Monday, August 27, 2012

Must Read of 2012

'He's in a place where there's just wind and waves and light, and the intricate machinery that keeps the flame burning and the lantern turning. Always turning, always looking over its shoulder.'
This book is tipped to be the 'must read' of 2012 so I had to have for my Kindle and have started it. The review is from the Amazon site.

Tom Sherbourne is haunted by traumatic memories of his horrific experiences in World War I. He is one of the men who have returned to Australia, as so many did not. He is not physically scarred, 'but he's scarred all the same, having to live in the same skin as the man who did the things that needed to be done back then.' Now, looking to his future, he becomes a lighthouse keeper. He takes a position on remote Janus Rock, off the coast of South-Western Australia, with Point Partageuse being the nearest community on the mainland. Partageuse is a place where everyone knows everyone else, and where, after the war, 'gradually, once again lives wove together into a practical sort of fabric..', where '..Janus Rock, linked only by the store boat four times a year, dangled off the edge of the cloth like a loose button that might easily plummet to Antarctica.'
He meets local girl Isabel Graysmark whilst he is on the mainland, they correspond with each other when Tom returns to the lighthouse, and they fall in love and marry. For Isabel, the war has instilled a sense of urgency into life: 'If the war had taught her anything, it was to take nothing for could snatch away the things you treasured, and there was no getting them back.' Moving forward in time to the mid 1920s, we meet them living out on Janus Rock together, with a sadness hanging between them that they have no children, Isabel having suffered miscarriages. When a boat is washed up on the rock, they make a decision that day which will change the rest of their lives, as the couple is torn between love and desperate need, and the truth and reality of their situation.

There are some beautiful descriptions of the places, which made me want to visit the fictional Partageuse. Equally, the remote location of the lighthouse, the effects of the weather, the detail of the daily duties Tom carries out, is all conveyed well, and very convincingly, so that the reader can imagine the routine of their days, sense the isolation of the lighthouse keeper and his wife, and feel the remoteness of life on Janus Rock. The effects of the War on the community in Partageuse are movingly described, reminding us of the involvement of Australia in that conflict.
This is stunning prose and heart-wrenching storytelling for a debut writer. Through the story, the author delivers many truths about life. She highlights the best and worst sides of humans, the amount of courage, the strength of love, the severity of intense pain, the cruelty inflicted by a decision made out of Isabel's desperate longing, the remorse felt. A lovely read, it is also heartbreaking as the story unfolds and the repercussions play out. I was willing all the characters to the 'best' outcome for all of them, somehow. This story really touched me, I felt quite deeply affected by it, and I cried at the end. I loved this book. It's a great debut novel.
Something to look forward to.....



Sunday, August 19, 2012

Themes for Book Club

Shakespeare's Sisters is a fun bookclub and we often have themed evenings like the one earlier this year when we had an Alice in Wonderland theme. Its not like we plan these themes at the beginning of the year - they tend to come from a random comment made during the evening that sparks something off.
In the past we have arrived dressed in bubble wrap, soccer kits, pyjamas, hats and dressed as hobos, witches and animals. We have even had a swimming gala! These evenings are fun - only this morning I was chuckling at the memory of a bookclub that was sparked off by a book which was turned into Tom Hank's film, 'Castaway'. We were all invited to bring an item we would take with us to a desert island. Our hostess had gone to town and dressed the house in nets, shells and even a sandy floor awaited us - or it could have just been that her home was opposite the beach! Suitably fishy eats were on the table and we revealed our treasures. These included (if my memory serves me right) Shampoo - What self respecting gal would be seen on a desert island with dirty hair? Mascara and Lipstick for similar reasons. A can of Coke - we have an addict in our midst! The Bible - to take advantage of all that time to read it. Chocolate - lets hope there is a fridge on this desert island! Sunscreen - this sparked off a discussion of whether starvation, dehydration or melanoma would get us first.
My item was to be a piano - We had one at home and I had always wanted to learn to play it - My sisters had lessons but the money ran out by the time I came along and I used to still in front of it and try to make tunes feeling hard done to! If I turned out to be unmusical, it could be turned into a raft and I envisaged sailing into the sunset on it. I changed my mind however after seeing Tom Hanks in the film eating raw fish and sucking the slimy contents from a crab's leg, and decided a box of matches would be absolutely essential.
We concluded that most interestingly none of us had brought our husbands to bookclub as the item we would choose to take to a desert island for survival. Hmm! We sipped our wine thoughtfully!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Dont Judge a Book by its Cover

