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Sunday, June 30, 2013

MAILBOX MONDAY/IT'S MONDAY! WHAT ARE YOU READING?


Mailbox Monday hosted by Dolce Bellezza for June.


Under the Jewelled Sky

I love books set in colonial India. Sri Lanka did not share such a colorful colonial history as India did. The British built a wonderful system of roads and railways in Sri Lanka, established the Railway Department and practically the entire system of Government but the actual stories of Britishers in Sri Lanka are not as colorful or vivid as those who lived in India.




Hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Still playing catch up with work - only being back five days to so much to do. 

Re reading a couple of Georgette Heyers as I do not seem to have much time for reading. 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

FLORA by GAIL GODWIN

Flora


Ten years of age Helen is precocious and not easy to handle. She has a guardian after the death of her grandmother to whom she was very close to and is fairly condescending and patronizing towards Flora whom she knows she has to tolerate as there is no other choice. Helen must have been difficult to handle but Flora seems to either overlook her attitude or is dense to the point that she does not see it.  This was an irritating aspect in Flora's attitude that she just did not get Helen's feelings and continued oblivious to it all.

The tricky, unbalanced relationship between Helen and Flora during just one summer is the story of this book. How it affects Helen during her entire life is the other story. A story of life and relationships and sadness over things that have happened and which cannot be undone. Once done is done. Also about a ten year old who definitely acts more than her age.

I was not overwhelmed with this book though it has got very very many positive reviews. 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

WHATEVER YOU LOVE by LOUISE DOUGHTY

Whatever You Love


This is the stuff of nightmares. Two police officers knock at one's door and say your child has been killed in a car accident.


The story is set in a small English town. A feature of this town is that there is a newly formed immigrant community, not really integrated into the life of the community and also nervous and fearful of  the attitude of their English neighbours. The car that killed Betty is driven by a man from this community.

On the surface it seems that though traumatic Laura is coping. That is just an outside show. Laura is not coping at all and she is lost. Her marriage is in ruins - her husband is having a new partner with a baby on the way, the office is very sympathetic and all friends and neighbours are walking on eggshells where the subject of Betty is concerned. Laura appears calm and controlled. She maintains this facade but it starts to crack when the court deems the death an accident.

What happens to justice as seen on the side of the victim. Is one willing to see someone walk away scot free and how will Laura cope with this verdict. The story puts you the reader on the spot. You have to face very nasty, hard questions. What will you do in the circumstances and do you really understand Laura's subsequent actions and behaviour.

This was a tough read. A question that one would shy away from. I doubt anyone would want to willingly face the question head on. Described on Goodreads as a poignant, psychological story - I'd say the description is spot on. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

FAR TO GO by ALISON PICK



Historical fiction at its very best.

The horrible influence of Nazi Germany sweeping through Europe also touches the Sudetenland in Czechslovakia. The area has been handed over to Germany and the Jews in this area are doomed. Being secular and patriotic is not going to help you as in the case of the Bauer's despite all the good you do. Owner of  a factory and providing employment to many and not a conservative Jew does not help him. Despite the entreaties of his wife to secretly arrange visas for them to go somewhere safe, he believes that being such a secular Jew is going to help him.  At this stage no one wants to befriend or even show that they know a Jew and it is only Marta their governess who shows absolute faith and loyalty by working for them. Her love for the little boy Pepik is abundant and she is determined to protect him at any cost. Realising very late that things are going from bad to worse, he arranges to send his only child to England to be brought up by a family there. He believes the arrangement is purely temporary. not realising that this is the last he will see of his son.

A story of love and betrayal, of family and friendship and the quirk of coincidence which weaves a tale of sadness, loss and the overwhelming influence of Nazi Germany on the lives of not just those who lived in the era but also of generations to come. 

Another read from me for the Historical Challenge 2013.


TYRINGHAM PARK by ROSEMARY MCLOUGHLIN



I went into this book thinking it would be shades of Downton Abbey but it was somewhat different.

Set in Ireland from 1917 coming in to 1943 it starts in Dublin then surprisingly goes across to Australia and then returns dramatically to Tyringham Park. 

Victoria is a toddler who disappears from the Park and her absence is felt most keenly by her elder sister the thoroughly mixed up Charlotte. The mother is twisted, jealous of her daughter and bitter with her husband. The nanny Nurse Dixon would today be classified as an abuser who torments Victoria all the time, hiding her abuse from all other than fellow servants who suspect but who do not help because of the overpowering authority of the lady of the house. No wonder that Victoria is depressed and will throughout her adult life have episodes of depression. 

