Friday, February 10, 2017

The Girl In The Red Coat by Kate Hamer




Paperback: 375 pages                                                                                                 
Genre: Thriller Mystery
Publisher: Faber and Faber 2015
Source: Tywyn Public Library
First Sentence: I dream about Carmel often.
Review Quote:  Hamer’s novel aims to be more than a thriller, and the real heart of the book is not its suspense, but its explorations of grief and how we weather it. The Guardian
Literary Awards: Shortlisted for The Costa First Novel Prize, the British Book Industry Awards Debut Fiction Book of the Year, the John Creasy (New Blood) Dagger and the Wales Book of the Year
My Opinion: This title was read for one of my book groups. The standard of the writing and the fact I wanted to know the outcome made this a readable story but not one that particularly enthralled me. Maybe my expectations were raised by the fact that other members of my book group were particularly excited to be reading this novel. Also the author is coming to Tywyn in March to speak at a Literary Dinner. It will certainly be interesting to hear her speak and I am sure people will have some interesting questions for her.

The way the story is told from both the point of view of both protagonists is gripping and it was certainly not what I expected. Beth is the devastated mother desperately trying to rebuild her life after the abduction of her daughter and the story alternates between her telling of her experiences and those of Carmel, as a man claiming to be her grandfather whisks her away to a new and very strange life!  There are certainly many unexplained things in this world but it is with Carmel's so called gift which I found difficulty coping with, making the story less plausible for me. Although despite my nagging doubts it was Carmel's sections of the novel that held my interest far more.

The final scenes of the novel I found something of an anti-climax because they were dealt with in such an abrupt manner, I  personally needed much more to be made of it and was left feeling disappointed.  This though should not put you off reading as if you are looking for something different from the normal abduction tale then this may well be for you.




Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

She is the missing girl. But she doesn't know she's lost.

Carmel Wakeford becomes separated from her mother at a local children's festival, and is found by a man who claims to be her estranged grandfather. He tells her that her mother has had an accident and that she is to live with him for now. As days become weeks with her new family, 8-year-old Carmel realises that this man believes she has a special gift...

While her mother desperately tries to find her, Carmel embarks on an extraordinary journey, one that will make her question who she is - and who she might become.



Video Trailer for 'The Girl In The Red Coat ' Courtesy of YouTube


Author Kate Hamer appears at Tonyrefail Arts Festival 2015 to discuss her debut novel 'The Girl in the Red Coat'. [Amateur Footage] This is a long video at 36 minutes but if you have the time, it is well worth a listen.


Author Profile

Kate Hamer's first novel 'The Girl in the Red Coat' (Faber & Faber, 2015) was shortlisted for The Costa First Novel Prize, the British Book Industry Awards Debut Fiction Book of the Year, the John Creasy (New Blood) Dagger and the Wales Book of the Year. It was a Sunday Times bestseller and has been translated into 16 different languages. Kate won the Rhys Davies Short Story Prize and she has had short stories published in anthologies such 'A Fiction Map of Wales', 'New Welsh Short Stories' and broadcast on BBC Radio 4. She's written articles and reviews for The Independent, The Mail on Sunday and The New York Times. Kate grew up in the West country and rural Pembrokeshire and now lives with her husband in Cardiff. Her second novel, to be published by Faber & Faber in February 2017, is 'The Doll Funeral'.


Photographs, Trailer and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites.


Amazon Author Page      Goodreads Author Profile       YouTube Video    

   Facebook - Literature and Lasagne           Kate Hamer - Author's Official Website.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan




