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RachelWalker "RachelW" (England)
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The Drowned Boy (Inspector Sejer 11)
The Drowned Boy (Inspector Sejer 11)
by Karin Fossum
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.09

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Drowned Boy - Karin Fossum, 14 Jun. 2015
This is the best Fossum novel to be translated for quite some years. She's back to her intense best, where she focusses on a single tragic situation and relentlessly examines the psychology of her characters to suggest exactly how that situation came to happen. Her books are not whodunnits in any respect, so don't expect them to be - there aren't generally a clutch of suspects motives and circumstances. She takes normal human weaknesses and examines how those can create individual tragedies. This particular book is incredibly moving and in my mind I was torn right to the end about the what really happened on the day Tommy died. Psychologically, either outcome could have been completely plausible - and that's a great complement to Fossum's realization of her characters.

She writes great crime novels, but don't expect a whodunnit.


The Daughters of Cain (Inspector Morse)
The Daughters of Cain (Inspector Morse)
by Colin Dexter
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Daughters of Cain - Colin Dexter, 31 May 2015
The Daughters of Cain has always retained a soft spot in my heart - I read it when I was about 12, it was the first "adult" book I read, and the first mystery novel. Coming back to it 17 years later, I was slightly nervous I wouldn't like it so much for some reason (I'm making my way through all the Morse novels, tripping through them with glee). I needn't have worried - even on second reading this is one of my very favourites of the series. Whilst there are elements of the plot that are convoluted, they are convoluted in a more simple way than in some Morse novels, and Dexter spends a bit more time on the psychologies of his major characters - Brenda Brooks, Julia Stevens, and Ellie Smith. To be honest, that's what I remember liking so much the first time around, that holy trinity of women who make up the main cast. And I liked it just as much the second time around. The whole novel is a rounded and satisfying portrait of various types of justice. Wonderful. Colin Dexter's style is one of the most enjoyable I've ever had the pleasure to read, and re-reading them all has been a revelatory experience - somehow, I had forgotten!


Resurrection (Penguin Classics)
Resurrection (Penguin Classics)
by Leo Tolstoy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Resurrection - Leo Tolstoy, 31 May 2015
For the first half of this book, I thought I was going to finish it thinking it was as brilliant as Crime and Punishment. But nah.

The first half, focussing on a Russian aristocrat who serves on a jury only to find that the defendant is a woman he once treated shamefully, is brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. There's a moral heart that beats fiercely in our hero, and whilst it's a bit naive it's very endearing. The psychological portraits of both he and the woman Maslova are absolutely brilliant. The writing is clear and warm and big-hearted, at the same time as being exciting and philosophical and moral. I was immensely impressed. And to be honest I still am, but by the time page 350 rolled round, things were getting a bit repetitive and didn't get much better. The books gets a bit mired in its moral message, and our hero constant efforts to give away his land to his peasant and improve the lots of all the mistreated prisoners he comes across - noble aims, indeed, but they don't make for exciting reading one after another after another.

I finished the book very much looking forward to reading more Tolstoy, but a little disappointed that the absolutely brilliant first half didn't reflect the whole.


Swimming To Ithaca
Swimming To Ithaca
by Simon Mawer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Swimming to Ithaca - Simon Mawer, 31 May 2015
This review is from: Swimming To Ithaca (Paperback)
The Glass Room is one of the best contemporary novels I've read in years; so, I went looking for more Mawer. And I came to this.

This is a book of two distinct strands, and each strand is of different quality. The strand focussing on Thomas Denham's mother in 50s Cyprus is brilliant and would get five stars. But the second strand focussing on Denham himself post his mother's demise is completely in shadow of the first. It doesn't begin that way - we are promised a kind of contemporary historic investigation, with Denham slowly uncovering some of the events in his mother's life. But that doesn't really pan out or deliver on its promise - the contemporary Denham story is just a way of triggering the historic story, and the contemporary bits soon lose interest, with only occasional intrusions through letters etc. In the main, the contemporary story focuses on Denham's arbitrary efforts to begin and maintain a relationship with a young student. Which is a completely irrelevant plot strand as far I'm concerned. The history is where the meat of this story always was, and Denham's uncovering of it. We get the first, not really the second.

Anyway, the parts set in Cyprus are brilliant and worth your time, even if you have to bide with the other bits. The picture of Cyprus in the 50s is brilliant, and events there are exciting and suspenseful, coming to a great tragic head. There's a nice twist at the end of the book which could have had more punch, but overall this is one brilliant novel alongside another that doesn't deliver on its promise.


