Thursday, 28 April 2016

The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee

Calcutta, 1967. Unnoticed by his family, Supratik has become dangerously involved in extremist political activism. Compelled by an idealistic desire to change his life and the world around him, all he leaves behind before disappearing is a note.

The ageing patriarch and matriarch of his family, the Ghoshes, preside over their large household, unaware that beneath the barely ruffled surface of their lives the sands are shifting. More than poisonous rivalries among sisters-in-law, destructive secrets and the implosion of the  family business, this is a family unravelling as the society around it fractures. For this is a moment of turbulence, of inevitable and unstoppable change, the chasm between the generations and between those who have and those who have not, has never been wider.

I found this to be a weighty read - both in size and depth.

I was very grateful for the family tree which is included at the beginning of this book as I think I would have been quite confused by all the different characters, of which there are plenty. This enhanced my appreciation of the minutiae of the lives of the people in this household and whilst I cannot claim to have really liked any of them I did at least understand how they had become the people they were.

I like books which are set in India but I found very little in terms of the rich atmosphere which could have been a real asset to this book. I wanted to be able to drink up the sounds and smells of India but I found this sadly lacking.

However, this has been very intelligently written and the author has a clear understanding of the socio political factors of the time.

What I loved about this book was the way Mr Mukherjee's prose flows on the page. It is beautifully written with a poeticism I could lose myself in. I would read his other novel for that reason alone as this book has been well crafted and is simply lovely to read.

ISBN: 978-0099554486

Publisher: Vintage

About the Author:

Neel Mukherjee was born in Calcutta and now lives in London.. His award winning first novel A Life Apart, was published in 2010. The Lives of Others is his second novel.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Forever Yours by Daniel Glattauer

Judith, in her mid-thirties and single, meets Hannes when he steps on her foot in a crowded supermarket. Before long he turns up in the exclusive little lighting boutique that Judith runs with the help of her assistant Bianca.
Hannes is an architect - single and in the prime of life. Not only is he every mother-in-law's dream, but Judith's friends are also bowled over by him. At first Judith revels in being put on a pedestal by this determined man who seems to have eyes only for her. But as time goes by, she finds his constant displays of affection increasingly wearying and his intensive attention becomes oppressive and overwhelming.
In the end she feels cornered, controlled and stifled. All her attempts to get him out of her life fail. He seems to follow her all the way into her dreams, and when she wakes up he's already waiting on her doorstep to pamper her afresh.

I quite liked this book. It has a real eeriness about it and challenged what I was thinking throughout.

The prose is written with a crispness which I think added to the book. The language needed no embroidering or poeticism. In fact, it would have detracted from the intensity of the characters. Both Judith and Hannes are well drawn out characters and I really enjoyed the way the author shifted the emphasis from one character to the other.

However, one criticism I have of this book is that there are times that the dialogue reads like a script rather than a novel and I felt this detracted from the flow of the dialogue.

I found this an enjoyable book. It is never going to make it into my top ten for the year but I keep thinking about it and mulling the plot over in my mind so maybe that speaks for itself. It is worth a read and I would love to hear your thoughts on this book if you read it.

ISBN: 978-0857052490

Publisher: MacLehose Press

About the Author:

Daniel Glattauer (born 1960) is an Austrian writer and journalist. He was born in Vienna, where he still lives and works. He is a regular columnist for Der Standard. He is best known for his novel Love Virtually and its sequel Every Seventh Wave. His literary work were translated in more than 35 languages and have been sold over 1 million times.

Monday, 11 April 2016

The Report by Jessica Francis Kane

On a March night in 1943, on the steps of a London Tube station, 173 people die in a crowd seeking shelter from what seemed to be another air raid. When the devastated neighborhood demands an inquiry, the job falls to magistrate Laurence Dunne.

In this beautifully crafted novel, Jessica Francis Kane paints a vivid portrait of London at war. As Dunne investigates, he finds the truth to be precarious, even damaging. When he is forced to reflect on his report several decades later, he must consider whether the course he chose was the right one. The Report is a provocative commentary on the way all tragedies are remembered and endured.

Being a Bethnal Green girl myself I was very interested to read this book as I was completely unaware of this tragedy when I was growing up there. Maybe that was due to the egocentricity of youth but I am fairly sure that I never heard anyone speaking of it. 

Also, the government of the day wanted this huge civilian disaster kept quiet for reasons of their own and this is certainly the first fictionalised account of the catastrophic events on 3rd March 1943 that I have come across. Ms Kane has done well to highlight this event and written about it so sensitively.

Her writing style is sparse and to the point which makes this a compelling read. It is a dark tale that creates real emotion in the reader as we learn  about the experience of the survivors of this devastating accident.

What I really liked about this book is the humanity which the author portrays through the characters. Whilst the government were looking for somewhere to pin the blame for the accident the author demonstrates how multi layered and complicated the disastrous events really were.

This is well worth reading and I think anyone who enjoys historical books will enjoy this.

ISBN:  978-1846272806

Publisher: Portobello Books

About the Author

Jessica Francis Kane is the author of The Report, a finalist for the 2010 Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize from the Center for Fiction and a Barnes & Noble "Discover" pick. She is also the author of the story collection Bending Heaven which was published in the US and the UK. Her stories have been broadcast on BBC radio and have appeared in many publications, including Granta,Virginia Quarterly Review, McSweeney’s, The Missouri Review, and Michigan Quarterly Review.Her essays and humor pieces have appeared in SalonMcSweeney’s Internet Tendency andThe Morning News, where she is a contributing writer. She lives in New York with her husband and their two children.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Dying Fall by Elly Griffiths

Ruth Galloway, forensic archaeologist, spends her life looking at death. But now death has found her, with the news that her long-time friend Dan Golding has been killed.

Ruth's grief soon turns to suspicion when she receives a desperate letter from Dan, sent the day before he died. He had made a ground-breaking discovery - and was petrified of the consequences.

Ruth is compelled to travel north to investigate further, alongside DCI Harry Nelson who is also drawn into the case. But where Ruth goes, so does her daughter, Kate. This time, the risks are even higher.

This is number five in the Ruth Galloway series. I have already read the first four, The Crossing Places, The Janus Stone, The House at Sea's End and A Room Full of Bones.

The more of these books I read the more I like the character of Ruth Galloway. She is portrayed as such an ordinary person with flaws and insecurities that make her very easy to identify with.

Ms Griffiths is very skilled indeed in the way that she portrays both her main characters and the more peripheral ones. In this book in the series we get to know more about Cathbad, Ruth's colleague and friend, and I really enjoyed being able to do so.

I am very impressed that five books into the series the author is able to pull off such good fiction writing. Lets face it, we have all read series where the books get weaker as the series progresses but that is absolutely not the case with these books. The twists and turns in the plot are still as entertaining and I think it takes real skill as a writer to be able to keep up the impetus.

I already have the remainder of this series on my Kindle and I am very much looking forward to reading them very soon.

ISBN: 978085738896

Publisher:  Quercus

Elly Griffiths' Ruth Galloway novels take for their inspiration Elly's husband, who gave up a city job to train as an archaeologist, and her aunt who lives on the Norfolk coast and who filled her niece's head with the myths and legends of that area.

She has two children and lives near Brighton.