A Novel Score

Here are twenty of my lockdown literary adventures. It is a varied and eclectic mix. Not leaving the house made a for a lot of downtime! We have since left the house however as the picture below will prove. We went to Enniskerry to see how Disney make a film.

A bookshop window from the set of Disenchanted.

Footprint Upon Water by Barbara Fitzgerald                                                      The great bargain…

I picked this gem up in an Argos counter book sale box for two euros. (I love that my local Argos has books to buy for charity! Another great excuse to buy more books!) This shiny, unread, interestingly expensive looking book made me once again judge a book by its cover and as a result, snatch it up. Family life, the difficulties of land ownership in 20th century Ireland, gender roles and the convenient contract marriage can be in contrast to the complexities of love all feature in this piece of historical fiction. If Austen wrote about a family in Ireland, it would surely be something like this! The writer was born in 1911 but this book was printed posthumously. Read about the author.I  recommended it to my mother. She had a lot to say about it which is always a good thing! ⭐⭐⭐

The Strawberry Thief by Joanne Harris                                                            The one with a great title...

I buy and read all Joanne Harris novels or short stories. I relish most of them and quite like the rest. This offering (and it is published at least three years ago) once again follows the tale of Vianne Rocher. (Remember lovely Chocolat?) Devotees to the story of Vianne, Anouk, Roux, Reynaud and their quirky village will be aware that this is the fourth instalment. Vianne leaves Roux on a Parisian riverboat to return to the french hamlet of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes where much darkness, mystery and danger is afoot. The only way to read a Harris novel is with hot chocolate. I enjoyed every minute with these old friends. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Wild Mountain Thyme by Rosamunde Pilcher                              

The loan from a friend…   

I was given this old, tattered text from a friend who thought I could do with something light yet interesting. This is not a new release, nor is it a classic. It is however from a writer who demands great respect and has a devoted readership and enjoys immense success. Reading this story transported me to a different time and not just because of the story. The pages themselves spoke of the past. The scent of paper gone slightly to pasture, the white creases in the spine to prove this was indeed a read text and something I can’t quite out my finger on- maybe that feeling you get when you read a book that is really good and that book was on a shelf in your parent’s house all of your life. You never opened it- hence the sun-paled spine- but now feel you have unlocked a secret. You wonder- what else have I been missing? The story intrigued me, was extremely well written and had a more than decent hook. In retrospect, the quality of the plot was undermined by a bland cover. The title (which is linked in to the book loosely toward the end) does not hint of the thriller that awaits you. These days, this book would be black with green font, a sharp three worder title such as Not Yet Yours and a freakish image of water/ a body/ bloodied staghead would contrast the pretty oil painting used here where no danger appears to lie. ⭐⭐⭐

Grown Ups by Marian Keyes                  The faithful friend…

A colleague once remarked that I will always have a fondness for Marian Keyes. She was right. I love Keyes for what she is. A light hearted observer of human nature, that can take the most serious issue and showcase the difficulty of that life whilst making me smile. That’s a gift right there! Once I get past all the musha begorrah prattle, I see what I love once again, every time. This book gave me joy in the middle of the tougher elements of lockdown. It was a mid-March heatwave choc-ice.⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Island Child by Molly Aitken

The New Irish One…

The sister gave me this one as she knew the writer from college days. I live in fear of knowing a published writer for many reasons. What if I don’t like their books? How do you wriggle around that? They put the fear into me a bit. This wasn’t my friend however so not my problem! I enjoyed the story, dark and troublesome as it was with the obligatory atmospheric Island wind and sea. Elements (pun intended) of early Deirdre Purcell here which is a good thing! ⭐⭐⭐

Such a Fun Age By Kiley Reid

The much talked of one…

This book had been much read by all before I got hands on it. It’s one of those trending type books that everyone has read before the writer even had written it, you know those books? Well, I read it after it was published. So out of fashion! It’s a very easy read, a memorable plot and a real thinking book. It raises many controversial  issues without being overly lecturing. The characters are well drawn and stay with you. Definitely to be read. You probably already have.⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

The historical one…

Books set to the backdrop of WW2 just keep coming and for good reason. To think civilisation became so deeply corrupted less than 100 years ago, devolving into a dystopia of that depths will give fodder to many the writer of historical fiction/ fact based fiction for many years to come. Like most of the world, I fell for this book too. Hope, love and happiness sprouting tiny leaves amongst the nettles of evil? Yes please.⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Miss Austen by Gill Hornby

