I raced through this psychological thriller, where four people look back at a disastrous holiday, telling the tale of what went wrong when two couples, one with a daughter, go on holiday together to Siracusa. It’s an intriguing, compelling, and creepy story about marriage, secrets, perceptions, and Americans abroad.
In 1960s rural Australia, kind and gentle farmer, Tom, wife has left him again, this time taking the young boy Tom raised, though the child wasn’t his. A glamorous older woman moves into town, a survivor of Auschwitz, determined to open a bookshop. Tom and Hannah find love, but making a new life is complicated. There is sweetness and humour here, and a lovely setting; I think it would make a popular movie. For me, there wasn’t enough character development, the villains were unconvincing (not the Nazis!) and I just wasn’t captured by this story.
I can see why some people have not enjoyed Nutshell. The idea of an eight month old foetus narrating from the womb, having learned about the world from podcasts and conversations, is definitely ludicrous. It’s clever, though, and while the other characters are less than likeable, I found it totally compelling. It’s about the state of our world, love, lust, and hope.
One of my favourite authors, Maggie O’Farrell has delivered another great book. It’s about a man from New York who, after studying in the UK years before, finds himself living in Ireland, married to a reclusive former movie star. There is all the messiness of life, with all the complications, obstacles, tragedies and mistakes, and how we identify and cling to what is important.
What a shallow, cold and frivolous woman Kitty Fane is! Her journey, momentous and painful, teaching her so much and yet changing her so little, is utterly compelling. The film, which I loved, is a love story but the book is not. Walter Fane falls in love with Kitty though they have nothing on common and she marries him to escape her mother’s cruel disappointment. In Hong Kong Kitty falls for a charming, married man and they have an affair. Walter takes his revenge by taking Kitty to a Chinese city in the grip of a cholera epidemic. In that terrible, beautiful place she begins to long for peace. I loved this book and read it on my own and with book club.
I borrowed the audio book to listen to on a long car trip, and the narrator did a great job. Alice wakes up after an accident at the gym, thinking she is 29, pregnant and happily in love with her husband, but discovers that she is, in fact, ten years older and much has changed in her life. The slow reveal of what has happened over the last ten years is peopled with eccentric, sometimes stereotypical characters and is set on Sydney’s North Shore. Very Australian, slightly predictable, a touch overwrought, this book pleasantly passed the time on a long drive.
Fates and Furies is quite a tour de force. It is about the marriage of a glamorous young couple; bright, magnetic, not entirely likeable. The chasm between how things seem, and how they really are is so cleverly and compellingly explored that I raced through this book. Literature, art, power, darkness and love, a heady mixture, a great read.