Honeymoon
Honeymoon
by Patrick Modiano
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.79

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Honeymoon - Patrick Modiano, 17 May 2015
This review is from: Honeymoon (Paperback)
A wonderful little book - a man abandons his life to live swirling in the memories of a couple he once met, one of whom later killed themselves in a foreign country. That's a much of a precis as I can give, really. Some of the Nobel in literature laureates are a bit hit and miss but sometimes they throw up absolute gems (which is exactly what the award is for), and after this, the first Modiano I've read, I've come away with the same kind of promise I felt after reading my first J.M.Coetzee or Jose Saramago.

Honeymoon is a noirish, smokey novel of memory and reminiscence, melancholy and atmosphere. It's foggy and seems to exist in two time periods at once, like photos of the same location at different times laid atop one another. A wonderful book, and I'm very glad I read it. It's more ethereal than I normally like, but it has that kind of focussed intensity that is the quality which sets out the very best novellas.


The Cellar
The Cellar
by Minette Walters
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.79

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Cellar - Minette Walters, 8 May 2015
This review is from: The Cellar (Hardcover)
After waiting 8 years for a new full length piece of fiction from Minette Walters, I was hoping for something a bit better than this. This is just... ok. The story of a girl kept in a cellar and her revenge. That's pretty much that. There are a couple of nice surprises, but there's not much else - the characters have no depth, as Walters' characters usually do, and the plot, which is a little hard to swallow, hasn't either. There's no real psychological insight, which is what she is famous for. It's written nicely and clips along very pacily, but that's as much as I can say about it really.

I have no clue what's led to this hiatus in Walters' writing career (one short novel and one novellas in 8 years after publishing nearly a book a year since the early 90s is quite a gear-shift...) but I really hope she gives us a full length novel full of the qualities which we've come to know her for. This isn't quite it.


Carthage
Carthage
by Joyce Carol Oates
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Carthage - Joyce Carol Oates, 25 April 2015
This review is from: Carthage (Paperback)
The best book I've read in months. Moving, deeply emotionally invested in its characters. A meditation on the effects of war, violence, the morality of the death penalty, the treatment of soldiers after war, the effect of grief on families, etc etc etc. It's a big book with big themes. This is Joyce Carol Oates' best book since We Were the Mulvaneys. It's powerful, detailed, and relentlessly focussed on its tragedies (if that sentence puts you off then this is not the book for you!) I LOVED Cressida - never have I come across a more convincing late adolescent troubled girl. The whole book has the true, ineluctable trajectory of all great tragedies. It's wide in scope and tender in the treatment of its characters, with a sliver of ice at its core. A brilliant book.


The Wolf Border
The Wolf Border
by Sarah Hall
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.59

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Wolf Border - Sarah Hall, 19 April 2015
This review is from: The Wolf Border (Hardcover)
I really, really enjoyed this. Sarah Hall writes beautifully about nature and landscapes, and captures very well the fragile relationships between people, and the tender bonds that keep people tethered to others, as well as to things and to places. It's passionate and moving, very heartfelt. The main character is strong, very tangible, very real. A recognisable human being, a mess of strength and weakness, as are we all. The parts I enjoyed most were the parts focused on the wolves (I did not expect to enjoy these most; I normally enjoy "specific" parts of books "about" very specific topics the least; I prefer the general): they command the attention as soon as they are on the page.To be honest they command the attention before that even, before they even make an appearance. They're the rangy, muscled, atavistic heart of the book. Survival in the rugged landscape is what they are about - and, really, what Sarah Hall's humans are about too.


Falling in Love: (Brunetti 24)
Falling in Love: (Brunetti 24)
by Donna Leon
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.90

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Falling in Love - Donna Leon, 9 April 2015
This is my favourite of Donna Leon's book for some time. Operatic, dramatic, emotionally highly-strung. I loved the backdrop of the opera - you can tell Leon adores it, and that shines through the pages. This book was always going to be about the climax, and a great one it is. The best Brunetti in a quite a few years for my money.


A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing
A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing
by Eimear McBride
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.74

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Girl is a Half-formed Thing - Eimear McBride, 1 April 2015
The worst book I've read (or tried to read) since Will Self's Umbrella.

Impenetrable nonsense. Couldn't get past the first 3 pages. Tortured sentences, nonsense. What?

There are people who like these kinds of books, and I am not one of them. Sentences that don't make sense, sentences that are just phrases, splintered language. Not for me. This is one of those books where reading the first paragraph in a bookshop before buying is a MUST. Unnecessary work. Not a pleasurable experience.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 15, 2015 6:58 PM BST


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