Friday, December 26, 2008
Set in the 1860s, Fingersmith is the story of two young women: Sue, raised among thieves in London, and Maud, a privileged lady raised by her uncle in the country. Sue is enlisted as part of a con scheme by Richard Rivers, aka Gentleman, who plans to secure Maud's fortune via marriage, and then have her committed to an asylum. The first part of the book describes Rivers' courtship with Maud, their marriage, and the trip to the asylum -- and suddenly things are not what they seem, and the plot goes topsy-turvy. Then Maud takes over as narrator, recounting the same events from her perspective and filling in blanks as to who knew what, and when they knew it. Not much more can be said about the plot without spoilers, so suffice to say that there are enough surprises to keep the reader on their toes, guessing at identities and truth.
Sarah Waters has written a brilliant tale of two very strong female protagonists, embellished with a number of colorful characters: Maud's uncle, whose life work is a scholarly study of pornographic literature; Mrs. Sucksby, who raised Sue and assists in running a petty thievery operation; and Rivers (Gentleman), who is as convincing as he is smarmy. I enjoyed every minute of this book; it was "un-putdownable".
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Sunday, December 21, 2008
But keep this in the back of your mind as you shop, bake, wrap, and read: Orange January!
Last summer, I hosted Orange July, which was a personal challenge to read books nominated for or had won the Orange Prize. Many of my fellow readers joined me, and a lot of fantastic books were read. Since that time, Wendy at Caribousmom has started the Yahoo Orange Prize Group, and we've declared that there should be two months in a year dedicated to reading Orange Prize Books - and waa laa, Orange January was born!
The rules are simple: Commit to read at least one book that has been nominated for or won the Orange Prize. Some readers devote the entire month to Orange books while other readers read one or two. It's a personal challenge, so make it work for you. The point is to discover some great fiction by talented female writers.
I hope you will join us on our Orange adventure!
Saturday, December 20, 2008
The Night Watch
By Sarah Waters
Completed December 19, 2008
Sarah Waters swept her readers away with a tale of love, war, betrayal and hardship in her historical novel, The Night Watch. Set against a backdrop of bomb-ravaged London during World War II, this novel explored the lives of four young people – Helen, Vivian, Duncan and Kay – plus their lovers, friends and acquaintances – as they coped with their daily lives on the home front.
Waters structured her novel using a backward timeframe, so that as each year unraveled, you learned more about each character and his/her secrets. The first section was from 1947, and admittedly, this was the hardest section for me to get through. The characters were introduced with very little connection to each other, but I got the sense that their secrets and relationships were somehow woven together. As the book progressed, Waters shined a little more light on each character and story, putting each piece of her puzzle carefully together. It was a brilliant story structure – one that only a talented writer like Waters could pull off.
Each character was developed into an unforgettable person – one you worry about, sympathize with and root for. The Night Watch is considered lesbian fiction, which does not make this a book for everyone, but I found the women’s relationships to be compelling and insightful.
This is my first book by Sarah Waters but certainly won’t be my last. Short-listed for both the Booker and Orange Prizes (and understandably so), The Night Watch was a fantastic look at the lives of young people affected by a terrible war – and how they made the best and worst of these times. ( )
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
It was heavily criticised in some quarters but I was thrilled when Helen Dunmore won. I had discovered her some time earlier courtesy of a magazine giveaway of "Burning Bright" and she had quickly become one of my favourite authors.
And I was equally delighted when Rose Tremain, an author I have loved for a long time, won this year.
I have discovered many wonderful books from Orange shortlists and longlists over the years through the years and there are many more that look promising that I have yet to get to.
This Blog looks wonderful and I am looking forward to reading more and sharing views.
I have listed the Orange books that I have read so far below.
Suggestions and recommendations for future reading are welcome!
