Saturday, 28 September 2013

Marlen Suyapa Bodden - Wedding Gift

This was a bestseller self published  on Amazon in the US. As a result it  was bought and published in print. We were lucky enough to get proofs to read through the Reading Agency.
This is a brilliant plot, a plot that wants you to keep reading but is spoiled by lack of good editing and advice.
The author is a leading black lawyer and she knows her stuff, being involved in the prevention of modern slavery.
The only trouble is that her style of writing reads a little like a legal report. The novel lacks description, which in some ways is good in that the reader is left to fill in the atmosphere and surrounding with their own imagination but I feel with a really good editor this could have been addressed before going to print. many of us are not aware of what the deep south in the US is like and would have welcomed some description.
However I am sure it will be in her next novel and this book is certainly good enough for there to be more.
It will make a good reading group novel as there is so much in it that unless you were an expert on slavery you would not know. It is absolutely appalling how slaves were treated in the US and a sobering reminder to us all that it still goes on around the world now.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Gilian Flynn - Gone Girl

This is billed thriller of the year. Shocker of the year more like. This is one of those books that you are convinced x is correct only to have it completely overturned some chapters later. The jaw dropping cliff hangers just keep coming.

 The book begins with Nick's wife Amy going missing. The novel then switches between the narrative as told by Nick and the diary of Amy. What is going on. Who is telling the truth? Are either of them telling the truth? It is a great mind switch challenge.

I also found it a fascinating look into the USA in recession. The abandoned malls inhabited by the homeless stick with you.

There is a great deal for reading groups to get stuck in here. I cannot revel too much without massive spoilers!

Monday, 23 September 2013

Jacqueline Winspear - Elegy for Eddie

Once again another excellent 'Who dunnit' from Jacqueline Winspear featuring he psychologist sleuth Masie Dobbs. Here she highlights the abject poverty that existed in the East End, whilst unscrupulous millionaires made money hand over fist.
The plot is nicely complex and as usual her excellent writing carries you back into that time frame easily. As the novels progress we move further into the 1930's and we can sense the presentiments of war. This novel involves the violent death of  Eddie Pettit, his fellow costermongers do not believe it was an accident and hire Masie to delve into it. Using her local background she manages to blend in enough to get the trust of local people and unravel the background

 Not sure whether this would make a good reading groups read, as the story arc is so engaging. As a stand alone novel it works as well and there is enough to engender discussion but it is not an obvious controversial choice. However, the series is fantastic as is her writing and I say each time start at the beginning and read them in order to gain the most benefit from your reading.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Kate Atkinson - Life after Life

I seem to be on an amazing run of reading excellent books. This book is just stunning. I have read everything Kate Atkinson has written and in this book she has surpassed herself.
 Why it has not won a prize I cannot fathom.
It is just so clever, beautifully written. It follows the premise, what would happen if you could start your life again, and again and again. Would you carry with you trace memories of previous lives, so you could attempt to correct the wrongs? At what point could your own life become widely divergent depending on the decision you made?
This book makes you think, to delve into your own history and ask, what might have happened if I did x?

Once again there is so much for reading groups and I can predict a lively discussion. So tell me, which version of Ursula's life resonated the most for you?
Did you want to change her life too?

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Kathleen Grissom - The Kitchen House

Published 29th August
This is a book that stays with you long afterwards. Even now writing this review I am transported back to the plantation.
This book is much better than The Help with which it is being compared.

A young Irish child Lavinia is orphaned on a ship being transported over to the USA in the late Eughteenth Century. The Captain also has a plantation, his sea faring trips paying towards his upkeep. He seperates her from her brother sells the boy into indentured service and takes the girl home with him and sets her to work with the black kitchen slaves.
This is a clever plot device as it allows us to compare and contrast the plight of the black slave against the dirt poor white.To look and kindness and corruption in equal measure.
Seen through the eyes of a child as she grows up and the eyes of the illegitimate half caste daughter of the owner, we see both sides of the coin.

This book does not pull any punches and the horrors of slavery are shown in all it 's gory detail.

There is a huge amount in this book for book groups. Slavery, child abuse, neglect, alcoholism, madness - it has the lot. I highly recommend it.