Review: This House is Not For Sale by EC Osondu

 

 

Title: This House is For Sale

Author: E.C. Osondu

Published: Granta : Allen & Unwin June 2015

Status: Read from June 20 to 21, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

This slim volume from E.C. Osondu is less a novel and more a collection of short stories, similar to the author’s first work, Voice of America.

Set in Nigeria, centered around the ‘Family House’, the home owned by the unnamed narrator’s grandpa, each chapter tells a story linked to one of the many characters that reside there, from a thieving servant, to dissolute ‘uncles’, to orphaned children, and desperate widows.

The stories are mostly grim with themes such as adultery, murder, poverty, exploitation and rape, though there are flashes of dark humour. Some have a near myth-like edge but essentially reflect contemporary life in rural Nigeria. The stories are also said to reflect Nigeria’s political state, rife with corruption, injustice and poverty.

I have to admit that while I found it somewhat interesting, I didn’t particularly enjoy This House is Not For Sale.

Available to purchase from

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Seasoned Traveller 2015

Review: The Sunlit Night by Rebecca Dinerstein

 

Title: The Sunlit Night

Author: Rebecca Dinerstein

Published: Bloomsbury June 2015

Status: Read from June 13 to 14, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

The Sunlit Night is the story of Frances and Yasha whose paths cross far from home ‘at the top of the world’. Frances is completing an art internship while Yasha is in Lofoten to fulfill his father’s dying wish. It is a story of family, grief, growing up and belonging.

I found Yasha to be a more likeable character than Frances, perhaps because his woes were less superficial than hers. His story was more interesting and developed than hers, and I didn’t feel I learnt much about Frances at all. Unfortunately I wasn’t convinced by Yasha and Frances’s romantic connection either, though they had reason to form a friendship, I didn’t think there was any chemistry between them.

What I did really like was the novel’s unique setting. The Sunlit Night is set in Lofoten, an archipelago of six tiny islands in the Norwegian Sea, ninety-five miles north of the Arctic Circle. During the later spring and summer months, in which most of this tale takes place, the sun never dips below the horizon.

“These hours were characterized by a wildness of colors, the combined power of a sunset and sunrise. It was easy to watch the horizon for hours straight, the sun in perpetual motion, the sky turning orange and cranberry until at three it returned to blue, and I felt ready for bed.”

I enjoyed Dinerstein’s descriptions of the archipelago, though mere words barely do the beauty of this place justice (*google for photos*).

“The world was perpetually visible, so I looked at it. Conditioned by hours in the Yellow Room, I saw the landscape in colorblock. The midnight sun came in shades of pink. The fjords rushed up onto white-sanded beaches, and the sand made the water Bermuda-green. The house were always red. They appeared in clusters, villages, wherever the land lay flat. Mountains rose steeply behind each village-menaces and guardians. Each red house was a lighthouse, marking the boundary between one terrain and another, preventing crashes, somehow providing solace.”

The Sunlit Night is not without its charms, there is humour, genuine emotion, and some lovely prose, but the plot is weak and the pace uneven. My attention wavered during the last third or so of the book, much of which didn’t seem to quite make sense and felt rushed.

In the end, I would rate it as an okay read however others may be more appreciative.

The Sunlit Night is available to purchase from

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Seasoned Traveller 2015

Review: The Daylight Marriage by Heidi Pitlor

 

Title: The Daylight Marriage

Author: Heidi Pitlor

Published: Algonquin Books  May 2015

Status: Read from May 07 to 08, 2015   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

Hannah was the kind of woman who turned heads. Tall and graceful, naturally pretty, often impulsive, always spirited, the upper-class girl who picked, of all men, Lovell–the introverted climate scientist, the practical one who thought he could change the world if he could just get everyone to listen to reason. After a magical honeymoon they settled in the suburbs to raise their two children.
But over the years, Lovell and Hannah’s conversations have become charged with resentments and unspoken desires. She’s become withdrawn and directionless. His work affords him a convenient distraction. The children can sense the tension, which they’ve learned to mostly ignore. Until, after one explosive argument, Hannah vanishes. And Lovell, for the first time, is forced to examine the trajectory of his marriage through the lens of memory–and the eyes of his children. As he tries to piece together what happened to his wife–and to their lives together–readers follow Hannah through that single day when the smallest of decisions takes her to places she never intended to go. “

A Quick Thought:

Just an okay read for me. I didn’t care much for either Hannah or Lovell, and found the details of their middle class marriage woes rather tedious. I was sufficiently intrigued by the mystery  surrounding Hannah’s fate to keep reading though and thought the resolution was quite original.

Available to Purchase From

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Review: What She Left by T.R. Richmond

 

Title: What She Left

Author: T.R. Richmond

Published: Michael Joseph: Penguin May 2015

Read an Extract

Status: Read from May 01 to 03, 2015 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher}

Who is Alice Salmon? Student. Journalist. Daughter. Lover of late nights, hater of deadlines. That girl who drowned last year. Gone doesn’t mean forgotten. Everyone’s life leaves a trace behind. But it’s never the whole story.

