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Mme Suzanne Lageard

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Crossing to Safety
Crossing to Safety
Price: 3.95

5.0 out of 5 stars The most wonderful book I've read in a long time, 3 July 2014
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I started reading this book yesterday morning very early on a bus journey I was dreading; from a few pages in, it completely changed my view of my surroundings and of the trip I was undertaking. The words in the book are so beautiful, the descriptions so vivid that from the start I read slowly, savouring each page. I took the time to look out of the window and to appreciate how the morning sun was illuminating the green fields around me, the mist handing on church spires in the distance. As I got deeper into the book, I got attached to Sally and Larry, and Sid and Charity, the four main protagonists, whose friendship is the underlying theme. Stegner tells of their lives, of the wonderful fun they have, in snow, on boats, in the outside; of the parties they organise, of the adventures they go on, but also of the sorrows they face. The focus is on the relationship between Sid and Charity, who have very opposing characterics. The dilemmas they face seem real, and I often paused to ask myself what I would do in a given situation. On several occasions, it also became a page-turner, making me speed up to find out the outcome of certain predicaments.
Like other wonderful books such as Siri Hudvest's What I love, it talks beautifully of art. It made me what to go to museums, to listen to music properly, to create, to develop my life. I really can't recommend this book enough; I will definitely reread it, and then make my way through all of Stegner's other writings.


A Constellation of Vital Phenomena
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena
Price: 4.31

5.0 out of 5 stars Evocative story of an unknown place and time, 23 Jun 2014
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This is a wonderful book. Through the eyes of Sonja and Akhmed, a particular episode in the history of Chechnya is powerfully told.
Whilst Marra focuses almost entirely on the lives of Akhmed, a failed doctor who prefers to paint portraits of missing members of his village and Sonja, a very competent doctor who had the chance to lead a different life in London but has come back to single-handedly run a hospital, and on the terrible things that happen to them, their relatives and their friends, a feeling of the wider context pervades.
Material shortages are told in a matter of fact tone; disappearances are barely less shocking. However, some things remain of fundamental importance. The life and happiness of a little girl, the dignity of a sister.
I found this novel at some times almost unbearably sad, and yet it is told with a detachment that feels realistic. I really got the feeling that in those times, life was so hard and survival so costly that standards shifted deeply; it is engaging and inspiring to see how adversity can be dealt with whilst human dignity is still retained. At times, that dignity is almost most entirely, but there is always a redeeming gesture that brings the situation back from the brink.
The descriptions are beautiful and detailed; I could see the landscape destroyed by mines, feel the penetrating cold of the snow, imagine the destroyed city, recreated on the wall of the hospital. Akhmed and Sonja especially are wonderfully captured, with each of them having something that draws the reader in.


11.22.63
11.22.63
Price: 5.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Stephen King back to his best, 23 Jun 2014
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This review is from: 11.22.63 (Kindle Edition)
I've been a Stephen King fan for a very long time. In fact, I read Desolation when I was 12; then, it was my favourite book and ever since, King's other novels have accompanied me through my teenage and young adult years. It has been a while, though, since I have picked up one of his novels. In particular, this one, ostensibly about the assassination of Kennedy, didn't capture my interest. I had read the description several times without ever buying it until I went on holiday a few weeks ago. As I was short of reading material, I picked it mostly for its length.
But I absolutely loved it. The story is far from being about the Kennedy assassination. In fact, that historical event only serves as an entry into the story, giving the protagonist, Jake, a reason to time-travel. The story develops to be much more complex and interesting than that, and gives a new and fresh account of the paradoxes of time-travel, the temptations it holds and the idea of consequences.
The book is very engaging, mostly due to Jake, whose story we follow. His reactions and his wish to do good are genuine, as is his marvel and delight when discovering the forgotten world of America long ago. The atmosphere is very vivid, and made me feel like I wouldn't mind taking a trip there myself.
More than anything, I've always loved King's books because of the emotions they create in me. As a writer, his biggest strength is the way he brings his characters to life, and the intensity of the relationships between them. There has never been a King character that I didn't deeply care about, and this was the same. I was absolutely rooting for there to be a happy ending, and was in floods of tears on several occasions during the book. It's just one of those wonderful, engaging, interesting stories that presents the added bonus of making you want to become a better person. A wonderful novel.


Brighton Rock (Vintage Classics)
Brighton Rock (Vintage Classics)
Price: 1.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A simple story told in a very exciting way, 23 Jun 2014
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This book is beautifully written. As soon as I started it, I was pulled into the book's world and into the lives of Rose and Pinkie, the two main characters. The dialogue especially captures each character's specific traits, allowing them to come alive.
The story itself isn't complex; we follow the life of Pinkie, who leads a mafioso-like gang in Brighton, but finds it increasingly difficult to maintain order amongst his troops and his position with regard to other gangs. He meets Rose, with whom he starts a relationship. For me, the most fascinating aspect of the story is Rose's willingness to be deceived by Pinkie, her desire to believe his rather unconvincing show of love. By the end of the book, the tension is palpable, and I was gripped, waiting to find out how it ended. I wasn't disappointed at all. Overall, I would strongly recommend this classic.


