This is the Water by Yannick Murphy
In the New England world of junior competitive swimming, parents spend hours driving their children to training and meets. Annie has two girls on the team, a dead brother and a fading marriage. She does not know a killer is lurking at the facility.
First Impressions: I liked the way the first few chapters are like a game of spin the bottle: you heard a little bit about a few of the swim mums and you had to wait to see whose story you would be following for the rest of the novel. The writing style has divided opinion but I really liked it as it is original.
Highlights: I loved the ending. Not just the final actions in the last few chapters, but the last few paragraphs. I closed the book and thought that it was all just a storm in a teacup (no spoiler here, don’t worry). This calm is a really nice comparison to the first few chapters that I mentioned above. I liked the setting – rural, small town New England, very claustrophobic, everything revolving around the swim team. Do junior swimming worlds like this really exist? Gosh, I don’t know!
If I was an editor: I know this novel would divide people like marmite. Even as an individual reader my feelings kept changing: I went from loving it, to being bored with it, to staying up late trying to finish it, all the time not knowing what to make of it. Is all the detail necessary? Yes, of course. No, not really. I can’t decide! Anyway, the important thing for an editor is that this book will get people talking and wanting to share their opinion.
Overall: Unique. I still don’t know if I liked it or not. I think I did!
This is the Water: 4 stars
Thank you to Bookbridgr for a copy of the ARC to review.
The Children’s Act by Ian McEwan
Fiona Maye is a leading High Court Judge for the children’s court. Her professional success has come at a price to her home life but she manages to keep the two separated until one ethical case regarding a blood transfusion enters her court…
First Impressions: As has been the case with his other novels, I fell very easily into McEwan’s writing style and it was quite comforting knowing I would probably enjoy the story.
Highlights: I thought it was interesting that Fiona had such a detached personality when she was dealing with such passionate cases every day. In fact, as a reader McEwan keeps you at arm’s length from the fervor and feeling of both Fiona’s story and the ethical cases she has to decide for. It is all quite clinical and professional and I wonder if this is Fiona’s true personality or she had become this way through climbing the career ladder. I quite liked the objective summaries of Fiona’s various cases as it could have easily fallen into dramatic overload; there are enough novels that fall into this territory.
If I was an editor: I would think this novel was the right length. A perfect afternoon read for fans! I wondered if it was believable that the father of two girls who didn’t believe in education or careers for girls to hire a female to represent him, but perhaps he would. I can’t say I know enough about Charedim Jews to speak confidently on this matter… I have read some reviews that comment on McEwan being rather indulgent in including his various opinions about religion. Yes, I guess that is true but I just enjoyed the story and found it believable.
Overall: Classic McEwan. (His more recent works anyway…)
The Children’s Act: 4 stars
Thank you to Random House for a copy of the ARC to review.
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
I usually avoid books that receive a lot of hype as too often I find myself disappointed, rarely finding said novels ‘hilarious and fun’. However, I am sometimes worn down by the volume of popular reviews and in this instance it was time to give The Rosie Project a go.
Don Tillman, a 39 year old geneticist, has never had a second date. In fact, he’s had very few first dates. Don thinks it’s time to find a wife so he devises a survey based on scientific compatibility to find a perfect match. Enter Rosie, the most incompatible match Don could imagine…
First Impressions: Don’s character is fantastic. Simsion has created a convincing and commanding voice for Don. By the end of the first page I was picturing a friend of a friend in my mind when reading Don…
Highlights: I was delighted to see that Don’s voice and character remained consistent and believable throughout the novel. I loved all the throw away lines in the story, such as one in particular at the end of the ‘dancing chapter’ which really had me laughing but I don’t want to give it away! Don’s inability to recognise social cues would mean he often added unnecessary and sometimes offensive detail in explanations such as his neighbour’s obesity contributing to her bad knee.The ‘dancing chapter’ I mentioned above was great, second only in hilarity to the ‘cocktail chapter’. I haven’t been this entertained by a book for a while.
If I was an editor: I would be thrilled to find this book on my desk! It is a great romantic story that is highly believable. When it came to helping Rosie unravel a mystery, some of Don’s actions were dubious, but he knew this and it wasn’t just all swept aside in order to keep the romance chugging along. I was glad to see this as in my opinion unrealistic plot elements are often a downfall of romances.
Overall: Read it!
The Rosie Project: 5 stars
Malice by Keigo Higashino
I loved The Devotion of Suspect X by Higashino so was delighted to receive a review copy of Malice.
Acclaimed author Kunihiko Hidaka is found brutally murdered the night before he emigrates to Vancouver. Both is wife and best friend have rock solid alibis. Or do they? Detective Kaga recognises Nonoguchi, the best friend, from his previous profession as a high school teacher. Something about Nonoguchi’s story just doesn’t sit right with Kaga so he decides to investigate further.
First Impressions: This is very similar to The Devotion of Suspect X in that we know who the killer is rather early on. When I first read Suspect X I didn’t know if that would work for me but it does. I don’t know if taking the story backwards to establish a motive is a Japanese style of crime writing or it is unique to Higashino.