I finished this book last night - on Kindle and WOW! One of the nicest books I have read for a while! I've read a few of Jojo Moyes' previous books - Ship of Brides, The Last Letter From Your Lover and The Peacock Emporium (meh) - but I think she's moved onto a whole new level with her latest offering. I highly reccommend it.

'Me Before You' features Lou Clark, a bright but directionless young woman who drifts between dead-end jobs until she eventually (rather reluctantly) takes a post as a carer to a young man who has been left in a quadriplegic state following a road accident two years earlier. Will Traynor had a high-profile, well paid career and a very active lifestyle, until it was all taken away from him in the blink of an eye as he crossed the road to hail a taxi. To say he's bitter and angry about the hand life has dealt him would be an understatement. His family are at the end of their tether, and shortly after Lou is hired she hatches a desperate plan to try to convince Will that his life is worth living.

Sounds a bit grim and depressing? Well think again. I've never noticed much in the way of comedy in Moyes's novels before, but this book had me alternating between laughing out loud and smiling wryly (oh and crying - more of that later), and I was reminded very much of Marian Keyes in her prime. I loved the affectionate banter between Lou and her family and the not-so-affectionate verbal sparring between Lou and Will.
And now for the serious stuff. The subjects of quadriplegia and the rights of disabled people are dealt with sensitively and compassionately. The descriptions of Will's day to day existence, which involves relying on others for almost every aspect of his personal care, really hit home.

Its an emotional read but it's also a very uplifting and life-affirming. It's not often that I become so emotionally involved in a storyline and the memory of this thought-provoking book and the wonderfully engaging characters Jojo Moyes has created will stay with me for a long time.

PS. I almost didn't read it because I thought it looked like a whimsical Chick Lit offering - so glad that I wasnt put off by the cover!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Book Club Catch-Up

There has been quite a gap between posts but that doesn't mean that I haven't been reading or I have missed club. Rather that I have been travelling and working. I always find time to read - books are my sleeping pill, my anti depressant and my tranquiliser! What have I been reading?

I read Fifty Shades of Grey as promised, and even though it is badly written, it is compelling and HOT! The other two books in the trilogy arrived at bookclub with brown paper covers so they could be secretly read! I have heard book two is better and I have it on my Kindle. I have also enjoyed "Far from my Father's House" by Jill McGivering. Set in Afghanistan, it's the moving and compassionate account of a family life torn apart by the Taliban. I was reminded of The Kite Runner and it was very well written with strong characters and a great story line.

I really enjoyed The Paris Wife by Paula McClain which is an account of Ernest Hemingway's life in bohemian Paris during the Jazz age 1920s where life is fuelled by gossip, alcohol and infidelity. Its written from the perspective of Hadley Richardson, Hemingway's wife, and gives a fascinating glimpse into her marriage to this talented, troubles, volatile free spirit. It made me want to find out more about her, read some of Hemmingway's work and revisit Paris!

I am currently reading "Why be Happy when you could be Normal" by Jeanette Winterson. A million miles away from Paris, its set in Accrington, Lancashire where the author was raised by her adopted mother, a peculiar, pentecostal, eccentric woman. It gives a hilarious account of growing up in Lancashire that I can really relate to. I have on my bookshelf this author's best selling novel, "Oranges are not the only Fruit," but have never found the time to read it. After enjoying her auto biography it's definitely my next read.
Mr Christian Grey will have to wait - he won't like that one bit!