8 Oct 2019

THE WOMAN WHO WENT TO A BED FOR A YEAR.

THE WOMAN WHO WENT TO A BED FOR A YEAR by SUE TOWNSEND.


The day her twins leave home, Eva climbs into bed and stays there. For seventeen years she's wanted to yell at the world, 'Stop! I want to get off'. Finally, this is her chance.

Her husband Brian, an astronomer having an unsatisfactory affair, is upset. Who will cook his dinner? Eva, he complains, is attention seeking. But word of Eva's defiance spreads.

Legions of fans, believing she is protesting, gather in the street. While Alexander the white van man brings tea, toast and sympathy. And from this odd but comforting place Eva begins to see both herself and the world very, very differently. . .
- Back Cover Blurb

After they'd gone Eva slid the bolt across the door and disconnected the telephone.
- First Sentence; Chapter 1


Brianne said, 'That's what happens to women when they get to be fifty. It's called the men-o-pause.'

'So, what do they do?' Brian Junior asked.

'Oh, they go mad, shoplift, stab their husbands, go to bed for three days ... that kind of thing.'
- Memorable Moment; Page 38



SOURCE ... A charity shop buy.

READ FOR A CHALLENGE? ... No.

MY THOUGHTS ... Like most of the author's other books this is based on the absurdity of modern suburban living. However, unlike the author's Adrian Mole series this is where the comparison ends.

Perhaps an unfair comparison to make. After all I'm considerably older and arguably more cynical than when I first came across the books of Sue Townsend all those many years ago. Then again, of a similar age to Eva (The Woman Who Went To Bed For A Year), albeit I don't have an adulterous husband living in the shed nor twins just off to university, I had hoped to find some common ground (other than the occasional desire to go to bed for a year that is) with at least one character (if not Eva than someone else) but alas ...

Quirky/eccentric bordering on pure bonkers ... Hmm!
Taken in isolation whilst many of the characters had personality traits I could relate to and/or found interesting, combined these individual traits equalled characters I just found OTT

Essentially what I felt to be a pretty unlikable lot; selfish, narcissistic, as the book progressed I found myself becoming more and more frustrated by their actions ... 

Though not quite as frustrated as I was by the characters who once introduced played a less than negligible role; their stories left incomplete, abandoned. Or those who appeared so sporadically; who were introduced only to be seemingly forgotten until, what do you know, they re-appeared again just as you'd almost forgotten them. Or, perhaps most frustratingly of all, the character who you felt held such promise; who, enticingly dangled in front of you, were then snatched away before anything became of them.

Nigh on 450 pages long; with sub-plots, none of which are particularly interesting when taken in isolation, a plot that becomes overly farcical, the phenomena that sees Eva with quite a following running out of steam, a social commentary that, way beyond the bleakness that typically underlies the 'humour' of this author's works, is, quite frankly depressing (and, on occasion, grubby) its overlong ... and as for the ending. What can I say about the ending????

Beyond frustrated. Nothing is really resolved. What really prompted Eva to go to bed for all that time? Whilst things are hinted at we don't get to know. 

Rated 2 stars (It was OK) on GoodReads, given my review you might be wondering why.

A novel I felt had lots of potential; I did initially find it thought provoking ... that is until it all got really silly and I stopped caring ... and for all of my misgivings it did largely keep me engaged (or at least the first half did), its just a shame that to me anyway it lost its way. 


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1 Oct 2019

RUN.


RunRUN by ANN PRATCHETT.


Two sons are becoming men under the very eyes of their adoptive father, Bernard Doyle. A student at Harvard, serious tip is happiest in a lab, whilst Teddy, a gentle dreamer, thinks he has found his calling in the Church - and both are increasingly strained by their father's protective plans for them. But when they are involved in an accident on an icy road, the Doyles are forced to confront certain truths about their lives and the identity of an anonymous figure who is always watching.
- Back Cover Blurb

Bernadette had been dead two weeks when her sisters showed up in Doyle's living room asking for the statue back.
- First Sentence; Chapter 1       

See My Thoughts below for my Memorable Moment

SOURCE ... A Reading Group read.

