Sunday, 3 May 2015

Books: April Fifty Two in Fifty Two

"There are two motives for reading a book; one, that you enjoy it; the other, that you can boast about it" - Bertrand Russell
I've really struggled to find books that I've been absorbed by recently. I've started half a dozen - but just couldn't concentrate on them. April shall therefore be known as The Month When I Watched All The Box Sets. 

40. Marian Keyes, Anybody Out There? 2/5
Oh, Marian. I thought I'd give Marian Keyes a second chance after really not enjoying her latest - I was so optimistic that this earlier one would be as good as Rachel's Holiday - it's got quite a few of the same characters, but no. It was dire. 
There's a bit of a formula to Keyes books. We start in the present with a bit of a "mystery". Why is Anna at home? What's wrong with her? We then do a flip back to "the start" and work out how she got to the present. Then we see the after effects... It's formulaic in structure, and unfortunately in plot line. 
I just wasn't bothered about Anna - compared to her sisters and their pretty rediculous plot lines, she's a really one dimensional character. The elements about grief and loss were well written, but it's a shame that Keyes ended up overshadowing it with a massive plot about psychics and mediums. Really not for me. I won't be going back to her others. 

41. Margery Allingham, The Crime At Black Dudley. 2/5
I'd heard such good things about Allingham's Campion mysteries - as one of the golden age of crime authors I was expecting to adore this as much as I love her contemporaries. Sadly not. When an odd bunch turns up for a house party, you know something is going to go wrong- when a tradition involving a dagger is reenacted, you almost want to shout at the characters. 
Campion, our hero and detective, is a decided oddball, but he's also very much a background character, bumbling around without our knowledge to find the villains. At the risk of giving the plot away - it's not your average murder mystery. There's a criminal gang, someone gets locked in a wardrobe, and a major plot line involves the syphoning of petrol... I suspect the main problem really is that it's very much of its time. I'll give another of her novels a go, but probably pick a later one, when Campion is more established. This felt slightly more like a farce. Not my bag.

42. Louise Candlish, The Sudden Departure of the Frasers. 4/5
It took me ages to decide whether I enjoyed this month's Curtis Brown Book Group choice. You know there are some books which make you feel uncomfortable and a little voyeuristic while reading them, but you can't quite put it down? It's one of those.
Christy and Joe Davenport manage to buy number 40 at a bargain price - the previous owners left in a hurry, and no one on the street will tell them why. There's whisperings behind curtains, and people actively cross the road to avoid them. Clearly something is going on. The book is really two stories weaved together - as Christy begins to delve deeper into the mystery, we get to know Amber, who sold number 40 in a flash, and the reasons why she bolted. She's the opposite of Christy - manipulative, popular and flash with her cash. You just know something is going to go wrong - and it does.
I found it particularly clever how I was drawn to both sides of the story equally. There's an element of the 'haunted house' about the novel - Christy's dreams come tumbling down, and there's an unwritten question of whether it's because of her own actions, or because of Amber. Or did they both become victims of the house itself? There are parts which are decidedly difficult to read, as you see how the tale unfolds it's a bit like reading a car crash - but I was absorbed. It's hard to review properly without giving a major part of the story away, but I really enjoyed how Candlish handled a difficult subject and showed two sides of a situation incredibly well. If you're a fan of the current "female protagonist thriller" genre which is popular at the moment, I'd highly recommend it.


  1. I agree with you re the mediums sub plot in the Marian Keyes - elements of the book were good but that part didn't quite work. As chick lit goes though, I do think she's one of the better examples - I'm very fond of "The Last Chance Saloon" which is a non Walsh sisters one.

  2. That last one sounds intriguing, I'll keep an eye out for it. I love Marian Keyes' earlier novels - both Walsh sister ones and the others - but her last 4 or 5 have been hugely disappointing.

  3. I have read zero books in April. I am going to put the Louise Candlish one on my list. I am currently reading Ali Smith's 'How to be Both'.