Thursday, 28 October 2010

The Life you Want by Emily Barr

‘The Life You Want,’ is Emily Barr's eighth novel and the sequel to her first novel Backpack. We pick up with Tansy a decade after Backpack and find out she's married to Max and has two children, Toby and Joe. In her opening sentence she tells us she thinks she's having a breakdown. Not only that but she drinks a lot, forgets to pick up her children and contemplates an affair with her son's teacher. But then out of the blue she has an email from a friend, Elly. who she met while backpacking. Elly asks her to go to India to help out in an orphanage. It seems, it’s the escape Tansy needs but Elly isn't all she seemed....

Even though I found Tansy an incredibly irritating character, I loved the book. It wasn't as good as The Sisterhood which was fabulous but it was a really enjoyable read. I loved the descriptions of Indian towns and what it's like to travel in India and, I admit, it sounded nothing like I expected it to sound. Like Tansy when I imagine India I think of poor people begging on the streets the whole time. Emily didn't describe it like that at all. Now I want to go to Pondicherry it sounded wonderful.

The book is written in first-person which was enjoyable because we got all of Tansy's thoughts. While I say I found her irritating, at least she admitted she was a rubbish mother and wasn't cut out to live in London forever with a steady job. It still didn't stop me thinking she was selfish though for leaving her husband and children to go off to India. She kept saying she wasn't like her alcoholic mother but she was. I alternated between liking Tansy and wanting to slap her. She was selfish to leave her kids but I liked her honesty. She's definitely an anti-heroine and is like Marmite - you'll either love her or hate her.

As well as Tansy's point-of-view we regularly read blog posts from a woman in the US called Alexia who is adopting a child from India named Sasika. We follow her on her journey, through her blog posts, all the way - even when everything goes topsy-turvy. I would have liked a few more blog posts from Alexia because it was a great part of the story and helped,also, with the main plot of the story. The ending seemed slightly rushed. Apart from that, I really enjoyed the book. I didn't find it as much of a page-turner as The Sisterhood but it was another great read from Emily and I look forward to her next. She is one of my favourite authors.


Wednesday, 11 August 2010

The Kite Runner

When this book first came out for some reason I didn’t fancy reading it but, as it was my reading groups choice this last month I read it and loved it and wondered why I hadn’t read it before.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini explores the nature  of friendship, of forgiveness and of redemption, set against the turbulent background of his native Afghanistan.

The son of a rich and popular merchant, Amir leads a privileged life, wanting only to please his beloved but demanding father, Baba, and to play with Hassan, the child of Ali, Baba’s lifelong servant. Both Amir and Hassan are motherless. They spend almost all their time together, playing games and sharing stories in their favourite pomegranate tree. An encounter with Assef, the local bully, in which Hassan springs to Amir’s defence has appalling consequences, destroying their friendship and driving Amir to desperate measures to rid himself of Hassan, measures which result in a puzzling reaction from his father. When Ali and Hassan decide to leave of their own accord, Amir’s relief is short lived; he knows that his cowardice has been detected.

Baba and Amir are soon in flight themselves when the Russians invade. They flee first to Pakistan, then to America where Baba’s old life of influence and power is at an end.  They make a new life for themselves, embracing the San Francisco Afghan community, one of whom Amir eventually marries. But Amir remains haunted by his failure to protect  Hassan, unable to enjoy his success as a novelist and his marriage to Soraya, convinced that their inability to have a child and his father’s death are punishments visited upon him.

Amir is rescued by a phone call from Baba’s old friend, Rahim Khan, who offers him the chance of redemption. Once in Peshawar, where Rahim is dying, Amir learns that he is to find Hassan’s lost son. In so doing, he must summon his courage and face not only his old enemy, but also the destruction that has been wrought upon his homeland. In  return, he is rewarded with the truth about his relationship with Hassan and a greater understanding of his beloved Baba.

This is well worth a read, an excellent book, as I said I loved it!


Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Brightness Falls From The Air - James Tiptree Jr

Awesome auroral displays and a strangely heady time-flurry were all that were generated when the two outer novas expanded and passed over the tiny remote planet of Damiem. There was little danger, in fact no more than a stunning light show whose radiance shimmered seductively and majestically, sending benign tremors through the bosies of the excited onlookers.

Now the last - the core nova - was ready to burst from the very heart of the shell that had once been a star. Only from Damiem could it be seen, but none of the witnesses who had eagerly gathered to watch the spectacle would ever forget the events of that night. Because when the time came to recount what they'd seen, there would be so few left to remember....

A reasonable sci-fi read that I got through in a few days, as it kept me interested enough to want to find out how it all panned out fairly quickly. The concept, characters and world were interesting but some of the plot was a little predictable.... didn't spoil it though. :0)

Registered with Book Crossing and available if anyone wants it. :0)


Tuesday, 30 March 2010

The Last Wife of Henry VIII - Carolly Erickson

In this powerful historical novel, Carolly Erickson vividly brings to life Catherine Parr, an alluring young woman and the cleverest of Henry VIII's wives. Catherine attracts the lust of the dangerous and mercurial king and finds herself thrown into the intrigue-filled snakepit of the royal court, all the while hiding her feeling for her true love, Thomas Seymour.

While all around, victim's of the king's wrath suffer torture and execution, the witty and resourceful Catherine survives. But even after Henry's death, her struggle continues when she has to fight for the affection of her beloved - a contest that will cost her dearly.

If you want a story that rigidly sticks to the known historical facts then you won't find it here.... what you get, instead, is a reasonably entertaining story built around the main historical characters that loosely follows the facts. Purists would probably be irritated by this.
It was a slightly different take to the many Tudor based novels I've already read - an easy read that suited being picked up in the odd few spare minutes, then being put down again.

Registered with Book Crossing and avaialble if anyone wants it. :0)


Thursday, 25 February 2010

'Every Light in the House Burnin' by Andrea Levy

Every Light in the House Burnin' was Andrea Levy’s first novel, and is semi-autobiographical written in 1994. The story is of a Jamaican family living in London in the 1960s . They arrived from Jamaica in 1948 for a ‘better opportunity’ the Dad, Mr Jacob in the story’s own words and in all probability her own Dad’s words too as this mirrored her own life.
Six months after her mother followed him and they set up home in a council flat in Highbury, London. The story is told by the youngest child, Angela.

Twenty years and four children later Mr Jacob has become seriously ill and starts to move unsteadily through the care of the National Health Service and the chapters swing between that time and Angela’s memories of her childhood life. I loved this book and was sad when I got to the end; the innocence of the parents in a very prejudicial England, their outlook was to keep low and not make a fuss made me feel sympathetic towards their plight. When the Dad was very ill they were typical of that time that they didn’t want to trouble the Drs. It was Angela then in her early twenties, who tries to help her mother through this ordeal. Delightful little insights to girls growing up in the sixties was just as I remembered this time.. I am that old!
Well worth reading, perhaps you saw her ‘Small Island’ televised in two parts on two Sunday evenings just before Christmas?