Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Devil May Care by Sebastian Faulks


A quick fun read for fans of James Bond. Set back in the late sixties during the cold war we are treated to all the elements of an exciting Bond story, exotic locations, incredible stunts and a sinister villain of course not forgetting a beautiful heroine. This time the heroine is Scarlett who turns out to be not quite what Bond had expected!

Sebastian Faulks is an author whose novels I have always enjoyed reading. As for the character James Bond as created by Ian Fleming I have always watched the films, but I have never read any of the stories before now.
‘Devil May Care’ is another typical adventure for James Bond although having not read any of Flemings work I am unable to compare the writing style. I prefer Bond on the big screen rather than in print and I hope that Sebastian Faulks regarded this Bond novel as a one off venture. He wrote it to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Ian Fleming on 28th May 1908. It is an exciting new adventure for James Bond and an honour to his originator Ian Fleming but let’s hope that it is now left at that and Sebastian Faulks can return to his more literary writing.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Pirate's Daughter by Margaret Cezair-Thompson


I enjoyed this very readable family saga set on the beautiful tropical island of Jamaica, a perfect summer read.
The appearance of some real-life characters along with the Jamaican setting for this family saga gave the story for me the feel of reality. Errol Flynn arrives on the island when his yacht is shipwrecked and he soon decides to make a home for himself on the island. He sees the paradise of Jamaica as a chance for him to make a fresh start. He befriends local Eli Joseph and this is how one of the two heroines of the novel gets to know him, as a family friend. Ida Joseph is the first protagonist, the young daughter of Eli who grows up admiring this captivating older man. She sets her heart on marrying him once she is old enough as she does not see him as the ladies man that the rest of the world regards this daring Hollywood star as. She thinks her dream has become reality when Errol eventually seduces her and she has his child, the second protagonist, May Joseph Flynn.
Predictably Errol does not hang around to marry Ida and May only ever meets her famous father once.
They live their lives without him although you feel his presence is always around them both, May because growing up on the island everyone is aware of who her famous absent father is and do not let her forget. Ida does not want to forget him and ends up marrying his friend, living on his island, surrounded by his things and her memories. Her entire life seems to be spent trying to protect May from the consequences of being the daughter of such a man.
The story of Ida and May spans thirty years and it was interesting to learn something of the changes going on in Jamaican history during that period. Sometimes the ending of sagas such as this one can be somewhat of a let down but this was certainly not with some unexpected revelations.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Everything Must Go by Elizabeth Flock


This is the first book I have read by Elizabeth Flock and I think maybe I should not have started with this title. It was one of the dullest stories I have read for a long time which jumped about all over the place in its timeline and was such a boring story.
The protagonist Henry is one of three sons and for most of his life has carried with him the guilt of his younger brother’s death. Winning a scholarship he did escape his home town of Baxter for awhile but due to his mother’s ill health he is summoned home and ends up working in the local clothing store. It is his daydreams of the life he may have had that keep him going. Dull life, dull story, and yawn!

I have a great respect for all novelists and think that writing and publishing of a novel is a great achievement. So my review is in no way a reflection upon the author, just on the story which I happened not to enjoy.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Love walked In by Marisa de los Santos


I dislike myself a little when I write a review for a book that I have not enjoyed as I wonder who I am to criticise. I have a great respect for all novelists and think that writing and publishing of a novel is a great achievement. So my review is in no way a reflection upon the author, just on the story which I happened not to enjoy. After all we are all very different and thankfully like and dislike different things. The world would be a dull and boring place if we were all the same.
Reading the blurb for this title I probably should have suspected that it might not be to my taste when I read the words ‘grown up fairy tale about old movies’.
I have tried more than once over the last week to get beyond the first chapter but I am sorry, I just found all the mentions of old films and film stars in the first chapter alone off putting. For example Love Affair, The Philadelphia Story, The Great Gatsby; Jean Harlow, Irene Dunne, Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart. I have heard of these films and most of the people, but as I am not a fan of old movies they mean nothing to me.
Maybe if I had persevered I would have come to enjoy this tribute to film classics, but somehow I think not. Meanwhile I recommend it to old movie aficionados.

