Wednesday, 15 August 2012

The girl you left behind - Jojo Moyes

The Girl You Left BehindThe Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another wonderful triumph for the sensational Ms Moyes.

A dual time narrative story, although instead of changing narrative rapidly between eras as is often the style, the historical part lets you get deeply involved for about 150 pages before casting you into the 21st century, then the modern story takes over with brief revisits to the past emerging here and there, it works very well making sure you are deeply immersed in the story of Sophie before meeting her modern day contemporary Liv..

Set in 1916 the first world war is raging throughout Europe and in occupied France Sophie and her sister Helene run what remains of the family hotel whilst their husbands are away fighting the Boche. We experience the hardship of life in a small French town under German occupation, the deprivations and worries and the small attempts at resistance which make life seem liveable. As Sophie works to feed the ungrateful and increasingly demanding German troops occupying the town she reminisces about her brief marriage to the love of her life, artist husband Edouard Lefevre whose portrait of her, the girl he left behind, hangs in the hall of the hotel as a constant reminder of their devotion to each other.

Worries for his safety almost destroy Sophies sanity - there is practically nothing she wouldn't do to ensure his safe return to her.

Back in modern day London Liv is young woman with worries of her own, recently widowed the death of her successful architect husband David has caused not only grief but financial stress as she battles to make ends meet and keep the stunning designer home he built for them.

As she battles to overcome her loss she is watched over by a painting given to her on their honeymoon - The girl he left behind hangs on her bedroom wall, bringing back treasured memories of better days.

And thus the 2 stories become interlinked, and the twin themes of love lost and deciding how far you will go to preserve memories and past love weaves an intriguing and pare turning story.

I literally couldn't put this book down - sent to me by a friend, I picked it up the minute it plopped through my letterbox and despite already being half way through another book and with a teetering To be read pile waiting, I picked it up, read a few sentences and was hooked.

The whole story keeps you wanting to read just a few more pages, lost of lovely well thought out twists and turns to keep you guessing and of course the inevitable box of tissues needed at least in one part in particular. The end is superbly satisfying and well crafted and the whole book is a sheer delight to read.

Jojo MoyesJojo Moyes previous book Me before youMe Before You was most definitely one of my top books of this year, and The girl you left behind will join it, although I do think of the 2 her previous book was marginally the best - the emotional connection I felt with that was intense and all consuming.

Although I adored every word of the girl you left behind, the occupied France setting in a small hotel reminded me just a touch TOO much of the 1970s tv comedy series 'Allo 'allo and this cast a vague hint of farce over the parts in occupied France which I felt a touch uneasy with being such an emotive subject. But thats probably just me and I'm sure was unintentional. It would however make me possibly think of it as 9/10 rather than the 10/10 I gave the previous book as that was such a hard act to follow - still amazing writing and storytelling though. Very highly recommended.

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Thursday, 9 August 2012

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry - Rachel Joyce


From Amazon: "Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2012: 'The odyssey of a simple man, original, subtle and touching' - Claire Tomalin
When Harold Fry leaves home one morning to post a letter, with his wife hoovering upstairs, he has no idea that he is about to walk from one end of the country to the other.
He has no hiking boots or map, let alone a compass, waterproof or mobile phone.
All he knows is that he must keep walking.
To save someone else's life."


The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold FryThe Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Absolutely delightful - sheer reading pleasure at its very best.

Harold and Maureen are a retired couple living a quiet, mundane life in Devon, where hardly anything ever happens and they hardly ever talk to each other any more, when they do its barely an exchange of words followed by Maureens usual put down "I think not"

One day a letter arrives for Harold which informs him that an old work colleague Queenie is in a hospice in Berwick on Tweed. Harold pens a reply and walks out of the door to post it on the corner of the street, then decides to walk on to the next postbox - then the next until postboxes become towns and he just carries on walking deciding to deliver the letter by hand. As he walks he reminisces and we begin to realise there was something between him and Queenie, his story is gradually revealed as his walk continues and its evident that there are many things lurking beneath the surface of his and Maureens relationship.

Back at home Maureen struggles to adapt to life without him, she talks to their son David and strikes up a friendship with an elderly neighbour and as days turn into weeks Harolds walk becomes a pilgrimage which stands for so much more than delivering a letter by hand.

Along the way he meets many unusual characters, the misfits and the lonely and learns more about himself than he bargained on.

With quirky flashes of humour, and moments of poignant tenderness the story is a little darker than I imagined it would be, although its essentially a love story it had me reduced to tears on the Arriva bus trying to pretend I had hayfever!

Loved it - highly recommended!



