Books/book review/fiction

It’s all wrong

Everything you Do is Wrong Book Cover Everything you Do is Wrong
Amanda Coe
Fiction, Literary fiction, contemporary,
October 2017

Do You Know This Girl?

Harmony's teenage craving for drama is answered when a body is discovered by her aunt Mel on Evensand beach. But the naked, lifeless young woman turns out - problematically - to be alive. Unable to speak or remember where she came from, the woman is named Storm by her nurses.

Surrounded by doctors, psychiatrists and policemen, Storm remains provocatively silent. Harmony is desperate to fill in the gaps in Storm's story, while the responsibility Mel feels for the woman she rescued begins to skew the course of her own settled life. Their efforts to solve the mystery clash with the efforts of rookie constable Mason, assigned to the case and determined to help this damsel he feels to be very much in distress.

Will any of them be able to find out who Storm really is? And what if the distress belongs to everyone but her?

Everything You Do Is Wrong is a compelling exploration of how this enigma sets a family's good and bad intentions crashing into each other, with unforgettable consequences.

Harmony is the central character in this story which is centred around her experiences as she grows up. But there is a second story line that intersects – about a naked girl that is rescued from the sea by Harmony’s aunt and how Harmony’s family react to this action.

Harmony has had an unorthodox upbringing with a somewhat ‘hippie’ mother who does not believe in bras for young girls and has largely home schooled her. But when the story opens, Harmony’s mother is gone and she is left in the care of her mother’s boyfriend – who does not think of her as his daughter and mostly ignores her and forgets to buy food for her etc.

Mel, the aunt who rescues the girl from the sea, tries to look after Harmony, but has her hands full with 3 boys and several part-time jobs/charitable enterprises.

Each person in the family connects to other characters, so Mel’s oldest son dates the rescued girl’s  – who is mute and appears to have lost her memory – psychiatric social worker.

The story moves slowly, full of the minutiae of Harmony’s life, and the everyday occurrences of the family, the characters are slowly painted in until they become vivid in their totality. And the girl found on the beach is the central pivot around which the rest of the characters and the story revolves.

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Books/book review/fiction

What’s in a name?

The Lauras Book Cover The Lauras
Sara Taylor
literary fiction,
William Heinemann
(4 Aug. 2016)

I didn’t realise my mother was a person until I was thirteen years old and she pulled me out of bed, put me in the back of her car, and we left home and my dad with no explanations. I thought that Ma was all that she was and all that she had ever wanted to be. I was wrong.

As we made our way from Virginia to California, returning to the places where she’d lived as a child in foster care and as a teenager on the run, repaying debts and keeping promises, I learned who she was in her life-before-me and the secrets she had kept – even from herself. But when life on the road began to feel normal I couldn’t forget the home we’d left behind, couldn’t deny that, just like my mother, I too had unfinished business.

This enigmatic pilgrimage takes them back to various stages of Alex’s mother’s life, each new state prompting stories and secrets. Together they trace back through a life of struggle and adventure to put to rest unfinished business, to heal old wounds and to search out lost friends. This is an extraordinary story of a life; a stunning exploration of identity and an authentic study of the relationship between a mother and her child.

The Lauras is the new novel from the exceptionally gifted author of The Shore, which was long listed for the Baileys Women’s Fiction Prize and shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year.

A slow burn of a story as Ma’s story of the role played by the Lauras in her wanderings come to light.

The story is told retrospectively though  Alex’s remembrances some 30 years after the events. Alex was 13 when the story starts, 16 when it ends, and we gradually learn about the important happenings that have caused Ma to set out now, across the USA by car, with all their belongings in the trunk.

We learn of Ma’s grandparents and parents and their problems and how that affected her. We learn of her feet that have always wanted to wander – as do Alex’s – since  she was a small child, and the many attempts she made to set off into the far blue yonder. And how she encountered the Lauras along the way.

We also discover that Ma’s sexual preferences have been confused since she was young – or perhaps she was bi-sexual – and that Alex prefers not to identify with any gender ( not trans, but rather no gender preference).

I was initially inclined to give this road trip novel a 5 star ranking but then decided 4 was more appropriate. Why didn’t Alex make more of a fuss when forced to eat granola all the time rather than real food, or be hungry, cold and dirty without proper toilets and without a bed?  My own experiences of bringing up both a teenage boy and girl is that the boy was always hungry and a bear when not fed, and the girl needed comfort and proper bathroom. So neither would like a 3 year long road trip! So Alex comes over as rather an improbable character.

That said, I liked the writing style and the slow unfolding of Ma’s stories and life experiences.

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Books/book review/fiction

The moth feeds so many

The Silk Merchant's Daughter Book Cover The Silk Merchant's Daughter
Dinah Jefferies
literary fiction, historical fiction
July 14, 2016

NOW A SUNDAY TIMES TOP 10 BESTSELLER FROM THE NUMBER ONE BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF THE TEA PLANTER'S WIFE Dinah Jefferies' stunning new novel is a gripping, unforgettable tale of a woman torn between two worlds... 1952, French Indochina. Since her mother's death, eighteen-year-old half-French, half-Vietnamese Nicole has been living in the shadow of her beautiful older sister, Sylvie. When Sylvie is handed control of the family silk business, Nicole is given an abandoned silk shop in the Vietnamese quarter of Hanoi. But the area is teeming with militant rebels who want to end French rule, by any means possible. For the first time, Nicole is awakened to the corruption of colonial rule - and her own family's involvement shocks her to the core... Tran, a notorious Vietnamese insurgent, seems to offer the perfect escape from her troubles, while Mark, a charming American trader, is the man she's always dreamed of. But who can she trust in this world where no one is what they seem? The Silk Merchant's Daughter is a captivating tale of dark secrets, sisterly rivalry and love against the odds, enchantingly set in colonial era Vietnam.

A poignant story about Vietnam in the aftermath of WW2 and as the Vietminh start their war of attrition on the French.

I very much liked the style of writing and the information about the Vietnamese wars was very interesting – especially as I had not realised that the silk worm was actually eaten after the cocoon was boiled and thus provided nutrition for the workers. The sulk cycle makes more sense now.

But I was somehow disappointed at the end. I felt that some emption was missing and that more could have been made about the situation. Thus I am giving this a 4 rather than 5 stars – which I felt it should have been.

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Books/book review/Fantasy/fiction

Which Person?

First Person Book Cover First Person
Richard Flanagan
literary fiction,
Chatto & Windus
November 2, 2017

What is the truth? In this blistering story of a ghostwriter haunted by his demonic subject, the Man Booker Prize winner turns to lies, crime and literature with devastating effect Kif Kehlmann, a young penniless writer, is rung in the middle of the night by the notorious con man and corporate criminal, Siegfried Heidl. About to go to trial for defrauding the banks of $700 million, Heidl offers Kehlmann the job of ghost-writing his memoir. He has six weeks to write the book, for which he'll be paid $10,000. But as the writing gets under way, Kehlmann begins to fear that he is being corrupted by Heidl. As the deadline draws closer, he becomes ever more unsure if he is ghost writing a memoir, or if Heidl is rewriting him - his life, his future. Everything that was certain grows uncertain as he begins to wonder: who is Siegfried Heidl -- and who is Kif Kehlmann? As time runs out, one question looms above all others: what is the truth? By turns compelling, comic, and chilling, this is a haunting journey into the heart of our age.

Oh Dear! I tried but only got 1 percent through and gave up. I couldn’t follow the story and was not interested enough by the opening to bother to try.

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