Posts Tagged ‘review’

Review – Bord De Mer (Beside the Sea) by Veronique Olmi

Posted in Contemporary Fiction, Transated Fiction on June 22nd, 2010 by admin – 6 Comments

It’s been so long since I’ve read anything modern in French Literature but having seen Jackie from Farmlane Books’ wonderful review of the English translation of this from Peirene Press, I decided to give it a go.  Admittedly, one can lose a lot in translation, in my case not due to bad translation but rustiness in the language, but this prose is so simple yet so powerful and stark it did not matter that it wasn’t in my mother tongue.

Midweek, during term time, a single mother decides to take her two young boys, Kevin and Stanley, on a trip to the seaside.  Surely, this, their first vacation, should be a time of excitement, of joy….but something isn’t right – they leave in the middle of the night, anxious that noone should see their departure, the weather is dismal as is their hotel room with one bed hardly large enough to hold them all, it’s hard to distinguish night from day in this dreary seaside town whose inhabitants aren’t particularly welcoming to their visitors.  Even the sea is in foul, threatening form in this muddy resort much to the children’s dismay.  Their budget is limited to the contents of a tea caddy,  saved up loose change which seems to irritate the already hostile locals.  An excursion like this isn’t going to make the Show and Tell session at Primary school on Monday, oh no, it is evident that disaster is imminent and it is a certain sign of the author’s skill that such foreknowledge doesn’t reduce the poignancy and sheer emotional power of this desperate tale.

This is a short but potent read (121 pages) - it’s dramatic but restrained, one which will stay with me for a very long time.  We can only guess what dreadful circumstances have influenced the actions of this unnamed mother, perhaps depression, perhaps an abusive relationship but she is in desperate need of help while being desperately in love with her sons.  A must read…

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Review – The Hand that First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell

Posted in Literary Fiction on June 17th, 2010 by admin – 15 Comments

The Hand That First Held Mine

Oh no, another favourite author releasing a new title – cue the sickening  feelings of anxiety when I settle into the story , wondering if it will meet my expectations but any fears are quickly assuaged as I become immersed in this, Maggie O’ Farrell’s fifth novel.  I devoured it in a few sittings – one of those books you are eager to embrace but loath to leave.

Like it’s predecessor, The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, there is a cleverly woven dual narrative, one set in the 1950s/1960s in Bohemian London and the contemporary story, again set in London.  In the 50s setting, Lexie leaves the bucolic setting of her family home in Devon at the tender age of 21, intent on finding a new life in London.  She meets and is seduced by Innes Kent, a seemingly most unsuitable partner and they fall for each other, working together on a magazine in Soho.  From an, at times, irritating ingenue Lexie develops into a strong, independent woman working her way up in the male dominated sector of journalism.  It’s fair to say that life does not treat her that kindly – she becomes a single mother without any family support, her family disowns her when she takes up with Innes. 

The modern day story focuses on Elina, a Finnish painter who lives with her partner, Ted.  When we first encounter Elina she seems to be suffering some sort of post-traumatic disorder following a particuarly harrowing emergency caesarean birth and to begin with, motherhood does not sit very well with her especially as she seems to have blotted out all memories of giving birth.  Later, Ted is the one to suffer flashbacks of suppressed memories and you start to wonder if this couple can withstand the immediate changes brought to the dynamic of their relationship by the arrival of the Baby.  I must say, it’s refreshing to see a novelist showing how new parenthood can cause a seismic shift in a partnership – it doesn’t matter what class you are, how old you are, being a parent makes you feel more vulnerable.

There is a link between these two stories, a connection which gradually reveals itself as the novel progresses with a series of teasing hints and clues sprinkled in the narrative.  However, I feel that the bridge between the two stories is less important than the common themes which colour both – there is love, romantic love, platonic love, maternal love, paternal love, infatuation, passion, contentment in another’s company.  There is loss and grief and how we deal with such facts of life.  There is the recurrent motif of family secrets and lies which can cloud future generations.  Maggie O’ Farrell is an expert at portraying well rounded, feisty female characters but here she also succeeds in capturing a very strong sense of male sensibilities via Ted  and also Innes.   It certainly serves to create a more balanced storyline to have both male and female perspectives, especially how the different male characters react to fatherhood.

