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Susie B
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The Way I Found Her
The Way I Found Her
by Rose Tremain
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.02

4.0 out of 5 stars An Engaging and Entertaining Read, 23 July 2014
This review is from: The Way I Found Her (Paperback)
Lewis Little, a bright and verbally articulate thirteen-year-old boy, is spending the summer holidays in Paris with his mother, the beautiful, red-haired Alice, whilst she works on the translation of the latest romantic historical novel from Russian emigre writer, Valentina Gavrilovich. Valentina, a blonde and curvaceous woman in her early forties, welcomes Lewis into her home, giving him his own space at the very top of the apartment building, where he can look across the rooftops of Paris, and she is openly affectionate towards the impressionable young teenager. In his stiflingly hot, light-filled attic, Lewis spends time each day improving his French by slowly translating Alain-Fournier's 'Le Grand Meaulnes' into English, and his efforts are encouraged by Valentina who comes up to his room in the evenings to listen to his translation. Up on the roof one day, Lewis meets Didier, a roofer repairing the broken slates, who is also an existentialist philosopher in his spare time, and the two become quite friendly, until Lewis begins to suspect that his mother, who has been behaving strangely, is having an affair with him. Whilst trying to cope with the suspicion that his mother is being unfaithful to his father, and with his hormones racing around his body, Lewis develops a huge crush on the voluptuous Valentina. But one day Valentina (who has a somewhat shady past) disappears, and in his quest to solve the mystery of her sudden disappearance, Lewis soon puts himself and Valentina in very great danger.

First-person narrated by the precocious, but very likeable Lewis, who is an engaging mixture of child and soon-to-be-adult, this novel is part coming-of-age story and part mystery story and one which makes for entertaining and gripping reading. Rose Tremain describes her hot Parisian summer and the simmering passions which arise during the sultry summer days very effectively, and she appears to have captured that difficult transitional period of adolescence rather well (although if I were a thirteen-year-old boy, I might not agree). All of the supporting characters were well (if sometimes briefly) depicted - and Sergei, Valentina's rather pampered dog, was wonderfully described! I have to say that although there were parts to this story that I did not find entirely convincing, I was pulled into Lewis's tale from the first pages and very much enjoyed his (sometimes very funny) narration of his own story. However, this novel is not just an amusing and entertaining read as it certainly has its poignant and rather affecting moments - especially the ending, but obviously I shall leave that and the rest of the story for prospective readers to discover for themselves.

4 Stars.


The Adulteress
The Adulteress
by Noelle Harrison
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining Summer Holiday Read, 21 July 2014
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This review is from: The Adulteress (Paperback)
In 1941, a young June Fanning comes to Cavan with her Irish husband, Robert, an attractive and well-mannered, but unimaginative middle-aged man, and they move into Robert's family home which has been left vacant after the death of his father. June knows that her husband cares for her and that she should appreciate the safety of Ireland compared with wartime London, but she is worried about her beloved sister, Min, who is still in the city, and when Robert throws himself into working on the land and is not very forthcoming when he is at home, June begins to regret moving to Ireland. When Robert decides that he can no longer avoid the fact that Britain is at war, and he joins the RAF, June feels abandoned and alone in the old cottage and when, against Robert's wishes, she becomes friendly with her artist neighbour, Phelim, and discovers things about Robert's past that he has not shared with her, June begins to question her husband's love for her. In the present day we meet musician Nicholas who, shocked to discover his artist wife, Charlie, has been unfaithful to him, moves from their Dublin home to Cavan and takes on the restoration of the old Fanning house. There, Nicholas spends his time renovating the cottage and giving piano lessons to the locals, including the unhappily married Geraldine, who develops feelings for him. Nicholas tries to put his marriage behind him but is haunted by visions of his wife with her lover and is consumed with anger and jealousy, and it is not until he takes the courage and time to reflect on his relationship with Charlie, and look at his contribution to their marriage difficulties, that he can begin to think about moving forward. In a third strand to the novel, in first-person related chapters entitled 'The Adulteress', the reader learns about a young woman, who feeling that her husband does not truly love her, begins an adulterous affair with an artist. (No spoilers - there is a lot more to this story than I have revealed here).

