Friday, March 17, 2017

Brother and Sister by Joanna Trollope




Paperback: 368 pages                                                                                              
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Blomsbury 2004
Source: My own bookshelves and since released via Bookcrossing
First Sentence: From where he sat, Steve could see right down the length of the studio.
Review Quote:'Her prodigious flair for illuminating emotional situations guarantees the appeal of Trollope's work ... immediate and engrossing.' (The Good Book Guide)
My Opinion: I am a long time fan of Joanna Trollope. Have been reading her novels since her first 'The Choir' was published in 1989 and always found her novels to be light and entertaining, 'Aga Sagas' used to be the popular term for them. In fact it is a few years since I last read one though I still have a few reclining on my bookshelves, so I took a couple with me on my recent travels and then released them via Bookcrossing afterwards. Although the term 'Aga Saga' is not heard much nowadays it does still seem to describe her writing about contemporary relationships. Certainly 'Brother and Sister' is a sensitive portrayal of  adoption and the issues these particular siblings had to cope with when they decided to trace their birth parents.



Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

Nathalie and David have been good and dutiful children to their parents, and now, grown-up, with their own families, they are still close to one another. Brother and Sister.

Except that they aren't - brother and sister that is.They were both adopted, when their loving parents, found that they couldn't have children themselves. And up until now it's never mattered.

But suddenly, Nathalie discovers a deep need to trace her birth parents and is insisting that David makes the same journey. And through this, both learn one of the hardest lessons of all, that sometimes, the answers to who we are and where we come from can be more difficult than the questions



Author Profile:






Joanna Trollope was born on 9 December 1943 in her grandfather's rectory in Minchinhampton, Gloucestershire, England, daughter of Rosemary Hodson and Arthur George Cecil Trollope. She is the eldest of three siblings. She is a fifth-generation niece of the Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope and is a cousin of the writer and broadcaster James Trollope. She was educated at Reigate County School for Girls followed by St Hugh's College, Oxford. On 14 May 1966, she married the banker David Roger William Potter, they had two daughters, Antonia and Louise. In 1983 they divorced, two years later, she married the television dramatist Ian Curteis, they divorced in 2001.

From 1965 to 1967, she worked at the Foreign Office. From 1967 to 1979, she was employed in a number of teaching posts before she became a writer full-time in 1980. In 1996 she was awarded the OBE for services to literature.She now lives alone in London.

A fuller Biography can be found on her website.


Photographs and biographical information courtesy of the following sites.


Author Profile - Goodreads   Amazon - Joanna Trollope    Wikipedia - Joanna Trollope   
   Facebook - Joanna Trollope  Official Author Website

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon




Paperback: 390 pages
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Vintage 2006
Source: My own bookshelf, now released via Bookcrossing
First Sentence: It began when George was trying on a black suit in Alders the week before Bob Green's funeral.
Favourite Quote: "What they failed to teach you at school was that the whole business of being human just got messier and more complicated as you got older. You could tell the truth, be polite, take everyone's feelings into consideration and still have to deal with other people's shit. At nine or ninety."
Review Quote: "A painful, funny, humane, novel: beautifully written, addictively readable and so confident" (The Times)
Literary Awards: Costa Book Award Nominee for Novel (2006)
My Opinion: At the heart of this family drama is an agonisingly sad story.


Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

George Hall doesn't understand the modern obsession with talking about everything. 'The secret of contentment, George felt, lay in ignoring many things completely.' Some things in life, however, cannot be ignored.

At fifty-seven, George is settling down to a comfortable retirement, building a shed in his garden, reading historical novels, listening to a bit of light jazz. Then Katie, his tempestuous daughter, announces that she is getting remarried, to Ray. Her family is not pleased - as her brother Jamie observes, Ray has 'strangler's hands'. Katie can't decide if she loves Ray, or loves the wonderful way he has with her son Jacob, and her mother Jean is a bit put out by all the planning and arguing the wedding has occasioned, which get in the way of her quite fulfilling late-life affair with one of her husband's former colleagues. And the tidy and pleasant life Jamie has created crumbles when he fails to invite his lover, Tony, to the dreaded nuptials.

Unnoticed in the uproar, George discovers a sinister lesion on his hip, and quietly begins to lose his mind.

The way these damaged people fall apart - and come together - as a family is the true subject of Mark Haddon's disturbing yet very funny portrait of a dignified man trying to go insane politely.


Author Profile:




Mark Haddon was born in Northampton, England on September 26, 1962, he is an author, illustrator and screenwriter who has written fifteen books for children and won two BAFTAs. Educated at Merton College, Oxford, Uppingham School, University of Edinburgh and the University of Oxford.  At Oxford he studied English after which, he was employed in several different occupations. One included working with people with disabilities, and another included creating illustrations and cartoons for magazines and newspapers. He lived in Boston, Massachusetts for a year with his wife until they moved back to England. Then, Mark took up painting and selling abstract art. In 1987, Haddon wrote his first children’s book, Gilbert’s Gobstopper. This was followed by many other children’s books, which were often self-illustrated. 

It was not until 2003 that his best selling novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, was  published,  it won seventeen literary prizes, including the Whitbread Award. His poetry collection, The Talking Horse and the Sad Girl and the Village Under the Sea, was published by Picador in 2005, and his last novel, The Red House, was published by Jonathan Cape in 2012. He lives in Oxford with his wife Dr Sos Eltis  a Fellow and Tutor in English of Brasenose College, Oxford.


The biographical information and photo used in this post are with thanks to the following websites, where you can also find out more information about the author and his writing.