Half A Life by V.S. Naipaul


A title recommended and passed on to me by my daughter recently. I read it in one afternoon session sitting in the shade in the garden.
As a little boy Willie Chandran wanted to know why his middle name was Somerset. His father explains that it was after the famous British writer Somerset Maugham. Willie of course wants to know why. This is the story that his father gradually tells him, of a son whom possibly should never have been born, while he is growing up and Willie is coming to terms with his origins. Growing up in India he leaves for London in the post war years, eventually falling in love and moving to Africa. A short biographical style story that I found rather sad as he felt he did not belong anywhere. Willie seemed such a pathetic man, hated by his father he appears to wander through his own life aimlessly trying to fit in with those around him. Once a misfit always a misfit; seems the easiest way of describing Willies discomfort with his life.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro


It is only after I started reading this novel that I discovered that it is considered a science fiction novel. The blurb does not give you any idea of what you are going to discover within the pages of the book, so it was rather a surprise to enter the world of Hailsham pupils. Science fiction is not a genre I would choose to read normally, but I loved this. So do not be put off reading this novel by its categorisation.
The protagonists Kathy, Ruth and Tommy were all pupils at a select boarding school in the English countryside. So select that the pupils were all clones alienated from the rest of society. They were naively unaware of this nightmare lifestyle whereas they had only been created so that when they reached maturity their organs would be used to save the lives of others.
Set in the recent past it is a painful read as Kathy narrates how she and her fellow students Ruth and Tommy spent their youth at school and then early adulthood until they ‘complete’ their lives. One of my favourite scenes is the one that gives the book its title ‘Never Let Me Go’.
To say I loved this book may therefore seem strange but I did, finding it scary in its reality and moving in its handling of love and loss. A very poignant story of love and friendship that will certainly leave you thinking about the fragility of life for a long time afterwards.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Rocken Edge by Wendy K. Harris


Another emotionally gripping novel from the author Wendy K Harris, a new publisher, but still part of her Undercliff series set in the Isle of Wight. Once again the main protagonists are new characters so it is not necessary to have read the previous two novels in the series. Although if you have done so, as I have, you will come across a cast of familiar characters.
Once again the storyline is fairly shocking but sadly believable as something that could occur and probably has done somewhere in real life. Also as in her previous novels the author brings to life the surroundings with her descriptive prose.
In this third novel the protagonist is a young teenager Clare who arrives on the Isle of Wight in a very distressed state seeking a girl she hardly knows but hopes will help her. The locals take her in and both knowingly and unknowingly help her to sort herself out and get her life back on track. She needs to come to terms with fact that love can be harmful as well as healing, blessed and ungodly. To quote one of the main characters ‘love can seriously damage your sanity’
Besides Clare the other main characters are troubled Father Ryan, from Clare’s hometown in Ireland who is at the root of Clare’s distress; Rachel single mother and business woman recently deserted by her Italian lover and Fran the farm owner who unknowingly does Clare a huge favour. It is thanks to Fran that things work out for Clare in the end. The relationships between these four characters slip into place as this sensitive story twists and turns its way to the open conclusion. The possibility of another Undercliff novel I wonder?

Within this genre I think well worth reading and Wendy K Harris is certainly an author whose work I will continue to follow.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Hunting and Gathering by Anna Gavalda


I think that this novel about a group of four unlikely misfits that become friends is both profound and touching. Camille is an anorexic and lonely artist. Philibert her intellectual and aristocratic neighbour is the one who initially rescues Camille from herself. Franck a talented chef is Philibert’s lodger. The final member of the quartet is Franck’s aged Grandmother Paulette. The group learn to slowly cope with life together through the redemptive power of their various forms of love for each other. Each one of them discovers that they need something that is missing from their lives, whether it is food, friendship or love.
I liked all four protagonists as thanks to the descriptive writing one felt as though you really knew them and were able to empathise with them over their problems. Anna Gavalda also managed to bring to life for me the Parisian surroundings including the garret flat, the imposing apartment and Paulette’s former home in the countryside.

It is no exaggeration to say that I found it a fabulous portrayal of life and love, certainly one of my favourite reads so far this year.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Lessons to Learn by Natasha Judd


I am sorry to say that I was very disappointed in this novel. It was in fact I found rather boring with the protagonist telling us about her childhood in New Zealand and her current experiences teaching English in Korea. Charlotte was obviously an extremely unhappy young lady; she was only in Korea as she was running away from unhappiness with her life in New Zealand. I never felt that she really wanted to be in Korea and she did not give herself a chance to enjoy the experience of living in a different culture. She was unhappy with the circumstances she found herself in but did nothing to resolve them, just let life drift on around her. Her behaviour and unfortunately hence the novel annoyed me in fact.
It was however only the storyline that disappointed me because the actual writing style was I found very descriptive and I was able to visualize well some of the eccentric cast of characters.
I will certainly look out for any more novels that Natasha Judd may publish as this was her first, in itself a great achievement.