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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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I listened to this audiobook while out on a longish run. It’s a shortish audiobook at about an hour and a half, so perfect for my purposes.

Told entirely through letters, this is the story of a growing friendship between Carrie and David, who each discover that their spouses are having an affair with each other. What initially starts as Carrie’s attempt to find out her husband’s motivations for sleeping with someone else becomes a real friendship, as the two support each other, and help each other through the tough time.

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this audiobook. The narrators were Julia Whelan, George Newburn, James Daniels and Dara Rosenberg, although we only hear from the cheating spouses Ken and Janet through Carrie and David reading the letters which they have sent to each other. All the narrators were excellent and I really liked both David and Carrie, even though it was only a short story. It was interesting seeing their different reactions to the affair and their contrasting hopes for the future.

I would definitely read/listen to more by this author and recommend this book highly.

 

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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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I listened to this audiobook over the course of several training runs. The storyline revolves around a marriage between Simon and Marianne Wilson – and it soon becomes apparent that it is a deeply unhappy marriage and that Simon is a bully and a liar. There are no spoilers here, as this is made clear very early on in the story.

Marianne, who narrates the story, becomes suspicious when her husband mentions a woman who he works with, and immediately suspects that he is having an affair. She has had such suspicions before but this time it’s different. She knows deep inside that something is going on, and that this relationship could be the one that threatens her marriage and could cause her to lose her children. And Marianne is determined that that won’t happen.

I’ll be honest – for the first couple of hours of this book, I was tempted to give up on it. Within half an hour I had decided that I didn’t like either Simon or Marianne, and there seemed to be so much repetition in what Marianne was saying  that the whole listening experience was somewhat tiresome. This is no fault of the narrator Katie Villa, who did an excellent job, but more the writing itself.

However, about halfway through it suddenly got a lot more exciting and things started moving at a much quicker pace. I actually enjoyed the second half of the book a lot – there were two twists, one of which I guessed quite early on, and the other which I did not guess at all (always a plus in my book).

Overall I would say that this was a book of two halves, and I am glad I stuck around for the second one. If you like psychological dramas and unreliable narrators, I would give this a try.

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Last year I read ‘The Rosie Project’ by Graeme Simsion – a hugely enjoyable book, of which you can see my review here. This book is the follow-up, and sees Don and Rosie now living in New York, and Rosie pregnant. In addition, Don’s friend Gene has broken up with his wife and comes to New York to stay with them – which doesn’t please Rosie.

Don is shaken by Rosie’s pregnancy as it was not planned, and Rosie is worried about Don’s suitability as a father. The couple find themselves facing problems which they are not sure how to work out.

Although Don’s character has grown slightly since the first book, he is still painfully literally and brutally honest, which often leads to misunderstandings or offence. The book is narrated by Don, so we do see his point of view in a way which we wouldn’t if it were told in the third person…that said, it would be interesting to see the same events from Rosie’s side!

I enjoyed the book a lot, but probably not as much as the first one. For a while the story seemed to go round in circles, and I just wanted it to be resolved one way or the other. However, there were still plenty of humorous moments – and indeed some touching moments – which kept my interest. Overall I would say that if you enjoyed the first book, you should give this one a try.

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The Blurb:

We’ve all seen him: the man – the monster – staring from the front page of every newspaper, accused of a terrible crime. But what about her: the woman who grips his arm on the courtroom stairs – the wife who stands by him? Jean Taylor’s life was blissfully ordinary. Nice house, nice husband. Glen was all she’d ever wanted: her Prince Charming. Until he became that man accused, that monster on the front page. Jean was married to a man everyone thought capable of unimaginable evil. But now Glen is dead and she’s alone for the first time, free to tell her story on her own terms. Jean Taylor is going to tell us what she knows.

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My thoughts:

First, let me warn anyone who is thinking of reading this, that the blurb on the back cover – as above – is somewhat misleading. Second – I’m in two minds about this one. I definitely think Fiona Barton can write, and the characters were all well drawn and fleshed out.

There are two timelines – 2010, which for the purposes of this novel is the present day, and 2006, which is when the little girl that Glen Taylor was accused of abducting, disappeared. The vast majority of it actually takes place in 2006, with the 2010 storyline concentrating on a journalist called Kate who wants to get Jean’s story.

The chapters are told from separate points of view – ‘The Widow’ – Jean Taylor; ‘The Reporter’ – Kate; ‘The Detective’ – Bob Sparkes who was in charge of the original investigation and is still haunted by the matter years later; and ‘The Mother’ – Dawn, the mother of the abducted child. I liked Bob and I quite liked Kate, but Jean and Dawn both left me cold.

At times the book was very suspenseful, but at times it did drag slightly as there seemed to be a lot of back-and-forth, and did-he/didn’t-he, with the same ground being trodden over. But despite that, I did quite enjoy this book and would almost certainly read more by Fiona Barton. It doesn’t have the twists and turns of a book like Gone Girl, but for my money it’s better written than Gone Girl (and as with every other psychological thriller which has been released since that book, this one has been compared to it – ignore the comparisons, it’s totally different).

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Year of first publication: 2016

Genre: Psychological drama

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