Victoria is herself not a nice character - she has a horrible temper and is very capable of playing up to anyone who she feels will help her in whatever way she can. This "not nice" characterization of main characters in the book adds to the structure of the story because otherwise it would have just been another descriptive story of a great house set in a turbulent era.

Ireland at the time was just beginning to rebel against the land holdings of the great and famous. Those landlords were literally kings in their own domain and in this particular case cared nothing for those that laboured for them neither did he have any love for the land nor did he find ways of improving the lot of those who worked for him. He looked on his estate as a cash cow and was a crass, drunkard, man with homosexual leanings and decided views on everything. 

The story is full of frustrated women in the form of both the Lady and the Nurse, men who use their position of power for their own ends and the distinct categories of upstairs downstairs and how helpless people were in the face of tyranny from those in power. In this story however it is not only the poor who are helpless in the face of tyranny here the victims are also from the wealthy class who are tyrannized by their own background and family.

The book was a good one - the Gothic family saga and its individuals portrayed against an Irish history which in itself was full of flavour. 

Am back in Sri Lanka to fortunately a rainy period so that is not that hot or humid. Coming from freezing Melbourne it is a change and it is always nice to be home though I am missing children and my grand daughter Tia.

Monday, June 17, 2013

MAILBOX MONDAY/IT'S MONDAY! WHAT ARE YOU READING?


Mailbox Monday for June being hosted by Dolce Bellezza


Books which I have this week are

Flora.

A young girl growing up in the care of her cousin whilst her father works on a top secret project. Set in the 1940s.


Set in Hitler's era the heart breaking choices that parents throughout the centuries have made to protect their children.


Set in 1917 in rural Ireland, the divide is coming between the rich and the poor and life is going to change for all. A family story.

Whatever You Love

A hit and run driver kills nine year old Betty and turns her family's life upside down. Coping with grief and loss and the strange ways of a troubled mind.


The Chalice

Loved The Crown so I grabbed this one!

The Master Bedroom


Looking for The London Train came across this one. It is very often like this because the latest is never available when I want to read them but then I get on to a lesser known book. Equally enjoyable. 


Hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Right now I am a quarter way through Flora and am behind on all the reviews which will have to wait till I get back home!



Sunday, June 16, 2013

MY NOTORIOUS LIFE BY MADAME X by KATE MANNING

My Notorious Life by Madame X


Set in 19th century New York we have Axie Muldoon desperately poor, two siblings younger to her, father dead, mother helpless and alone and Axie determined to do the very best she can for her family. From the very beginning when she was such a young child, you know that Axie is going to be someone. This is not a person you can keep down.

Axie through various twists and turns ends up as a very experienced midwife in conservative New York. As a midwife her services are valued but also as someone who will help women with contraception and abortion. Axie believes in what she does and understands the plight of the women who come to her. Some of them have had five or six living children, a couple of miscarriages and only want to live to make sure their children will have the care of a mother. They are desperate and it is to Axie they turn to.

The fact that Axie becomes very wealthy in turn is a key to turning the men of the city against her and especially the doctors who feel that she is not qualified to do what she is doing. Envy is their main problem and this is fuelled by the sanctimonious feelings of a few who feel that what Axie is doing is not right. 

How Axie confronts society, whilst continuing to help women in need, and how she escapes the threat of jail always hovering over her (after one experience in jail) is beautifully told. In language which is down to earth and what Axie knew when she was growing up it becomes even more descriptive as she does not have airs and graces and remains true to her roots and her original background. 

The book also gives you very clearly the picture of the status of women at the time. Actually literally no status at all. There were no rights for women and particularly for wives it seems a very tough time to live in.  As usual I am surprised by the degree of poverty in America and more than the poverty, the fact that a lot of wealthy Americans seemed to ignore this fact. That is always hard to even imagine. Wealthy people (all over the world) seem to live quite comfortably with poverty by their side, most of them closing their eyes and ears to this and time has not improved this.

Also very descriptive of midwifery, contraceptive and pharmaceutical practices and methods of this era - made for fascinating reading.

Another excellent read.

Friday, June 14, 2013

LOST LUGGAGE BY JORDI PUNTI

Jordi-Punti lost luggage

Another book I heard on the bloggers grapevine courtesy of Cornflower Books. This was a bit of Houdini mystery. Now you see it and now you don't and after some time all the pieces came together beautifully.

Christof, Christofe, Christopher and Christofol - four sons, one father four different mothers in four different countries. Four sons and mothers who saw their father very little and then someone who disappeared from their lives. 

Strange how four sons, divided by language, culture and distance band together to find their father now deemed a missing person. How four of them very amicably go through page after page of their father's very interesting past to uncover why and what made him tick, what made him behave the way he did. The man was not a confidence trickster, not an intrinsically bad person but the upheaval in the lives of four women and four sons is a good story.

