Friday, 26 December 2008
Sunday, 21 December 2008
Sunday, 14 December 2008
Sunday, 7 December 2008
Sunday, 30 November 2008
Tuesday, 18 November 2008
Monday, 10 November 2008
Sunday, 9 November 2008
Friday, 31 October 2008
Michele from over at A Readers Respite has tagged me with this random facts: book edition tag. You have to share 7 book related facts about yourself. I am not sure that mine are that weird but they are random and it sounded like fun so here goes...
1. I bought a copy of Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd over 20 years ago and it is still sitting unread on my shelf. It was the strange language that originally drew me to it and I still have every intention of reading it. Every now and then I pick it up and can't believe I still haven't read it. Maybe I will set it as a New Years resolution.
2. When I graduated in 2005 after doing a part time degree in Literature over 6 years, one of my friends, who I have known for a long time, bought me a first edition of my favourite book, Precious Bane by Mary Webb as a celebratory gift. Published in 1924 it is a lovely hard covered book bound in leather. I have no idea how she got hold of it but it is certainly a very treasured possession and I was both touched and surprised by her very thoughtful and very apt present.
3. Ever since I picked up a little hand made paper book, in a funny little bookshop in Covent Garden, London, by a poet called Brian Tasker, I have been completely taken with Haiku poetry. The bookshop is sadly no longer there on Neal Street East but I still have the little book, and have been adding steadily to my collection over the years. I now have 19 books of these wonderful 3 line poems, a number of which make it onto my 'Haiku of the week'.
4. My love of literature also extends to plays. I did a year of Shakespeare as part of my degree and I now work in the theatre as a direct result. It fascinates me how the meaning of the written word can change depending on what is on stage and how the words are performed.
5. I have a weakness for buying old versions of classic books that I have enjoyed. I especially love it if it has something written in the front cover, like 'to Fiona on your 21st birthday with love from grandma, 1917'. I always feel privileged to come across these treasures.
6.When I was little, about 7 or 8 years old, I used to wake up early on a Saturday morning, deliberately while everyone else was asleep, and get my books down to read off my shelf. I had 3 shelves above my bed, and I would read until I had to get up, usually Enid Blyton at the time. I saw it as a secretive pleasure, something no one else knew about.
7. I wasn't especially good at Maths, and mediocre at games at school, but I learnt to read very early on, astounding teachers and outgrowing the books appropriate to my age at school. Very often they simply let me get on with it as I was way ahead of the other children who needed more help to get started. I just took to it and have run with it ever since.
So there you have it, my secrets laid bare. Who should I tag now? Here are my 7 tags. You can continue this conversation with your own facts if you want to, and I can't wait to read your entries.
Gentle Reader at Shelf Life
Teabird at Tealeaves
Verbivore at Incurable Logophilia
Jeane at Dog Ear Diary
J C Montgomery at The Biblio Brat
Bookfool at Bookfoolery and Babble
Katrina at Katrina's Reads
The instructions are at the top of this post.
Sunday, 26 October 2008
Diana, a very successful and talented surgeon who runs a contraversial abortion clinic, is found dead at home, and it looks like murder. We are taken into the lives of the people who knew her and the two detectives assigned to the case, exploring the investigation in present time and also in flash back, building up a picture of what happened to Diana and why she died.
The central characters, and whose view we visit the most, are, naturally, Megan her daughter, Huck, the younger detective and Diana herself, although there are quite a few others relevent to the story. Megan is a free spirited and confidant girl of nineteen, indulged by her parents since the death of her young brother who had Down's Syndrome. She has been brought up to think for herself, and she does, sometimes a little selfishly but also showing unexpected levels of maturity too. Huck, the detective, is twenty six, has a nose for crime, but seems to be drifting within his personal life, despite having a girlfriend he is comfortable with and who loves him. Then there is Diana, who outwardly seemed strong and in control, dealing with a stressful job by believing in a woman's choice to 'reset her button' regardless of the personal circumstances that led to the unwanted pregnancy. Diana deals with the emotion and the controversy (protestors and death threats) with a determined and professional air, while inwardly she struggles with a compromised family, her son's death, her decision to have him in the first place, and her husbands disagreement, plus the strain of constantly justifying her chosen career.
