Well written with good descriptive text and nice character development and descriptions , and flits back and forth in time to tell the tale ....which confused me at times and which concentrates on family relationships and thus then explains the main characters actions .
But .... It is not my kind of book , too sad and too slow for me.
I will definitely try other works by this author as perhaps I can enjoy her other offerings better?
Anita has always felt in the shadow of her older brothers, Mark and Barney, who seem louder, more confident and more successful than her and, so she believes, more beloved by her parents. Her mother, in particular, has never shown pride in her achievements, and shows thinly veiled contempt for Anita's non-conformism.
On a whim, Anita accepts an offer from her friend Laurence to spend some time at his holiday home in Bulgaria. While out there, he wants her to scout for other suitable properties he might be able to sell. With Barney's second wedding looming and the dread of an enforced family get-together, Anita sees this as a chance to escape her ordinary life and sets off. But once abroad, she finds this isn't the easy refuge she thought it might be, and events from the past she has kept repressed begin to resurface...
This is not by any means an easy read. Janet Davey flings handfuls of characters together and often I felt two steps behind, wondering who everyone was and how they connected. Anita herself isn't an obviously likeable character either; she is passive and reflective, which means the plot moves slowly and without much tension.
However, the writing is often beautiful with some wonderful images - Anita's father, a tall man, is described as stooping while going through doorways "like a barge chugging under a low bridge" for example. The final third of the book was the strongest for me, as Davey brings everything together and cleverly reveals deeper layers to the characters.
I struggled initially with this novel but I'm glad I carried on reading. An original, quiet and subtle novel with hidden depths.
on 29 April 2012
First read as an e-book, I will now have to re read it in hardback, both because it is so beautifully crafted that it has certainly earned long-term shelf space and because a first reading left a paradoxical sense of suspended closure that will compel me to revisit; only then will I perhaps be able to accept Anita's tantalising self-effacement.
Davey captures with unflinching accuracy the destructive erosion of confidence and crushing exclusion felt by a child who fails to measure up to the expectations of ambitious and academically elitist parents or to compete with siblings who are both more successful and more valued in every way.
The writing is a delight: lucid and eloquent prose, with some wonderfully original images that enliven the characters and add a sense of sharply observed authenticity. As the title invites, there is a distinct sense of place that adds depth and texture. Personally I ccouldn't help wishing for an alternative ending, but there is something particularly honest in suggestively evoking some of the evasions and the emotional exile that can result from such a cascade of disappointment. It is an intriguing, subtle and rewarding read.
Our heroine in Janet Davey's latest novel is Anita Mostyn, who is in her early thirties, and the younger sister of Barney and Mark, her marvellous elder brothers, the apples of their mother's eye. The Mostyn parents, Veronica and Howard, have a home in Hampshire, a mews house in London and a property in France, but Anita does not really feel totally at home in any of these places, or in her flat in Chelsea, a property she bought with the help of her parents. Anita is a very attractive, but fragile young woman, who has always felt inferior to her brothers:"sharpened by the pain of being the odd one out"; she works in an art gallery and, with more than one failed relationship behind her, she now lives alone.
When manning a stall at the Affordable Art Fair, Anita meets an old acquaintance, Laurence Beament, who is only a few years older than Anita, but settled comfortably into middle age. Laurence, who has always hankered after Anita, but never had much luck romantically with her, offers to buy her lunch and then proposes that she visit his apartment in the Dobrich region of Bulgaria, and take some photographs of rural properties in the surrounding area, in order to encourage British people to consider buying a holiday home. Feeling in need of a break and also some time out from her family, who are preparing for the impending wedding of the wonderful Barney, Anita impulsively agrees to do as Laurence has asked. However, when she arrives in Bulgaria, things don't turn out quite the way she planned and, suffering from panic attacks, she finds it necessary to return home and face the family wedding, without the photographs. Back home amongst her family, as they congregate to celebrate Barney's wedding, Anita tries to involve herself in family life, but a tragic event from the recent past returns to haunt her, making it very difficult for her to move on or make sense of her life.
Beautifully described, poignant and exquisitely written, this story is full of perceptive observations capturing the oddities and eccentricities of a certain kind of privileged English family going about their daily lives. The author, with the deftly-handled use of flashbacks, moves backwards and forwards between Anita's past and her present life, showing the reader what has made Anita the person she is and what has contributed to her painful lack of self and her feeling of alienation. Although a rather sombre story in places, I very much enjoyed reading this novel; Davey's prose is subtle, but brilliant, and filled with sentences and phrases that make you want to read them again for the sheer pleasure they provide. If you enjoy beautifully written stories with an emphasis more on language than plot, then this novel should make for an engaging and rewarding read for you. I read a review by Jon Canter where he commented that: " 'By Battersea Bridge' is itself a kind of verbal still life, with exquisite and revelatory strokes wherever you look". I couldn't agree more; this novel is going straight back on to one of my bookshelves to be read and enjoyed again in the future.