The gift from my sister…

Beautifully covered, attractive dust jacket, prettily titled and giving a new insight to the lesser known Austen sister (Cassandra) at a later stage of her life, this is a must for Austen ‘collectors’. Of course, by collectors I mean those of us who gave chewed and swallowed every Austen novel, adaptation and story that may have have given new life to the legend who only left us six books. Sometimes these stories don’t work and sometimes they joyfully do. I really liked this one. Poignant- I did get the drippy eyes a few times reading of the love between these sisters- but maybe that’s just me. Love stories don’t have to include a Mr. Darcy. In fact, the best don’t. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

A Little Life by Hanya Tanaginhara

The one that takes over your world...

This is a whopper of a tale. I have heard it lauded as ‘best book I ever read’ to a ‘serious let down’. I wasn’t let down. In fact, I found every moment so resolutely tender and tragic that my imagining of the protagonist, Jude, is as clear now as when I read the book which is well over the year ago. I have a bit of an issue with stories that don’t provide hope (it’s a me thing, not the book’s fault). In my want to escape reality with a tale, I like to find the silver lining. I don’t need a neatly tied up predictable happily ever after but I do like to know there’s a reason for life. This book doesn’t provide false narrative as it brutally depicts the longterm effects of childhood abuse on a victim. Jude’s life was far from little. That is all I will say. Don’t shoot me.⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney

The one before Normal People

Sally Rooney needs no introduction. All the restrictions of lockdown were lightened by the love/ lust between Connell (why aren’t more lads called Connell?) and Marianne on the telly box. (I will say one thing- who orders a rocket lolly from an ice-cream van? No one. That’s who.) It was grand to hear something else being complained about the radio instead of the latest devastating Covid update, how we are all doing everything wrong and if you don’t wash your hands you are to blame for the death of your poor Granny. Instead, the rampant nudiness on the box (Front bottoms! Appendages!)and the horror it caused gave us a brief respite. So I got the first Rooney book and I enjoyed that almost more than the more famous one. It still has its fair share of unlikeable people, morals that would me a pope cry holy water tears and a few women who could do with a good dinner but I get what the purpose of the book is. The Sally Rooney niche is an interesting  one that I feel has a lot more to give.⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

The murder mystery…

Every now and then I want a murder mystery/ thriller type of thing and this big yellow book sporting an ostentatious stag head had been cheekily winking at me from book shop shelves in such a flirtatious  manner for so long that I felt it deserved a least a coffee date. So the Vouchers of Christmas got it for me and here we are. I enjoy the modern Agatha Christie style Foley employs. Gather a bunch of erratic, unlikeable people, throw in a few victims (or the victimised), add a dangerously beautiful, isolated rural setting and you have a winner. As fun as fictional murder gets!⭐⭐⭐⭐

Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

The one about privilege…

Having read a few by this author already, I was looking forward to this book. It didn’t disappoint. Lee Fiora’s reasons to attend Ault, an exclusive boarding school are more to do with impressions than reality. The book was a very good read and the character of Lee stayed with me. She is not easy to like at times and maybe the reality of her situation is what the makes the book better- it dispels the brochure myths. However, she doesn’t rise above her own low opinion of herself unlike how many heroines might- an interesting take. The grittiness of teenage life is not shadowed in this book! Be warned. It can get stomach churning.⭐⭐⭐⭐

Now You See Her by Heidi Perks

The Sunday Times Best Seller…

I chewed through this novel like a Curly Wurly bar and can see why it is a best seller. The plot grips you quickly. It lived out a parental nightmare in safe book format- the reason thrillers are loved. It is a good book- not a great one- but I recommend  it for a quick read that includes clever thrill. It is an excellent example of its genre. However, the hook is hard to top for intrigue which makes a less exciting climax. ⭐⭐⭐

The Girl Before You by Nicola Raynor

The one with gaslighting…

The perfect lockdown read. It has thrill, questions, mystery and plot hook. I have no memory of how it ended, I just recall reading it quickly as it kept me intrigued. Another nice little thriller with a clever touch of gaslighting.⭐⭐⭐

