about this book all day, and good luck to anyone who asks me about it – you’re going to need to set aside a few hours while I wax lyrical! However, I don’t think I could do it justice. It is a beautifully written, heartbreaking, uplifting, thought provoking novel, and I recommend it to literally everyone.

 

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Otilla McGregor needs to sort her life out. She drinks too much, she is in a relationship with her married boss, her sister has severe mental health problems – but she is determined to sort her life out and get herself together.

I listened to this as an audiobook narrated by Colleen Prendergast. It’s told from the point of Otilla, and employs a type of ‘scrapbook’ method to tell her story; this encompasses emails, snapchats, text messages, letters to the Little Book of Happy (makes sense when you’re listening/reading!) and conversation transcripts with her therapist.

The narration was excellent – Prendergast really got under the skin of Otilla and helped make her into a believable and likeable character. The story itself was also interesting and I liked the deviation from conventional narration, although I think this may work better as a physical book rather than an audiobook.

I would say however, that this is NOT a book to listen to if you need cheering up! As mentioned above, Otilla drinks way too much, her love life is a mess, she thinks that she may be to blame for her sister’s mental and emotional problems, her father passed away a few years earlier and she misses him terribly, her mother has her own problems….on top of all this, Otilla’s best friend Grace is an enabler who believes the only reason to give up alcohol is so that when you go back to it, you get drunk quicker and for less money. Otilla works in a cancer care hospital, so even several of the lesser characters have serious problems.

For all this, although at times I did wonder how much more misery could be stuffed into one book, the story did hold my attention throughout. I adored her new potential boyfriend, and really rooted for Otilla.

I’ve heard good things about other books by Annaliese Mackintosh and would certainly read/listen to more of her stories.

 

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