The Road Home, by Rose Tremain
The Outcast, by Sadie Jones
The End of Mr Y, by Scarlett Thomas
The Monsters of Templeton, by Lauren Groff
The Observations, by Jane Harris
Digging to America, by Anne Tyler
The Girls, by Lori Lansens
What Was Lost, by Catherine O'Flynn
On Beauty, by Zadie Smith
The History of Love, by Nicole Krauss
Beyond Black, by Hilary Mantel
The Night Watch, by Sarah Waters
Disobedience, by Naomi Alderman
House of Orphans, by Helen Dunmore
The Constant Princess, by Philippa Gregory
Prep, by Curtis Sittenfeld
Disobedience, by Naomi Alderman
We Need to Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver
A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, by Marina Lewycka
Case Histories, by Kate Atkinson
The Remedy, by Michele Lovric
The River, by Tricia Wastvedt
The Great Stink, by Clare Clark
26a, by Diana Evans
Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood
The Colour, by Rose Tremain
Brick Lane, by Monica Ali
Notes on a Scandal, by Zoe Heller
The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
The Amateur Marriage, by Anne Tyler
Property, by Valerie Martin
Unless, by Carol Shields
The Autograph Man, by Zadie Smith
The Little Friend, by Donna Tartt
Dot in the Universe, by Lucy Ellmann
War Crimes for the Home, by Liz Jensen
Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold
The Cutting Room, by Louise Welsh
The Siege, by Helen Dunmore
A Child's Book of True Crime, by Chloe Hooper
Fingersmith, by Sarah Waters
Pop, by Kitty Aldridge
Five Quarters of an Orange, by Joanne Harris
Niagara Falls All Over Again, by Elizabeth McCracken
La Cucina, by Lily Prior
The Blind Assassin, by Margaret Atwood
Fred & Edie, by Jill Dawson
The Hiding Place, by Trezza Azzopardi
The Last Samurai, by Helen Dewitt
The Wild, by Esther Freud
From Caucasia, with Love, by Danzy Senna
If I Told You Once, by Judy Budnitz
White Teeth, by Zadie Smith
Girl With A Pearl Earring, by Tracy Chevalier
A Dangerous Vine, by Barbara Ewing
Island, by Jane Rogers
A Crime in the Neighborhood, by Suzanne Berne
The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver
Crocodile Soup, by Julia Darling
The Vintner's Luck, by Elizabeth Knox
The Most Wanted, by Jacquelyn Mitchard
Larry's Party, by Carol Shield
The Weight of Water, by Anita Shreve
Man or Mango? by Lucy Ellmann
Gaglow, by Esther Freud
Ark Baby, by Liz Jensen
Impossible Saints, by Michele Roberts
Fugitive Pieces, by Anne Michaels
Alias Grace, by Margaret Atwood
Hen's Teeth, by Manda Scott
Death Comes for Peter Pan, by Joan Brady
With Child, by Laurie R. King
Fall On Your Knees, by Ann-Marie MacDonald
Red Leaves, by Paulina Simons
Anita and Me, by Meera Syal
A Spell of Winter, by Helen Dunmore
Spinsters, by Pagan Kennedy
Ladder of Years, by Anne Tyler
The Ghost Road, by Pat Barker
Keeping Up with Magda, by Isla Dewar
Egg Dancing, by Liz Jensen
Mother of Pearl, by Mary Morrissy
Promised Lands, by Jane Rogers
Saturday, December 6, 2008
The Monsters of Templeton was short listed for the Orange New Writer's Prize in 2008. It tells the story of a young woman in New York State, as she finds out the secrets of her family tree, in order to discover the truth about her own life.
There were many things I loved about this book. The photos at the start of each chapter made the characters in the historical sections feel much more real, and the continual updating of the family tree throughout the book helped me to understand what was happening, as sometimes the large family became confusing. Unfortunately, some of the historical writing in the book did not seem true to it’s age, and so didn’t come across as very realistic. The letters weren’t as well written as the rest of the book, and I lost interest in a few of the characters further up the family tree.
The modern story in the book was excellent. The main character, Willie, was very well drawn. I loved her, despite her flaws, and really felt for her as she dealt with the problems she was faced with.
I loved the way the discovery of a monster in the lake was made to feel realistic. The scientific analysis of it at the end was particularly clever.
Overall, the way the story was well plotted, and the ending was very satisfying.
Originally reviewed here.