Highlights: I liked the intrigue of Kaga’s investigations into both Hidaka’s and Nonoguchi’s pasts. Kaga himself was an interesting character and I would have liked to learn more about him. The translation is well done as the Japanese style was captured but there weren’t any abstract or confusing thoughts. I usually don’t enjoy books that take a trip down memory lane back to school but Higashino, in what seems to be a Japanese tradition, recounts school days well.
If I was an editor: I would give this a big tick as a good crime novel. However, while I enjoyed it, I haven’t found it particularly memorable. Perhaps having the murder victim an author and the subsequent inclusion of literature politics didn’t grab me so much.
Overall: Enjoyable, but start with The Devotion of Suspect X so you can appreciate the style.
Malice: 4 stars
Thank you to Little, Brown for a copy of the ARC to review.
Her by Harriet Lane
Nina is sophisticated and independent. Completely in control. Emma is a whisper from her past and when Nina sees Emma in the local store she can’t help but involve herself in Emma’s life. What does Nina want from Emma? Will Emma recognise Nina before it’s too late?
First Impressions: I enjoyed this story. It was very easy to get into and while many reviews comment on how it is told from two perspectives, only certain scenes are which means it is not as repetitive as I imagined it to be.
Highlights: This story made a real impression on me but not necessarily for all the right reasons. As I have a young son I found it really disturbing that Nina would get to Emma through so many small anyonmous cruelties to her three year old son. However I did find it compelling reading…
If I was an editor: Why did the story end at least one chapter too short? I had to check to ensure I had the fully copy of the novel – it can’t end now! I immediately thought that this is just laziness on the part of the author but I have thought about the ending much more than I wanted to since finishing the novel so perhaps in this instance it was incredibly successful… I also tell myself that the husband would have been a dominant presence in the actions of the last few paragraphs to make it feel alright…
On a more neutral note I would have liked to see Nina’s sociopathic nature revealed more throughout the novel. Sure, she was obsessed but that’s not the same as sociopathic. Also, while a lot of reviews comment on how Nina’s motivation to attack Emma was weak, I thought it was OK. Some people would hold a grudge and it did need to be an event that was not so defining that Emma wouldn’t recognise Nina.
Overall: Maybe not for those with young children… Definitely one of the better psychological thrillers out there at the moment. I would now like to read Alys, Always to see how it compares.
Her: 4 stars
Thank you to Orion for a copy of the ARC to review.
Wildflower Hill by Kimberley Freeman
A few years ago I read and enjoyed Kimberley Freeman’s Duet so I was thrilled to see Wildflower Hill available as an ebook.
In 1929 Beattie Blaxland has big ambitions. She is a talented dressmaker in Glasgow and when she lands her dream job she hopes to move up the ranks and make a name for herself. However, she finds herself pregnant to her married lover who is a notorious gambler…
In 2009 Emma Blaxland-hunter was living her dream in London as a prima ballerina until her world came crashing down around her. She returns to Australia and finds herself sorting through boxes that reveal her grandmother’s secrets.
First Impressions: A great start to this novel. I was drawn into the story and could barely bring myself to put it down when I heard my son wake up from his nap!
Highlights: I usually shun books about fashion designers and dancers (and cupcakes, and book groups, and chocolate shops, and …) but this novel just worked for me. It is well written with a lot of warmth and I enjoyed all the characters. It also made a comment about Australian society prior to WW2.
If I was an editor: I would be delighted at how this book really is a wonderful example of the genre. The dastardly original owner of Wildflower Hill is rather one dimensional and the way Beattie moves her way into the property is rather preposterous but you expect elements of this in such a novel. I really enjoyed the story until a series of calamitous events occur within a few pages, a standard of the genre. It’s the reason I don’t often read such novels as I find a fair amount of the critical plot a bit too convenient but this said, it is what I was expecting.
Overall: A gripping romantic page turner.
Wildflower Hill: 4 stars
Six Degrees of Separation #6: Saturday 6th September 2014
Evie Wyld’s All the Birds, Singing won the 2014 Miles Franklin Prize.
(Read my review here)
Another book on the Miles Franklin Longlist that I was keen to read was The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan. Although a heavy novel, one character thinks that Dorrigo Evans reminds her to Errol Flynn…
(Read my review here)
In Margaret Cezair-Thompson’s The Pirate’s Daughter, ‘the world’s handsomest man’ Errol Flynn washes up on the shores of Jamaica in his yacht.
Jean Rhys’s seminal work Wide Sargasso Sea is also set in Jamaica but almost 100 years earlier in the 1800s. It is always the first novel that always comes to mind when I think of the Caribbean.
A recently published Victorian novel that really appeals to me is The Visitors by Rebecca Mascull. The main character is also a woman who has trouble being understood by those around her but for very different reasons to Antoinette Crosway in Wide Sargasso Sea. Why? Adeliza Golding is deafblind…
Poor Miss Finch by Wilkie Collins is also about a blind woman in the Victorian age who is able to regain her sight through surgery. The descriptions of her depth perception and recovery are fascinating. Lucilla Finch has identical twins fall in love with her in a very bizarre plot twist where one of them turns a shade of blue from the nitrate of silver he was taking as medication for epilepsy.
Curtis Sittenfeld’s novel Sisterland is also about the relationship between twins, in this case sisters. One sister also becomes an outcast, not for changing colour but for using her psychic senses to predict a natural disaster.
(Read my review here)
Find out more about the Six Degrees of Separation meme here.