Wednesday 8 August 2012

Definitely recommended...

Packing my 15 holiday kilos recently, playing see-saw with my ToBeRead pile, as I begrudgingly acknowledged  that there could be a place in my life for a Kindle, I decided that whatever doom and gloom we hear about the publishing industry, the quality of accessible writing is just as good as it ever was. I packed:
* A Cupboard full of Coats by Yvvette Edwards - lovely writing style, this one’s to finish
* A Parachute in the Lime Tree by Annemarie Neary - I liked the look of this under the guise of research into the war period for a novel I might write
* The Sacrificial Man by Ruth Dugdall - because I’m a big fan of The Woman Before Me (see below)

* Love Gudrun Ensslin by Simon Corbin - no, I don’t really understand the title either but my respected writer-friend wrote it and he’s waited long enough for my thoughts.
I shall let you know what I think of this little collection, but for now, here are just some of the books which have blown me away over the years.
The Devil’s Music by Jane Rusbridge
Oh dear. How destructive family secrets can be. Andrew's had a difficult life at the hands of his angry father and grieving and absent mother. He isn't the easiest of characters himself but the peek into his life shows that he deserves some happiness. Will he achieve the closure needed to affect this?
One word springs to mind: lyrical. This tale is so beautifully descriptive and emotional, the characters incredibly complex and believable. I read this twice which is unheard of for me.

Room by Emma Donoghue
So much has been written about this Man Booker and Orange, amongst many other awards, nominated novel that I only really need to say that I feel its adulation is absolutely justified. Seeing five year old Jack’s captivity through his eyes is not as distressing as it may seem because his young and equally damaged mother has done such a good job of trying to give her child an acceptable existence in the most disturbing of circumstances. I’m not generally a fan of sequels but I would love to know how Jack and his mother got on in the ‘real’ world.

Simon’s Choice by Charlotte Castle
I read the first part of Simon's Choice on the writer's site, Authonomy, and once I could get my hot little hands on it, read the book in two nights. The premise is so clever. It's such a ridiculously illogical answer to give a child, particularly when you think that most parents will try not to lie, just give answers as tactfully as possible. But how on earth would you answer a dying child's desperate and scared plea for a hand to hold in the unknown world to which they're headed? Simon said what so many of us would have said and then he had to fathom out how to deal with his promise.

This is a gripping read with an ending I found very satisfying.

Alphabet by Kathy Page
A wonderful psychological drama. In-mate Simon is terrifyingly pleasant some of the time, the rest he's just terrifying. He admits he committed the crime and he's trying so hard to find redemption but he, and those trying to help him, are struggling to get into his mind. I was blown away by this book and when I learnt that author Kathy Page was a writer in residence in a men's prison it wasn't a surprise. Her attention to detail is brilliant, the picture she draws of prison life in the 80s in Britain is enlightening.

Glasshopper by Isabel Ashdown
Talk to anybody who’s read Glasshopper and they will pout and remember wistfully how adorable 13 year old Jake is, and how they wish they could give him a hug. Told expertly through Jake’s voice and that of his troubled mother, Mary, Glasshopper is the story of her descent into alcoholism. Jake tries his best to care for her while coping with the fact that his father and older brother have left home.

If you are someone known to weep at novels, you will not escape wet eyes with this one. However, the way most characters deal with, and accept, their own and each other's demons and failings makes this a strangely upbeat kind of read.

Also great in this genre: Hide and Seek by Clare Sambrook.

The Woman Before Me by Ruth Dugdall
Cate, newly returned to work as a single mum after a period of depression, is the ultimate decision maker in whether convicted murderer, Rose Wilks, will be let out of prison early. Cate must decide if Rose shows remorse for her crime but this requires Rose to take responsibility for a crime she claims she did not commit. Fragile Cate’s few unsatisfactory meetings with Rose and the people from her past form the basis of a terrifyingly subjective decision process. Will she make the right choice? Rose is pivotal in her getting it right but she’s playing games.

This is a page-turner with heaps of character observation to chew over. Wait for the twist at the end before you decide if justice has been done.

Another favourite psychological drama is, Chosen by Lesley Glaister.

Flying Under Bridges by Sandi Toksvig
I’ve sneaked this one in as one of my all-time favourites, I just checked to see that it’s still in print, which it is, and Amazon tells me that I bought it in May 2003. As you might expect, it’s absolutely riddled with dry humour and wry observation – even though the central character is talking to us from Holloway. It’s satirical writing at its best.

Tea With Guppies by Marika Cobbold is a similarly witty-serious drama I’d highly recommend.

I’ve also read and loved the mind-messing, Defending Jacob by William Landay, the beautifully atmospheric, Rook by Jane Rusbridge, the desperately sad and yet uplifting, Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward and the ‘Marmite’ book of, Before I go to Sleep by SJ Watson but as reviews of these are due to be published in Chase Magazine soon, I shall let you read them there first ;)

I’d love to know your favourite reads.  Until my TBR pile reaches the ceiling, I’m always open to suggestions.