#Bookreview Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman #Netgalley #literaryfiction

Eleanor Oliphant is thirty years old and lives alone. With no friends and family around her and a difficult past she keeps under wraps, she is also rather prickly and judgemental. When she meets new IT help, Raymond, at her place of work the two strike up a rather unlikely friendship which leads to Eleanor questioning her ideas and opinions and giving her a glimpse of a normality she never had.

This really was a beautiful story of friendship and self-discovery. It was undoubtedly hard to read at times and I really became invested in Eleanor and Raymond as I devoured this book in one sitting.

Like many fans of this novel I felt bereft when I came to the end and would love to read more about Eleanor navigating life which seems to befuddle us all in differing degrees from time to time. Please say there will be a sequel!

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#BookReview Stoner by John Williams #literaryfiction #Thursdayblogs

​William Stoner is the only child of a small impoverished farmer, who gets the opportunity to attend university to read agriculture, however, during the compulsory English literature modules of his course he finds himself awakened to a joy of literature which changes the course of his university career and life. 

This is quite a sad read that did ultimately move me, but also perplexed me. There was a huge amount of telling not showing in this novel. The conclusion of the book is pretty much spelled out early and the story is told after the reader is aware of Stoner’s legacy. 

Overall you do get hooked to reading about Stoner and rooting for things to take a more positive turn in his life, but the strength in this story is the melancholy that ultimately descends when you finish the book. Not an easy book to read particularly if you don’t have in-depth knowledge of early English literature but one that definitely impacts. 

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#BookReview The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry #Fridayreads #literaryfiction

​This Victorian literary novel set between London and Essex follows the life of widowed Cora Seaborne, her young son and companion, Martha. Freed from the bondage of marriage to a cruel man Cora rediscover her passions and interest whilst side-stepping the quicksand that may lead her back to the tilted cage of marriage. When she moves to Colchester she is regaled by tales of a huge sea creature with wings rumoured to be haunting a small village. She decides to make her own investigations out of her avid interest in natural history and finds much to unsettle her, as well as friendship and acceptance.

Beyond any doubt this is probably one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read and although I found it a little difficult to get into in the first fifth of the book, I was engrossed by the time I got to halfway through. I loved the characters in the book and their complex intersection I was totally blown away with the science verses religion argument of the day and the hypothesising that science and faith need not be mutually exclusive.

This is not a work of fiction that can be easily pulled off by many authors and I am in awe of the author’s understanding of human nature and the fears of the time, which may not be all that different to our fears of today. A worthwhile read that I wholeheartedly recommend.

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#BookReview The Sellout by Paul Beatty #literaryfiction

​This biting irreverent satirical novel looks at race in a black city, Dickens, that disappears from the map. The narrator of The Sellout has been raised in Dickens by a rather eccentric father, who subjects him to psychological research and exposes him to racially dominated psychological test and theories from a young age. When his father is shot in his junior year of college he moves back into their urban farm and grows exceptional crops, however when Dickens, no longer exists on a map a chain of events lead to bringing segregation back to the small locality with pure intentions and surprising results.

I found this book incredibly hard to read as I am not very familiar with the popular culture it refers to and this probably is the first satirical novel I have read. However, after I got past the Prologue and the first three chapters I became acclimated to the writing and dry sense of humour. The characters gripped me and their motivations were what kept me reading this book until the end.

What emerges for me from this, no doubt, highbrow read is how complex the issue of race and identity has always been and how little exposed we are, even if we consider ourselves well-read, to the vast issues and historical realities concerning the issue of race to date. As I ploughed through this book with an equal sense of confusion and curiosity I cannot deny it made me think and challenge my limited knowledge and reluctance to address race on a day to day basis.

This will be the most challenging and intellectual book I will read this year, but I do believe it’s one of the few times I will actually recommend a Man Booker Prize Winner.

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#BookReview My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal #literaryfiction #wwwblogs

​Nine year old Leon becomes an older half-brother to the perfect baby, Jake. However, their mother Carol isn’t coping after Jake’s arrival, which leads to the boys going to a foster home. Jake is adopted leaving Leon without a mother or brother trying to translate what the grown-ups mean. When Maureen, Leon’s foster- mother is taken ill more disruption leads to Leon’s anger and resentment for the separation he’s been dealt.

Based in the eighties, London, I found this book, told from Leon’s point of view, compelling. Being immersed in the era of my own childhood made this read special. At times funny but overall heart-breaking and provocative with a hint of optimism, there was no way to avoid feeling affection for Leon and reading him grow as the story progressed.

Beautifully written and utterly mesmerising, I really loved reading this and was sorry to reach the end and disengage from the characters. I emphatically recommend this read.

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#BookReview Beloved by Toni Morrison #literaryfiction #Fridayreads

Just after the American Civil War, Sethe lives with her daughter Denver in a house away from everyone, but they are not alone. When Paul D arrives and sees Sethe for the first time in eighteen years he has his own baggage, but nothing prepares him for the secrets and events that befell Sethe. As he stays around mother and daughter the past has a way of coming to mind for Sethe and Paul D, but when they encounter a young stranger things seem to get more intense.