Paperback: 448 pages                                                                                                 
Genre: Literary Fiction, War
Publisher: Vintage 2015
Source: Tywyn Bookclub Choice
First Sentence: Why at the beginning of things is there always light?
Favourite Quote: “In trying to escape the fatality of memory, he discovered with an immense sadness that pursuing the past inevitably only leads to greater loss.”
Review Quote: "Flanagan can stop a reader's breath." (Los Angeles Times)
Setting:Tasmania, Burma, Myanmar, Thailand, Japan, Changi (Singapore), Sydney (Australia)
Literary Awards: Man Booker Prize (2014)The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award Nominee for Shortlist (2015)Miles Franklin Literary Award Nominee (2014)Prime Minister's Literary Awards for Fiction (2014)Australian Independent Booksellers Indie Book Award for Book of the Year (2014) etc.
My Opinion: This is not a choice I would have made myself as the story is so deeply entrenched in the horrors of war, not a genre that appeals to me. However I soon discovered that there is so much more to this well deserved winner of the Man Booker Prize, which the author wrote in tribute to his father, who actually survived the horrors of working on the Thailand to Burma Railway. Richard Flanagan is quoted as saying 'that more people died building this railway than words in my novel'
At the centre of the novel is the intense and horrific story of the time the protagonist Dorrigo Evans spent in the Japanese POW camp working on the so called Death Railway. To be honest I found parts of the novel very difficult reading as it was very descriptive and the brutality was very disturbing. It took perseverance but as the intertwined love story, that motivated Dorrigo to survive balances the novel I kept going. The narrative is not presented chronologically which helped because just as I was wondering how much more I could take of the sickening descriptions, the story would move to another time and place, a much needed break. In conclusion well worth reading if you can cope with the disturbing aspects, will I think appeal to fans of Sebastian Faulks.  



Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

A novel of the cruelty of war, and tenuousness of life and the impossibility of love.

What would you do if you saw the love of your life, whom you thought dead for the last quarter of a century, walking towards you?

Richard Flanagan's story — of Dorrigo Evans, an Australian doctor haunted by a love affair with his uncle's wife — journeys from the caves of Tasmanian trappers in the early twentieth century to a crumbling pre-war beachside hotel, from a Thai jungle prison to a Japanese snow festival, from the Changi gallows to a chance meeting of lovers on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.


Taking its title from 17th-century haiku poet Basho's travel journal, The Narrow Road To The Deep North is about the impossibility of love. At its heart is one day in a Japanese slave labour camp in August 1943. As the day builds to its horrific climax, Dorrigo Evans battles and fails in his quest to save the lives of his fellow POWs, a man is killed for no reason, and a love story unfolds..


Video Trailer for 'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' Courtesy of YouTube



Courtesy of BBC Newsnight.

Published on 14 Oct 2014
Live after the Man Booker 2014 awards ceremony Kirsty Wark talks to the winner, Australian Richard Flanagan who has scooped the £50,000 prize for his wartime novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North.

Author Profile



Richard Flanagan was born in Longford, on the west coast of Tasmania, Australia on January 1st 1961.
His novels Death of a River Guide, The Sound of One Hand Clapping, Gould’s Book of Fish, The Unknown Terrorist, Wanting and The Narrow Road to the Deep North have received numerous honours and are published in 42 countries. He won the Man Booker Prize for The Narrow Road to the Deep North in 2014.
Two of his novels are set  where he lived in the township of Rosebery as a child. Death of a River Guide relates to the Franklin River, Gould's Book of Fish to the Macquarie Harbour Penal Station, and The Sound of One Hand Clapping to the Hydro settlements in the Central Highlands of Tasmania.
An author, historian and film director, he has also been  president of the Tasmania University Union and a Rhodes Scholar. Each of his novels has attracted major praise. His first, Death of a River Guide (1994), was short-listed for the Miles Franklin Award, as were his next two, The Sound of One Hand Clapping (1997) and Gould's Book of Fish (2001). His earlier, non-fiction titles include books about the Gordon River, student issues, and the story of conman John Friedrich.


Photographs, Trailer and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites.