Moving smoothly between the past and the present, this novel made for an entertaining and easy read and one that I enjoyed more in some respects than others, hence the three star rating - which, from me, is not a negative rating, just that I found some aspects of the story more impressive than others. There is a plot twist to the third strand of the story concerning the adulteress, which I did not find difficult to work out, but if you don't discover this twist until it is revealed almost at the end of the book, then this will make the story more intriguing for you. There is also a supernatural element in the present day sections, and although I enjoy a good ghost story when the supernatural is the main focus of the novel, in this instance it made the story seem less convincing to me and I felt the novel could have done without this element to it - but again, this is an aspect which might make the story more interesting for other readers. All of that said, I very much enjoyed the author's depiction of rural Ireland and its changing seasons and found this aspect of the novel a pleasure to read. I also enjoyed reading about June and Min's Devon childhood and of the closeness of their relationship, which contrasted well with the difficult relationship they experienced with their vain and seemingly cold and unfeeling mother. I was also interested in the way Noelle Harrison gradually revealed details about the girls' mother's life, which explained how she became such a difficult character for the girls to relate to and it was also interesting to read how their mother's character changed as her circumstances altered. In addition, in the Nicholas chapters of the story, I appreciated the way in which the author showed how Nicholas's attitude to Charlie's infidelity shifted once he made the attempt to try and understand their marital problems from her perspective. So, all in all, although there were parts to this story that impressed me more than others, this novel made for an entertaining and undemanding downtime read, and one that if you are looking for easy and enjoyable summer holiday read, could work well for you.


Uncle Rudolf
Uncle Rudolf
by Paul Bailey
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Uncle Rudolf, 19 July 2014
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This review is from: Uncle Rudolf (Hardcover)
Andrei Petrescu, son of a Romanian Jew, is re-invented as Andrew Peters when, as a worried seven-year-old, he arrives in England in 1937 to live with his father's brother, Rudolf, a very good-looking, charismatic and much-loved operetta singer, who does his utmost to welcome Andrew into his home. Andrew gradually settles into life with Rudolf, watching his uncle's performances and enjoying his kindness and sense of humour but, at night, Andrew is haunted by his memories of Romania and of the last time he saw his parents. Uncle Rudolf, who is aware of the fate of his brother and his wife, decides to delay sharing this knowledge with his beloved nephew, and instead does all he can to make Andrew feel loved and valued. However, in his endeavours to protect and care for Andrew, Rudolf unwittingly spoils his nephew for life outside of his over-protective embrace. At the age of seventy, Andrew decides to write a memoir about his unusual upbringing, and it is through his memories, as his thoughts move backwards and forwards in time, that the reader learns about the varied and rather eccentric life of Uncle Rudolf, of Andrew's place within that life and ultimately of the fate of Andrew's parents.

A tender, beautifully written, unusual and very poignant story with a haunting feel to the narrative, this is a novel that I feel is best read in one sitting in order to really immerse oneself into the fabric of Andrew's and Rudolf's lives. Although the story does have its lighter and even quite humorous moments, Paul Bailey's novel is a tale of loss, of regret and of how one can become imprisoned by the past. This is the first novel I have read by this author - although I do have:Kitty and Virgil on one of my bookcases - and having been impressed by 'Uncle Rudolf' has made me interested in looking out for more from Paul Bailey.

4 Stars.


Northanger Abbey (Vintage Classics Austen Series)
Northanger Abbey (Vintage Classics Austen Series)
by Jane Austen
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Attractively Presented New Edition of Jane Austen's Light Satire, 18 July 2014
Country vicar's daughter, seventeen-year-old Catherine Morland, a naive and attractive young girl who enjoys fantasising and reading gothic novels, is invited to the town of Bath by wealthy neighbours, the Allens. At Bath Catherine meets Isabella Thorpe, a vivacious and flighty young woman, and her rather duplicitous brother John. Catherine also meets a very agreeable young gentleman, Henry Tilney, and his sister, Eleanor, both of whom she is keen to become better acquainted with - however, Catherine's hopes for friendship with the Tilneys is initially thwarted by John Thorpe, who is envious of Catherine's partiality to the well-mannered and affable Henry. However, despite John Thorpe's efforts to come between Catherine and the Tilneys, she is invited to stay with Henry and Eleanor at their home, Northanger Abbey, and Catherine is excited about the prospect of staying in what she imagines to be a mysterious Gothic building. At Northanger Abbey, which is surprisingly nothing like she imagined, to compensate for her disappointment, Catherine allows herself to fantasise wildly about the fate of Mrs Tilney, who died nine years earlier - was she imprisoned in her chamber and then murdered by her husband the General? And what effect does Catherine's over-active imagination have on her nascent relationship with the more grounded Henry?

