Swing Time is the story of two brown girls from London, who love to dance and have a complicated relationship. We follow them from childhood to adulthood, in London, New York and Africa. It is, as you would expect from Zadie Smith, beautifully written, and I never found it dull, but I was not entranced, either. The narrator, not named, is detached, without ambition, even shiftless, so I found the themes of parenthood, race, belonging, poverty, charity, fame, purpose, and meaning not, perhaps, as powerful as they might have been.
Orlando is such a beautiful, lyrical, whimsical, funny, dreamlike, book; I wanted to read it out loud. It’s an historical fantasy story about an aristocratic young man, with a great passion for nature and living, who somehow lives outside of time, and one day wakes up as a woman. Yes, it is bizarre, but a joyful, amusing, and exotic journey.
Sunset Song was voted the best Scottish book, so I felt compelled to read it. It is set in a small, rural Scottish community, full of eccentric characters, and a landscape both harsh and beautiful. Beginning not long before WWI, it tells of an ancient place in a time of great change, and we follow young Chris Guthrie as she grows with her family, suffers loss, falls in love and changes with the world. There were so many Scottish words I had to guess the meaning of, but the strange beauty of the land, the pull it had on its people, the quirky, funny, sweet and dark characters, and Chris’ strength through her trials and joys were clear, heartwarming and moving.
Three women, each approaching a different ‘0 birthday, experience a year of change. Even though the characters were cliched I found a bit of myself in each of the characters. Each was able to confront their past and embrace what happened to them – they will be celebrating their birthdays together for many more years to come.
I think I liked this book mostly because in it, the author does something I would very much like to do; she takes a year off work and regular life, to travel. The title makes it sound like she just floated on the wind, which isn’t true. She had plans for where she was going, but while she was there, she learned to relax and be open to adventure, friendship and love. It’s about a journey to rediscover self, but it isn’t preachy or new agey, neither is it about the destination. It is certainly a dreamy journey that I am glad to have shared.
Evelyn seeks out Monique to tell her life story to, there is a connection which we discover only at the end of the story. Evelyn reveals her life story, what she did to make it in Hollywood and the one person she truly loved. The story is well written with realistic characters, making me wonder if it was actually based on a Hollywood star.
Three and a half stars for Orphan Train, the dual stories of the early history of an elderly woman, and the current struggles of a young one. One came to America from Ireland in the 1920s before being moved to the mid-west by train with other homeless children. The other moves from one foster home to another, trying to find a place and purpose for herself. It’s about resilience, friendship and belonging and is an uplifting read, if a little predictable and flat in areas for my taste.
The story opens with a young lady taking the stairs to the roof of a hotel. We then meet three very different women lodging at the Barbizon, a women-only hotel in New York. We get a glimpse into their lives as they try to fulfill their dreams. Which one is the lady waiting to jump?
The story flows well and the author has authentically created the setting and time period. The ending is however a bit predictable.
I did really enjoy this spell in New York in the late 1930s. Katey Kontent is a young woman trying to make her way in the city, when she and a friend fall in with banker, Tinker Grey. There’s jazz, ambition, dazzling wealth, Dickens and many surprises.
If you love historical novels with a strong female lead then this is the story for you. The early years of aviation and the theatres of World War I are wonderfully described – the research by the author shining through. The horror of war and its affect on people is handled well – with an uplifting sentiment at the end that was not cheesey (if only everyone’s war horror could end in hope!). Della was a great character who had the strength and support to follow her dream of becoming a pilot in an arena where men ruled the skies. Women like Della (most of whom are not part of our history lessons) are important and I thank them for paving the way for us modern day women.