The Books Piled Beside the Bed – Pt 4

 

the-wonder

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

She wrote ‘Room’ which was made into a movie.  Did you see it?

In The Wonder Emma Donoghue was inspired by the phenomenon known as ‘the fasting girls’. apparently wide spread in terms of both global reach and ages, with fifty cases documented and no conclusions necessarily drawn.  She tells the story of Lib, an ‘educated sceptic’, a nurse trained under the great Florence Nightingale who is summoned to Ireland to become an observer of an 11 year old girl, Anna, said to have been months without food yet still thriving.  Entering into an impoverished and pious household Lib is determined to discover the truth.  How is the child being secretly fed, by whom?

It’s hard to feel warmth for Lib as she bumbles about in a community that makes no sense to her.  Yet as her heart warms towards the child, so we warm to towards her. It’s an engrossing story, with an unexpected ending.  How far would you go for the love of a child?

Image result for the muse by jessie burton

The Muse by Jessie Burton

This is her second novel, the first being ‘The Miniaturist’ which I reviewed relatively unfavourably ages ago.   I was assured this was a very different read.

It was.  It is unusual, intriguing, multi-layered and contains a bit of a mystery…… a great mix for any novel!  The story moves in place and time between London in the late 60’s to Spain thirty years earlier.  We meet two young women, both it seems dealing with a feeling of inadequacy about their art, unsure of who they are and what their place in the world might be.

It begins in London, 1967 where Odelle Bastien, originally from Trinidad and now living in London for five years is still looking to find her place –   a home, a good job and publishing success.  Abruptly life changes when Odelle is offered a typists position at a London Art Gallery under the tutelage of the glamorous Marjorie Quick.  About the same time a lost masterpiece with a secret history is delivered to the gallery.

The story moves to Spain 1936 as Civil War breaks out and the Schloss family, Harold and Sarah and their 19 year old daughter Olive take a finca and become acquainted with the young artist and revolutionary Isaac Robles and his sister Teresa.   The five become entwined as danger and unrest moves ever nearer and tragedy unfurls around them.

Moving between the two stories a mystery builds and I enjoyed following the clues that lead to the eventual outcome – not quite what I expected it to be!

Image result for salisbury square by geoff le pard

Salisbury Square by Geoff Le Pard

I’ll start by saying this is a book I would definitely not have chosen to read had it not been written by a writer I admire and fellow blogger and Master of All Genres Geoff Le Pard.   On his blog, Geoff  practises  his art, flexing his typing fingers and  letting his imagination go where it will with weekly doses of short or shorter writing prompts.   And nearly every one of ’em a gem!  Many of his stories are humorous.  This novel however, is not one of that kind!

The subject matter is grim, the reality gritty and Geoff pulls few punches in leading his readers into the harsh, sad world of the underbelly of London.  Peopled by survivors of dysfunctional families, featuring the lot of immigrant workers, drug addiction, homelessness and hopelessness and dealing with survival, betrayal and revenge.   I found it hard going at first.  The situation is grim from the start, the characters are not easy to love, their lives are messy, they are messy and things just keep getting messier.  Despite this however, somehow I was drawn in.  Empathy kicked in. Once that happened I was hooked, I needed to know somehow, somewhere, there would be redemption for someone.

The chapters are short – and get shorter as the book progresses.     Each chapter is headed by a place and a time.   This becomes imperative reading as the novel progresses and the pace picks up.  The short chapter format is an excellent device, it’s like watching a movie where the scenes switch between two or more places as the characters reveal more of themselves, as the tension builds and we sit on the edge of our seats, holding our breaths watching, waiting, hoping  ……  Every time I review one of Geoff’s books it seems I can see it as a movie.  This one is no exception.  The first was a comedy, the second a drama and this one gets filed under ‘bleak’ as in films like, say, ‘Trainspotting: I and II’ (and I say this without ever having seen either of those particular films, but I saw the trailers and that was enough for me).

Bleak!  But as I closed the book there was a certain satisfaction, there was redemption,  there was heart, there was hope.  And I realised I had grown to know and become fond of many of the characters that  shuffled through the pages.  And that, from this reader’s point of view, is quite something!