It’s clear that Maggie O’ Farrell has done her research – I could sense the sounds, sights and smells of 50s Soho and in the modern day setting, I could empathise with the trauma of an emergency caesarean and the slightly surreal atmosphere which accompanies the arrival of your first child.  She has a lightness of touch which tempers the research and lets the narrative flow.  Yes, it’s a novel which deals with a lot of sadness and grief but there is a feeling of optimism, of looking ahead also which lifts it from the doldrums. 

So, not that I’m impatient but….when will we get the next novel?  I don’t think I can wait another four years….

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Review – Like Bees to Honey by Caroline Smailes

Posted in Contemporary Fiction on June 14th, 2010 by admin – 8 Comments

This is my first venture into the world of Caroline Smailes and what a magical, ethereal, quirky world it is – I want to move there now!

Firstly, look at that exquisite cover…it immediately brings to mind travel abroad to sunnier climes and a sense of times gone by. Becky Adams has surpassed herself with the cover art.

Of course there’s more to this book than just a pretty face.  Nina, our unstable heroine, is a woman on a mission or even a pilgrimage of sorts.  Having been shunned by her Maltese family since she fell pregnant as an undergraduate in England, she is now returning to her homeland with her son, Christopher but it isn’t immediately apparent as to what she hopes to achieve – reconciliation? revenge? renewal? What is patently obvious though, is that she’s in a state of emotion turmoil and has left behind her husband Matt and other child, Molly, leaving no explanation for her sudden departure.

As the novel unfolds we see Malta as a meeting point for restless souls who have not yet completed the transition to Paradise.  Jesus is frequently to be found hanging out in Larry’s Bar, sporting a variety of different coloured toe nail polish and discussing Reality TV.  No, do not adjust your set…. this does work and yes, there is a lot of spiritual content but it all adds to the lyrical, philisophical tone of the novel without being preachy.  There are some really endearing characters especially Nina’s mother who plays a major role in rebuilding her very brittle daughter, Tilly, a young, erratic English woman and Elena, Nina’s gentle great-aunt.   Never have “dead” people seemed so vibrant!

So far, so meh, you might think – troubled young woman returns to her roots searching for her true identity, for reconciliation, for forgiveness – we’ve heard that story countless times before but, what differs here, is the author’s inventive composition and shaping of the actual text which revitalises everything for the reader.  Now I know that some writers can be too avant-garde for their own good and it’s often a case of style over substance but Caroline succeeds in really engaging the reader, playing around with different fonts, shades, layouts.  The sections devoted to tales of individual souls are edged in black – a very nice touch which reminds me of memorial cards and funeral traditions. There’s so much of the past here yet Nina desperately needs to get back in touch with reality and the present. Indeed, the use of the present tense throughout gives an air of immediacy and pace to the whole narrative.

Malta is another key character in the novel with its history, culture and traditions exercising a major influence on all the characters’ lives.  I loved the frequent inclusions of Maltese phrases and the sounds of this exotic language are complemented by the delicious tastes of Maltese food – I feel like going to Malta right now and having some pastizzi washed down with a bottle of Cisk beer.  It’s a country previously unfamiliar to me but Like Honey to Bees really welcomes you into the Maltese way of life.

So, I think it’s fair to say that I’m smitten with this novel – at times incredibly sad, at times rib-ticklingly funny.  It is a beautiful box of delights with a myriad of themes – belonging, family, identity, love, self-forgiveness, acceptance.   I don’t think many readers will be able to resist its attractions.

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Review – Return to the Olive Farm by Carol Drinkwater

Posted in Travel Writing on June 13th, 2010 by admin – 2 Comments

Book details

Published
08/07/2010

Publisher
Weidenfeld & Nicolson

ISBN
9780297856948

Hardback Edition

I have a secret to tell…. I have been renting an olive farm in Provence since 2001 when I first read Carol Drinkwater’s memoir The Olive Farm …. well, in my dreams, I have!!  I know that there is a myriad of travel memoirs out there, all wanting to impart their story of how a crumbling old house was restored to grandeur, usually peppered with a few anecdotes about quirky locals – just to add extra ambiance, n’est-ce pas… however, this series is very special to me as the author really is passionate about her environment and on a larger scale “our” environment which is quite frankly under threat.

