Saturday, 14 May 2016

Jakob's Colours by Lindsay Hawdon

Amazon link

I'm finding some absolutely beautiful and also absolutely heartbreaking books in the library at the moment - this one, Jakob's Colours, was recommended by a friend, and is right up there with the best of them.

I am conscious that I've been using the word "beautiful" quite a lot in recent reviews, but just switching the word does not alter the fact that sometimes it is the best description. Jakob's Colours is beautifully written, and I adore the characters who inhabit its pages and the tiny cupboards within its walls. The Roma Holocaust - the Porajmos - is little-visited in literature, and rarely does any book telling the untellable do it with such devastating beauty.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

Amazon link

And the Mountains Echoed is a beautifully written, intense, and accomplished novel, as you'd expect from the author of The Kite Runner and the even more splendid A Thousand Splendid Suns.

I did feel that I'd have liked to have spent more time with some of the characters at the heart of the novel, followed them in more detail over all the years they travelled in search of what was lost, but that's a testament to Hosseini's engagingly human characters and powerful storytelling in what is both a heartbreaking and an uplifting journey.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

Amazon link

The Miniaturist is a wonderfully inventive and sensuous novel with fantastic characters - both human sized and miniature! - and a deeply engrossing plot. The sights and sounds and smells and claustrophobic politics of 17th century Amsterdam infuse this intelligent novel, and the plot has enough twists and turns to keep you guessing - even if you might have seen some of them coming! 

The key to the sheer delight of this novel is the core thread of the relationship between the central character, Nella, and the mysterious miniaturist, which is nicely poised between the beneficent and the sinister and keeps you reading avidly to the end of this excellent book.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Gingerbread by Robert Dinsdale

Amazon link

This is another beautifully written book: Gingerbread by Robert Dinsdale, is a wonderfully eloquent and genuinely disturbing contemporary fairy tale which is also as old and as wide as the forest into which we venture, fearing the wolves in men's clothing; the wolves in all of us, even those we love and trust the most.

This is an often heart-rending story about trauma and love, about memory and forgetting, about the past and the present, about trying to keep impossible promises, and is above all a wonderfully-written, frequently nightmarish story, as well as a thoroughly gripping read.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

At Hawthorn Time by Melissa Harrison

Amazon link

This book caught my eye while I was browsing the library shelves because I'd previously read - and absolutely loved - Melissa Harrison's previous novel, Clay.

At Hawthorn Time did not disappoint: whilst, in some respects, Jack and Jamie reminded me of the central two characters in Clay, it was the style of her writing as much as the theme of the misunderstood which echoes through both novels here, and the intense and believable truth she evokes in her characters.
Harrison steeps her stories in nature in both novels, and it is in At Hawthorn Time that this is more explicit and intimately, outstandingly successful.  Another beautiful, beautiful novel, evocative, intense, and deeply moving.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Amazon link

Anything I try to write about this novel will fail to do it justice.

It's a story about a blind French girl, her father, her uncle and his housekeeper; it's also a story about a German boy, his sister, and his friend; it's about miniature hand-carved houses which hold secrets, it's about snails, and it's about a blue diamond with a swirl of fire at its heart.

All The Light We Cannot See is a novel about light, and radio waves, and trying to be true to yourself and others, and keeping promises. It's also one of the most beautiful and devastating books I have ever read. I have swept all other books off my shelves and replaced them with this one.

Monday, 1 February 2016

The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers - an unforgettable journey

Amazon link

The Yellow Birds, Kevin Powers. This book. This book. I have never taken so long to read such a short book. Not because it was one of those books not worth the time, but because this book is worth the time.
Not a page went by I didn’t take in a breath and go back and read it again, even more slowly, sometimes many times before I could move on. It is a beautifully written, mesmerising book. It is also utterly devastating. It should be essential reading for anyone responsible for starting a war, and for anyone thinking of starting one, and for everyone in between. It is about the intimate experience of war, about the failure of memory to make sense of it, and about the necessity of trying to do just that. It is a psychological journey and is also a philosophical one – about choice, about memory, about trying to live and live on, but most of all it is about the disintegration war reaps at every level.
While there may be some faces missing from the last pages which I felt should have also been present in the shadows beneath the trees or traced along the lines of a map, this book leads you on an unforgettable journey, along a path of fires burning in the dust.