There are several possibilities as to how she ended up dead in their new pool, suicide or accident included. There are also several people on the suspect list for the detectives to pick around. Diana had heated arguments with her husband and her daughter on her last day, as well as a meeting with her most vehement opposer, the Rev. Stephen O'Connell, the leader of an anti abortion movement, plus an abortion that went wrong and also contact from an obsessive ex-boyfriend of Megan's. There are plenty of skillful sub plots that all have their own place around the main core of the story.
The language is very straight forward and easy to read. It is uncomplicated and there is very little word play or lyricism. It is made interesting with observations and contemporary details, that make this an up-to-the-minute thriller which is pretty slick in its execution and therefore very recognisable. Those who love complicated thrillers with lots of twists and turns, may feel a bit short changed with this one. The eventual conclusion is given very readily, although quite late on, and is not that surprising. For anyone who likes character studies however, this is for them and it helpfully replays Diana's last awful day in its entirety so that we can leave the book with satisfaction. This is not a book that plays with ambiguity.
There is quite a bit of exploration regarding abortion issues, as you can imagine, giving interesting opinions for both sides without ever forcing anything either way. I feel it does not get bogged down with this, providing enough of an insight into a highly emotive subject to provide a sound base for a mystery of this sort. There are, however, some images that are alluded to that may be too much for readers with sensitivities in that area.
I enjoyed this book as an insight into the complexities of peoples lives, which are only exposed after a huge tragedy or other drama that forces them out. I liked following the people in it, how they interacted to find out who was responsible. Its only weakness to me was the portrayal of the husband, which was a little weak, and there is very little mention of any grief, after such a massive tragedy. These are reasonably small niggles. It is because it concentrated more on their lives and gave less precedence to the mechanics of the murder that I got more from it. It was like stumbling across a really good late night movie that you become engrossed in, and are glad that you watched. I feel it would make a good holiday read for that reason, and there are lots of issues for readers groups to get their teeth into.
If you would like a reading group guide then click on this link...
Tuesday, 21 October 2008
Sunday, 19 October 2008
Saturday, 11 October 2008
Monday, 6 October 2008
I won a book over at Book Club Girl. A lovely hardback copy of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski and a mousemat came through my door this morning. We were asked to write about our favourite pets and I told about my lovely 2 cats, Maddie and Prue who sadly died, age 16yrs old, very close together earlier this year. They have left a big hole and we loved them both very much. We hope to get some more little ones soon.
Anyway, I was one of the winners and I can't wait to read the book. A big thanks to Book club Girl, and a raised glass to Maddie and Prue!
Sunday, 5 October 2008
Friday, 3 October 2008
The American Libraries are celebrating the freedom to read by having Banned Books Week and I thought I would like to contribute. Some of the books that have been banned or challenged are surprising and A Readers Respite has been featuring some of those books with explainations as to why they were found to be controversial. There is a list of banned books here so you can see which ones you have read or want to read. There is also a Top 100 Banned/Challenged books in 2000-2007 list.
There are quite a few books on the list that I have read and enjoyed, important works that have influenced, inspired and entertained us and many more that I would like to read. So go on, read a banned book today...
Banned books I have read:-
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Awakening by Kate Chopin
Beloved by Toni Morrison
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
and of course by Shakespeare...Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth, Merchant of Venice and Twelfth Night.
Which ones have you read?
The Guardian Newspaper has a Banned Books Quiz. Click here to have a go!
Sunday, 28 September 2008
Those who know me, know that I have enjoyed Roger McGough's poetry for a long time. He writes entertaining and accessable poetry for adults and children and makes an excellent night out when performing his poems live. There is a lot of humour in his work, but also truth, humanity and sadness too.
During his long career he has become something of a National Treasure and was awarded an OBE in 1997, not only for his work, but for being an international ambassador for poetry. From my home town of Liverpool, he now lives in London, but frequently holds events here. He is speaking at the Liverpool Literary Festival held by Liverpool University in November (click here for details).
In celebration of Roger McGough's work and his continuing contribution to poetry in Liverpool and elsewhere, I have a copy of The Way Things Are to giveaway. Just leave a comment below telling me why you would like to win a copy and I will enter you in the competition. The winner will be announced next Sunday and is open to international participants. You can also e-mail me - theoctogenarianATymailDOTcom
Roger McGough's own site can be visited here...
where there are examples of his work.
Saturday, 20 September 2008
Sunday, 14 September 2008
This book was given to me as a present. It was very easy to read and I got into it very quickly. It ensured my attention from the first few pages, even if the narrative style took a little getting used to and was not without inviting several questions...why is the story told by Death and why is he so jolly when it was probably one of his more exhausting periods, during Nazi Germany during the Second World War? The answers came during the unfolding of the story.