“Return to the Olive Farm” opens as Carol returns from a 16 month expedition around the Med in search of the origins of the ancient and mystical Olive tree.  She had written two books about her Olive quest and her travels and it is now a delight to return to Appassionata, the Provencal farm she shares with her husband Michel and to renew acquaintance with Quashia, her gardener, who doesn’t quite see eye to eye with his boss when it comes to farming methods.  I love the passion which Carol obviously has for olive farming  and her lust for life and for discovering the natural world. 

The main focus this time is on the possibility of having a truly organic olive grove and the many obstacles towards achieving such an admirable objective, given that France doesn’t have a particularly strong record in championing the organic way.  It is definitely so much easier and less heartbreaking to take the mass pesticide/bumper crop route and you find yourself really rooting for Carol to succeed without all the usual chemical parphenalia.  I am in awe of how she keeps on going despite constant setbacks but then that could be the stubborn Irish streak, I guess – speaking as a fellow Irish woman!  There’s also a wonderfully vivid backdrop of supporting characters such as Madame, the fearsome Asbestos inspector, Michael Latz, the first Organic Mayor in France, Marley, Michel’s grandson, not forgetting the honey bees.

So what else makes this stand out from the rest of the heap?  I think a lot of its attraction for me stems from the honesty of the writing, the attention to detail, the intensity of the writer’s relationship with the land, the willingness to take risks, the constant interest in what other local farmers do, the lack of fear when entering traditionally male-dominated arenas, the ability to deal with recalcitrant, inebriated builders with good humour and grace!!  Above all you feel like you’re observing a very intimate moment in someone else’s life as they fall back in love with a place they’d left behind.

So, I would advise you, allez vite and get caught up with this series if you haven’t already done so and if you’ve already shared in life at Appassionata, then allez vite aussi, snuggle up and get reacquainted!

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Review – The Taste of Sorrow by Jude Morgan

Posted in Historical Fiction on June 12th, 2010 by admin – 12 Comments

Confession time again – I can’t claim to have read everything written by the Brontes but I will admit to having a special place in my heart for this Yorkshire family.  “Jane Eyre” is my all time favourite novel and a couple of years ago I had the honour of visiting Haworth Parsonage, staying a couple of nights in the village and supping a few beers (no laudanum though!).  One might labour under the misapprehension that it’s an easy thing to do – to captivate readers with such fascinating subject matter – but I can’t think of a more daunting task for an author to take on than to revitalise a story which is so well known without taking liberties!

Well, I’m very pleased to report that Mr Morgan has done a splendid job.  I do think it helps to have some pre-existing knowledge of the Brontes in order to fully embrace this fictionalised account of their lives.  So how does the author breathe life into this tale?  Firstly, I think the use of the present tense is an excellent tool as it succeeds in immediately drawing us into the claustraphobic corners of the parsonage and the intellectual intensity of the sisters.   Admittedly the style takes a bit of effort on the reader’s part at first as it’s in the third person and it does tend to flit about a lot between the siblings – something which, I feel, complements the darting, birdlike movement of their creativity and imagination and heightens the drama of their story.

The novel opens with the death of their mother and concludes as Charlotte embarks on a new life, married to Reverend Nicholls.  There are those who would have preferred the story to continue to include Charlotte’s death one year later but I actually found it quite refreshing for it to end on a note of optimism.  Other books about the Brontes have focussed on Charlotte but I found this novel gives us more insight into Emily and Anne and even Maria and Elizabeth who are so often overlooked.  Personally, I find absolutely no redeeming qualities in Branwell who was a selfish boor with no consideration for his siblings but Mr Morgan is slightly more gentle in his portrayal of the only son who is always misunderstood.

The cloistered ambiance of the parsonage, the wildness of the moors and the social isolation of these three exceptionally talented women is evident throughout the novel.  I firmly believe that it takes a very talented writer to tell a well worn story and still manage to move the reader emotionally without resorting to mawkishness.  Even if you never have the opportunity to visit Haworth, reading this novel will make you feel like you’re actually there.   You will feel the despair and deprivation of Cowan Bridge as well as the heartache of Charlotte in Brussels and have a much clearer perception of how life events influenced the Brontes’ novels.  Yes, it’s an intense read but well worth the effort!

PS.  I would also highly recommend Lynne Reid Banks’ excellent fictionalised accounts of the Brontes – “Dark Quartet” and “Path to the Silent Country” although I fear that they might be out of print (second hand anyone?).