In 'Northanger Abbey', which is essentially a parody of Gothic fiction, Jane Austen cleverly shows the reader how the materialism and superficiality of fashionable Bath society and the company of those who cannot properly distinguish between fantasy and reality, actually place Catherine in greater potential danger than any mystery she might encounter at Northanger Abbey. Although I have read and reread Jane Austen's novels many times over the years, 'Northanger Abbey', though enjoyable as a light satire and certainly deserving of a four star rating, is not my favourite of her novels - Austen's biographer, Claire Tomalin, has conjectured that this novel, with its more obvious comedic content and its many literary allusions was intended as a lighthearted parody and one that would have been particularly enjoyed by her parents and siblings - however, satire aside, one of the main purposes of this review is to talk about the lovely new Vintage Classic editions of Jane Austen's classics. This particular novel has an especially attractive cover designed by artist and illustrator Leanne Shapton, with inner flaps to the cover to make the book feel more substantial, is also attractively decorated on the inside and has a brief, but interesting introduction by P.D. James. Very pleasant to handle and entertaining to read - if you are looking for a paperback copy of this novel, and do not require a comprehensive introduction and notes, I can certainly recommend this new edition.

4 Stars.


Mansfield Park (Vintage Classics Austen Series)
Mansfield Park (Vintage Classics Austen Series)
by Jane Austen
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Attractively Presented New Edition, 16 July 2014
Young Fanny Price comes to live with her wealthy aunt and uncle, Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram, at Mansfield Park in the county of Northampton. Fanny, is a timid and shy young girl from a much poorer branch of the family (her mother having married beneath her) and she is left under no illusion from her other aunt, Mrs Norris, that she is very lucky to be taken into the Bertram's household. At Mansfield Park, Fanny comes into the orbit of the privileged Bertram children: Tom, the eldest, who becomes a drinker and gambler; the two girls, Maria and Julia, who are shallow and vain and indifferent to Fanny's feelings; and it is only the younger son, Edmund, who shows Fanny any real kindness and affection. As Fanny reaches young adulthood, her liking for Edmund develops into something stronger, but with the arrival into the neighbourhood of the very attractive Crawford siblings, Henry and Mary, everything seems to change, especially when Fanny begins to realise that Edmund is rather smitten with the beautiful and sparkling Mary. And then Henry starts to pay special attention to Fanny - but is he serious? And are Henry and Mary quite as charming as they initially seem?

As a heroine, Fanny Price may appear a little too moralistic and virtuous for some modern day readers to be able to identify with well, but her aunt, the dreadful Mrs Norris, who makes it her life's mission to make Fanny feel inferior, is a very convincing character whose behaviour towards her niece will soon have the reader sympathising with poor Fanny and hoping that she will finally be rewarded with the suitor she deserves. However, there is a lot more to this complex coming of age novel than the 'will they - won't they' aspect of Fanny and Edmund's romance, and one of the main purposes of this review is to talk about the lovely new Vintage Classic editions of Jane Austen's classics. This particular novel has a charming cover designed by artist and illustrator Leanne Shapton, with inner flaps to the cover to make the book feel more substantial, is attractively decorated on the inside and has a brief, but interesting introduction by Amanda Vickery. Lovely to handle, entertaining to read - if you are looking for a paperback copy of this novel, and do not require a comprehensive introduction and notes, I can definitely recommend this new edition.

5 Stars.


Persuasion (Vintage Classics Austen Series)
Persuasion (Vintage Classics Austen Series)
by Jane Austen
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A New and Attractively Presented Edition of a Wonderful Classic, 16 July 2014
Anne Elliot is twenty-seven-years old and, at the time in which the novel is set (Regency England), is no longer considered a young woman, but one whose bloom is fading. Eight years earlier, we learn, Anne fell in love with a handsome naval captain, Frederick Wentworth, to whom she became engaged, but she was persuaded to break off the engagement by her close friend and advisor, Lady Russell, who cautioned Anne against a long engagement to a man without certainty of rank or fortune. Anne, however, has never quite recovered from giving up her naval captain, and when they meet again, she discovers he too has remained unmarried. Could this be the opportunity for a second chance for Anne? Possibly. However, Captain Wentworth seems to be interested in the young and lively Louisa Musgrove....