Death tells us the story of Liesel, a little girl of 9 years old, being taken with her brother to a foster home. Their parents are accused of being communists in a Germany with little political tolerance. They are also poor, and on the journey with their mother, Liesel's brother dies. This is Death's first encounter with a girl whose book he will later read and recount to us. Liesel's life is transferred to her foster home, new parents, new friends, and a new political climate that will affect them all.
The writing is quirky, with amazingly inventive descriptions, a bizarre speech tone full of asides that conveys an 'other worldliness' suitable for Death, but also a child like quality which links us to the children and more particularly Liesel, as we take part in her world and point of view. There is a lot of love in the story, warmth and decency, amongst a dangerous Germany that seems hell bent on stamping out all of these things. We are all used to second world war stories where the Germans are our enemies, but in this book it is not the Allies against the Germans, but normal, decent human beings against the Nazi's, the ordinary v's those in power.
Once I got used to the style of writing, the cheeriness despite the background, I realised I had become quite attatched to the main characters, to Liesel and her street urchin friend Rudy and their many adventures, and her foster parents, her rough love mama, and a papa who is kindness itself. By the time Max, the Jewish fugitive is introduced, the book had tightened its grip on me and I was helpless as it squeezed tighter. There were times, the tension being built up slowly, when I was desperate to read what was happening but dreaded continuing. I knew every empathetic button was being pressed and that at some point it was going to cause me damage. Do not get me wrong, the majority of the book is full of humour, light hearted childrens accounts of getting into trouble and creating havoc. Also in observing adults and forging friendships, however unlikely. But amongst this the book cleverly alludes to something big and terrible to come, to break the blow and keep you reading. You are always aware that this is Nazi Germany and life is far from innocent.
When the blow came I broke my heart. I don't think I have read a book that upset me so much for a long time. I must have sobbed for an hour! It shook me in the best way a book can, mercilessly making me feel every emotion. As water flowed out of my face I re-read parts of the book and I am still enjoying doing that.
This book is well written, and provides an alternative slant on the Nazi war story. It is warm and full of the joy of human spirit. It illustrates that even when life is at its most awful there are stories of courage and kindness that outweigh the bad. There are also books that have the ability to move us, and it is the impact of this novel that made it wonderful to read even when it hurt. I would urge anyone to read it, and my copy is already in the hands of one of many borrowers.
If you would like to read more about the book and its author, the following website is useful...
Thursday, 11 September 2008
Saturday, 6 September 2008
Peter from over at Flashlight Worthy (see literary links on my sidebar) contacted me and asked if I wanted to contribute a list for the website. It is a fun site with loads of book recommendations, top 10s in every subject, including some famous authors favourites, such as Stephen King and John Irving. Naturally I was thrilled and you can view my choices by clicking here. You can contribute your own lists if you want to, it tells you how on the site. Or you can just trawl the lists of recommendations to get a whole lot more ideas on what to read, and see what others are into. It is well worth a visit!
Sunday, 31 August 2008
I am aware that this book has been around for a while. I fell upon it in an Oxfam bookshop after hearing quite a bit about it previously, as well as seeing the film. The well known painting by Vermeer on the cover ensures that the book attracts attention. Such is the quality that many people find in Vermeers work, especially with this one. Very little is known about Vermeer or the background to the painted girl, so Tracy Chevalier has shaped a story around a picture that has already prompted wonder and speculation.
The story is told by the girl herself, named Griet. Set in 17th century Delft in the Netherlands, Griet is sent to work as a maid in the Vermeer household in 'Papist Corner'. Her family has fallen on hard times after her father, a talented craftsman tile maker, is blinded after a kiln explodes. Griet is 16 years old and has an artistic eye and a shrewd mind, which she mostly hides, except to us. We are transported into a maids life of washing, cooking and cleaning in a large household of the artist and his large family. We also take part in the dynamics of the house as Griet intergrates with a family of mixed characters. Her status in the house changes when Vermeer favours Griet to help him with his paintings (something no one else is allowed to do). This causes resentment and suspicion but also some grudgingly felt respect. However, when Griet is asked to pose for a new painting at the behest of Vermeers leering patron, everything will change and there is no going back. There are also many layers and sub plots interwoven with the main story, about Griets reluctant relationship with a local butchers son and also the on going fates of her family members.
