The Miniaturist

 

 

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I thought the author was trying to drag me through the pages to Amsterdam 1686, and I was delighted at the prospect. The bitter cold of Holland in Winter is remarkable, by anyone’s standards, and Jessie Burton held the proverbial carrot tantalisingly aloft, tempting with talk of canals and clogs and a chilly era of Europe enveloped in spice. The present tense third person narration swung to the omniscient at times, but I struggled on regardless of that.
The author’s world of dolls and duplicity was made hauntingly real but the characterisations of the people paled. I even caught Petronella Brandt saying the self-same thing that Marin had previously done. Unfortunately none of the personalities seemed to come to life. In this respect they were no more animated than their wooden likenesses.
And would the young wife be as naive as one of the hounds who sat so lovingly at their masters’ feet? Her easily won devotion would seem as unlikely as snow in Summer, and was just about as believable.
     The author offered a crust that crumbled in anti-climax for all that the the temptation kept me hoping for a surprise I didn’t get. A sweet twist would have been delicious, or an answer to questions concerning the elusive life of the cabinet which was alluded to but never really met.

 

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The Good People

9781743534908.jpgThere is a superstition within me that even still, Ireland is fey. Buried in the bog of make believe, fairy tales are somehow as real as they have always been, always will be. Ireland’s people, its stories, seem touched by something otherworldly.

Hannah Kent has been away with the fairies. She has given tongue to the beauty of Eire with lilting phrase that is as keen as the wind in my hair, and grass beneath my feet. Herbal remedies and home cures. The age-old reverence of Mother Earth. I am transported back to the lives of my own ancestors, their whispered wishes and murmured prayers and I realise that the past is not so distant after all.

The book uncovers a yesterday that still holds the heartbeat of today, and to open the pages of the author’s second book is to glean a little of the desperate, dark beliefs of The Good People, and perhaps an almost forgotten glimpse of our own.

Burial Rites

A thoroughly researched portrayal of the last execution in Iceland. Kent’s words gnaw like the bitter wind through to my bones. The abject poverty, the grisly warts of humanity almost primitive, don’t go unseen. I smell fish and smoking oil, my hands ache with the cold as I follow the trail of her prose. She shapes her words like whalebone, sharp and ivory white. The wonder of them only equal to the horror of the cruelty of a life lived and lost. I have been there with Agnes to the last and can thank God that I have been but an onlooking ghost.IMG_1729

My Mother’s Secret

I’ve awaited this third book more eagerly than a sugar starved cake eater. I want to indulge myself with Sanjida Kay’s newest delectable creation. At the first mouthful, I’m at once annoyed at a British mum who allows her rude offspring pull her this way and that. I fear that it has to crack the thin veneer of icing of a seemingly weak woman with poor discipline skills. I’m jarred at the language of teenage modernity. STELLA’s thoughts are written in first person, and they all the sharper for it. Its coarseness brushes against my arm like jam off a cake fork. But as I sit there with book in hand, I become a voyeur at the cake table, and I begin to get to know LIZZIE, EMMA and STELLA. Kay makes me feel the wind in my hair, the stones beneath my feet, and I follow her unthinkingly, blindly into an emotional love affair. Just like the last book, and the one before. I think she’ll let me have my cake and eat it too. She doesn’t. The plate’s taken away and I’m lost. I’m as hungry as before. Kay bakes thrillers like no one else.
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City of Crows

IMG_1486Womersley is like a Parisian cook. He brushes the pastry of seventeenth century France with colour, flair and fragrance. He uses words like flavours so I can almost smell garlic on the breaths of gallic troubadours. He throws in herbs, casting a spell, luring me with latin.
I run to catch up with them, daring to make their world mine, if only from a safe distance. For plague and pestilence aren’t just physical maladies, and a soul is easily won. They are all an unsavoury lot.
I had hoped for a cure more palatable than the one he presented, a conclusion more enjoyable. I couldn’t help but turn my nose up at the turn of events. Shy away at a crust he could have kneaded more satisfactorily.
Throughout, he convinces us that magic is nothing but a clumsy show, so that I was hard pressed to swallow the ending. For although the scent of thyme and the sound of pigeons took me to a wondrously alive place and held me captive, the characters on Womersley’s stage were pallid and flavourless in comparison. He has thrown them into the mix without first salting their characters. I wasn’t able to savour their emotions. Perhaps he forgot to season the heartstrings because he was too busy bringing the streets to life?

Bridget Crack

IMG_1345With a turn of phrase as harsh as the Tasmanian elements, Rachel Leary uses words sparsely. She tears meat from sinew, leaving her sentences like bare bones, at once confronting, daringly sharp.
From the beginning I followed in Bridget’s direction, following, always following, only to find at story’s end, that I was left with a rather melancholy anti-climax. There was no purpose, no plot, just a monotonous journey through unforgiving wet scrub, like rain with no respite
There is a madness that comes from hunger, both spiritual as well as physical. In this respect, Leary portrays the angst well. She ekes out the ugly in humanity, coarse as rough rum.
In some respects I came to the conclusion with relief. But it was not like I had finally been given a good meal. On the contrary, the author sent me to bed hungry, and I closed the book on the last page without repletion.
I would have had Bridget suck the marrow out of life, but the forces of nature and the wilderness, held Bridget Crack every bit as captive as the constabulary she feared.

The Giver

I feel emotionally numb. It’s as though greyness has overcome me, as though my perception has been upended. I am left wondering how to start to explain this book. I wasn’t emotionally attached to this story. I didn’t cry or grieve when it was done. It did, however make me think.

I considered the power society can have on belief. But what stands out, the one thing that gave me hope in this read, was love. That we are saved by love alone. That without it we are colourless, without meaning or purpose. This is perhaps the glimmering light that we should take as a reminder for our future.

It’s debatable that a child will glean as much as can be got from this kind of read. My thirteen year old daughter Cordelia read it first then suggested it to me. But then she is no ordinary thirteen. Yet if we feed them on bread and milk, they may struggle all their lives to chew on meat. The concept of Jonas’s world is frightening enough that to shrug it off without thought is perhaps childishness itself. FullSizeRender-2

The Light Between Oceans

Usually I will sit with the memory of a book in my mind long enough to have it settle. I let it linger on the tastebuds of my heart like wine as I clarify my emotions. With this book, I know the aftertaste will linger with me for some time to come. Its characters will stay in the eddy of my memories, the sediment almost as real as the earth at my feet.
A ponderous beginning it was, but as a life unfurls at no great speed, the story of Isabel and Tom is no different. We made acquaintance slowly. I waded into the pages wondering when if at all I would feel their voices. Yet there with Isabel and Tom, the pull of the lighthouse draws me in.
13566055Sometimes a story will coat the glass of your soul like elixir. The salt tears M. L .Steadman wrung from my heart took me unawares. When I look at a lighthouse I will smile at the poignant memory of Isabel and Tom. For fiction is never just make believe. Their story could easily be anyone’s. Given a glimpse at their tale, I am grateful that in those pages, I also made the story mine.

The Boy in the Hoodie

IMG_1071A poignant glimpse into the teen years, Catriona McKeown gives an understanding of what it’s like to be at school all over again. A story that brings insight and inspiration to the young, and takes everyone else down memory lane to back in the day. Never thought returning to school could bring such sweet reminiscence. With realism enough to remind the reader of what it’s like to be a teenager, and the grace to show the beauty of those years. Enjoyable from start to finish.

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