PPS.  Can anyone recommend any of Jude Morgan’s other novels?  I’m currently being drawn to Symphony and Passion.

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Review – The Lessons by Naomi Alderman

Posted in Literary Fiction on June 12th, 2010 by admin – 3 Comments

I must confess to having a penchant for this “Brideshead” style of novel set in an esteemed academic environment with a group of quirky, privileged characters who adopt and mould a less wealthy, more vulnerable  individual.  “Brideshead Revisited” and “The Secret History” rank among my favourite novels and I guess it is comforting, as a reader, to quickly recognise the setting/plot and to simply relax and enjoy the ride!

None of characters have particularly attractive personalities and they do, to a certain extent, fall into stereotypes.  Our narrator, James Stieff, a middle class undergraduate at Oxford, finds himself struggling when plunged into the big pond of academic excellence.  He is at his lowest point emotionally when Jess, a gifted music student introduces him to the glittering world of Mark Winters and his chosen circle.  Mark, a flamboyant homosexual, is obscenely rich but his charisma veils emotional instability.  Other members of this cult like group are Franny, a Jewish intellectual, Simon, the would-be politician and Emmanuella, the exotic Spanish student.  Poor ineffectual James doesn’t stand a chance amongst these uber-confident figures and he is swiftly sucked into their hedonistic lifestyle. 

The first half of the novel is mostly concerned with the minutiae of life at Oxford and the author vividly portrays this elitist, ethereal world but there is a sudden change of mood in the second half when our dashing group are torn asunder and have to navigate their way in the real world – they certainly lose some of their sparkle when they are confronted with real life although you do have the impression that poor James can hold his own.  However….things don’t exactly go to plan and you quickly realise that these “firm” friends don’t really know each other at all.  As we approach the denouement, we have a dreadful sense of foreboding as Mark’s behaviour becomes more and more mercurial.

So, what are the lessons to be drawn from this life of ours?  Our narrator James undergoes some sort of inner metamorphosis moving from the negative toned “It is ridiculous to think we can learn anything from so arbitrary an experience as life” to a perhaps more hopeful stance “That man in the mirror is me, I thought.  For good or ill, that’s me.”

The similarities between this novel and “The Secret History”, “Brideshead Revisited” and perhaps Lucie Whitehouse’s “The House at Midnight” are probably  a mixed blessing.  If you don’t like reading about the over-privileged, then this is unlikely  to convert you.  Doubtless some readers will be sorely tempted to compare and contrast recurring themes/characters but by doing so, you will miss out on a real gem of a story.  This isn’t a poor imitation – it lives and breathes with its own singular life.

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Review – Where are you Really From? – Tim Brannigan

Posted in Biography on June 11th, 2010 by admin – 7 Comments

What a weird and wonderful tale!  Born as a result of an affair between a white republican Belfast woman and a black doctor from Ghana, Tim Brannigan is initially reared in a baby home as the scandal for his mother and her existing family would have been insurmountable.  This entire memoir is told in a very matter fact way which perhaps reveals Tim’s present day talents as a journalist.

I was born on Tuesday 10 May 1966.  I died the same day…My mother had managed to create not so much a phantom pregnancy but rather a phantom death”.

Such lack of mawkishness sets the tone for the reader as we witness a series of almost soaplike moments which permeate Brannigan’s life.  Incredibly, when he turns one year old, his mother Peggy decides to adopt him but keeps the secret of his parentage to herself, for now…  Brought up in a close knit Nationalist family in West Belfast, he is in limbo – suffering racial abuse from both republicans and the British Army.   Such confusion of identity is exacerbated by the unpredictability of his relationship with his mother and her decision not to tell him the truth about his parentage until he is 20 years old.

I found this memoir fascinating for many reasons, firstly it has no sense of misery or angst – Tim tells it as it is, without resorting to typical misery-memoir schmaltz.   Also, it opens a window on events during the height of the Troubles when I, myself was a similar age to the author – the difference being that I was sequestered in a tiny village, far removed from the reality of daily violence.  It certainly gives greater insight into what it must have been like to live at the “frontline”.

