Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan

Hardback:  320 pages
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publisher:  Jonathan Cape 2012

Source: Tywyn Public Library  
First Sentence: 'My name is Serena Frome (rhymes with plume) and almost forty years ago I was sent on a secret mission for the British security service.'

Favourite Quote: “I turned the pages so fast. And I suppose I was, in my mindless way, looking for a something, version of myself, a heroine I could slip inside as one might a pair of favourite shoes.” 
Review Quote: What you see is not what you get, and the twist at the end reminds us of how many of this author's works confound readers imaginations... A well-crafted pleasure to read, its smooth prose and slippery intelligence sliding down like cream. (Amanda Craig Independent )
My Opinion: What a great read.

What a great read Ian McEwan's latest novel is, spies and love set in a time of political turmoil in the early seventies. A period I was able to empathise well with as I was working myself during the three day week. From the first page you know the outcome of the story, but there is still a secret to be discovered,  McEwan is uses his characters brilliantly in this novel to tell us just how MI5 prompted the cultural cold war.

'Sweet Tooth' is narrated by the female heroine of the novel  Serena Frome, the daughter of an Anglican bishop, who during her final year at Cambridge studying for a maths degree, has an affair with an older man.  Not such an unusual occurrence but she later discovers that thanks to her lover she was being groomed for a career in the intelligence services, her intelligence and beauty making her the perfect spy!  The world is divided by 'The Cold War' and the government of the time wants to give financial but secret aid to promising young writers that will boost the anti - communist propaganda. 
Serena as an avid reader is seen as the perfect choice to be sent on a secret mission, code named 'Sweet Tooth' to infiltrate herself into the literary circle of a promising young writer, Tom Haley. Her task is to gauge his suitability for such financial aid. Serena discovers that at first she loves Tom's writing and of course approves him, however she had not reckoned on falling in love with him.  What will she do, whom can she trust and will she be able to keep her secret life from the man she has fallen for?  

Once again another brilliant novel from Ian McEwan, a clever and ingenious story with plenty of intrigue, that will satisfy his fans  and maybe attract new ones. Do give it a try.

Sweet Tooth - Reading - Ian McEwan

       Ian McEwan introduces Sweet Tooth

My previous reviews for  Amsterdam,   AtonementOn Chesil Beach,  Saturday and The Cement Garden were written for Bookcrossing  before this Book Review blog was in existence. 

Author Profile

Photo Credit: Annalena McAfee

Ian McEwan was born on 21 June 1948 in Aldershot, England. He studied at the University of Sussex, where he received a BA degree in English Literature in 1970. He received his MA degree in English Literature at the University of East Anglia.

McEwan's works have earned him worldwide critical acclaim. He won the Somerset Maugham Award in 1976 for his first collection of short stories First Love, Last Rites; the Whitbread Novel Award (1987) and the Prix Fémina Etranger (1993) for The Child in Time; and Germany's Shakespeare Prize in 1999. He has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction numerous times, winning the award for Amsterdam in 1998. His novel Atonement received the WH Smith Literary Award (2002), National Book Critics' Circle Fiction Award (2003), Los Angeles Times Prize for Fiction (2003), and the Santiago Prize for the European Novel (2004). He was awarded a CBE in 2000. In 2006, he won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for his novel Saturday and his novel On Chesil Beach was named Galaxy Book of the Year at the 2008 British Book Awards where McEwan was also named Reader's Digest Author of the Year.

McEwan lives in London and is currently writing a new novel. His most recently published work is For You, a libretto.

Photo and Biographical Information is with thanks to the following sites where you can also find out more about the author and his writing. 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Peaches For Monsieur le Cure by Joanne Harris

Hardback: 458 pages
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publisher: Doubleday 2012 
Source: Tywyn Library, Wales.
First Sentences: Someone once told me that, in France alone, a quarter of a million letters are delivered every year to the dead. What she didn't tell me is that sometimes the dead write back.

Review Quote:   Her characteristic love affair with texture - scents, smells and sounds - immerses the reader in a bath of seductive imagery in a brave and grippingly confected story (The Sunday Times )

Favourite Quote:“Some people spend the whole of their lives sitting waiting for one train, only to find that they never even made it to the station.” 
My Opinion: A pure delight to read.