This book is very easy to read and slides along with an effortless smoothness. I was quickly engrossed in Griets world, fascinated by the descriptions of Delft in the 1600's, but mostly I really liked her. I liked reading her thoughts, her way of describing her position in life, her comfortable understanding and self-respect, but also her ability to learn. I found her accounts of doing the laundry as interesting as her enthusiasm over Vermeers paintings. She has great depth and people around her are drawn to her even if this means they dislike her. She invites opinion, just as the painting does.
Griets relationship with Vermeer forms the heart of the novel, it is where its warmth comes from. She loves his work because she understands it, and therefore his needs and obsessions. His wife does not. The growing attraction and sexual tension is outwardly restrained but inwardly palpable. Griet knows her position, and so does Vermeer. As we know the troubled heart within her, we suspect it in him also, but it is Griet who is stronger and willing to sacrifice, knowing the possible consequences. Although he does come through for her in the end, he is also weaker and more selfish in the short term. There is no tawdry affair, no affair at all. But it is tangible all the same. The result is an enigmatic painting that implies far more than it says. We can read into it what we will.
There are many other layers and characters that I haven't even touched upon, the savvy Maria Thins who is entertained by the ruckus Griet is causing in the household, the scheming daughter, Cornelia, who plots Griets downfall, the faithful and persistant Pieter who fights to win Griets heart. All of this whirling around a maid who likes to keep herself to herself. It is not a large book but there is something new happening, some new direction of plot or sub plot on each page. The conclusion seemed a little sudden but rounded all the streams of plot lines off. Within the factual dates of Vermeers life line, and within the boundaries of realism, there was never going to be a sunset ending, but Griet deserves a decent chance, and I found the ending provided something for her to look back on, but also to move forward from too.
I really loved reading this book, the gentle descriptions, the domestic life in a large house. I enjoyed getting to know a girl whose face I already knew of, and learning her (fictional) story. Without wanting to sound too cliched, this is a story told with a warmth of words that parallel the warmth of feeling that you can get from looking at a Vermeer painting. It is not my favourite book but I would definately recommend it as a good read.
Tracy Chevalier has her own website which talks about her book, offers a reading guide and shows you the paintings by Vermeer that are mentioned in the novel...
Sunday, 24 August 2008
Sunday, 17 August 2008
Rose and Johnny are in their 30's. Rose, a photographer, is happy with the way things are but Johnny feels it is time they had a child together. Rose stalls at first, but they start trying, to no success. They eventually go to the doctor and IVF treatment is suggested because Johnny's sperm count is low. Three lots of IVF treatments later and Rose and Johnny are coming apart at the seams, the stress, the dashed hopes and the strain of the treatment is taking its toll. Rose is now considering desperate options to make their wishes come true.
Rebecca Frayn is a film maker who has worked on Cutting Edge and The South Bank Show on TV (among others). She has also undergone IVF treatment herself, so knows first hand the rollercoaster that must accompany these experiences, and she explores every facet and possibility that arises with such a situation, the emotional ups and downs, the obsessional longing, and the strain it places on a relationship. It is sensitively and thoroughly written. However, there are times, especially during the first half, that the book feels journalistic, like a documentary that I've seen before, and sadly that is where I found it disappointing.
Rose's character does develop with the responsibility of the treatments and keeping her husband happy, especially during the second half where there are some well crafted paragraphs. In contrast, Johnny seems to behave like a petulant child, largely unsupportive while she undergoes various tiresome, sometimes undignified and uncomfortable procedures to fulfill his wish for a child. She was the one reluctant at first, but gave in because she loves him. He spends much of the story being moody, and barely civil towards her, absorbed in his own grievances, unless he is getting what he wants. The story is told from her point of view but she remains forgiving and understanding as her own need for a baby grows. The other characters are representations to furnish the different sides to their predicament - the highly fertile friends, the gay friend and potential sperm donor... The ending was not a complete surprise either.
The book is certainly representative of our modern times, IVF becoming a more common option for desperate couples. There is also the angle that, while genuine people have been saved by this treatment, how much does it serve our growing psychologies of acquirement, the consumer within us that demands the right to have what we want. There is lots to consider in discussion.