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Monday, 6 August 2012

Every vow you break - Julia Crouch

From the publisher - The Wayland family - Lara and Marcus and their three children - leave England to spend a long, hot summer in Trout Island, Upstate New York. Lara, still reeling from an abortion that Marcus insisted on, hopes the summer away from home will give her time to learn to love her husband again. 

A chance meeting at a party reacquaints the family with Marcus's old actor friend, Stephen, with whom Lara once had an affair. Lara feels herself drawn towards Stephen and they pick up their secret relationship where they left off. Lara knows she's playing a dangerous game; what she doesn't know is that it's also a deadly one.

This is a difficult one to review as I didn't hate it by any means but I felt very critical of some aspects anyway here are my thoughts.

Every Vow You BreakEvery Vow You Break by Julia Crouch
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was so looking forward to reading this book and when I won a copy in a prize draw was thrilled but it just somehow missed the mark a little.

Don't get me wrong the story is a good idea, its tense and quite gripping but the characters failed to convince me, they all seemed just a touch overblown, caricatures rather than real people I could completely believe in and relate to.

The idea is good, The Wayland family from England arrive in the USA for a summer break with a difference. Mum Lara is bitterly licking her wounds after an abortion she reluctantly went ahead with and is regretting. Husband Marcus a small bit part actor who has come to the US at the invitation of an old friend hoping that involvement with a theatre group may lead to lucrative employment. Twins Bella and Olly and young Jack arrive in Trout island where they discover the accommodation which has been provided falls rather short of expectations and has a sinister air and when strange things begin to happen Lara wonders what's going on if they are being watched or if she's imagining things.

When mutual friend from the past Stephen turns up and Lara realises old feelings between them could easily be revived on both their parts, she begins to feel she has someone she can at last rely on but will it cause her joy or heartache?

Marcus comes across and such a despicable and unlikeable wimp I can't imagine why anyone would stay with him as long as Lara has, Bella, too has secrets and I fail to understand why on earth she puts up with what she does. Nobody seems to have noticed that Olly is 2 sandwiches short of a picnic if not much, much worse!

5 year old Jack talks and converses for the most part like a 15 year old and the people they meet through the theatre and locally - well they are all so much larger than life none of them ring true.

It keeps you guessing all the way through but I found the ending unsatisfactory, and unlikely and although I read it quite quickly, found it a page turner, in the end it annoyed me and I was left with a slightly bad taste in my mouth and quite disappointed overall.

Still a readable psychological thriller that I know a lot of people will love, don't let my negative comments put you off picking it up, give it a go and judge for yourself. I just feel there are a lot of better examples of this popular genre about.

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Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Far Away Home - Susan Denning

Far Away Home, an American Historical NovelFar Away Home, an American Historical Novel by Susan Denning
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From Goodreads - In post-Civil War New York City, sixteen-year-old Aislynn Denehy cannot find a job, she has no place to live and no family to help her. Some might think this is a problem; Aislynn believes it 's an opportunity, but she has a lot to learn. No formulaic romance, this love story depicts life as it truly was for the thousands of women who went west reaching for a new life. Aislynn 's journey begins in a New York City tenement and leads her across the frontier to a Utah mining camp where she must cope with the conflicting intentions of three very different men. Life in the roughshod camp brings small joys and devastating losses. This novel races through authentic experiences involving historical events until it erupts in an unexpected ending.

What an enjoyable read this free Kindle book was.

The story of Aislynn a young woman in New York in the mid 1800s an orphan, brought up mainly by men in particular Tim, her guardian after the death of her mother.

She is devoted to Tim who rescued her as a baby. When he moves to Utah to work in a mining town alongside the railway being constructed she follows him, accompanied by the loyal Johnny whos adoration of her isn't at first reciprocated. struggling to sort out her feelings of love for these 2 men, she journeys across the frontier in a Mormon wagon trail, facing hardships and loss on the way.

Life in Utah is difficult and still not much more than a child she has to begin to grow up fast. Despite her naivety and some poor decisions she begins to develop a strength of character and feisty determination which helps her as she grows into womanhood.

Her mixed feelings for the enigmatic and rich Liam Moran, confuse her even further, but we see her begin to settle down building a business and settling with the man she discovers she really loves - until tragedy strikes and thraetens to take everything she has struggled for away.

The writing is good not perfect, there are a few flaws and inconsistencies along the way, some conversations in the middle are very stilted as though the author intended to go back and flesh them out and forgot a few chapters! but overall the story is sufficiently compelling and the heroine interesting enough to allow one to gloss over these shortcomings and lose oneself in Frontier America where the historical detail and descriptions are thorough and well written.

I thought this was quite similar in style to Belle and may appeal to anyone who enjoyed this

I would enjoy a sequel as there is so much more to discover about what happens to Aislynn after this story ends.

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