Brannigan ends up serving a 5 year prison sentence in H Block as a Republican prisoner even though he wasn’t actually a member of the IRA and was a victim of circumstances.  Again he doesn’t indulge in self pity when he relates events during his time in prison and his portrayal of the tightly organised structure and routine imposed by IRA Commanding Officers on each wing is frankly fascinating.  Of course, one cannot expect complete objectivity – hence the ever so slightly patronising attitude towards the Loyalist prisoners with emphasis on their lack of organisation and lack of academic prowess when compared with the Nationalist inmates – one almost hears the author tittering in the background – however such tongue in cheek moments are relatively rare and it’s soon back to the business in hand and the quest for self awareness.

This is a book primarily about Tim and his search for his roots, his father being the missing link.  Their “reunion”, like other landmark events in this memoir, is starkly presented.  Where are you Really From? was a pleasant surprise for me as I usually shy away from “local” books and anything referring to the Troubles but his story transcends the parochial limits of Northern Ireland and is a testament to Tim’s stoicism and the strength of his bond with his Mum.  Don’t shy away from it, categorising it as political diatribe when it has more in common with human endurance.

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Review – Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey

Posted in Australian fiction on May 29th, 2010 by admin – 8 Comments

 

I seem to be getting an Australian vibe recently in my reading (Sonya Hartnett) and now Jasper Jones which also gains brownie points from me for being a coming of age tale with an interesting, intelligent child narrator.

Jasper Jones is a mixed race teen who lives on the outskirts of town and of society too.  The novel is less concerned with Jasper though and focuses more on Charlie Bucktin, a young teen who, thanks to Jasper, becomes embroiled in a plot to cover up a young girl’s disappearance and murder in order to discover who the culprit was.  The boys are in Catch 22 territory as any disclosure of information could lead to suspicion immediately falling on Jasper whose colour marks him out as Public Enemy No One in the predominantly white town of Corrigan.

This novel is a joy to read and the young male characters literally jump of the page they are so vividly portrayed with all their verbal fencing and fierce loyalty to each other.  It’s at times reminiscent of the film Stand By Me and really very moving amid all the slapstick humour.  The topic of racism is further developed in the character of Jeffrey Lu, Charlie’s best buddy who bears the brunt of overt racism from his class mates – he is Vietnamese and this is 1965 when some local men are off fighting in the war so not the best place for Jeffrey to be growing up.  I loved Jeffrey and his irrepressible optimism and sense of humour which save him from bitterness.  The highlight of the book for me is a cricket match in which the locals reluctantly allow Jeffrey to take part – I don’t understand anything about cricket but it doesn’t take an expert to feel Jeffrey’s joy at being even temporarily accepted.  Equally Charlie is estranged from his other school mates due to his bookishness and complete and utter lack of sporting ability (Hey, I can truly empathise with this kid!)

Jasper Jones may be set in Western Australia but the themes of acceptance, childhood friendship, family relationships are universal.  It’s a relatively short, very readable book but it has so many different threads – echoes of Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird with Charlie’s father being directly compared with Atticus Finch although he’s more into literature than the law.  I think if you have a brother, a son or can even summon up the slightest memory of what it was like trying  to be a kid fitting in and finding your place in the world, you will really enjoy this story.  If you are offended by the occasional swear word (yes, horror of horrors, boys swear when they’re away from their parents.. ;-)) you’d probably be better to avoid it.

I’ll leave you with an example of Charlie and Jeffrey’s delightful banter -

” I feel like an icy cold beer” he says.
“What? Why?”
“I don’t know.  It always looks so refreshing. I wishhhh to be refreshhhhed by an icy cold beer”
” But you’ve never had beer!”
“So?”
“So, how can you feel like something you’ve never tasted?”
“You never kissed Eliza Wishart before but you still wished to do that. ”
I roll my eyes at him.
“That’s a lot different to a beer”.
“Telling me.  A  beer is farrr superior.  You don’t have to sit around holding its hand and saying nice things about its hair”.

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Review – The White Woman on the Green Bicycle by Monique Roffey

Posted in Literary Fiction on May 25th, 2010 by admin – 10 Comments

As Meera Syal once aptly put it, “Life isn’t all ha ha hee hee” and so, I should not expect all my  reading experiences to wow me so I have to accept that this perfectly good novel just doesn’t hit the spot for me.

The novel covers 50 years in post-war Trinidad and focuses on the relationship between Sabine and George Harwood, who have very different experiences of expat life.  The structure of the story is  unusual in that we have the denouement at the start of the novel which focuses on the events of 2006 and subsequent sections deal with earlier events in 1956, 1963 and 1970 which have shaped the future lives of Trinidadians.   

