In 1799 a Dutch clerk, Jacob de Zoet, arrives on Dejima, an island connected to Nagasaki, when all of Japan is closed to foreigners. Jacob needs to earn some money before he can return to the Netherlands, and the woman he is to marry. Instead, he falls in love while the world is changing. Like all of the David Mitchell novels I have read, this is beautiful, clever, lyrical, and wondrous. There’s also an awful lot of man stuff; sea voyages, men talking rubbish to each other, but it is a tale of love, faithfulness, adventure and learning.
Set in America after the bombing of Pearl Harbour. Two Japanese have escaped an internment camp. The FBI agent investigating witnesses them falling from the sky in a biplane and seems to think there is more to the story, as one of the Japanese prisoners was once part of a barnstorming troupe. I enjoyed this story as we are taken back in time to the formation of the troupe through to the internment escape. The ending was a bit surprising (not in a good way) and let the story down a bit, but overall a good story.
Years after the world ceased to be what it was, an armoured tank, full of soldiers and scientists, sets off into the wilds to try and find a way for humanity to survive. This is set before The Girl With All the Gifts, and can be read before it, though you might miss a treat at the end. It’s a moving and clever tale about a fight for survival, but also about understanding, connection, and sacrifice.
I love reading a book after loving a film or television adaptation; there’s always so much more depth. In this case, it’s also really different. Jimmy Perez looks different, and he is at a different stage of life, so it was like discovering new things about a beloved character. Despite the fact that I knew who the killer was (at least one of the mysteries) it was still an exciting, atmospheric ride.
A collection of historical short stories. I enjoyed dipping into different time periods and themes. Each story had an unique voice and tended be open ended. This allowed me to continue thinking about the stories and what happened next.
Some years after his father’s death, Patrick is clear of his all consuming drug habit, but is yet to replace it. On the cusp of something unknown, Patrick attends a party at a country house. As funny and clever as the first two books, Some Hope isn’t as dark, and it had a Dickens reference that made me clap. A deeply insightful, and even tender, look at class, purpose, the compelling absurdity of the rich, and the nature of forgiveness.
I was always going to love this; WWII, espionage and Kate Atkinson are all right up my alley, and I wasn’t disappointed. Juliet Armstrong is 18 when she is recruited into MI5, and a job that is mundane and frightening at the same time. Juliet’s war, like that of so many others, was complicated, and ten years later people from her past turn up in her life and she must confront the past. The characters are compelling, the story is clever, funny, deeply insightful and surprising.
Lisa Genova Is the writer of Still Alice, the heartbreaking story about dementia which was made into a successful movie which I’m sure many have seen. In Every Note Played, she tackles Motor Neuron Disease or ALS. Richard is a successful classical pianist who has divorced his wife of many years and lives for his music in a cool apartment with his Steinway piano. He is a selfish man, music is his life and his divorce and estrangement from his daughter Grace is due to putting his career above his family. The cost of this estrangement becomes apparent when he is diagnosed with ALS. Who is going to support him through this horrible illness and his emotional journey as he is quickly robbed of the ability to do the thing that he loves? Richard finds his new girlfriends are not there for him and it is left to his ex-wife Karina to step into the role of carer after hearing the news from friends. Karina was also a very talented pianist who gave up her dream to have their daughter Grace and support Richard in his career. Her dissatisfaction and Richard’s infidelities left Karina very angry. The fact that she steps into this role gives us one of the main topics of this story; forgiveness. Lisa Genova also uses her neurological background and research to illustrate how ALS progresses and the devastating effects it has on the person with the disease as well as family and friends.
I’m not usually a fan of this kind of fiction but it isn’t a sentimental story, it is quite practical in the the way it is told and there are unresolved issues till the end.
For a quirkily funny read about human nature, you must read “Lawyer for the Dog” by Lee Robinson.
Set in the wealthy area of South Carolina, this highly improbable, yet highly plausible novel is a must for those who wish to escape into the realms of fiction.
Attorney Sally Baynard is the protagonist and of course she finds love. But with whom?
And, as she is a lawyer, you can imagine there are problems with divisions of assets. Will the pet dog, a miniature schnauzer called Sherman (yes, as in the tank!) be torn in half?
This is a thoroughly good light hearted read, and is a must for those who always like to see the good in others.
Pat Barker has written some of my favourite WWI and WWII fiction, so I know her to be a brilliant teller of war stories. The Silence of the Girls is a retelling of The Iliad, and while it is a story of the Trojan War, it focuses on the plight of the women. The detail is graphic and harsh, there is much rape and violence, but it is also a moving tale of strength and hope, particularly that of women.