Amazon Author Page   YouTube Video   Goodreads Author Profile   Wikipedia - Richard Flanagan

Richard Flanagan - Author Official Website



Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Liberation by Kate Furnivall





Paperback: 552 pages                                                                                     

Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher: November 3rd 2016 by Simon & Schuster Ltd
Source: Tywyn Public Library
First Sentence: Caterina Lombardi didn't want Nonno to die.
My Opinion: It was quite by chance that I came to read this very readable novel set in southern Italy just after the Second World War. I just happened to see it on display at my local library recently and as an Italophile it appealed to me. I have never read any of Kate Furnivall's novels before but after enjoying this one she is an author I will not hesitate to read again.
The story is a tangled web of intrigue and deceit, a very descriptive account of a country that was struggling to survive. Caterina, the protagonist is a truly amazing young woman prepared to go to great lengths to protect her family. Highly recommended to fans of historical romantic fiction and Italophiles.


Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:


Italy, 1945: as British and American troops attempt to bring order to the devastated cities, its population fights each other to survive. Caterina Lombardi is desperate - her mother has abandoned them already and her brother is being drawn into the mafia. Early one morning, among the ruins of the bombed Naples streets, she is forced to go to extreme lengths to protect her family and in doing so forges a future very different to the one she expected. But will the secrets of her family's past be her downfall? This epic novel is an unforgettably powerful story of love, loss and the long shadow of war.



Video Trailer for ' The Liberation ' Courtesy of YouTube






Author Profile





Kate Furnivall was born in Penarth, Wales, UK to an English father and a Russian mother. She grew up there with her twin sister, an older brother and a sister.


Her mother's childhood was spent in Russia, China and India, and it was her that inspired her daughter to write, when she discovered the story of her grandmother. A White Russian refugee who fled from the Bolsheviks down into China. That extraordinary tale inspired her first book, The Russian Concubine. From then on, she was hooked.

Kate is the author of eight novels, including The Russian Concubine, The White Pearl and The Italian Wife. Her books have been translated into more than twenty languages and have been on the New York Times Bestseller list.

She went to London University where she studied English and from there she went into publishing, writing material for a series of books on the canals of Britain. Then into advertising where she met her husband, Norman, with whom she has two sons.


Photographs, Trailer and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites.



YouTube - The Liberation     Wikipedia - Kate Furnivall    Goodreads Author Profile

Amazon Author Page    Kate Furnivall - Author Official Website

Friday, January 20, 2017

Where My Heart Used To Beat by Sebastian Faulks



                                            25241505

Hardback:325 pages                                                                                                  
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Hutchinson, 2015
Source: Tywyn Public Library
First Sentence: With its free peanuts and anonymity, the airline lounge is somewhere I can usually feel at home; but on this occasion I was in too much of a panic to enjoy its self-importance.
Review Quote: "A masterpiece…a terrific novel, humming with ideas, knowing asides, shafts of sunlight, shouts of laughter and moments of almost unbearable tragedy" (Toby Clements Sunday Telegraph)
My Opinion: Such a sad story of love and loss with war taking a large part of the narrative.  The subject of both World Wars is a recurring theme in the novels of Sebastian Faulks and one he writes about so vividly, though sometimes this can be a little over powering. Another subject that Faulks has written about previously is the condition of the human mind and that is very much part of this latest novel as he explores how much our minds are part of our genetics.
As in his previous novels he manages despite the underlying harrowing parts of the story once again to have produced a compelling page turner. If you find parts difficult to concentrate on just keep going as it is well worthwhile for the heart rending ending.




Précis Courtesy of Goodreads
:


"You don't live the life I have without making some enemies."

Having accepted a strange but intriguing invitation to a French island, psychiatrist Robert Hendricks meets the man who has commissioned him to write a biography. But his subject seems more interested in finding out about Robert's past than he does in revealing his own. For years, Robert has refused to discuss his past. After the war ended, he refused to go to reunions, believing in some way that denying the killing and the deaths of his friends and fellow soldiers would mean he wouldn't be defined by the experience. Suddenly, he can't keep the memories from overtaking him. But can he trust his memories and can we believe what other people tell us about theirs?

Moving between the present and past, between France and Italy, New York and London, this is a powerful story about love and war, memory and desire, the relationship between the body and the mind.