I have just one harsh criticism to deliver Mr Le Pard sir.  Please don’t end your book on page 280 and without blinking give me Chapter 1 of your next novel on page 281.  I needed time to sit and think and relive what I had just read and to allow the characters to file before me so I could weigh and measure and say – well, yes, there was redemption and there is hope.  And to stare at a blank page while doing so.  This is how I come to terms with the end of a good story.   At that precise point I didn’t give a damn about either Buster or Moo!  (But now of course I’m quite looking forward to reading that tale!)

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So there we go folks, three of my latest reads – from which I learn that judging a book by it’s cover (or it’s predecessor) may not necessarily allow me the opportunity to widen my world view or deepen my understanding of people.  I’m grateful to all three authors for taking me into unexpected places and thereby enriching me and adding to my gratitude for the life I live!!

If you’ve read any of these books please do chime in with your responses and if you haven’t read them, stick them on your ‘books to read’ list ……  I’d love to know what you think afterwards.

Thanks for coming by today, I love that you did!

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50 thoughts on “The Books Piled Beside the Bed – Pt 4

  1. Three wonderful reviews, Pauline! Having read The Room I’m tempted to read this one; I’d seen The Muse out but after reading The Miniaturist wasn’t too sure, however, you’ve changed my mind and I’ll give this a go sometime! I loved your review of Geoff’s book, the cover is terrific with a lovely play between the dark and light, the dark winning! It sounds highly original and I’m very intrigued. Many thanks for all your recommendations.

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  2. Hi Pauline, Thanks for sharing your thoughts about these books. I haven’t read any, though Geoff’s is in my Kindle waiting, and waiting. I must admit I thought it was a little bleak for me too, but you’ve given it a good rap so I should get started sometime soon. I agree about the “Next book” promo coming straight after. In a few Kindle books I’ve read there’s no break between and it almost seems like a continuation. I don’t like that. It’s good to have a bit of thinking time about what just been digested.

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    • I admit to preferring not to read such books Norah. I had to work hard to get into the story and I think it is a measure of Geoff’s ability as a writer that he hooked me in eventually. Of the three I’ve read my favourite is ‘Dead Flies’. I’m still considering a kindle…….

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      • Dead Flies is my favourite too – light and hilarious!
        I said Kindle, but it’s actually a Kindle reader on my devices, not an actual Kindle. 🙂

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  3. The books all sound diverse and very engrossing. I love the covers and your reviews were all favorable today. Lovely, Pauline! Thank you since I already have a big pile TBR. . . 😉 Love you, girlfriend. xo

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    • There are so many books in the world it’s a wonder our TBR pile ever gets any smaller! These were all a little on the heavy side Robin – and sometimes we need to read light and fluffy or even just plain funny, right? Love you back ❤

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      • Pauline, I like the element of fantasy and interesting plotlines in your books you reviewed. I have seen, “Room,” but not had time to read much.
        I have acquired, slowly but surely, a list of fellow bloggers books. So far, I have purchased:
        1) Luanne Castle’s, “Doll God.”
        (Virtually free with donation to her local ‘no kill’ animal shelter, I wrote review last year.)
        The next one’s All still haven’t read!
        2) D. Wallace Peach’s, “Catling’s Bane.”
        (I am excited about this fierce girl warrior, Catling!)
        3) Jill Weatherholt’s, “Second Chance Romance.”
        (A young single mother who meets a nice new love interest. 💖)
        4) Shehanne Moore’s, “The Unraveling of Lady Fury” and “The Viking and the Courtesan.”
        (Looks like romantic stories with strong female characters!)
        My regular reading books loaned from a friend include:
        5) “Night and Day” which I love the artist who solves mysteries by creating pictures of the deceased. Iris Johansen, author.
        6) “Chaos,” by Patricia Cornwell. Another murder mystery series author who incorporates her own FBI connection with her forensic science experriences.
        7) James Patterson, “Cross the Line.”
        Thank goodness my friend who loans me books trusts me to eventually slow down and read these. 🙂
        Hope this may give someone inspiration to read these new (4) and very established (3) authors’ books, dear friend. Reading is almost impossible until I leave my auto parts warehouse job, just a single chapter each night after hours of reading blogs. . . . I like blogs and my friends here so much, so not complaining! xo

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        • Wow! That is quite a pile Robin! I know how hard it is to read regularly when you are busy and tired at the end of the day. My daughter the bookseller has to read as part of her job and is often challenged to find the time to keep up with all the new publications. My book pile rarely gets any smaller as new titles are always replacing the read ones. I need to get a kindle so I can more easily read the works of our blogging friends as they are not always available here (and Amazon charges ridiculous amounts for shipping) ……. One day!