READ FOR A CHALLENGE? ... No.

MY THOUGHTS ... The main arc of the story essentially following the twenty-four hours proceeding an accident which sees one of the Doyle boys injured, our 'Good Samaritan' (I'll refer to her as this though in a novel of little to no surprises its apparent from the outset just who and what she is) in hospital, what may (or yet again may not) be her daughter an unexpected guest of the Doyle's, an Uncle who, a Catholic priest, is credited with healing the dying. 

There was such a myriad of characters (characters I hasten to add that rather than coming across as organic read as if they had been created with the sole purpose of getting a viewpoint across) all neatly lined up waiting for their moment in the spotlight all wrapped up in an implausible story that is both seeped in Political Correctness (and what I can only describe as pious morality) whilst constantly  utilising the self same offensive clichés and stereotypes. Even if we got to know precious little else about a character we knew their race ... perhaps the author's way of taking on racism or just her obsessing about it, I'm really not sure.

Set in a snow laden Boston ... {sigh} if only this snow hadn't been the deepest thing about the novel.

Alas it was only the origins of how a statue carved by an Italian sculptor who ...

'was so moved by the descriptions he heard of her slender neck, her delicate ears, the red wings of her eyebrows, that he set Saint Francis aside in order to carve a likeness of Doreen Clark but because he didn't want anyone to think he wasn't doing his job, was also a statue of the Virgin' (pg 6)

statue that resembled Bernadette (the recently deceased mother of adopted siblings Tip and Teddy and great-great-great-great granddaughter of the said Doreen Clark) so much that it is said her sons believe 'it's actually a statue of her'; 

It was these 10 pages (10 pages out of a novel of 343 pages) that led me to believe Run was about one thing only for the rest of the book to go off at an unexpected tangent that actually had nothing to do with the beginning of the book, these 10 pages that led me to believe that here was a story I was going to like (was I disappointed!), these 10 pages that would have made for a great short story. 

The reality being this wasn't the story I'd hoped it was going to be. These 10 pages aside I'm afraid there was nothing else whatsoever about this novel that captured my imagination; the characters fell flat and as for the 'big' reveal??? Hmm!

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29 Sep 2019

BETWEEN A MOTHER AND HER CHILD.


BETWEEN A MOTHER AND HER CHILD by ELIZABETH NOBLE.


For Maggie and Bill it was (almost) love at first sight.


One impulsive wedding later and with the arrival of three perfect children, Jake, Aly and Stan, the Barrett family seem to have it all. Until the day their world stops turning.

In one instance, everything has changed in the cruellest of ways, and neither Bill, Maggie nor the children can ever be the same again. Clinging to the wreckage of her family, Maggie cannot even begin to fix things on her own.

Enter Kate: housekeeper, companion and shoulder to cry on. She's here to pick up the pieces and fix what isn't completely broken. But can Maggie trust Kate? And why is Kate so keen to help?

When Bill falls for another woman, Maggie realizes she will have to fight to put her family back together - but will they still want her?
- Back Cover Blurb

The dream, the one she had dreamt most nights for many, many months, always started the same way.
- First Sentence; Prologue

Please see My Thoughts below for my Memorable Moment


SOURCE ... On my TBR mountain for so long now I can't remember.

READ FOR A CHALLENGE? ... No.

MY THOUGHTS ... Not an author I've read before but looking at her back catalogue in order of publication this is Noble's seventeenth book which kind of surprises me. 

Reading a bit like a first draft; at 466 pages long I think a re-write/good editing could dispense of, oh, a good 100 or so pages. Then there's the ungainly structure and the lengthy descriptions that quite frankly could be cut. And that's to say nothing of the 
myriad of characters (some of whom are introduced then seemingly forgotten about until much, much later in the novel) whose points of view are randomly interrupted in favour of that of another character seemingly on a whim.

