Mini Book Reviews

I’ve got a bit behind with writing about the books I’ve read recently, so to catch up I thought I just write some quick reviews. These books are all from my TBRs, two of them good/ excellent books and the third a bit of a disappointment:

First the good – The Breaker by Minette Walters

From the back cover:

Twelve hours after a woman’s broken body is washed up on a deserted shore, her traumatized three-year-old daughter is discovered twenty miles away wandering the streets of Poole …

But why was Kate killed and her daughter, a witness, allowed to live? And why weren’t they together? More curiously, why had Kate willingly boarded a boat when she had a terror of drowning at sea?

Police suspicion centres on both a young actor, whose sailing boat is moored just yards from where the toddler is found, and the murdered woman’s husband. Was he really in Liverpool the night she died? And why does their daughter scream in terror every time he tries to pick her up … ?

This kept me guessing all the way through and I kept changing my mind about who the murderer was, so I liked this book. It moves between the third person narrative and copies of reports and faxes etc that form part of the police investigation. There are lots of clues, twist and turns and plenty of red herrings. A satisfying book. I’d like to read more of Minette Walters’s books.

Then the excellent – Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

From the back cover:

Fifteen-year-old Kambili lives in fear of her father, a charismatic yet violent Catholic patriarch who, although generous and well-respected in the community, is repressive and fanatically religious at home. Escape and the discovery of a new way of life come when Nigeria is shaken by a military coup, forcing Kambili and her brother to live in their aunt’s home, a noisy place full of laughter. The visit will lift the silence from her world and, in time, unlock a terrible, bruising secret at the heart of her family life.

This is a fabulous book, one of the best I’ve read this year and it’s even more amazing that this was Adichie’s first book. I read her second book Half of a Yellow Sun a few years ago and was completely taken with that book too. It’s beautifully written – Kambili’s father and aunt are such rounded characters, in other hands they could have just been caricatures. At times I struggled to read the physical abuse scenes, they were so vivid.

And finally, the disappointment – Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger. 

From the back cover:

When Elspeth Noblin dies, she leaves her beautiful flat overlooking Highgate Cemetery to her twin nieces, Julia and Valentina Poole, on the condition that their mother is never allowed to cross the threshold.  But until the solicitor’s letter falls through the door of their suburban American home, neither Julia or Valentina knew their aunt existed. The twins hope that in London their own, separate lives can finally begin but they have no idea that they have been summoned into a tangle of fraying lives, from the obsessive-compulsive crossword setter who lives above them to their aunt’s mysterious and elusive lover who lives below them and works in the cemetery itself.

As the twins unravel the secrets of their aunt, who doesn’t seem quite ready to leave her flat, even after death, Niffenegger weaves together a delicious and deadly ghost story about love, loss and identity.

I’d found The Time Traveler’s Wife disappointing and irritating and at first I thought Her Fearful Symmetry was going to be better. It started off well and I liked all the information about Highgate Cemetery, but actually overall this book was disappointing too. I thought it was all rather predictable – I easily guessed the secrets and whilst the ghost elements are interesting at first I found it all became a bit dull and unconvincing. However, the chapters on Martin, the obsessive-compulsive are much more interesting and brought the book a bit more to life. The decision Valentina made was so ridiculous I just couldn’t suspend my disbelief.

10 thoughts on “Mini Book Reviews”

  1. I didn’t care for The Time Traveler’s Wife either – we’re in the minority on that – so I probably won’t be bothering with Her Fearful Symmetry either. Will grab Purple Hibiscus from the library if I spot it.

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  2. Margaret – Oh, I’m glad you liked The Breaker. I liked it very much myself. I thought the story moved along well, had well-drawn characters and yes, kept me guessing. And you’ve reminded me I want to read Purple Hibiscus. As to …Symmetry, I”m afraid I felt very much the way you do about it. You’re not alone in that at all.

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  3. I didn’t like The Time Traveller’s Wife but did like Her Fearful Symmetry, though I remember there was something I wasn’t comfortable with. Can’t remember what it was, but I suspect it was whatever you refer to!

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    1. Lots of food for thought here, thank you. I also loved the setting of Highgate Cemetery, and I admire Niffenegger’s devotion in becoming one of the official guides for the cemetery, but I didn’t believe in any of the characters enough to suspend disbelief, though I do agree Martin was by far the most interesting.

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      1. Jane, I didn’t know Niffenegger had done that, but I could tell she knew a lot about the cemetery and the information didn’t dominate the book but fitted in well.

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  4. Hi Margaret,

    Cath and yourself are definitely not in the minority over the Niffenegger books, as I haven’t read any of her work at all and I am not sure that I need to now, given the general concensus of opinion from my fellow commenters.

    I love Minette Walters books, however I must have missed this one along the way somewhere and I definitely don’t have it on my shelf, so I shall have to rectify that one soon!

    Coincidentally, I have only this weekend, been asked to review a debut novel by a Nigerian author, so would be interested in checking out one of your featured authors’ books sometime, which one would you recommend?

    Thanks for an interesting post and I hope that you have a good week,

    Yvonne.

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    1. Yvonne – if you want to read just one book by a Nigerian author I’d suggest Half of a Yellow Sun, but Purple Hibiscus is great too, or you could read Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, set in the 1890s about the influence of British colonialism and Christian missionaries on the Igbo tribe.

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  5. So glad I keep on putting off Her Fearful Symmetry–I think I would be disappointed as well.

    I have yet to read anything by Adichie, and this one sounds powerful but tough to read.

    I think I would like The Breaker–sounds intriguing suspenseful and rewarding.

    Sometimes mini-reviews are the best. I know what it’s like to fall behind 🙂 Good post!

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