I was trying to think who would enjoy this novel. People who have gone through IVF have probably had enough of it to want to read about it. Possibly those involved in councelling or the medical industry may gain some insights, or relatives of a loved one undergoing such trauma's to their lives. From a literary point of view I found it one dimensional. Yes, I did want the blue line to show on each pregnancy test, for all of her efforts to pay off, so her husband will start to speak to her again and they could get on with their lives. Generally though, I found it dull, and as a novel and not a biography, it could have been deeper, more imaginative and therefore wring every emotion out of the reader in a very profound way. It remains that the thing I liked the most was the picture on the cover.
For an interesting interview, Making babies the Noughties way, with Rebecca Frayn, about her own experiences that drove her to write the book, click on this link...
Sunday, 10 August 2008
Sunday, 3 August 2008
When the book started I was worried it was going to be all 'acorn cups full of sunshine' and 'robes spun from spiders web'. A pseudo-Disney fairy world. I was quickly relieved and sometimes quite surprised by the brutality and animalistic qualities of the Changelings world. Forever children, they are frequently hungry, cold and dirty, living on their wits, a life out of sync with the world we know, all of them wishing for the time to re-enter the world again, as another child will be courted as a swap.
Essentially we have 2 stories existing side by side, the protagonists only meeting briefly at the end. We have a little boy learning to survive in the forest using the skills and heightened senses taught to him by the others in the small feral band, as well as retaining the need to write it all down. His relationship with the others and his becoming one of them and their society (some of which has echoes of The Lord of the Flies) forms the boys story, as the they prepare, many years in advance for the next swap. Then we have the Changeling who becomes Henry Day, his coldness and inability to relate to other people well, despite his ability to mimic the boy, the suspicions of his parents, and as he grows older, his own need to forget his previous life in the forest, as well as his obsession with protecting his own son.
I enjoyed greatly listening to each of their strange tales, their outsiders views, their alienation and need to survive. I found the Changeling character less likeable but none the less interesting. I also enjoyed the fact that I really did not know where the stories would end up. There are enough close encounters and originality to keep the reader gripped all the way through. Sometimes other people are involved in these encounters which taps into our own folklore, things mysteriously missing, even people traumatised by overstepping into the Changeling world. I found the inevitable meeting and discovery of each other, many many years in the future was what drove the plot, and its eventual fruition moving and quite tragic. While one grows into a man with his own family, I found myself shocked at the physical description of how the boy looked after the same amount of time living another kind of life, rough and primal. A life of half remembered longing that will never be fulfilled. I will leave this for you to discover.
My only complaint is the overuse of unbelievable coincidences that the book relies on heavily to drive the story forward. There are too many and at least one becomes almost implausable. This could make an otherwise excellent piece of story telling appear a bit sloppy in places. I found that this could be forgiven though, amongst so much else that entertained and gave food for thought in a first novel. A highly memorable book.
Here are links to another interesting review from the Guardian and a Readers Guide from Book browse...
Sunday, 27 July 2008
I tend to mark my favourites so I can easily find them when I need to revisit them. In this book these include the strange and disturbing Man with a Golf Ball Heart, the almost nightmarish, Dr Phibes quality of The Anaesthetist, or the funny but poignant C.V. It contains a mixture of rhyming and non rhyming poems.
A Hip Flask
To bring about safe passage to the States
and back, when taken from its sleeve or pouch
this gift sits where it should, tucked like a gun
inside the holster of a pocket, snug
against the leg or thigh or buttock, but
more suitably it fits the chest, the breast,
top left inside a jacket, where it feels
like armour plating or a sheriff's shield.
Good going for a little silver tin:
convex, concave, reflective on the out
and on the in. Misplaced, but then again
not knowing one malt from the next it's gin
that I'll be swigging, tipping to the lips
or sipping from the thimble of its lid.
I have a watch, map, toothbrush, cards and cash,
a licence, permit, pass, a ticket
going Eastern Seaboard, Central, Mountain
and a hip flask: tailored, weighed
and measured, worked both ways, this present made
to hide the heart and hold the heart in place.
If you want to know more about Simon Armitage, here is a link to his website...
Monday, 21 July 2008
Sunday, 13 July 2008
Sunday, 6 July 2008
This is a story about stories. Stories that people tell, stories that people believe and stories about things that have happened. The plot follows four generations of women, the oldest of whom was born in the Northern European forests of snow, and who emigrates to America where her family grows. Told by the four women themselves, this story has an added injection of folklore and superstition which continues through the more western life in the States and provides another dimension to the novel. Interpretation, myth or reality, all of life is as real as the person who tells the story believes it to be, and here we have four points of view, four realities.