Milkman by Anna Burns

The Booker prize winner…

I have entered many debates about this book. I only know a handful of people who actually finished it. This book makes you work hard and most of us read to stop working! The writer’s style is unique and unconventional. At times, it reminded me of early Enda Walsh material- a very good thing Honestly, I really loved this book. There is no skimming allowed- it makes you read every word- but I fell into the fear and tension of the setting and the impossible entrapment that occurred as a result. A worthy winner. Everything about the concept of the ‘Milkman’ himself stayed with me long after reading the novel and I found myself wanting to talk about it for a long time. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

The one about finding a wife

This concept of a ‘wife project’ may not fit into a modern view of meeting a mate- but then again, with the eradication of romance offered by latest online dating fast track to relations over relating, maybe this idea should be reintroduced. I enjoyed this book for what is is- an often humorous story about how extremely hard it is to find love.⭐⭐⭐

Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty

The one from the author I will always try…

I adored Big Little Lies so I keep reading Moriarty books to relive that plot style. This is not the one to live up to that standard but is still worth a read for the true Moriarty fan. I also think interesting characters, some humour and family dynamic would make this a great TV show! ⭐⭐

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste  Ng

Celeste Ng has propelled herself to my must buy list of authors and this is no mean feat. Ng (much like John Greene) often offers a similarly styled protagonist in a new shape with each novel, yet her setting and plot stands uniquely individual each time. Her ongoing theme of dysfunctional families and how they engage is fascinating and this book presents another upsetting story of family heartbreak but with the elements of thrill and suspense that keep the reader involved until the last page. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Windfall by Penny Vincenzi

The bestseller from over twenty years ago…

Cassia Fallon’s inheritance, her nastily, petty husband and a power struggle between money and control make this a great story. This is a real blockbuster but not in the Danielle Steele manner- more like a 20th century Julian Fellowes. No unnecessary sex scenes, yet plenty of action that is all plot centred. Excellent lockdown reading from the second hand shop. ⭐⭐⭐

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

The International Best Seller…

Sometime you just want to get inside a book and give everyone a good shake- fix their problems and give good people a chance to be happy. This is another much talked of novel and for a good reason. It is deeply engaging as you follow a couple struggle to maintain their connection in the face of injustice. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

It took too long to write this and I have since read many more great books. These will be shared in their own time. In the meantime, happy reading one and all. 📚

A happy place.

4 thoughts on “A Novel Score

  1. Great list, I’ve read a few of these myself, and will be adding others to my never ending list!
    Grown Ups was, believe it or not, my first ever Keyes read. I thoroughly enjoyed it and got completely absorbed. I’ve since gone on to read another, and will be returning for more.
    The Hunting Party was my book club read a couple of months ago, it was a great escape, the kind of thing I’d usually watch as a film. I like a good twisted thriller. Took me back to the 90’s style horror a bit.
    I’ve just finished A Little Life, and yes, it wasn’t little at all. As in volume or subject matter. Aren’t I glad to have the kindle, it must be one lump of a book! It’s actually one of the only books I’ve ever taken a break from and read in sections, reading something else in between. Partly because of the sheer vastness, I felt a bit like I could have done with instalments. But once I got about halfway through I just couldn’t put it down. Much of it making me rage. Having a disability myself, it made me angry how the way Jude was at times treated, but also how he thought of himself. Although totally different situation (I don’t want to give too many spoilers!). This book also broke me many times.
    It’s so good to see you back, excuse the rambling essay of a comment.

    Like

  2. I love the variety!

    The Tattooist of Auschwitz is one I might get my dad for his birthday next month. The Hunting Party is going on my TBR. Now You See Her sounds like it should be awesome, but I often think that when I see it’s a Sunday Times Bestseller. Shame it didn’t wow you enough to get past 3 stars. Milkman is a surprise – I don’t think I’ve come across it before but you’ve definitely made me curious! I’ll make a note of that one 😄

    Great mini reviews of lots of great titles!

    Caz xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Caz! I like Lucy Foley’s last one a lot too, The Guest List. She has a new one at Christmas too which I am excited for! Now You See Her was a good book, just not outstanding. Milkman is very subjective- it needs a lot of knowledge of context I feel to fully get it. Thanks for your engagement!

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s