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on 13 August 2017
Trapido as always is entertaining and thought provoking, as well as writing fabulously. I wish she would write some more.
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on 10 August 2015
This is the story of a marriage but it is also a clever study of power.

Ali Bobrow, artistic, beautiful and unworldly, is easy prey to controlling men. Her third husband, Noah, is at least a benign dictator. Before him she was mistreated, her daughter was unhappy and she was unable to resist the demands of any manipulative neighbour or acquaintance. Noah, a doctor, the ultimate protector, replaces the chaos with love, calm and security - so long as she follows his rules.

Then one day Ali decides to rebel - and this disrupts the delicate balance of her life with Noah, and leads her to look back at her past in South Africa.

Trapido's characters are funny and vivid and clever. You feel like you want to climb into her world (though probably not for too long - who could keep up?). She creates atmosphere with economy and style. The opening scene shows Ali sewing in her kitchen, an icon of domesticity. The apparently ordinary items - the fruit bowl, the pinboard - and her thoughts about them immediately evoke the family and her place within it.

There are other types of power here. Ali grew up under apartheid, the descendant of German refugees from World War Two. Her best friend at school was Jewish, and she is attracted to Jewish men. Her unconsummated first love was dark-skinned and was rumoured to have lied about his background to attend the all-white university.

There are also the dynamics between parents and children. Noah's step-daughter, once so timid, is able to be rebellious and demanding precisely because he has made her feel safe - for now. He is also confronted by the stubbornness of his own daughter.

How do we respond to a world where every day people are harming others? Trapido asks subtle questions about the limits of power, resistance and compassion.
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on 15 August 2003
This story is sexy, funny and in the end, quite touching. The characters stay with you long after you have finished, even the minor ones (especially Camilla and Arnie), and at the finale you are left with a sensation of lingering sadness that you cannot precisely define. This was my second read; I first read it five years ago and do not remember this sensation, so I suspect that the older you are, the more Trapido's evocative descriptions of aging and the passage of time (innocence to experience, children to adults, naivete to jadedness) resonate.
The book employs a strangely old-fashioned form of third-person point-of-view swapping in which the reader is given access to alternative perspectives in the same section, sometimes even having to deal with a switch in the same paragraph. For some reason, though, these shifts are handled well and it gives a pleasing sensation of omniscience without sacrificing any intimacy.
This book would have received the full five stars were it not for the dialogue. I have no idea what the editors were doing when they allowed Trapido to get away with such amateurish punctuation, most especially comma omission in direct address: e.g. "Mrs Bobrow what services do you neighbours render you...?" And at times characters, especially Ali, spout forth long, intricate and humourous speeches that no human being would ever be able to utter spontaneously. Nevertheless, if you overlook these minor flaws, the book is well worth a read.
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on 10 August 2013
I simply cannot get enough of Barbara Trapido's characters—all bearing the most wonderful names. Noah Glazer, for one—the dependable, level-headed man of science bringing stablility and sense into Ali's life. Trapido's imagination runs riot and mine goes along with it. Her creative process is extraordinary and all her novels are packed with interesting detail, be it of a musical, classical, artistic background. Noah's Ark was a delight from start to finish; outrageous? Yes, but wonderfully so. There is not a boring paragraph in the entire book. I will definitely be reading it a second time.
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on 18 September 2010
This story bounces from one plot to the next, one character to the other, without linking them together in any cohesive or enjoyable manner. The main character Ally is shallow and interesting. It is supposed to be, I suspect, racy but indeed I found it vulgar instead. As well as blasphemous. Terrible story line.
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on 6 August 2013
I can read most things, but I threw this away after the first few dozen pages. Note that I said 'threw this away' - I hated it so much that I could not give it to a charity shop or pass it on to anyone else.

The two main characters were unbelievable, and extremely unpleasant, and the swearing from the narrator of the book was extremely distracting. The narrator is not a character, just the voice of the book - why on earth were they being allowed to intrude in this way?

Oh, and be warned - even if you don't mind swearing, you might object to swear words with sexual connotations being applied to body parts of a small child.

As I said, Yuck.
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on 20 June 2013
A great way to wind down after a hard day, Barbara Trapido writes cleverly and sensitively with caharacters that come to life off the page.
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on 23 October 2000
As in her other books, Barbara Trapido does not take the usual route, and her characters find themselves in situations with resolutions that are far from the expected. Furthermore, her characters are human, humane, and flawed, and their predicaments unfold unpredictably. There are presently only 2 of Trapido's books available in the US, so I was glad to make the discovery that I could order her other titles through AmazonUK.
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on 13 November 2014
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VINE VOICEon 1 July 2009
This review relates to the audio version (available from BBC audiobooks).

I was very disappointed with this book, and gave up after the first cd (about 1/10 of the way through).

Firstly, the reading, by Eva Haddon is dire. She seems to be one of those "cultured English" readers who think it is sufficient to simply read the words on the page without any attempt at characterisation. It sounds as if she had been told to use some different voices - with the result that the child Camilla speaks with a silly squeaky voice, and Noah has a big, gruff, hollow voice with a weird pronunciation that I know is supposed to be American only because of the subtle clues in the dialogue ... such as "hurry up with my pants dear, I need to shift my arse".

Which brings me to the book itself. I can't comment on characterisation as I didn't listen to enough - but I suspect it was going to turn out to be good. I certainly found Ali a very annoying person (which is better than not caring about her at all!). However, the story line meanders from one time slot to another, without warning and without apparent direction or purpose, and the quality of the writing was simply not good enough to tempt me to persevere with it.
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