Amazon Author Page      Mark Haddon - Goodreads Profile    Author's Official Website

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue




Hardback:  291 pages                                                                                                
Genre: Literary Fiction, Historical
Publisher: Picador 2016
Source: Tywyn Public Library
First Sentence: The journey was no worse than she expected.
Favourite Quote: “How could the child bear not just the hunger, but the boredom? The rest of humankind used meals to divide the day, Lib realized - as a reward, as entertainment, the chiming of an inner clock.
Review Quote: Fans of Emma Donoghue's first novel Room will not be disappointed with The Wonder . . . a tale of claustrophobic suspense and the intense relationship between a woman and a child . . . Donoghue's masterful way with words and imagery has the reader sharing Lib's scepticism and disdain for Anna and her family's naïve religious fervour. (Red Magazine)
Literary Awards: Scotiabank Giller Prize Nominee (2016)Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Historical Fiction (2016)
My Opinion:  As the successful author of the masterpiece that was Room I wondered if The Wonder was going to meet my expectations. It certainly did that, using as inspiration the true life stories of young people that claimed to survive long periods without food, Emma Donoghue has created with this novel another shocking yet riveting story about a child and a disturbing life experience.  The protagonist Anna is an eleven year old Irish girl whose family are claiming she is a living miracle. The other main character is Lib Wright a nurse a veteran of the Crimean War and trained by Florence Nightingale, who accepts an assignment to watch over Anna to try and discover if what is being claimed is all a sham!

At first the novel felt slow and took time to figure out with the complications of religion, myth and superstition that had a big influence on Anna's family and their reactions to what was happening to their daughter. It was difficult to understand just how far peoples beliefs would influence them, as it seemed they were prepared to let their own child die, as they persisted in believing in miracles.

A difficult subject to write a novel about and whilst reading you cannot but help find yourself thinking about how an earth the author is going to be able to bring the novel to a satisfactory and believable ending. Well without a doubt in my mind, she has succeeded in writing a realistic yet imaginative ending.

The Wonder will appeal to readers of historical fiction, stories set in Ireland and of course fans of Emma Donoghue's excellent writing.


Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:
An eleven-year-old girl stops eating, but remains miraculously alive and well. A nurse, sent to investigate whether she is a fraud, meets a journalist hungry for a story.

Set in the Irish Midlands in the 1850s, The Wonder—inspired by numerous European and North American cases of “fasting girls” between the sixteenth century and the twentieth—is a psychological thriller about a child’s murder threatening to happen in slow motion before our eyes. Pitting all the seductions of fundamentalism against sense and love, it is a searing examination of what nourishes us, body and soul.



Author's Note - Transcribed from the book

The Wonder is an invented story. However, it was inspired by almost fifty cases of so-called Fasting Girls - hailed for surviving without food for long periods - in the British Isles, Western Europe and Northern America between the sixteenth and the twentieth centuries. These girls varied widely in age and background. Some of them (whether Protestant or Catholic) claimed a religious motive, but many didn't. There were male cases, too,though far fewer. Some of the fasters were put under surveillance for weeks on end; some started eating again, voluntarily or after being coerced, imprisoned, hospitalized, or force-fed; some died; others lived for decades, still claiming not to need food.


Video Trailer for '  The Wonder    ' Courtesy of YouTube







Author Profile




                                                                                                               Emma Donoghue © Mark Raynes Roberts, 2015. 

Emma was born on October 24th 1969 in Dublin Ireland, the youngest of eight children, of Frances and Denis Donoghue(the literary critic) She attended Catholic convent schools in Dublin, apart from one year in New York at the age of ten. In 1990 she earned a first-class honours BA in English and French from University College Dublin, and in 1997 a PhD (on the concept of friendship between men and women in eighteenth-century English fiction) from the University of Cambridge. Since the age of 23, Donoghue has earned her living as a full-time writer. After years of commuting between England, Ireland, and Canada, in 1998 she settled in London, Ontario, where she lives with her partner, Chris Roulston and their son, Finn and daughter, Una.

Photographs, Trailer and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites.


My Review of Room    Emma Donoghue - Official Website     Goodreads Author Profile

Amazon - Emma Donoghue - Author Page

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins


Hardback: 316 pages                                                                                                 
Genre:Psychological thriller, 
Publisher: Doubleday 2015
Source: Tywyn Public Library
First Sentence: There is a pile of clothing on the side of the train tracks.
Favourite Quote: “Life is not a paragraph, and death is no parenthesis.
(This is a reference to an E.E. Cummings poem within the author's work)”
Review Quote:  "Really great suspense novel. Kept me up most of the night. The alcoholic narrator is dead perfect." (STEPHEN KING)
Literary Awards: Goodreads Choice Award for Mystery & Thriller (2015)
                                Waterstones Book of the Year Nominee (2015)
My Opinion:  What a good read this was, a clever angle to tell the story from. However I did guess the result fairly early on which surprised me when I discovered I was right! An enjoyable read that I can recommend to anyone that likes a good psychological thriller, but I cannot really understand exactly why it gained so much notoriety in the media.

Since reading this novel I have seen the film and was very disappointed in the adaptation. 

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:


A début psychological thriller that will forever change the way you look at other people’s lives.

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

Compulsively readable, The Girl on the Train is an emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller and an electrifying début




Audio Trailer for ' The Girl On The Train ' Courtesy of YouTube


Something a little different in this review, an audio extract rather than a video one, which may tempt you into reading the novel in full.


Author Profile



Paula Hawkins was born on August 26th 1972 in Harare, Zimbabwe. She moved to London in 1989 and has lived there ever since. A journalist for fifteen years prior to turning her hand to fiction,  The Girl on the Train is her début novel.


Photographs, Trailer and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites.


Audio Trailer - YouTube    Amazon - Author Page     Paula Hawkins - Official Website.

Goodreads - Author Profile    Paula Hawkins - Wikipedia    Twitter - Paula Hawkins