A Brief Thought:

I think the premise of What She Left is good and I was excited by the idea of the epistolary format, yet somehow the story didn’t quite live up to it’s potential for me. There seemed to be more focus on Professor Cooke, Alice’s former tutor,  than on Alice and her life. I also struggled with the scattered timeline and fairly slow pace.

What She Left is available to purchase from

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eclecticreader15

Epistolary Fiction

Review: The Nutters by Kate Starmer

 

Title: The Nutters

Author: Kate Starmer

Published: Austin-Macauley Jan 2015

Status: Read from April 07 to 08, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

The Nutters introduces Albert, a former policeman medically retired from the force after being stabbed by a clown, and his wife, Rose, private investigators in the small English village of Little Wobble. Albert, missing the excitement of his days on the force, hoped to catch criminals but instead spends his days looking for missing garden gnomes, cats, and neighbours who aren’t really missing at all.
So the Nutters are eager when they are asked to investigate a case in Upper Wobble where the vicar’s wife is receiving hate mail, threatening to expose her secret, sordid past, and suddenly they have almost more excitement than they can handle.

This cozy mystery offers a cast of lively characters, featuring the Nutter family which includes Albert, Rose, also an agony aunt for the village newspaper, their three almost adult children and a lazy oversize mutt.

There is more than one mystery playing out in The Nutters. The vicar’s wife is being blackmailed, the publican seems to be cheating on his wife, a young woman is assaulted and another is being stalked. The mysteries are solidly plotted, and though the culprits are fairly easily guessed, I was surprised by at least one of the revelations.

Unfortunately my experience of reading The Nutters was marred by several issues with the writing. The sentence structure is often clumsy, tenses are muddled and the grammar is inconsistent. There is far too much ‘tell’ rather than ‘show’ and there are instances of repetition in the narrative.

It’s a shame, because I enjoyed the humour of The Nutters and think the story is genuinely entertaining, but the editing lets it down.

Available to purchase from

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Review: After Birth by Elisa Albert

 

Title: After Birth

Author: Elisa Albert

Published: Vintage Digital UK April 2015

Status: Read from April 02 to 03, 2015  – I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

After Birth is a provocative story of new motherhood.

The narrative is almost a stream of consciousness with Ari’s unfiltered thoughts raging across each page. Ari is brutally honest about her experience, but abrasively so. She is angry, bitter and self pitying, however it’s fair to say that she is also lost, lonely and deeply conflicted.

” Sometimes I’m with the baby and I think: you’re my heart and my soul, and I would die for you. Other times I think: tiny moron, leave me the f**k alone…”

It seems likely Ari is experiencing some level of post natal depression, exacerbated by a birth she viewed as traumatic and her difficult relationship with her deceased mother. Motherhood is undoubtedly a huge period of change and adjustment.

“There’s before and there’s after. To live in your body before is one thing. To live in your body after is another. Some deal by attempting to micromanage; some go crazy; some zone right the hell on out. Or all of the above. A blessed few resist any of these…”

There were parts of the novel I connected with, I have four children (three of whom were born in three years) so I can relate somewhat to Ari’s experience. New motherhood can be a frustrating, exhausting, frightening and isolating period.

“Endless need. I did not understand how there could be no break. No rest. There was just no end to it. It went on and one and on. There was no end. And I couldn’t relinquish him….because he was mine. There was an agony that bordered on physical when he wasn’t in my arms.”

However I had a hard time dredging up a lot of sustained sympathy for Ari who wallows in negativity. She is so angry, and self-righteous and entitled. I found her rants about c-sections and bottle-feeding particularly off putting.

“The baby’s first birthday. Surgery day, I point out, because I have trouble calling it birth. Anniversary of the great failure.”

For all of the rage in After Birth, Albert raises some important issues about the experience of modern motherhood. It can be such an isolating experience for many women, especially for those who lack the close support of family and friends and it is often difficult for new mother’s to admit, and ask, for help.

“Two hundred years ago-hell, one hundred years ago- you’d have a child surrounded by other women: your mother, her mother, sisters, cousins, sisters -in-law, mother-in-law…. They’d help you, keep you company, show you how. Then you’d do the same. Not just people to share in the work of raising children, but people to share in the loving of children.”

Albert also speaks about friendship, and the way women relate to each other in both positive and negative ways. Ari has few female friends, and her closest friends essentially abandon her after her son is born. She latches onto to Mina, the pregnant tenant of friends, who offers her much of the validation she craves.

We set up camp at my house or hers. We listen to music. I like the music she likes….”We say ‘yes’, ‘exactly’, ‘poor thing’ and ‘I know’, ‘I know that’s the whole problem’ and ‘really, well of course!'”

I think the rage in this novel has the potential to both ameliorate and alienate women, I rolled my eyes in derision of what it had to say as often as I nodded my head in agreement. I didn’t enjoy After Birth, nor even really like it, but it is a thought provoking and powerful read.