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  4. I always enjoy book reviews from people I like. While you have offerd a wonderful job review three books, I don’t think they will be on my bedside table in the near future. I am definitely looking a few books to have on hand because I’m having a knee replacement on May 1st. Figured I will need some diversions and will have a good excuse to read to my heart’s content (between that and my physical therapy). I do so thank you for these good suggestions and I may keep them in mind for a later read. Who knows, I may even have time to catch up on my blog!!

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    • A knee replacement! And so soon! I”m sending you my best wishes for a good hospital experience and a speedy recovery Jan. These books won’t do for recuperation when you need uplifting, humorous reads – you know what they say about laughter! I wanted top be able to pass you a list of good light reads and I went a complete blank. Isn’t that typical! But I’m sure you will be well taken care of. Also watch your favourite movies, ones that make you roll with laughter. I hope you will post as soon as you can and let us know how you are recuperating. Big warm hugs! xo

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  5. Thank you for the honest reviews – always helpful. I mostly loved the miniaturist – although I did find a couple of aspects unsatisfying. So my question is, if I mostly liked the Miniaturist, do you think I’ll like The Muse?

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    • You are the first one here to admit to having enjoyed The Miniaturist Bekki. 🙂 I therefore hesitate to offer an opinion. I would love to hear what you think of The Muse if you do read it though – it’s certainly a little less dark!

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  6. These books appear to provide some interesting reading, Pauline. The Muse sounds appealing to me, as I love reading about the 1960s and delving back into history. I will have to look up Mr. Le Pard’s blog. I might also have trouble with gritty subject matter as I often read books to escape much of that, but I would say ending on notes of redemption and hope is a good thing. Hope you are having a super weekend!

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  7. Looking at your recent art and the cover of the Muse makes me wonder if you have considered doing book covers. Perhaps you already have been there, done that, and don’t want the pressure. 🙂

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  8. Well thank you Pauline for such a stunning review. I really couldn’t ask for more. And as for the ‘harsh’ criticism it is entirely fair and will go in the next book. Like one of your other commentators it causes quite strong reactions both ways but more it seems to irritate than inspire.

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    • Was it stunning Geoff? I was really surprised by how I felt at the end. I had to sit a while and ponder some, which is a sign of being deeply involved! As to the other, I’d say to at least leave a blank page between the end of the novel and the teaser for the next publication – but equally glad to hear you might chuck the idea altogether.

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  9. Always enjoy your book pile, Pauline. I read The Miniaturist and was underwhelmed so I’m interested in your take on The Muse. I may well give it a go. But I loved Room, was interested to see how the film turned out and was a bit disappointed with how they dealt with the ending. That last paragraph in the book where it becomes obvious that the little boy has put his horrendous beginnings behind him was completely overlooked. And I wondered if the film directors had missed the significance of those capital letters throughout the book. Ah well, maybe it’s just me…
    And I so agree with writers new books being a total no no at the end of one novel. It’s often marketed as ‘bonus material.’ I’d call it presumptuous 😀

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    • Hi Jenny – yes I remember being quite scathing about The Miniaturist – I struggled to find anything worthwhile in that one – her second book is quite different. It seems to me Burton tends to a somewhat dark view on life, but in this one there are shades of colour and even some light. I was intrigued rather than repelled. Emma Donoghue is, I think, a good writer and I’ll line up to read her next one – I’m hoping she will just get better and better. Hollywood never quite gets it right when it comes to a good book do they. I saw the movie first and had forgotten its ending when I read the book so my enjoyment wasn’t soured.

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  10. It’s so good to read book reviews! The Muse sounds fabulous and I think I need to get over to Mr. LePard’s blog. I owe you an email, Pauline!!! Soon.

