Posts Tagged ‘Canadian’

I Am Half-Sick of Shadows – Alan Bradley

Posted in Cozy Crime on November 16th, 2011 by admin – 3 Comments

I am Half Sick of Shadows - Flavia De Luce Mystery

This is the fourth in the Flavia de Luce series, another wonderfully endearing “cozy mystery” set “somewhere” in England in the 1950s.  I absolutely love this series, they’re the perfect antidote to the stresses of modern life with one of the most captivating heroines in the shape of 11 year old Flavia.

It’s getting close to Christmas and the de Luce family finances are still in a perilous state so the Colonel reluctantly agrees to rent out Buckshaw to a film crew.  The glamorous film star Phyllis Wyvern has agreed to perform a scene from Shakespeare in order to raise funds for the church roof, so the local villagers swarm to Buckshaw to see the leading lady in action.  Blizzards conspire to keep the audience captive overnight but tis not the season to be jolly as a body is discovered and, with so many suspects, Inspector Hewitt needs all the help he can get to find the killer.  Of course, Flavia, our amateur sleuth, is on hand to ferret out the culprit but she is already occupied with proving Santa’s existence and concocting some splendiferous fireworks.

If you are already a fan of Flavia, you will love this seasonal story as you are immediately transported into the snowbound world of Buckshaw and Bishop’s Lacey.  Flavia is as irrepressible as ever but she still has that cloud of sadness, the loss of her mother and her sisters’ indifference/cruelty weigh heavily on her.  Some much needed distraction comes with the arrival of the film crew and the glamour of the silver screen.  There are a lot of new characters in this relatively  short book but they really come to life for the reader, even the one who dies quite soon!

Overall, a pleasure to read, an ideal Christmas treat which leaves me longing for the next instalment in Flavia’s adventures, Seeds of Antiquity, hopefully out in 2012.

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Dark Inside – Jeyn Roberts

Posted in YA Fiction on September 3rd, 2011 by admin – 2 Comments

I’ve had the pleasure of reading some truly excellent dystopian YA novels in recent years - The Hunger Games and The Declaration trilogies spring to mind.  The post-apocalyptic setting seems to be increasingly common in recent YA releases and Dark Inside, Jeyn Roberts’ debut , is part of this growing trend but is it strong enough to stand out from the rest?

Four teens, Mason, Michael, Aries and Clementine are survivors of a bizarre catastrophe – a series of worldwide devastating earthquakes coupled with sudden onset psychotic behaviour manifesting itself in the majority of the human race so you don’t know who to trust.  Each chapter deals with a different teen and their efforts to stay alive, all of them journeying to Vancouver, thought to be a haven in a world of terror.

I enjoyed Dark Inside – it’s an extremely fast paced read which keeps you hooked from the opening chapter.  However, there were some elements which spoiled the reading experience and really irked me at times.  I usually have no problem following a storyline with multiple POV but I didn’t feel the characters were well enough developed for me to cope with each chapter shifting to a different storyline and I couldn’t remember who was who and kept on flicking back to remind myself of each character’s back story.  In the midst of the four teens’ stories are random interjections from an anonymous narrator, “Nothing” which really didn’t add to the overall story.  Unfortunately,  this got in the way of my enjoying what was actually an exciting narrative.

It would appear from the concluding chapter that this might be the start of a series but if this is the case, it’s a shame that the opener wasn’t stronger with more defined characterisation.  It will appeal to those who like action-packed narratives but I fear that Dark Inside might be eclipsed by others in this increasingly saturated market.

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Far to Go – Alison Pick

Posted in Dual Time Frame, Historical Fiction, Literary Prizes on August 4th, 2011 by admin – 7 Comments

One of the longlisted novels for the Booker Prize 2011,  Far to Go is certainly attracting a lot of attention from readers and all with good reason -  it’s a refreshing look at a period of history which should never grow stale in our minds no matter how many years go by.

The main focus of the novel is on the Bauers, a young, secular Jewish family living in Sudetenland, Czechoslovakia which has been invaded by Germany.  Pavel, a wealthy factory owner, Anneliese, his stunning, self obsessed wife and their six year old son, Pepik flee to Prague hoping to leave the ominous shadow of the Nazis behind them.  Marta, their dutiful Gentile governess, accompanies them, not so much out of duty but because they’re all she’s got – she doesn’t hold Jews in the highest regard but, like a lot of ordinary Europeans caught up in the war, she  probably wouldn’t be able to tell you why.   Eventually, all hopes are lost apart from those pinned on little Pepik who is sent on the Kinderstransport to the UK, hoping to be reunited with his family and Marta after the war.

Despite having studied WWII as part of  my History O Level course (many, many moons ago..) my knowledge has remained rather sketchy until recently when I have had the good fortune to read some excellent fiction set during this period.  Reading about the Bauers and their efforts (including bribery) to get Pepik out of Czechoslovakia will enlighten readers about the Kinderstransport and the heartache of separation albeit for a greater good, or what they thought was a brighter future… 

As well as educating the reader, this novel also achieves a more balanced view of events as the narrator who divulges the Bauers’ fate and who also holds their fate in her hands, is a Gentile with no political aspirations.  Marta, the governess, is more concerned with looking after Pepik and protecting him from the growing anti-semitic feeling which is gripping Sudetenland.  She has little in common with her conniving adulterous lover, Ernst, who hopes to gain financially from Pavel’s downfall.  Still, she’s no saint either and self-preservation is at the forefront of everyone’s mind be they Jew or Gentile, Czech or German.

What I love about Far to Go is its simplicity and unpretentiousness – the characters are flawed, real flesh and blood creations who find themselves in the most surreal of situations and whilst they aren’t always the most likeable they are all the more credible as a result.  Yes, it’s a story which will affect you emotionally but it doesn’t dwell on sentimentality and presents the truth in simple prose, in black and white.  The one minor difficulty I did have was getting into the rhythm of the story as several narrative strands are introduced very quickly, almost on top of each other – the story of the Bauers set in 1939, a contemporary storyline whose narrator remains a mystery until later and also letters written by Jewish parents to the children they sent to the UK.   However, this is just a minor quibble for me and it quickly becomes a compelling, coherent read.

Alison Pick has carved a fresh, fictional work out of the past experiences of her Czech grandparents who fled to Canada following Hitler’s invasion of their native country.  It’s a fitting tribute to all those who did not survive and those children who were never reunited with their parents.

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