A wonderful and moving story of missed opportunities where the author, who really needs no introduction, has written a story which explores the painful consequences of following seemingly good advice rather than the dictates of the heart. Set against the backdrop of fashionable society life in Bath and Lyme Regis and peopled with some finely drawn characters, this sensitively written story is a pleasure to read - however, one of the main purposes of this review is to talk about the lovely new Vintage Classic editions of Jane Austen's classics. This particular novel has a beautiful cover designed by artist and illustrator Leanne Shapton, with inner flaps to the cover to make the book feel more substantial, is also attractively decorated on the inside and has a brief, but interesting introduction by Lynn Truss. Lovely to handle, enjoyable to read - if you are looking for a paperback copy of this novel, and do not require a comprehensive introduction or notes, then I can certainly recommend this edition.

5 Stars.


Sense and Sensibility (Vintage Classics Austen Series)
Sense and Sensibility (Vintage Classics Austen Series)
by Jane Austen
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Attractively Presented New Edition of a Popular Classic, 15 July 2014
The Dashwood sisters: calm, sensible Elinor, and impetuous and passionate Marianne, are forced to leave their home, Norland Park, after the death of their father when the family estate is left to their half-brother, John. Elinor is especially reluctant to leave Norland, as she has become rather close to a kind but diffident young man, Edward Ferrars, who is the brother of John's grasping wife, Fanny. With their mother and much younger sister, Margaret, Elinor and Marianne move into a large cottage in the grounds of Barton Park, the home of a kind and generous distant relative, where they meet retired officer and gentleman, the gallant Colonel Brandon, and the dashing, handsome, but unreliable, Mr Willoughby. Later, Elinor meets the seemingly affable Lucy Steele, who does her utmost to ingratiate herself with the Dashwood girls, especially Elinor - however, Lucy has a secret that when revealed is particularly injurious to Elinor, and when Marianne also has her heart broken, Elinor struggles to keep a calm head and cope with the onslaught of emotions that suddenly befall her.

From an author who really needs no introduction, this is a beautifully written, sensitive, yet witty and very entertaining novel. With a whole host of manipulative, deceitful, grasping and snobbish supporting characters, who contrast well with the sensitive and sensible Elinor and her intimates, this story is a pleasure to read. I have been reading and re-reading Jane Austen's novels for many years and I cannot remember how many times I have read and enjoyed this book - but one of the main purposes of this review is to talk about the lovely new Vintage Classic editions of Jane Austen's classics. This particular novel has a beautiful cover designed by artist and illustrator Leanne Shapton, with inner flaps to the cover to make the book feel more substantial, is attractively decorated on the inside and has a short, but interesting introduction by Francesca Segal. Lovely to handle, absorbing to read - if you are looking for a paperback copy of this novel, and don't need a comprehensive introduction and notes, then I can certainly recommend this edition.

5 Stars.


Pride and Prejudice (Vintage Classics Austen Series)
Pride and Prejudice (Vintage Classics Austen Series)
by Jane Austen
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Absolutely Wonderful Story in an Attractive New Edition, 15 July 2014
"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." So begins Jane Austen's wonderful 'Pride and Prejudice' when the arrival of the wealthy Mr Bingley, and his even wealthier friend, Mr Darcy, causes a stir in the village of Longbourn, and particularly in the Bennet household. Mr and Mrs Bennet have five unmarried daughters, no male heir, and their estate is entailed on a pompous clergyman relative, a certain Mr Collins. Mrs Bennet, therefore, is desperate to see at least two of her daughters married - namely the beautiful Jane, and the attractive, independently-minded Elizabeth. Two pretty and intelligent young women; two rich, eligible men - what could go possibly wrong? Just about everything ...

This is a sparklingly witty, beautifully written and cleverly composed story which is a pleasure to read from start to finish. Elizabeth Bennet is a wonderful creation; Darcy is suitably arrogant, difficult and complex; Mrs Bennet is an absolutely awful, but brilliant character, who could give masterclasses in how to embarrass one's children; Lady Catherine de Bourgh is wonderfully snobbish and horribly condescending; Elizabeth's cousin, Mr Collins, is toe-curlingly cringe-making; and the remainder of the cast add greatly to this superb story.

