The Other Side of the Bridge by Mary Lawson

The Other Side of the Bridge

The Other Side of the Bridge is a beautiful book set in  in Northern Canada about two brothers, Arthur and Jake Dunn who grow up on a small farm near Struan (a fictional town) in the 1930s. The brothers are poles apart in nature. Arthur is older, shy but reliable and hardworking, whereas Jake, the younger brother is handsome, reckless, unreliable and a troublemaker. Their story spans the 1930s and 1940s as they grow up through the Depression years and the Second World War, up to the early 1960s.

It’s also the story of Ian, Dr Christopherson’s son, beginning in the late 1950s when he became infatuated with Arthur’s wife Laura. I think the dual time frame works well, moving almost seamlessly between the years, and the characterisation is excellent. I was totally engrossed in the story and able to visualise the scenery, including the Ojibway reserve where Ian’s school friend Pete lived:

He [Ian] cycled down Main Street to the outskirts of Struan, which took all of three minutes, and then out along the road to the Ojibway reserve, which took a further five. The reserve was spread along the shore of a bay, with a point of land jutting out into the lake between it and Struan, a symbolic barrier as well as a geographic one. The road ran out of pavement half a mile before it reached the reserve, and the land itself was so low it would grow nothing but bulrushes and bugs – black flies by the million in early summer then mosquitoes big enough to pick you up and carry you away. The reserve store, though where Peter Corbiere lived, was situated right down by the lake, which meant it got the benefit of the wind and was less buggy than the rest. Pete’s grandfather was sitting on the steps when Ian arrived, smoking and staring off into the woods. He had scars on his fingers from letting cigarettes burn down too far. (page 18)

There is much joy in this book mixed in with immense sorrow and pain. The title of the book refers to the time before and after a shocking incident on the bridge  – a roughly made bridge across the river that separated the Dunns’ and their neighbours, the Lintz’s farms. It was a shortcut that saved more than a mile. The River Crow was fifteen feet below the bridge as it boiled its way over rocks. That incident changed not only Arthur’s and Jake’s lives but its effect lingered on the their community the rest of their lives.

The Other Side of the Bridge is Mary Lawson’s second novel. I loved her first, Crow Lake (which I read ten years ago) and I love this one just as much. It’s one of the best books I’ve read this year. It was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2006, which was won by Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss.

Reading Challenge: the 21st book I’ve read this year for Bev’s Mount TBR 2017 – a book I’ve had for 10 years.

The Classics Club Spin Result

The spin number in The Classics Club Spin was announced yesterday. It’s number …

4

which for me is Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens. The rules of the Spin are that this is the book for me to read by December 31, 2017.

I’m pleased with the result as I’ve been meaning to read this book ever since I saw a TV version. I’ve just checked and it was shown in 1994 with Paul Scholfield as Old Martin Chuzzlewit – that’s 23 years ago! It really is time I read it.

Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

While writing Martin Chuzzlewit – his sixth novel – Dickens declared it ‘immeasurably the best of my stories.’ He was already famous as the author of The Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist . Set partly in America, which Dickens had visited in 1842, the novel includes a searing satire on the United States. Martin Chuzzlewit is the story of two Chuzzlewits, Martin and Jonas, who have inherited the characteristic Chuzzlewit selfishness. It contrasts their diverse fates of moral redemption and worldly success for one, with increasingly desperate crime for the other. This powerful black comedy involves hypocrisy, greed and blackmail, as well as the most famous of Dickens’s grotesques, Mrs Gamp. 

Did you take part in the Classics Spin? What will you be reading?

My Friday Post: Call the Dying by Andrew Taylor

Book Beginnings Button

Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

This week’s first paragraph is from Call the Dying by Andrew Taylor, crime fiction set in the 1950,  the seventh in Taylor’s Lydmouth series.

Call the Dying (Lydmouth, #7)

It begins:

 

I saw a ghost today. It was very foggy, I know, but I’m sure I wasn’t mistaken. He was coming through the door of Butter’s, and he looked like a ghost because of the fog. But he really was a ghost from a time that’s dead and gone.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice. These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader.
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

Page 55 (page 56 is blank)

I’ve done nothing wrong. Not really. So it’s not fair. It’s as if everyone’s ganging up against me.

Or is it just me? Am I going mad? did I really see him?

I’m afraid. I’m lonely, too. Keep busy that’s the answer. Make my self tired. You don’t have time to feel afraid when you’re deadbeat, you just sleep instead.

