Thursday, December 18, 2014

Private Papers by Margaret Forster

Private Papers

I read about this author but it was another book by the same author that I got.  Invariably for me, it is always like this. I do not get the book recommended as it is out with a huge waiting list or  never around. I take the next one available because a good author is a good author!

This did not disappoint. A download from Open Library.  I wish the site was more user friendly. They can give me innumerable choices if I type in an author I am interested in but there is no way to browse through category, era or interest. You have to know what you are looking for with this site but I do get very good books from here.

Penelope our main character is the Mother - she is also now old. Her children are all grown up and rather patronizing and condescending of her behavior both present and past. Particularly the past. Penelope was brought up in an orphanage and married very young, a doctor who volunteered in WWII and never came back. She single handedly brought up her large family and in her opinion family came first and hence she put their needs before anyone else's.

The story told in two characters both Penelope and her eldest daughter Rosemary are alternate - both overpowering strong characters who thought their way was the best. It is a story of how most families operate. A lot of give and take, a lot of forgiving and forgetting and putting aside differences for the good of all.

The story of the Butler family is told against the fabric of breakout of WWII and the massive changes that took place socially. This was particularly so for women and women of the older generation like Penelope got caught in the middle not knowing exactly what was expected of them at the present times.

This was a very intriguing read. You got caught up in the moment and wanted to slap Rosemary for her high handedness. On the other side you wanted to shake Penelope out of her implacability. Very good book.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Family by Caroline Leavitt

Nick grows up in a loving family but the fairy tale ends when he is orphaned and put into a boys home.  He stoically waits out his time there and then branches out independently on his own.

He falls deeply in love with Dore and they are both happy specially when a baby is born to them. With the sudden tragic cot death of the baby Nick and Dore drift apart. They do not seem to have any means of communication between them and the death of the baby seems to be a divide that they cannot get over. Both suffering immensely in differing ways they drift permanently apart.

Nick in the meantime finds a second love with Leslie and has a daughter with her. The gradual disintegration of the marriage and how Nick finds himself trying to balance his love for his daughter and handle his feelings for Leslie as well. Leslie herself does not have a good relationship with Robin however much she tries and the story seems to be about family and how relationships can disintegrate, break up and get destroyed. It also shows how divided love can be and how it seems quite feasible for some men to love two women in different ways at the same time!  The story is quite convoluted at this point and goes into further complications for all the parties concerned.

Robin the daughter seems to be the pivot on which the relationship of Leslie and Nick revolves on and when she disappears from the scene, their marriage collapses entirely. How Robin's return helps the parents reconcile to a degree of cordiality is also evident in the story.

It is also frightening to realize how much children depend on their very survival for parents to just simply exist. Their entire future seems to be so dependent on this feature and how when this is absent the entire structure can fall apart so rapidly was nerve wracking to even read about.

This was a book that got me thinking on several different lines which is what good books are all about.

This was a book sent to me by Netgalley for an honest review. The publishers are Open Road Integrated Media.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Gracie - Women and War by Ellie Keaton

Gracie (Women & War #1)

This was a recommendation from Serena and one which I enjoyed. A free download from Amazon.  A short read it is a simple story set in the WWII background in Britain. 

The war in Britain seemed to have been unexpected. Most of the older folk felt that after WWI there would be no repetition of the war. The world in which England found itself was very harsh. The bombing of London was brutal and Gracie's life as a young woman is in this setting. Coming from a traditional family where parents decided what was good for their children,  Gracie is in service at the "big house" and here she meets Penelope the estranged grand daughter of the family. An unlikely friendship develops but this is a time of great change in England and the  system of upstairs, downstairs is fast disappearing.

Gracie's boyfriend too is not happy that she has joined the war effort and in addition all news of her twin brother lost during a battle seems at an end. Gracie however firmly believes that he is alive and will one day return.

The story of Gracie is a simple one of love and family set in dire circumstances.  This particular story very simply told has a happy ending which adds to the niceness of the story.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Friends and Relations by Elizabeth Bowen

The book is out of print and the chances of me getting to this one was remote. Fortunately Open Library had it and I was able to read it there. Highly recommended on several blogs including Book Snob and Fleur Fisher,  I was very glad I was able to find this one.

The story deals with relationships between four families - it begins at the wedding of a young couple where we are introduced to all the parties that form the story. The scandalous Lady Elfrida whose only scandal was that she is a divorcee seems to cause uneasiness wherever she goes. Hovering over it all are the Thirdmans just returned from Switzerland, seemingly lost with their precocious daughter Theodora who even as a teenager is out to create trouble wherever she goes.