Romantic, amusing and marvellously entertaining this is a novel to read and reread - I have been reading Jane Austen since I was twelve years old and I cannot remember how many times I have read and enjoyed this book - but one of the main purposes of this review is to talk about the lovely new Vintage Classic editions of Jane Austen's classics. This particular novel has a beautiful cover designed by illustrator Leanne Shapton, with inner flaps to the cover to make the book feel more substantial, is attractively decorated on the inside and has a short, but interesting introduction by Alexander McCall Smith. If you are looking for a paperback edition of this classic story, and do not require a comprehensive introduction and notes, then this particular edition is a lovely book to handle, and one that makes for wonderfully entertaining reading. Five stars plus.

5 Stars.


Emma (Vintage Classics Austen Series)
Emma (Vintage Classics Austen Series)
by Jane Austen
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Marvellous Novel and a Very Attractive New Edition, 15 July 2014
"Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition" is the twenty-one-year-old heroine of Jane Austen's wonderful novel: 'Emma' set in the village of Highbury. Having decided to remain unmarried herself, Emma delights in match-making amongst her friends and neighbours, and with one success already under her belt, with the marriage of her governess to an eligible gentleman neighbour, Emma sets out to help things along in the matrimonial field with her new friend, Harriet, and the vicar, Mr Elton. Mr Elton, however, has other ideas and has his mind set on quite a different partner and hence the road to romance does not quite go the way Emma had planned. And then a very suitable and seemingly eligible young man for Emma arrives in Highbury, and is keen to make himself amenable to our heroine, but this young man is hiding a secret, which when finally revealed, shocks Emma and everyone around her....

From an author who really needs no introduction, this witty, beautifully written and deftly composed story is a delight from start to finish. Emma is a marvellous (if sometimes slightly irritating) heroine, and most of the other characters are a delight, including Emma's hypochondriac father and the very garrulous Miss Bates. Wonderfully amusing this is a novel to read and reread - I have been reading Jane Austen since I was twelve years old and I cannot remember how many times I have read and enjoyed this book - but one of the main purposes of this review is to talk about the lovely new Vintage Classic editions of Jane Austen's classics. This particular novel has a beautiful cover designed by artist and illustrator Leanne Shapton, with inner flaps to the cover to make the book feel more substantial, is attractively decorated on the inside and has a short, but interesting introduction by Andrew Motion. Lovely to handle, wonderful to read - if you are looking for a paperback copy of this novel and do not require a comprehensive introduction and notes, then I can heartily recommend this edition.

5 Stars.


The Mark Of The Angel
The Mark Of The Angel
by Nancy Huston
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.87

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Mark of the Angel, 14 July 2014
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This review is from: The Mark Of The Angel (Paperback)
Nancy Huston's unusual novel begins in 1957 in Paris, when famous flautist, Raphael Lepage, advertises for a maid. Responding to his advertisement is Saffie, a young German girl and, immensely attracted by her air of cool detachment, Raphael soon finds himself proposing marriage, but is later dismayed when Saffie's remoteness does not appear to be hiding an inner passion. When their son, Emil, is born, Raphael hopes that Saffie will now reveal some real feelings, but it is not until she visits the old Jewish quarter of the city, and meets Andras, an exiled Hungarian instrument maker, that Saffie finally comes to life. Both Saffie and Andras, damaged by the ordeals they underwent during the war, fall passionately in love with one another, and it is through their conversations and their experiences when Saffie visits Andras in his workshop, and where they make love in a curtained alcove, that the reader learns what has happened to them and how their lives have been shaped by the events they have witnessed. (There is a lot more to this story, of course, but I shall leave the remainder for prospective readers to discover for themselves).

Set amidst the violence of another war, this time the horrors of the Algerian conflict, and ending with a further tragedy, Nancy Huston's novel made for an unusual and thought-provoking read. Yet somehow I was not as moved by this novel as I would have expected, especially considering some of the subject matter covered in the story. I think this may have been partly due to author's style of writing, with quite a number of short sentences, some of them comprising of just one or two words, and many instances where the sentences ended with a series of dots ... which I found a little distracting. I also found the manner in which the author delivered some of the story's very sensitive issues, in such a matter-of-fact way, rather disconcerting. On the cover of my edition there is a quote stating that the author "places herself as a detached observer" - and that is rather how I felt myself, almost as a detached observer from what I feel should have been a very emotive and involving story. That is not to say that I was unaffected by the issues covered in this novel, or that I did not learn anything from the experience of reading it, but just that I could not really get as involved in the characters or their situations as much as I would have liked or expected. But, of course, that could be the fault of this reader, and not the fault of the writer.

3.5 Stars.


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