I read seven books in January, six of them are fiction and one non-fiction, all of them good – some indeed are excellent. So far I’ve only reviewed three of them:
Turning for Home by Barney Norris, a beautifully and lyrically written novel. I loved this. It’s set on the day of Robert’s 80th birthday celebration and the narrative alternates between Robert’s and his granddaughter Kate’s stories, reflecting on their lives.
The Wicked Cometh by Laura Carlin, historical fiction set in England in 1831 – a tale of wickedness and evil. Although this begins well, it drags in the middle and ends with a final twist I didn’t find convincing.
The Confession by Jo Spain, a standalone book, set in Ireland. Banker, Harry McNamara, recently cleared of multiple accounts of fraud, is brutally attacked in his home in front of his wife, Julie. I was gripped by this story and I had to read it quickly to find out what really happened.
I didn’t get round to writing reviews for the other books, so here are a few notes on two of them, both books that I enjoyed. Both are written achronologically which took a bit of getting used to, but it worked well. This meant that with both books you have to be on your toes, so to speak, to keep track of where you are and who is who. And I really should have made notes as I read – and written about them not long after I finished them!
Notes From An Exhibition by Patrick Gale. It’s been a month since I finished reading this and unfortunately the details are rather vague in my mind now. Artist Rachel Kelly, a manic-depressive, subject to highs and lows is found dead in her Penzance studio, leaving her family with lots of unanswered questions. It becomes clear that her Quaker husband knew nothing about her early life. The narrative moves backwards and forwards from the past to the present and is told from different characters’ perspectives. It reminded me a bit of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar in parts. I enjoyed the sections on Quakerism and working out the puzzle of Rachel’s life and her relationships. But I wasn’t sure about the ending – I should probably re-read the book.
After You’d Gone by Maggie O’Farrell – her debut novel. The main character, Alice is in a coma after being in road accident, which may or may not have been a suicide attempt. She has been grieving the death of her husband, John.
It’s quite a complicated story, following the life stories not only of Alice, but also those of her mother, Ann (who I didn’t like much), her grandmother, Elspeth (who I did like very much), her two sisters and of John. What was it that Alice saw at Edinburgh station that shocked her so much? You don’t find out until the end of the book, although I did have an idea before that what it meant to her and why it was so upsetting. I’ve already started to re-read it as I’m sure there’s a lot I missed on my first reading, especially as some of it is written in the present tense. And I may write a more detailed post at some point.
And my reviews of these books will follow later:
- Force of Nature by Jane Harper
- Victoria: A Life by A N Wilson