So, we are less concerned with plot but more with the characters of Sabine and George, neither of whom are particularly likeable.  Sabine has a love-hate relationship with the island which often seems a rival for George’s affections.  George comes across as a tin pot general who couldn’t succeed in England  and subsequently thought he’d set his cap at making his fortune in the colonies.  How then do they cope when the political landscape changes dramatically? 

I think this novel had a lot of promise but it just didn’t engage me.  A novel doesn’t have to have likeable characters in order to impress me but I just found Sabine and George very dull and uninteresting and their trials and tribulations were just not enough to sustain 437 pages.  Some of the writing is beautifully lyrical and those passages describing Trinidad as a living breathing creature particularly stood out for me.  I got a real feel for the island and its people and felt fully drawn into this exotic world but the only flies in the ointment were Sabine and George who literally missed the boat!  Maybe I am a closet rebel and wanted to oust them as one of the carnival masqueraders expresses to Sabine,

“Eh, you like it here in Trinidad? Well, Miss, lemme tell yuh somptin: yuh days numbered.  Go back to where you came from.  De Doc go put allyuh on a boat.  Send you home pack up head to foot, pack you tight in chains.  And if you doh like it he go pitch you overboard.”

Of course, the promise of a new hopeful era falls flat and we see Trinidad sunk in corruption with the omnipresent blimp observing it all like an all-seeing eye.  Sabine, to give her some credit, does try to gain some understanding of the Trinis and their aspirations and at least she has some more insight than George as she understands that they can never properly “belong”.

I enjoyed getting to know more about the history and culture of Trinidad but could have done with less George and Sabine and less pages.

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Review – Florence and Giles by John Harding

Posted in Historical Fiction on May 16th, 2010 by admin – 11 Comments

I gave up smoking on 8th December 2008 and I must admit that I occasionally miss that nicotine kick but every now and then a great book comes along which replicates that surge to the brain!  Indeed, Florence and Giles is such a book – I heard about it by chance  via Twitter, saw the cover, heard the words gothic, Henry  James, Poe and I was off like a shot.

Imagine, if you will, an old mansion in New England.  It is 1891 and Blithe House’s sole inhabitants are young orphans, 12 year old Florence and her younger brother Giles plus the small group of servants entrusted by their absentee uncle to look after them – an uncle who adds insult to injury by insisting that Florence is kept illiterate whilst her brother Giles is sent off to boarding school – well, we all know how females who read too much ended up in lunatic asylums until relatively recently!  Fortunately Florence succeeds in teaching herself to read and, when Giles returns from an unsuccessful sojourn at boarding school, she greedily sucks up the crumbs of learning provided by the governesses enlisted to home tutor him.   The feisty Florence narrates this chilling tale including the coming and goings of not one, but two governesses.

So far, so Henry James, you may very well think – swap Flora and Miles from The Turn of the Screw for Florence and Giles here, Bly House for Blithe House, Mrs Grose for Mrs Grouse etc etc – but you don’t have to have read The Turn of the Screw to fully appreciate Florence and Giles.  Whilst it indubitably pays homage to James, this clever, gothic chiller has its own distinct merits.  First and foremost of these is Florence’s idiosyncratic use of language as she transposes verbs with nouns and vice versa – you need a taster to demonstrate, look at this wonderful description of the neglected library -

“No maid ever ventures here; the floors are left unbroomed, for unfootfalled as they are, what would be the point?  The shelves go unfingerprinted, the wheeled ladders to the upper ones unmoved, the books upon them yearning for an opening, the whole place a dustery of disregard.” 

 Now, I have a distinct feeling that you will either love Florence or hate her and as she is the narrator, your liking or disliking of her peculiar turn of phrase will make or break this novel for you.

As the tale progresses, events take an even more sinister turn and the arrival of a new governess, Miss Taylor, following the unfortunate demise of her predecessor, Miss Whitaker, seems to unleash malevolent forces which propel the reader along with the characters towards an inevitably calamitous ending.   Don’t expect subtlety but also, don’t expect predictability and be on your guard – who knows what’s around the corner in this macabre realm?

I would be very surprised if this doesn’t make it into my Top Ten Reads for this year – who needs nicotine, eh??? ;-)

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