Soon after one wedding, Janet announces her intention to marry Rodney the heir of Considine who was the lover of the scandalous lover.  Despite initial hesitation over the match because of the uneasy connection between the families permission is granted and things seem to settle down.

Fast forward ten years down the line and we see the two marriages. Steadfast true but rather dull going on in a very dull way. Theodora however is still very much there on the scene, still creating tiny little rifts without even seeming to do so. Over it all is Lady Elfrida and despite her relationship with Considine being very much in the past, and ancient history, it is still the elephant in the room.

I like the way the author describes in detail the history of this particular time, the formality of day to day life is handled well. I found also excess of passion on one side and the absolute lack of it in other relationships in this story also an interesting feature.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Season for Martyrs by Bina Shah

A Season for Martyrs

The story is told in two parts. We have the life of Ali a journalist for Channel 24 and then we have the imminent return of Benazir Bhutto to Pakistan from her exile in Dubai.

Both come from the same family of feudal zamindars of the Sindh community. Benazir Bhutto's father took his political leanings far and established a party which was at odds with the feelings of his community. He was for the common man, he sought land distribution (which did not go down too well with the people who owned land), he also sought the upliftment of the common man. For this he paid the ultimate price. His daughter took up the political baton and was set to  make wide sweeping changes. That this could happen in an orthodox Muslim country was in itself a massive story. That it actually happened is the fact.

Ali's life is also complicated. Involved in a love affair with a Hindu girl which in itself was a no no from both sides he knows that the chances of this love affair reaching its goal is almost impossible. His story that his father is dead just to avoid scandal is also not helping him or his family. His father has taken a second wife and moved away - he not acknowledging his father's existence is causing him more heartbreak than he imagined. The relationship between father and children has been distant and Ali as a young man is now feeling its absence the most. Ali has also secretly applied for a visa to the US and when this gets known to his family he is treated with suspicion because he did not disclose this to them. Trying to reconcile his personal life with the professional is also hard for Ali. He supports Benazir Bhutto but at the same time is skeptical about her aims. The corruption charges against the Bhuttos has not gone away and he is aware as do most of Pakistan of their enormous wealth both in Pakistan and abroad and he wonders how this came about.

The story then shifts to Bhutto's planned arrival in Pakistan and the events that preceded it. The dismissal of the Chief Justice and the breakdown of law and order was huge at the time as other than bringing in the military hard, there was no way for Musharaff to stay in power. Like most autocratic regimes the army was brutal and the death toll and the missing toll was very heavy.

A story of personal lives and political turmoil combined, alongside a fascinating slice of history and the development of a country goes alongside each other in this book.

Loved it.

Sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of Open Road Integrated Media.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Mailbox Monday/It's Monday! What are you reading?

Doing this post way ahead of schedule as I am leaving for Vietnam on a ten day trip tonight! Looking forward to this ever so much. It is the first time I have joined a guided tour so I am hoping it will all work out.

My books are all from Open Library.

        Cover of: Hiding from the light by Barbara Erskine

I read the first one and its already up for review in January. I found it a wonderful book about human relationships and the varieties of human nature that one comes up against in a single family. In this one every good and bad one is portrayed very well.  It is my first Margery Sharp read.

I do not know whether I will be able to get anything read on this trip though I am taking my Kindle with all its downloads. I hope I will be able to get some reading done.

Having a long break in Singapore on the return trip. Looking forward to Christmas décor there. They always do a splendid show!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Difficult Husbands by Mary de Laszlo

Three friends all in the same age group of forties. Three husbands all twenty years their senior. Now after a decade or more of marriage, we find their lives disintegrating with husbands either looking elsewhere, drunk and disorderly or just disinterested in their wives and families. Trying to at least keep their children within the family unit is hard. Most of the children are grown up and finding it difficult/impossible to cope with such fathers. They prefer to stay away from the family home rather than seeing their fathers. How the three wives come up with a scheme to try to bring some sense to their wayward husbands as well as keep their families close to them is a heart breaking and funny story here.

Lorna is the only one who is actually divorced. Gloria seems not able to let go of her permanently drunk husband however much of a no gooder he is and Rosalind seems to always make some kind of excuse for her philandering husband.  Despite Lorna's husband being out of the scene and shacked up with a much younger woman, Lorna still yearns for the marriage that was and does not seem to be able to let go.

A surprise inheritance in the form of a country house and the arrival of Nathan on the scene seems to be the catalyst that sets inadvertently all three women free. The outcome of the inheritance and the role it plays is strange but it does seek some closure for all.

The setting of Ravenscourt in winter and the time being Christmas was good for me as well. My first sort of Christmassy read as well. I have read many books where a house becomes almost as big a character as the characters themselves and this was one of those books. Nice!

The book was sent to me by Netgalley via Bookouture. Thank you.