Given how big a deal characters are to me it was in fact these who disappointed most. Characters like middle-aged 'I fancy the arse off you, yes, but it's more than that. I really like being with you. I don't just want to ... jump in your knickers. I'd like to try and ... be together' Charlie*.

I don't know maybe it says more about the middle-aged men that I know but really? 

I'm afraid it wasn't just the cheesy dialogue that made him (and many of the other characters) unbelievable.


A 'I've started it so I'll finish it' reader; there aren't
many books I've thought were a waste of my time and even less I've given up on. Whilst I did finish Between A Mother And Her Child it did cross my mind that there was another (how ever many days it took me to read) that I'd never get back.

Oh well! Perhaps another one of the author's books will be more to my taste. Though somehow I think it will be a long time before I'm willing to give it a go and find out.

* Page 373 of the 2012 P/B Penguin edition I read.
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26 Sep 2019

WOLF WINTER.

WOLF WINTER by CECILIA EKBÄCK.


There are six homesteads on Blackåsen Mountain. A day's journey away lies the empty town. It comes to life just once, in winter, when the Church summons her people through the snows. Then, even the oldest enemies will gather.

But now it is summer, and new settlers are come. It is their two young daughters who find the dead man, not half an hour's walk from their cottage. The father is away. And whether stubborn, or stupid, or scared for her girls, the mother will not let it rest.

To the wife who is not concerned when her husband does not come home for three days; to the man who laughs when he hears his brother is dead; to the priest who doesn't care; she asks and asks her questions, digging at the secrets of the mountain.

They say a wolf made those wounds. But what wild animal cuts a body so clean?

- Back Cover Blurb

Swedish Lapland, June 1717

'But how far is it?'
- First Sentence; Part One

The bishop shook his head. 'We have such a problem. All over Sweden. The country is being torn asunder, and the women fight against their status, striving to sit underneath the pulpit, God help us.'

- Memorable Moment; Page 58


SOURCE ... On my TBR pile for that long I cannot remember.

READ FOR A CHALLENGE? ... No.

MY THOUGHTS ... With a plot and characters I'm having trouble remembering a mere, what, two/three month on? Oh dear! This doesn't bode at all well. Thank goodness for the copious amount of (often one word) prompts scribbled on a post-it-note that I invariably stick in the front of each book for just such an eventuality. 

Atmospheric and brooding I'll give you.The what I can only describe as lack of emotion when it came to the narrative something that took some getting used to for sure but, do you know, when I did get used to it I kind of liked. 

Other than that ...

A combining of harsh realities and ethereal other worldliness. A mix of utopia and dystopia. Caught between too many genres; historical fiction, murder mystery, family drama, ghost (some might say horror) story. Don't get me wrong, combinations of these CAN and do work its just that in this instance it felt all a bit, what, disjointed?

Why exactly did the newly arrived Maija take it upon herself to become some kind of Miss Marple and investigate a crime (a crime that not only threatened her safety but the feet of her daughter)? How exactly is  her husband (absent for much of the story) cursed (if indeed he is actually cursed)? Do you know, after awhile I actually gave up caring. 
  
Perhaps more to do with me than the author, I'm afraid my knowledge of Swedish history is pretty scant to say the least and therefore a little more background information woven into the story would have gone a long way in my understanding the actions/motives of certain of the characters; characters that as it was I couldn't connect with let alone root for or even invest in, the male ones of which (perhaps with the exception of the priest) all morphed into one another with little to distinguish them. 

Featuring paedophilia. An aspect of the story I particularly struggled with ... and not just for of the obvious reasons. Its difficult to explain (my sincere apologies if in my clumsy attempt to do so I upset/offend anyone) but I felt the whole matter was dealt with what to me felt like a very 'modern' approach to abuse rather than an eighteenth century one. 

And these are just my major niggles about the book, to have listed all of the minor ones ... Well, lets just leave it at this would have been a much longer post.

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