This is the author's fourth book but I have not ready any of the others although I may well do now.
The book is beautifully written, and rolls backwards and forwards in time. Anita, the main protagonist, is in her thirties, a somewhat vague, flaky character drifting along in life. She has always been the spare part in her family - her two elder brothers sailed through school and university, and settle into working life in the City. They are the apple of her successful parents' eyes, in particular the mother worships her sons. Anita meanwhile flits around a series of jobs as a waitress, in an art gallery - nothing with any sense of permanence. Anita is sort of outside the family & circle of friends but gets pulled along with them: "Hers was a different view, as if from a seat with obstructed sightlines". The story does present a reasonably convincing description of upper middle class life (evidenced by the parents' occupations, their houses in Hampshire, London and the Tarn, and their ability to buy Anita a flat in Chelsea). The story involves a family tragedy but even before that I felt that no-one was really happy.
The writing is beautiful. There are some lovely turns of phrase and unusual similes which deftly convey the story. "Mark and Barney posed in their school's black and white; monochrome to her jaundiced technicolour. They were in a silver frame and she was loose in the box." At a wedding, Anita was "haunted by the sound of chiming voices asking her questions; the full peal of prosperous complacency".
Much as I thought the writing was fantastic, I found the ending inadequate. The book just peters out, nothing really resolved. I assume that this was a deliberate decision on the part of the author and perhaps it is meant to convey that things just carry on, nothing exciting, drift and numbness. For me this just didn't work.
"Anita grew up believing she was behind and would never catch up."
Anita has grown up with two brilliant brothers. Now in her 30s, she still feels like a family failure, drifting through her existence working for an art gallery. There are two stories intertwined together, the present day one and the story of Anita and her family's past and what happened to her brother. In the present, she is persuaded to go to Bulgaria and scout out properties that would appeal to British buyers by an old friend.
I thought this was beautifully written but challenging to read as the shifts in time are not clearly marked and I kept suddenly realising the book had jumped to the other story. But I thought the portrait of a woman whose upbringing was materially privileged but has been emotionally neglected was compelling, and will look out for more work by Janet Davey.
on 27 June 2012
By Battersea Bridge describes the life of Anita Mostyn, who grows up in the shadows of her brothers and feels somewhat left out of her family relationships. The story revolves around a trip to Bulgaria that she makes with a friend, and her experiences and the memories that are evoked whilst on the trip.
Davey writes brilliantly, no question about that. However, I didn't feel as though the book was quite for me. I initially picked it up because of the title - I spent quite a bit of time in my youth by Battersea Bridge, playing in Battersea Park. Yet I didn't feel a sense of remembering myself - the novel, whilst describing London brilliantly, never really drew me in. In particular, I never felt much kinship or empathy with Anita herself, and so whilst I appreciated the writing in the book it's not one I'd particularly recommend.
Janet Davey is not the easiest of novelists but a reader's diligence is rewarded. Anita Mostyn is someone who finds herself on the margins of life. Without any talent or commitment and the 'baby' sister of two brilliant brothers, she feels unloved and disregarded and drifts about, never settling, never feeling of any worth.
Davey is a subtle writer and her observations of the way people live and behave (as seen through Anita's acerbic eye) is sharp and often very funny. There is, however, a dark tragedy at the heart of the novel and this dominates both Anita's life and every one else's about her. It is the elephant in the room--something huge but something everyone skirts around.
There is no major revelations, no scales falling from eyes but somehow Anita finds her way through the mess and comes out the other end, not perhaps wiser but a survivor. As do we all. We all muddle through, doing wrong, messing up, carrying on.
Not a spectauclar novel but quietly devastating. Davey is vastly underrated.
This book is really nicely written and clearly shows the talent of the author, so I will give credit for that, the author manages to merge an utterly depressing tale into a nicely written story, but I just didn't like it. It didn't help that I couldn't warm to the character Anita and found her somewhat irksome. It follows her on a trip to Bulgaria and reveals her relationships with her siblings who she feels very overshadowed by.
The depictions of life in London and family life were good and descriptive, but I just didn't like Anita enough to feel that my time was well spent - that is down to my preferences though - I like more cheery tales that make me feel happy!
Nicely written just not a nice tale!
This is a story about Anita Mostyn, her childhood in the 1980's with her older brothers, Mark and Barney, a relationship that she felt excluded from. In present day she goes to Bulgaria to look at properties for a friend. Anita is elusive and so her narration of this story is also elusive.
Jane Davey writing flows but not in one direction, this is a circular tale of the relationship Anita has with her mother and father, one that is full of class, a relationship that isn't significantly altered when tragedy strikes.
Although I warmed to this book after a while I didn't particularly like Anita and consequently felt that maybe I didn't fully engage with this book.