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.
A heartbreaking family story. One sister wants a family she can’t have and another has a family she doesn’t want. The story is set in mid 20th century Tasmania and gives a glimpse into life at that time and the life choices women made. An enjoyable, but at times sad, read.
This story was full of sadness and beauty. Australia’s landscape is told in beautiful detail which balances out the horor of abuse. Characters are either running from their story or embracing it. The language of native flowers are used to great effect, used in the introduction of each chapter, matching Alice’s story. It was easy to become involved in the story and Alice’s journey.
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.