The Sense of an Ending
The Sense of an Ending
Price: 3.67

2.0 out of 5 stars Came to this book with high expectations and was slightly disappointed, 13 April 2014
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It took me a while to read this story; though I usually buy every book on the Booker Shortlist, I was never especially attracted to this novel. A few weeks ago it was recommended to me anew so I thought I would give it a go. I found it compelling, but definitely not as good as others seem to think it is. The voice of the narrator did make me feel included in his life, but not any more so than in many other novels told in the first person. Further, I found that the plot was very thin; for me, Veronica, the main female protagonist was a caricature. Though it may be argued that we see her from the narrator's point of view and therefore through the lens of his complicated feelings for her, I would have preferred her to have more depth. Further, I struggled to understand hers and the narrator's motives. I could not understand why he wanted to badly to have a place in her life when she treated him coldly, almost cruelly. As the protagonist was supposed to be unaware of the final twist in his relentless attempts to understand Veronica, he twist itself cannot explain why this need of his. The book was not bad, certainly, though it did leave me feeling sad and unhappy. Maybe that shows that I was taken in, which I don't deny. For me, however, the quality of this book and what was gained from it did not make the reading of it worthwhile, especially when taken into account the negative emotions it brought up in me.


The Flamethrowers
The Flamethrowers
Price: 4.99

4.0 out of 5 stars The strength of this book is in the voice of its narrator, 13 April 2014
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This review is from: The Flamethrowers (Kindle Edition)
I identified with the narrator in this book, which made me appreciate her story. She is a young artist, full of doubts and unsure of herself, who embarks on a relationship with an older, confident man. There are moments where she follows her own desires instead of his, though what he, and the rest of the world, thinks of her is clearly important enough in her eyes to make her act differently. I found this book very realistic; though now I may frown upon this kind of dependence on others, I remember all too well a time when I would have done the same. For me, the first three-quarters of the book were the best. I found the end, which takes place in Italy, confusing and bizarre, and didn't gain much from it. The book is well writing, which saves it from its lack of plot.


The Song of Achilles
The Song of Achilles
Price: 3.98

5.0 out of 5 stars Fresh and beautiful retelling of a classic tale, 18 Mar 2014
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This is the story of Achilles, as seen through the eyes of his companion Patroclus. I was familiar with the tale from studying classics, and it was wonderful to be in the company of famous greek heroes once again. Miller does a wonderful job of making myth modern; though some imaginary characters feature, the emotions of the protagonists couldn't be more strinkingly realistic. I felt completely involved in the relationships depicted; for me, the setting in ancient Troy gave the story a further depth. In some ways, I found this book similar to Tobain's 'The testament of Mary' which also took an old and well known story and made it more human. For me, these reworking serve only to reinforce the beauty and poignancy of the original stories.


Binocular Vision
Binocular Vision
Price: 4.19

5.0 out of 5 stars Spectacularly written stories, 17 Feb 2014
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This review is from: Binocular Vision (Kindle Edition)
I do not usually like to read short stories; I always feel they require a lot of emotional involvement for little reward and I often regret that these stories end just as I am getting into them.
I loved this collection by Pearlman however, and highly recommend it.
The writing is very precise; Pearlman is able to slip into different personalities and write from different perspectives. At the same time, she does not take on any affected mannerisms, for instance when she is the voice of a child. Rather, the writing remains distinctively her own but still manages to capture the character's feelings.
One character appears in several of the stories; she is wonderful and those were amongst my favourites.


The Secret History
The Secret History
Price: 4.31

3.0 out of 5 stars Compelling at times yet parts of it sat uneasily with me, 29 Jan 2014
I bought this book in an airport, faced with a long delay before my next flight and having already read Tartt's most recent novel, The Goldfinch.
I found the voice of the narrator to be real, especially at the beginning, and was interested by his experiences. However, I found neither the other members of the greek class not Julian, the professor, as interesting as he clearly did. Indeed, they were barely described, and all through the book I felt their actions were badly explained and seemed to be the result of spoil, lost characters.
The narrator is in love with Camilla, and so it seems are at least two other members of the group; I found this very frustrating, because Camilla appears to talk little and to be of very little interest, leading me to suspect that the men only love her for her beauty. This sort of thing happens a lot in books or even TV series, where men fall desperately in love with women whose characters are barely drawn; for me, infatuation maybe can be based solely on looks but for something deeper, like love, to emerge, I would like to know if the object of the emotion is maybe funny, witty, interesting, a good listener... Anything really that could explain the attraction.
I did read the book with a fair amount of trepidation, especially at some stages. For me though the book peaked towards the middle, and I found the end less interesting.


Catherine the Great: The story of the impoverished German princess who deposed her husband to become tzarina of the largest empire on earth
Catherine the Great: The story of the impoverished German princess who deposed her husband to become tzarina of the largest empire on earth
Price: 3.29

5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully vivid and evocative, 29 Jan 2014
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Straight from the start, I easily became immersed into Catherine's story. The author does a fantastic job of leading us into the mind of Sophia (Catherine before she became Catherine) and we grow with her as she becomes empress of Russia.
For me, the author perfectly juggled historically accurate facts, quoting from Catherine's memoirs and from her many letters with telling an exciting story. What I felt most of all was that Catherine was a friend, that I knew her with her faults as well as her qualities, and I was always interested to know what would happen to her next and how she would react to events.
I felt that Massie had a great admiration for Catherine, and I finished the book feeling the same, all the more so because he doesn't hide the mistakes she makes or the inconsistencies of her character. All in all, it was a great read!


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