Not so much a Break as a Hiatus

The Break Book Cover The Break
Marian Keyes
literary fiction, romantic comedy
Michael Joseph
September 7, 2017

The Break is the brand new funny, touching and truly fabulous novel from Marian Keyes . . . 'Myself and Hugh . . . We're taking a break.' 'A city-with-fancy-food sort of break?' If only. Amy's husband Hugh says he isn't leaving her. He still loves her, he's just taking a break - from their marriage, their children and, most of all, from their life together. Six months to lose himself in south-east Asia. And there is nothing Amy can say or do about it. Yes, it's a mid-life crisis, but let's be clear: a break isn't a break up - yet . . . However, for Amy it's enough to send her - along with her extended family of gossips, misfits and troublemakers - teetering over the edge. For a lot can happen in six-months. When Hugh returns if he returns, will he be the same man she married? And will Amy be the same woman? Because if Hugh is on a break from their marriage, then isn't she? The Break isn't a story about falling in love but about staying in love. It is Marian Keyes at her funniest, wisest and brilliant best. 'A born storyteller' Independent on Sunday 'When it comes to writing page-turners that put a smile on your face and make you think, Keyes is in a class of her own' Daily Express

I loved this book and read it and read it and read it. So much happened and the writing style engaged me and encouraged me to just keep on reading.

I am not normally a fan of Irish family dramas, but this was different and a grand exception.

This is a very modern mixed-up family. the children from many marriages and even one not ‘belonging’ to them. All provided for in a rather ramshackle way by Clare and then with her husband helping out – but not her previous husband at all… or the parents of the ‘not theirs’ child.

I am not sure how i would have coped with all her responsibilities. flying to and fro London and Ireland. running a commission based business with 2 lovely partners but still effectively self-employed. and not earning that much after expenses – which are high in the PR world. still establishing a business name, still trying to manage her wayward clients, still trying to help her girls through school and exams and business start-ups. and then there is her father with Alzheimer’s and her mother wanting help.

I am surprised she doesn’t have a complete break-down. but maybe she does? Maybe her behaviour is a breakdown of sorts – and who can blame her?



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Not that Book

The Scandal Book Cover The Scandal
Fredrik Backman
Sport, Psychological
Michael Joseph
August 10, 2017

The Scandal is published in America as BEARTOWN . . . AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER The Scandal tells of a terrible crime that fractures a town and all of the people in it. When the worst happens, who will have the courage to stand against everyone else? 'As popular Swedish exports go, Backman is up there with ABBA and Stieg Larsson.' The New York Times Book Review ________ 'Late one evening towards the end of March, a teenager picked up a double-barrelled shotgun, walked into the forest, put the gun to someone else's forehead and pulled the trigger. This is the story of how we got there.' For most of the year it is under a thick blanket of snow, experiencing the kind of cold and dark that brings people closer together - or pulls them apart. Its isolation means that Beartown has been slowly shrinking with each passing year. But now the town is on the verge of an astonishing revival. Everyone can feel the excitement. A bright new future is just around the corner. Until the day it is all put in jeopardy by a single, brutal act. It divides the town into those who think it should be hushed up and forgotten, and those who'll risk the future to see justice done. At last, it falls to one young man to find the courage to speak the truth that it seems no one else wants to hear. With the town's future at stake, no one can stand by or stay silent. Everyone is on one side or the other. Which side would you be on?

This is not that Book. It is another one.

This is not that story – it is another one.

A different story. A story of of passion and compassion. A story of communal mind-sets and beliefs.

A story full of characters, scenes, emotions, descriptions. Full but very readable. Slow paced yet still full.

I knew from very early on just what the scandal was going to be – roughly anyway. I knew what it would be about, when it would happen, where it would happen and who would be the main protagonists. But still I was entranced by the story of how we got there and how people reacted.

The writing for me was very powerful – the use of repeated phrases and sentences was very effective.

And the story of just how brutal hockey and the life in a very small and isolated dying town can be, and the need to conform to these small minds, was chilling.

Looking forward to the sequel.

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Was it a big hole?