I was thrilled when I found ' Peaches for Monsieur le Cure' sitting on the bookshelf at the local library in the town where I am based at present. 'Chocolat' is an all time favourite novel of mine and although I was not writing reviews when I read that you will find one for the second book in the series. 'The Lollipop Shoes' which carried on perfectly from where Joanne Harris left us in 'Chocolat'.  The characters had become familiar during the reading of the two novels leaving me feeling rather attached to them and longing for a sequel.  This much anticipated sequel has not disappointed it has been a pure delight to read, Joanne Harris's writing is as evocative as always with that hint of magic.

It is four years since the 'The Lollipop Shoes' ended with Vianne and Roux living on a houseboat in Paris. Vianne's daughter Anouk is fifteen and almost a young woman whilst Rosette is eight, a mysterious little girl. They seem settled and happy then on a changing summer wind, a letter arrives from a dead friend calling them back to the village of Lansquenet, where eight years previously she had opened her chocolaterie. They return there and find in many ways it is unchanged, the church, the cobbled streets and the old tanneries along the river are all just the same, but there have also been changes! On the far side of the river Tannes there is a minaret, the perfume of spices, mint tea and incense hangs in the air and veiled women in black walk the streets of the Les Marauds district.  A rural French village that has not changed for over fifty years has suddenly found itself in turmoil as two very different cultures try to live together in disharmony.  The story takes place during August the time of Ramadan in the Islamic faith. Vianne is surprised to find that her old adversary Father Reynaud is in disgrace, despite having appeared to have mellowed a little over the years he still has very strong beliefs which he stubbornly adheres to. Vianne and Francis Reynaud discover that they are not so different after all, as we had maybe thought in 'Chocolat'.  Vianne now being a happier woman seems ready and able on meeting him again to work with him to discover just what is at the heart of the problems in Lansquenet.
Could it be that Vianne is the only one who can save him? Well I do not believe in spoilers so to find out you will have to read the book.  However the ending still leaves me wanting more so I do hope Joanne Harris will return to these wonderful characters that she has created again one day.

I have been a fan of Joanne Harris for many years and there are two previous reviews of her novels on this blog, for those of you that may be interested. 

Author Profile

Image of Joanne HarrisAmazon author photo.

About Joanne Harris (courtesy of her official website)
Joanne Harris was born in Barnsley in 1964, of a French mother and an English father. She studied Modern and Mediaeval Languages at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge and was a teacher for fifteen years, during which time she published three novels; The Evil Seed(1989), Sleep, Pale Sister (1993) and Chocolat (1999), which was made into an Oscar-nominated film starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp.
Since then, she has written eight more novels; Blackberry Wine, Five Quarters of the Orange, Coastliners, Holy Fools, Gentlemen and Players, The Lollipop Shoes and Runemarks, and  blueeyedboy, plus; Jigs & Reels, a collection of short stories and, with cookery writer Fran Warde, two cookbooks;The French Kitchen and The French Market. most recently published are Runelight and  A Cat, A Hat and A Piece of String, a new collection of short stories. Her books are now published in over 40 countries and have won a number of British and international awards. In 2004, Joanne was one of the judges of the Whitbread prize (categories; first novel and overall winner); and in 2005 she was a judge of the Orange prize.
Her hobbies are listed in Who’s Who as: “mooching, lounging, strutting, strumming, priest-baiting and quiet subversion of the system”, although she also enjoys obfuscation, sleaze, rebellion, witchcraft, armed robbery, tea and biscuits. She is not above bribery and would not necessarily refuse an offer involving exotic travel, champagne or yellow diamonds from Graff. She plays bass guitar in a band first formed when she was 16, is currently studying Old Norse and lives with her husband Kevin and her daughter Anouchka, about 15 miles from the place she was born.

For more fascinating facts visit 101 Facts About Joanne Harris.

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 her writing. 

Amazon Author Profile - Joanne Harris    Official Website - Joanne Harris   Goodreads Author Profile