This is the last week of my stay in Melbourne. Going back to the last few months of trying to organise a wedding with the bride in Melbourne, the bridegroom in Ghana and the wedding in Colombo. There have been a few hiccups on the way. Hopefully everything will be smooth sailing from now on.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

DEATH IN SUMMER by WILLIAM TREVOR

Death in Summer


One of those sad stories which are rather mournful. Starting with a funeral. 

Thaddeus (even his name sounds old) is much older than his rather young wife Letitia who is killed in a random accident. Thaddeus is fond of his wife rather than in love with her and though her death has left him much richer than he ever was, he sort of misses her and is devoted to the baby. Unable to cope with such a young baby, he decides to hire a nanny and an advertisement for the post is put in the press and four applicants turn up.

No one is found suitable and the last is particularly inept.  Badly attired, with an obviously forged reference she is turned down but the matter does not end there. Pettie with her complicated background is besotted with Thaddeus, the house and what might have been and the obsessions of Pettie and her wild imaginations as to what could be are surreal, tense and frightening. 

The novel is mainly about human relationships and how the circumstances of our birth and upbringing could influence us and do, unless one is willing and strong enough to change not just our personalities and inherent characters (the bad bits I mean!) but is also willing to see that bad bits exist in us all and which with time we must try to get rid of. Everyone of course cannot and will not do this or even attempt to do so, or even acknowledge that bad bits exist!  The book typifies this. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

MAILBOX MONDAY/ IT'S MONDAY! WHAT ARE YOU READING?



Mailbox Monday being hosted for June by Dolce Bellezza.

This week in my Mailbox!



My Notorious Life by Madame X


The book set in 19th century New York sets out the life of an Irish orphan. Read about this one on Cornflower Books.



Another blogger recommendation. I cannot remember whom!

Today is a public holiday being the Queen's Birthday. Nice and quiet and everyone still asleep but very chilly.




Hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Reading this one. Another Cornflower Books recommendation. Finding it very intriguing.


Jordi-Punti lost luggage


Have a good week.



Saturday, June 8, 2013

ALYS ALWAYS by HARRIET LANE

Alys, Always


I'd read about this book on several blogs over an year ago but I always come to the party late but I am ever so glad that I finally did come. This was a book which could not be put aside. I had to read right through and finish it one go. 

Frances is a very small cog in a small newspaper.  Returning after a visit seeing her parents she comes across an accident in a rural area, informs the relevant authorities and stays with the injured woman till help comes. The woman eventually dies in hospital. The family are very glad that their wife and mother did not die alone and that at the time she was injured she had someone with her though Frances never thought that the woman was so severely injured that she would pass away. 

This family wants to make contact with Frances, and Frances herself likes this very much as it would give her an entrée into a world that she would like very much to be a part of. Using this to her advantage Frances develops the relationship to another level - encouraging the daughter Poppy and befriending her, even enduring her snubs and patronizing attitude in order to get a step into this new world. The attraction which I did not realize till halfway through the book was Laurence, the widower here and Frances skilfully and methodically makes her way so that she becomes attractive to him and part of their life.

The ups and downs of this new relationship becomes the third part of this story and it is so skilfully told that you are constantly wanting to know what is going to become of Frances of Laurence, of Poppy, Teddy and everyone else who is involved. Calculative, cold blooded and manipulative and at the same time full of charm, Frances is a force to be reckoned with.

This is a debut novel - amazing and un putdownable!

Friday, June 7, 2013

THE FAMILY MAN by ELINOR LIPMAN



Henry is Denise's ex husband. Thalia is Denise's daughter but not Henry's. When Denise married Henry, he legally adopted Thalia but at the time of the divorce Denise forcibly and very acrimoniously swept Thalia away which was heartbreak for Henry who loved his daughter dearly.

Wind down twenty odd years and in a chance encounter Henry has the perfect opportunity to get Thalia back into his life and into his house (adjoining maisonette). Henry is blissful with the arrangements, so is Thalia as Henry is the most uninterfering father imaginable. Paternal worries but not overbearing. Kindness and generosity personified.

At 29 Thalia is still not settled either personal life wise or career wise. Without giving too much away Thalia embarks on a career which is fraught with frolic, misunderstandings and mayhem with Henry standing guard (also in a legal capacity as lawyer) and father so Thalia always has someone at her back.

The book is full of strong characters - Henry and Todd both gay, Denise the ex wife scatty and at the same time very focussed, Thalia the fun loving daughter, Lillian the Jewish mother who knows it all and is just waiting for Todd's announcement about his being gay! and is about relationships. Specifically a beautiful father-daughter one which is enviable.

A lovely fun read!