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    • I shall look forward to receiving that email with all your news 🙂 I adore Geoff – the inside of his head is a complete mystery to me – but I’d love to get a peek inside when he’s at work 🙂

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  11. Some very interesting reads here, Pauline. My list is already too long but I know where to come if I should ever find myself without a book to read. I have a hard time with some of Geoff’s stories as the English have a different way of expressing themselves and I find myself lost in translation. Many are quite fun which is obviously what I look for in a good read. Real life plays out around me every day so my books give me a place to hide an play. Have a lovely week ahead. Hope you are all well there. Thinking of you daily.

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      • I’m listening to more books these days. Just finished “The Field” by Lynne McTaggart. I have the hard copy too but it was so much easier not to get lost in the listening of it. I was surprised how quickly it was done. Just ordered 2 more to listen to while I get some sewing done. A man called Ove and My Grandmother asked me to tell you she’s sorry. Both by Fredrik Backman. I’ll let you know how they go. I’ll sew awhile then go pull weeds.:) No rain today, just cloudy. Great way to spend a Sunday. 🙂 Hope you are doing well. Hugs to you and yours.

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        • I used to listen to a lot of books when painting BS (Before Siddy) nowadays I’ve returned to reading in the evenings. Siddy thinks the sound of a disembodied human voice needs hunting out and he gets quite frantic so no work gets done. I found The Field really interesting when I read it a few years back – right now I’ve the latest Graham Hancock, a book about Gobleki Tepe and another called ‘Sacred Geometry of the Earth’ all waiting for those cold winter nights when I can snuggle in and concentrate on what I’m reading. I think A Man Called Ove has been made into a movie. Given your eyesight audio books are a good idea Marlene – and a lovely way to engage the mind while the hands are busy. Enjoy your spring garden! xoxo

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          • I had not heard about the Gobleki Tepe but have looked that up. Very interesting. My dad first got me started reading about Lay lines of the earth many years before he passed. It was fascinating that we were on similar reading paths.

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  12. Thanks for sharing your recent reads, Pauline. I like a good mystery, so The Muse sounds intriguing. My pile of books to read continues to grow, some purchased, others just ideas on Goodreads. I’m half way through Jimmy Carter’s book on turning 90 and I have a couple of gardening books going as well. Then there’s the book club selection for May, The Year of Living Danishly: My Twelve Months Unearthing the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country. Oh and blogs. Two weeks of travel has put me way behind. I can’t imagine a world without reading. xo

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    • No, I can’t imagine a world without reading either. The Muse was the lightest of this lot, but still quite complex I thought. I feel like I need to read something light and frothy after these!

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      • I know that feeling well. Our book club (instigated by me) put a moratorium on World War II books. We read several, wonderful books, The Book Thief, The Zookeeper’s Wife, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society to name a few, but I needed a break from all that deep, dark, sad energy. That said, The Book Thief remains one of my favorite books.

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        • I loved ‘The Book Thief’ too Alys – and ‘The Guernsey Literary’ was lent out by me to many a reader – that was a deceptively small and simple book that held great depth! Balance in all things they say – and reading choices are no exception!

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          • I’m delighted to see that you know and enjoyed both books. When I read really great fiction I often think “why is the writing so good?” or “what is it that makes that story so compelling? I’ve read poorly written fiction before and barely made it through (or tossed it aside because life is too short). I read once that 97% of what’s published is non-fiction. That means a small 3% of the market goes to fiction. You better be good or your book will never see the light of day, unless you’re someone famous. Even then, those books are often produced by ghost writers.

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            • If those figures you quote are correct it seems even madder that so many poorly written books get published! I have zero tolerance for poor writing – life is too short to spend time trying to guess what the writer means and as I get put off by consistent lack of language skills and poor proof reading, even on blog posts, I chuck ’em straight away …… The other side of that coin is that so many novels of obtuse and dreary subjects make it to the prize lists simply because the writer shows ‘literary skills’. I think you have to have both and I prefer my reading matter to uplift rather than downcast – there are enough reasons in the world to be downcast without my nightly read adding to it…. same goes for movies. Though perhaps I just getting curmudgeonly in my old age?

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              • I’m with you, Pauline. I recently read a book called The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, and though sad at times, it was lovely to read, with beautiful characters and a satisfying conclusion. I’m enjoying Jimmy Carter’s bio, written when he turned 90. What a life! I’ve just started “My Year of Living Danishly”, also non-fiction, which promises to be a good read as well. I’ll let you know.

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