I like the thought of sleeping. I can’t remember when I last had an unbroken night.

From the back cover:

Love and need make unexpected bedfellows, and both are blind. As the grip of a long hard winter tightens on Lydmouth, a dead woman calls the dying in a seance behind net curtains. Two provincial newspapers are in the throes of a bitter circulation war. A lorry-driver broods, and an office boy loses his heart.

Britain is basking in the warm glow of post-war tranquillity, but in the quiet town of Lydmouth, darker forces are at play. The rats are fed on bread and milk, a gentleman’s yellow kid glove is mislaid on a train, and something disgusting is happening at Mr Prout’s toyshop.

Returning to a town shrouded in intrigue and suspicion, Jill Francis becomes acting editor of the Gazette. Meanwhile, there’s no pleasure left in the life of Detective Chief Inspector Richard Thornhill. Only a corpse, a television set and the promise of trouble to come.

I bought this book a couple of years ago, keen to read it as I’d enjoyed Taylor’s Roth trilogy so much.

My Week in Books: 15 November 2017

This Week in Books is a weekly round-up hosted by Lypsyy Lost & Found, about what I’ve been reading Now, Then & Next.

IMG_1384-0

A similar meme,  WWW Wednesday is run by Taking on a World of Words.

Now:

Victoria: A Life

I’m still reading Victoria: a Life by A N Wilson and have just finished Part One, ending with the death of William IV at 2.20 on the morning of 20 June 1837. Victoria is woken to the news that she is now Queen.

The Skeleton Road

I’ve also started The Skeleton Road by Val McDermid, the third  of her DCI Karen Pirie novels.  So far I’m finding it a bit slow going with rather a bewildering number of characters introduced one after the other. When a skeleton with a bullet hole in its skull is found at the top of a crumbling, gothic building in Edinburgh Karen and her Historic Cases Unit is called in to identify the body and investigate how long it has been there.

Then:

I’ve just finished The Corpse in the Snowman by Nicholas Blake, first published in 1941 as The Case of the Abominable Snowman. This is a manor house murder mystery  in which it first appears that Elizabeth Restorick has committed suicide. Or was it murder? Nigel Strangeways and Inspector Blount investigate.

Next:

Call the Dying (Lydmouth, #7)

I’m not sure, but Andrew Taylor’s Call the Dying caught my eye this morning when I passed the bookshelves in the hall. It’s set in the 1950s in the grip of a long, hard winter when dark forces are at play – a dead woman calls the dying in a seance, in a town shrouded in intrigue and suspicion. This is the seventh in Taylor’s Lydmouth series. I haven’t read any of the earlier books and I’m hoping that won’t matter.

Have you read any of these books?  Do any of them tempt you? 

First Chapter First Paragraph: 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare

eca8f-fistchapEvery Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros to share the first paragraph sometimes two, of a book that she’s reading or is planning to read soon.

At the beginning of this month I read Bernard Cornwell’s Fools and Mortals set in 1595 as the Lord Chamberlain’s Men  are rehearsing Shakespeare’s new play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  And I remembered another book that I’ve been meaning to read for over 10 years – 1599 A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare by James Shapiro. That was the year the Globe Theatre was built and that Shakespeare wrote Julius Caesar, Henry V, As You Like It and Hamlet.

1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare

I’m not sure where this book actually begins – there is a Preface, then a Prologue before you get to Chapter 1 on page 27! So here are the opening lines of each.

First:

Preface

In 1599 Elizabethans sent off an army to crush an Irish rebellion, weathered an armada threat from Spain, gambled on a fledgling East India Company and waited to see who would succeed their ageing and childless Queen. They also flocked to London’s playhouses, including the newly built Globe.

Then:

Prologue

The weather in London in December 1598 had been frigid – so cold that ten days before New Year the Thames was nearly frozen over at London Bridge. It thawed just before Christmas, and hardy playgoers flocked to the outdoor Rose playhouse in Southwark in record numbers. But the weather turned freezing cold again on St John’s Day, the 27th, and a great snowstorm blanketed London on 28 December.

As the snow fell, a dozen or so armed men gathered in Shoreditch, in London’s northern suburbs.

The armed men then went to another playhouse, the nearby Theatre that had been vacant for two years and proceeded to dismantle the building. They took the frame to a waterfront warehouse near Bridewell Stairs to store it, ready to resurrect it as the Globe.