Compelling and full of suspense, Where My Heart Used to Beat is a tender, brutal and thoughtful portrait of a man and a century, which asks whether, given the carnage we've witnessed and inflicted over the past one hundred years, people can ever be the same.

I have read the majority of his novels, five of which I have previously reviewed, I am including the links to them for those of you that might be interested.

Devil May Care  Engleby   Human Traces  A Week in December  A Possible Life



Video Trailer for 'Where My Heart Used To Beat'      ' Courtesy of YouTube and BBC Newsnight'




Author Profile






Sebastian Charles Faulks CBE was born in Donnington, England on April 20th 1953  He is a novelist, journalist, and broadcaster who is best known for his historical novels set in France — The Girl at the Lion D'Or, Birdsong, and Charlotte Grey. He comes from an interesting family background as can be read in this biographical profile. 
He is the son of Pamela (Lawless) and Peter Ronald Faulks, a Berkshire solicitor who later became a judge. He grew up in Newbury. His mother was both cultured and highly strung. She introduced him to reading and music at a young age. Her own mother, from whom she was estranged, had been an actress in repertory. His father was a company commander in the Duke of Wellington's Regiment, in which he served from 1939 to 1946. He saw action in Holland, France, Tunisia, Italy (at the Anzio landings), Syria and Palestine. He was wounded three times and awarded an immediate MC after an action against the Hermann Goering Parachute Troops in North Africa in 1942.
His maternal grandfather, Philip Henry Lawless, enlisted in the 1st Battalion, 28th county of London Regiment, otherwise known as The Artists' Rifles in 1914, and served in trench warfare on the Western Front until 1917, when he moved to the 26th Battalion Middlesex Regiment and finished the war in Salonika. He was decorated several times and received the Military Cross in 1918, the standard Victory Medal, the British War Medal and the 1914 Star. He eventually left the Army and returned to work as a wine merchant - his father's original occupation.
His paternal grandfather, Major James Faulks (Major was his name, not a military rank) was an accountant who had previously worked as a schoolmaster at a private boarding school in Tunbridge Wells, while Major's provisions merchant father, William Robert Faulks, supplied dairy products in late Victorian Paddington.
Faulks' father wanted him to become a diplomat. He claims his first ambition was to be a taxi driver until at the age of fifteen, while reading George Orwell, he decided to become a novelist instead. In fact, he is the only member of his paternal family not to be a lawyer; his father and uncle were judges and his brother Edward is a QC specialising in medical negligence.
Faulks was educated at the fee-charging Wellington College and studied English at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he won an open exhibition and to which he was elected an honorary fellow in 2007. He took a teaching job at the Dwight-Franklin International School after university while also moving into journalism, becoming a features writer for the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, and was recruited by the Independent as Literary Editor in 1986. He became the Deputy Editor of the Independent on Sunday before leaving in 1991 to concentrate on writing. He has been a columnist forThe Guardian (1992-8) and The Evening Standard (1997-9).
He continues to contribute articles and reviews to a number of newspapers and magazines and to broadcast regularly. He wrote and presented the Channel 4 series Churchill's Secret Army, about the wartime Special Operations Executive (SOE), screened in 1999. Faulks is a team captain on BBC Radio 4's literary quiz The Write Stuff.
Faulks lives with his wife, Veronica (formerly his assistant at The Independent), and their three children William, Holly and Arthur . He works from his study in a top floor flat of a house near Holland Park Avenue, ten minutes from his home, starting work at 10am and finishing at 6pm, regardless of whether he is writing a book or not.
He was appointed a CBE in the Birthday Honours List 2002 for "services to Literature" and he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1994.
Faulks supports West Ham United. He writes about this in "Upton and Other Parks," a contribution to the 1990 football book Saturday's Boys.


The biographical information and photo used in this post are with thanks to the following websites, where you can also find more information about the author and his writing.

Goodreads Author Profile   Sebastian Faulks - Biography.  Amazon Author Profile 


Sebastian Faulks - Facebook   Author's Official Website