 

Available to Purchase From

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US Cover

 

About: Losing It by Helen Lederer

 

Title: Losing It

Author: Helen Lederer

Published: Pan February 2015

Status: Read from February 18 to 20, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

Millie was at one time quite well known for various TV and radio appearances. However, she now has no money, a best friend with a better sex life than her, a daughter in Papua New Guinea and too much weight in places she really doesn’t want it.
When she’s asked to be the front woman for a new diet pill, she naively believes that all her troubles will be solved. She will have money, the weight will be gone, and maybe she’ll get more sex.
If only life was really that easy. It doesn’t take her long to realize it’s going to take more than a diet pill to solve her never-ending woes…”

****

 

Available to purchase from

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Review: Second Life by S.J. Watson

Title: Second Life

Author: S.J Watson

Published: Doubleday February 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read on February 11, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

SJ Watson’s debut, Before I Go To Sleep was a smash hit and I imagine the pressure to produce a similarly successful novel has been immense.

London wife and mother, Julia, is devastated when she is informed her younger sister, Kate, has been murdered by an unknown assailant in a Parisian alleyway. Half crazed with grief and guilt, Julia becomes obsessed with finding Kate’s killer, infiltrating an online ‘hook-up’ service her sister used in search of suspects.
Lukas is one of the first men to respond to her tentative approach, and though she quickly dismisses him as a suspect in her sister’s murder, Julia can’t seem to extract herself from the connection they have made. Her stolen moments with Lukas are a reprieve from her despair but as their relationship transitions from the virtual to the real world, Julia’s ‘second life’ unwittingly puts everything she has, and those she loves most, at risk.

What Watson does particularly well in Second Life is create a close, tense and increasingly disorientating atmosphere as Julia’s life spirals out of control.

My dissatisfaction with this novel can be laid at the feet of Watson’s protagonist, Julia. I just didn’t buy into her behaviour, despite the author’s rationalisations of grief and guilt. I found Julia to be painfully frustrating – naive, self obsessed, and later, wontingly self destructive.

Unable to invest in the character, I then struggled with the plot, which relies on Julia’s poor judgment to progress. There is tension and some surprising twists but it wasn’t enough to convince me to put aside my dislike of Julia. Perhaps the strongest element of the story is the pacy and shocking denouement, though I’m still not quite sure how I feel about its ambiguity.

Just barely an okay read, largely due to my frustration with the main character, unfortunately, I think Second Life suffers badly in comparison with Before I Go To Sleep.

Available to Purchase From

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Review: The Dead Wife’s Handbook by Hannah Beckerman

 

Title: The Dead Wife’s Handbook

Author: Hannah Beckerman

Published: Arcade Publishing Jan 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from January 05 to 06, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/edelweiss)

My Thoughts:

The Dead Wife’s Handbook by Hannah Beckerman is a story of love, grief and letting go. Rachel was just thirty six years old when her heart stopped beating. She was happily married to Max and a loving mother to five year old Ellie, now she floats in a void of white mist given intermittent views of her husband and daughter living without her.

The idea of a ghostly narrator is a not a new one and sadly the story offers no real surprises. It begins to feel a bit repetitive after a while, for Max and Ellie it’s one step forward, two steps back, for Rachel – endless longing and a predictable cycle of guilt, resentment and despair.

I think it was just that characters were all just too perfect – Rachel was the perfect wife and mother, Max the perfect husband and father, and Ellie, who is just too perfectly adorable for words. Oh and Eve, Eve is perfect too. Their grief often seemed too neat, too contained and Max always seemed to be able to find the right words to comfort Ellie.

I did empathise with Rachel, after all I am a mother and I would be horrified to be in her place, but for the unwary reader, particularly one recently bereaved I don’t think The Dead Wife’s Handbook would offer much comfort. The lessons she learns about love, life and death are true enough but cliched.

The Dead Wife’s Handbook has received a plethora of positive reviews, I just wasn’t feeling it.

Available to Purchase From

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in Australia: via Booko

Review: Murder at the Book Group by Maggie King

Title: Murder at the Book Group {A Book Club Mystery #1}

Author: Maggie King

Published: Pocket Books December 2014

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from December 25 to 27, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

When Carlene Arness is found dead after drinking tea laced with cyanide while hosting the monthly meeting of the book club she co-founded with Hazel Rose, the members are horrified and puzzled by her death. Though a suicide note is found next to her body, none of them believe she was the type to take her own life and Hazel is determined to prove it.

There are a lot of suspects, maybe even too many, as Hazel discovers that Carlene, married to Hazel’s first husband, hid a dark past. The book club members too keep secrets that give almost all of them, including Hazel, the motive to want Carlene dead. Sex, blackmail, politics and vengeance are all part of the affray.

Murder at the Book Group has all the ingredients for a good mystery – a layered plot, an interesting cast with plenty of secrets and a great setting for book lovers (the murder takes place during a book club meeting whose membership includes several published and aspiring mystery writers). Unfortunately I never really connected with the main character, Hazel Rose, and since the story is told in the first person I found my attention wandering more often than it should have.

Murder at the Book Group was just barely an ‘okay’ read for me.

Available to Purchase From

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in Australia: via Booko

 

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