Thomas Major is a grumpy, forty something year old man who volunteers for a one way trip to Mars. His life has been unhappy and confusing, and he is keen to turn his back on earth and its people. By strange co-incidence, he is in contact with a family who will challenge his views of the world, and himself. Full of quirky characters, crazy antics, high drama, and heart-warming triumphs, this is a fun and uplifting read. For fans of A Man Called Ove.
In a small, picturesque village in Quebec, an older woman is found dead in the forest. A group of detectives from the big city move in to solve the mystery, and find out the secrets of the villagers. I enjoyed the setting, and finding out about Quebec and the tension between French and English speakers there. The mystery itself was interesting, but on the whole I wasn’t enthralled. Some of the characters were twee, over done, or confusing, and it wasn’t quite as sweet as I expect a cosy mystery to be. It is the first in the series, though, so I won’t rule out trying another.
It’s a big book, but it fairly flew by. Detective Cormoran Strike and his partner Robin Ellacott take us through London, Westminster and the English countryside as they work for a government minister and try to find out how a troubled young man is connected to him. The mystery is convoluted and complicated, and the ending satisfying, but I don’t really read for plot. As ever, there is a great sense of place, and I have really come to care for the characters.
The Invisible Woman is the story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens. With so many letters destroyed, and lies told to maintain the public’s view of the great author, much of this story is guess work, or background history. I quite enjoyed the social history, and the details about Dickens’ work, but the lack of information about Nelly, the way she was erased from history, left her largely without personality, and the relationship between her and Dickens, without heart. I think I would have enjoyed an imagined version, told as a novel, better than this bringing together of scant facts and possibilities.
One thing you can usually count on a YA series for, is a super fast pace. I raced through Divergent, which was silly in many ways, but compelling and lots of fun. I found Carve the Mark boring, for the most part, with small flashes of action or feeling, but ultimately it went nowhere exciting, and took forever to get there. Cyra and Akos are from two enemy races living on the one planet. Their fates and coincidentally compatible “current gifts” bring them together, and a little bit of confusing action, some unexciting romance, and not a lot else ensues. I may read the next book for closure, but I may not.
What a brilliant idea, to ask a diverse range of Aboriginal people to tell their stories of growing up. Through these stories we experience the connection to country, and revel in the beauty of Australian places, we gain an insight into the oppression of racism, overt, casual, relentless, and the terrible pain and damage suffered by the Stolen Generations and those who followed. It’s enlightening, joyful, angry, poetic, tragic, proud and hopeful. A really important book.
This contains the final two books in the Patrick Melrose series – Mother’s Milk and At Last.
Mother’s Milk: After his breakthrough at the end of Never Mind, Patrick, now married with two sons, is struggling again; with inheritance, his marriage, his mother and parenthood. So sharp, delicious, painful, real, and delightful.
At Last: The final Patrick Melrose novel, and how I will miss him. Patrick is as bitingly clever as ever, and still working on gaining some equilibrium. The gathering at his mother’s funeral highlights the foibles of the upper class, the passions and fixations that hold people back, the complexities of living with past trauma, and the sparks of hope that keep us going.
This entire series is deeply insightful, witty, horrific, and brilliant.
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.
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.