Llana is the matriarch, mysterious and strong, in touch with the 'old ways', who survives a climate (meterological and political) to find love and a new life. Sashie, her daughter is very different and rejects her mothers traditional roots for the 'clean' American way. Mara is the grandaughter, the darkest character, whose view is almost sociopathic. Finally Nomie in the present day, who is closest to Llana and sees the truth through her eyes.
All four have a distinctive voice in the narrative, but it is Llana from the old country who is the strongest presence and provides the pivot that all other characters revolve around, and finally circle back to.
Some of the novel feels like a series of short fairystories, especially the first part in Europe. This is emphasised by the short punchy sentences. The first 20 pages were a captivating opening into Llana's world, and raced away without me noticing that I was enveloped in the plot.
Some of the stories later in the book are more ambiguous and left unexplained, like Sashie's cleaners, or Mara's ladder to the sky. Reality, story or delusion? This sometimes left me frustrated but it also leads you to ask what is reality?
Budnitz pulls no punches in illustrating the horrific episodes in life too, like in war, with poignant descriptions and the economy of words adding to the distasteful scenes. Every fairystory has some sense of the horrific, a wolf lurking in grandma's clothing. Budnitz employs all of these tales we were brought up on with fascination and wonder.
This is not a long book but the time scale (early 20th century, through World War II, to the present day) gives it an epic feel which led me to a few tears at the ending. A very enjoyable book and an interesting voice to look out for.
To read an interview with Judy Budnitz about the book and her writing, click on this link:-
Saturday, 28 June 2008
I bought this book a while ago from a bookshop in Oxford. It is perfect for dipping into, and I do so, often. No poem is more than 13 lines long and the poets (and the poems) are wide and varied, from William Wordsworth and Thomas Hardy, to Stevie Smith and Sylvia Plath. The introduction by Simon Armitage is funny and entertaining and it is a lovely addition to any bookshelf. It is published by Faber and Faber. One of my favourite poems from this book is written below...
The sky stops crying and in a sudden smile
Of childish sunshine the rain steams on the roofs;
Widow who has married widower
Poses outside the Registry for photographs.
Their grown up children are there
And damp confetti like a burst from a bag
Accumulated from a morning's marriages
Is second-hand for them against the door.
In the wood of the world where neither of them is lost
They take each other by the hand politely;
Borrowers going to and from the Library
Pass through the group as if it were a ghost.
Here is a link to read an essay about Stanley Cook's work:-
Sunday, 22 June 2008
I had been recommended this book for ages, so I was glad to be able to borrow it from a friend. I had been told the beginning, about a young girl of 14 years, looking down from heaven after being the victim of a horrible murder. This all happens in the first few chapters so I am not spoiling the core of the plot for you. It then explains how she observes her family and friends, and how they deal with her untimely death.
The murder itself is dealt with swiftly and brutally by the author, providing a strong first chapter with an unusual perspective from the girl herself, which allows us to step back and observe with her, alongside a reaction of shock and abhorence. However it is the reactions of her family that I found hit the hardest. I had several teary moments during this first part of the book, which were heightened by the simplicity of the language. The bits in-between, the unsaid parts of the text were what pierced me the most. The mum sinking to the floor with her hat, the dad crying into the dog.
The book does not continue with this level of emotion though, and is actually upbeat and hopeful as it covers a fair distance of time after the murder, a number of years in fact, all recounted by the victim in 'heaven'. As we follow these peoples lives, the sensitivity of the writing makes a very believable set of ongoing stories that resound around each character. We can identify easily with them, their connection to this event, how they forever carry it with them and also move on from it. In this the book remains interesting, but I found it lost some of its momentum, and the resonance of the early part of the book petered out.
I know some have found the book too idealistic, presenting an answer to an after life as a little too rosy and fantastic, a delusion. I found that I just went along with it as a possibility, a 'What if?...' scenario. It has also prompted some interesting discussions about 'What if the dead do watch us from above?' I know one person found this disturbing, to think of her relatives seeing all she does. I personally found it comforting. Everyone will bring their own experiences, beliefs and theories making this a good readers group choice.
I enjoyed it, found it lighter and more hopeful than I expected and I think it provides an interesting point for discussion on many levels.
Bookbrowse do a reading group guide with further things to think about:-