Although this acclaimed work of literary fiction is centered around the theme of civil rights, the horror within the book evoked a visceral reaction in me and I found the book difficult to put aside but equally difficult to read in long sittings. Not a book that I will easily forget, Beloved is a must read but one that requires a fair amount of emotional resilience.

Dealing with difficult themes like torture, lynching and infanticide this is a memorable read, but one that pulls no punches.

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#BookReview Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty #contemporaryfiction

​One fateful barbeque will change things for three couples in ways they could not imagine. Erika and Clementine are childhood friends with a complex relationship that often seems like they are bordering on being frenemies, so when one planned dinner becomes a barbeque at Erika’s neighbour’s home, she is happy to relinquish the burden of hosting and Clementine is equally happy to have another couple buffer between her and Erika.

However, something occurs at that barbeque which strains the relationship between friends as well as between husband and wife, it is far from clear what actually happened at the barbeque for the first quarter of the book, but as more about that day is revealed, I found myself getting more gripped by the story. But I have to say the first quarter is hard going because we are kept in the dark, the story is told by half a dozen narrators and keeps going back and forward in time, which even for an experienced and focussed reader, maybe asking a bit much.

After getting about halfway through the book I appreciated it much more and having only read one previous book by the author a few years ago I didn’t keep comparing this read with easier works to enjoy. Truly Madly Guilty is about complex relationships and what makes them up. Ultimately I found the characters fascinating once I had got to know them and what they had experienced on the day of the barbeque.

Despite the slow start in getting into this book by the time I had finished it, I did thoroughly enjoy it.

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#BookReview The Children Act by Ian McEwan #literaryfiction

​Fiona and Jack lead comfortable professional lives, he’s a lecturer and she’s a Justice in family court. Fiona’s personal life starts to unravel when Jack wants an open marriage to feel one last passion. Hurt and bewildered by this she refuses to entertain his notion and he leaves. In order to cope with the feelings of hurt and betrayal she throws herself into work, which all things considered is a long standing crutch for Fiona. When faced with a case of Adam, a boy of seventeen years and a Jehovah’s Witness, who is refusing a blood transfusion in the treatment of his leukaemia, Fiona unorthodoxly asks to see the boy and talk to him herself. Her resulting judgement has a profound effect on Adam and Fiona, throwing all she finds of importance into question.

This is the only book I have read from this author and it wasn’t quite what I expected; I anticipated a legal thriller with some depth but I found the legalese in this book not particularly entertaining as one would expect for fiction but more cold and technical, like I was reading a case study.

Fiona herself is portrayed as a cold and emotionally contained character but I felt she was written without depth that would have given us more understanding of her as a character. I was surprised by how incredibly short the book was and finished it with a sense that the book lacked something that is necessary to push it up into the hall of fame of great reads.

Overall an adequate fiction read but misses the mark for me. 

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#BookReview The Wonder by Diana Evans #literaryfiction #wwwblogs

​Lucas and his sister, Denise, live in a riverboat and were raised by their maternal grandmother. Their mother died when Lucas was only months old and their father was estranged from their mother before this. With very little information about his father available, Lucas, a budding journalist, decides to track down this father’s past and find out where he went and why he left. 

This story is told from Lucas’ point of view, which alternates with the story of Antoney, his father, from boyhood to his years in a dancing troupe in London. Lucas discovers the tumultuous relationship between his parents and retraces his father’s steps. 

I thought the book was well written, but the story was not told in a way that made it easy to engage with Lucas, who was largely unaware of what we were learning about Antoney. It felt strange as a reader to be drip Fed details of Antoney’s life some thirty years ago, when Lucas, the struggling son had no idea of his father’s past. 

However, the story does come together to give a haunting ending and immerses itself in the local culture of dance and arts where it is set, in London. Not fast paced or adrenaline infusing, but still a beautifully haunting read about a young man’s self-discovery and his long lost father. 

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#BookReview Beautiful To The Bone by PG Lengsfelder #literaryfiction

​Eunis is born albino and has a birthmark on her face. Since as early as she can remember her appearance has caused her mother, siblings and virtually all who see her to recoil in disgust and fear. Eunis’s experiences scar her and lead her to try to quantify beauty, to understand why someone is attractive. Her question takes her from the American Mid-West to New York taking jobs that no one would particularly want to do. But the road to find answers is treacherous and full of heartache, especially for Eunis and her sensitive abilities.

The contrasting themes of scientific quantification of beauty, it’s existence evidenced in genealogy and DNA and Eunis’s supernatural perceptive skills clash in this powerful and heartbreaking story of a young girl facing discrimination and derision from those who should have protected her.

There were so many places I wanted to stop reading this as I was so moved and or appalled for Eunis but in the end I had to see the story to the end and I’m glad I did. Not an easy or light read, this one is demanding in many ways but I won’t be forgetting Eunis in the near future.

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