And at last here are the opening sentences of

Chapter  1 A Battle of Wills

Late in the afternoon of Tuesday 26 December 1598, two days before their fateful rendezvous at the Theatre, the Chamberlain’s men made their way through London’s dark and chilly streets to Whitehall Palace to perform for the Queen. Elizabeth had returned to Whitehall in mid-November in time for her Accession Day celebrations. Whitehall, her only London residence, was also her favourite palace and she spent a quarter of her reign there, especially around Christmas.

The Chamberlain’s Men were at the Palace to play the first night of the Christmas holidays, performing The Second Part of Henry the Fourth.

I think this is a book that will take me quite some time to read – it’s full of detail, not just about Shakespeare, his plays and the theatre, but also about the events of his life and times!

What do you think?  Would you continue reading? 

The Hanged Man by Simon Kernick

Expected publication date 16 November 2017

Review copy from the publishers, Random House, Century, via NetGalley

My rating: 2.5 stars

In December 2016 I read the first book in this series The Bone Field by Simon Kernick. It ended on a cliff-hanger in the last sentence (just when you thought it was all over). The Hanged Man is the second book in the series and refers back to events in The Bone Field, but in enough detail so it probably doesn’t matter much if you haven’t read the first book. It’s packed full of action right from the opening chapter as Hugh Manning and his wife are on the run from some very dangerous and violent people who are out to kill them. The police are also looking for Hugh as he is the only witness to what had happened at the farmhouse (dubbed ‘The Bone Field‘) where the bodies of seven women had been found.

Ray Mason, suspended from the police after the events told in The Bone Field, and now exonerated, is back on the case, working with Dan Watts in the National Crime Agency. The main suspects are the Kalamans,  brother and sister, Alastair and Lola Sheridan and a mysterious character called Mr Bone. It’s  told through different characters’ viewpoints, including Ray’s partner, ex-cop and now a PI, Tina Boyd. With so many characters acting as narrator it’s useful that Kernick uses the first person when telling what happens as seen through Ray’s eyes, whereas the rest are told in the third person.

It’s complicated, maybe over-complicated and I found myself racing through it. There are too many characters and sub-plots. Some characters are like cardboard cut-outs, the ‘baddies’ really bad and the ‘goodies’, particularly Ray Mason, who breaks all the rules, not much better. It’s a world full of corruption and secrets, where life is of little account and murder commonplace, and nobody is safe. But because I knew the identities of the criminals from the start there is no mystery – it’s just a matter of who will get to Manning first, the police or the villains and will the villains be caught? There’s climatic ending – but is this really the end …?

My thanks to the publishers for a review copy via NetGalley.

Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

A Pile of Books

I had a lovely surprise yesterday when a friend gave me this pile of books – which another friend had given to her.

Pile of Bks Nov17 P1020312

Some are by authors I’ve never heard of before and am not sure what to expect. From top to bottom they are:

  • The Lake House by Kate Morton (on of my favourite authors), historical fiction spanning different time periods and characters, centred on the disappearance of a baby boy from his home in 1933.
  • The Shadow Sister by Lucinda Riley, historical fiction and book three in The Seven Sisters series. I haven’t read the first two books. There’s an antiquarian bookshop, and links with Beatrix Potter and Alice Keppel.
  • The Cornish Guest House by Emma Burstall, the second book in the Tremarnock series (I haven’t read the first book), set in a small fishing village, crowded with holidaymakers.
  • My Map of You by Isabelle Broom, set on the Greek island of Zakynthos (Zante), where Holly has inherited a house.
  • The House on Bellevue Gardens by Rachel Hore – different characters seeking refuge in Leonie’s house in a tranquil London Square.
  • The Light Behind the Window by Lucinda Riley, in which Emilie inherits a chateau in southern France and an old notebook of poems that leads her in search of Sophia and a web of deception in occupied France in 1943.
  • I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh, a book already on my list of books I want to read, about Jenna Gray as she moves to a ramshackle cottage on the remote Welsh coast, trying to escape the memory of the car accident, haunted by her fears and grief.
  • The Nightingale by Kirstin Hannah, another book on my list of books I want to read. This is also historical fiction about two French sisters during World War 2 and in 1955.

These should keep me going for quite a while – before I pass them on to another reader.

If you’ve read any of these books please let me know what you thought of them!