Totally bizarre, The Last Days of New Paris certainly isn’t a book for everyone. It is alternate history set in two time periods, 1941 and 1950. What is created in 1940, leaves Thibaut and Sam still fighting Nazis in 1950 Paris, along with surrealist art that has come to life, and demons. It’s kind of like looking at surrealist artworks; I don’t really have any idea of what is going on, but it is disturbing, intriguing, frightening and somehow beautiful.
The Improbability of Love is the story of an 18th Century French painting, which turns up in a junk shop, and sets an awful lot of drama in motion. It’s a fast-paced mystery/thriller with elements of chick lit and satire. It was a bit of a mixed bag for me, sometimes the sense of everything going wrong before it could go right, just made me want to put it down, and I found some aspects over done, but the resolution was satisfying and the journey often amusing or engaging.
I really love this book! In order to tell his story, Cal Stephanides needs to go back and start with his grandparents. What follows is the epic story of a Greek family, beginning with an escape from burning Smyrna to their settling in Detroit. It is full of real history thrillingly entwined with the imagined; the Nation of Islam, the riots in Detroit (David Bowie song!) and an experience of being intersex. It is heartwarming, funny, over the top and very real at the same time.
I wish I had read this before The Count of Monte Cristo. The Three Musketeers is a wild adventure, with duels, daring escapes, abductions, affairs galore, political machinations, treason, betrayal, romance and friendship. Milady is a clever villain, brilliant evil, and the four ‘heroes’ were almost as bad – vain, callous, manipulative and adulterous. The book is fun, but having really loved The Count of Monte Cristo, I was disappointed.
It turns out that I can enjoy a book like this, if it is set in a book shop, in the Cotswolds. Emilia’s father has died, leaving her a book shop that isn’t doing very well. As she decides whether to keep it going or not, a cast of her customers also find themselves at crossroads. It’s heartwarming, comfortably predictable and sweet, without being cloying. I couldn’t read only this sort of book, but it was an entertaining interlude.
Idaho is a story about the ripples of consequences, hope, forgiveness, loss, the fragility of life and situation, the power of love and friendship. There is plenty of plot, but it isn’t linear, or symmetrical. It is set, largely, on a lonely mountain in Idaho, where a family lives until something unexpected and shocking happens. The writing is beautiful, full of dreamy detail, with a wonderful sense of place.
Dimple and Rishi are Indian-American teens whose parents think should get married, and they meet for the first time at a University’s summer program. It’s a sweet love story, with really interesting cultural detail, a little predictable, and sometimes silly, but a quick, fun, read.
I read My Name is Lucy Barton last year and found it a beautiful story. Anything is Possible is a companion book, in which Lucy features. It is, essentially, connected short stories about people in the small town Lucy Barton grew up in. It’s about strength of character, loneliness, loss, hope and the endlessly bizarre turns life and people can take. It’s sad, sweet, puzzling, complex and hopeful; I enjoyed it very much.
This could have been so bad. Loving Jane Eyre as much as I do, means that I am very sensitive to the story being messed with, so I was surprised to find myself enjoying it so much. Mr Rochester takes Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea, and endeavours to tell the story of Edward Fairfax Rochester from his childhood. There were a couple of Americanisms, but on the whole the voice was convincing, and the story fit. There were some surprising revelations, even after Jane enters the story, and I wonder whether their love story would be convincing to someone who hasn’t read Jane Eyre, as it was so condensed, but on the whole, it was a good read.