Digging to America Book Cover Digging to America
Anne Tyler
Assimilation - Sociology, literary fiction, humour
Vintage Books

Friday August 15th, 1997. Two tiny Korean babies are delivered to Baltimore to two families who have no more in common than this. Every year, on the anniversary of 'Arrival Day' their two extended families celebrate together, with more and more elaborately competitive parties, as little Susan and Jin-ho take roots and become American. Full of achingly hilarious moments and toe-curling misunderstandings, Digging to America is a novel about belonging and otherness, pride and prejudice, young love and unexpected old love, families and the impossibility of ever getting it right... OVER A MILLION ANNE TYLER BOOKS SOLD âe~Sheâe(tm)s changed my perception on lifeâe(tm) Anna Chancellor âe~One of my favourite authors âe(tm) Liane Moriarty âe~She spins gold' Elizabeth Buchan âe~Anne Tyler has no peerâe(tm) Anita Shreve âe~My favourite writer, and the best line-and-length novelist in the worldâe(tm) Nick Hornby âe~A masterly authorâe(tm) Sebastian Faulks âe~Tyler is not merely good, she is wickedly goodâe(tm) John Updike âe~I love Anne Tylerâe(tm) Anita Brookner âe~Her fiction has strength of vision, originality, freshness, unconquerable humourâe(tm) Eudora Welty

I found this novel of life as an adoptee from a  culture so different from the normal America, to be uninspiring. I was bitterly disappointed as I heard good things about this novel. For me, even the insights into the thoughts of the various grandparents – the adoptees – were not enough to keep me reading. Though I did appreciate Maryam.

Having several Middle Eastern friends their culture is very familiar to me and thus perhaps this is where the story lost its freshness for me – I already understood so much of these cultures.

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Seeing the Sea?

Manhattan Beach Book Cover Manhattan Beach
Jennifer Egan
Contemporary fiction, women's fiction
Corsair; 01 edition
(3 Oct. 2017)

'We're going to see the sea,' Anna whispered.

Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to the house of a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. Anna observes the uniformed servants, the lavishing of toys on the children, and some secret pact between her father and Dexter Styles.

Years later, her father has disappeared and the country is at war. Anna works at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where women are allowed to hold jobs that had always belonged to men. She becomes the first female diver, the most dangerous and exclusive of occupations, repairing the ships that will help America win the war. She is the sole provider for her mother, a farm girl who had a brief and glamorous career as a Ziegfield folly, and her lovely, severely disabled sister. At a night club, she chances to meet Styles, the man she visited with her father before he vanished, and she begins to understand the complexity of her father's life, the reasons he might have been murdered.

Mesmerizing, hauntingly beautiful, with the pace and atmosphere of a noir thriller and a wealth of detail about organized crime, the merchant marine and the clash of classes in New York, Egan's first historical novel is a masterpiece, a deft, startling, intimate exploration of a transformative moment in the lives of women and men, America and the world. Manhattan Beach is a magnificent novel by one of the greatest writers of our time.

Whilst I have read the entire book it has not been a story that has gripped me and made me want to complete it in one sitting.

I have picked it up for Tube journeys on my phone and read as much as the journey has permitted and then left it until the next journey.

And yet I did find parts of it very interesting. For instance, when Anna  learns to dive. Finding out about what diving suits were like during the 1940s and how they worked was fascinating in a technical way. And of course the misogyny of the ship yards came through very strongly.

But this section exemplified what for me was the major problem with the book. The writing style. It lacked humour and tended to be dry rather than fluid.

The book jumped back and forward in time with no introduction, and each time I was lost for a while trying to figure out the year, and what had happened. Especially the section about Merchant ships.

There were a confusing number of names and I lost track of who was who each time it jumped.

For me, this was a novel with a story that should have been, but just wasn’t. Disappointing. Really a 2.5.

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The herd mentality

The Cows Book Cover The Cows
Dawn O'Porter
humour, contemporary, literary fiction
April 6, 2017

Fearlessly frank and funny, the debut adult novel from Dawn O'Porter needs to be talked about. COW [n.] /kaʊ/ A piece of meat; born to breed; past its sell-by-date; one of the herd. Women don't have to fall into a stereotype. THE COWS is a powerful novel about three women. In all the noise of modern life, each needs to find their own voice. It's about friendship and being female. It's bold and brilliant. It's searingly perceptive. It's about never following the herd. And everyone is going to be talking about it.

Well, not a book for those with a genteel mentality about how life can or ought to be lived by the young and fearless women of today.

It is frank about sexuality and Tinder and one-night stands.  It explains through the medium of a blog why women might not want children and why a single life with a young lover can be better for some women than marriage and 2.5 children.

And it demonstrates just how much there is a double standard when women are caught enjoying their sexuality as against men. And how the herd mentality works against women who don’t live by the conventional rules.

A great book for feminists and young women. We need to tell our young women that pink frilly dresses and blonde curls, and cute button noses and all that are not an essential requirement for success. And that we should applaud those who break the mould and become Chief Engineers and Space Scientists and childless by choice.

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