The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society … a review

I received this book as an early Christmas present from a friend. And because I am impatient with books and I also want to watch the movie, I’ve even finished reading it before Christmas! What an enjoyable read. This story is set on the tiny island of Guernsey in the English Channel in the mid-1940s. After the end of World War II, the German occupation of Guernsey ended and our book’s protagonist Juliet Ashton is touring the UK promoting her book.

Out of the blue, she receives a letter from an unknown man called Dawsey Adams from Guernsey. One thing leads to another, and instead of ‘settling down’ with her suitor Reynolds, which she never intended to do anyway, Ashton ends up researching her next book about the Occupation of Guernsey. Not least to do with the fact that she is intrigued by the name of the society that Adams is a part of ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’.

This is a beautifully written book, based on letters that the characters write to one another. The backdrop of war is very prominent, but because of the time it is set in, the war isn’t central, which I liked. Overall, it is light-hearted in its approach to the life of the characters and has a heart-warming ending. Not that that’s what I go for at Christmastime, but I did enjoy it. Now to get the popcorn and watch the movie!

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Sybil … a review

Written by Flora Rheta Schreiber, this book has been on my TBR for years. In fact, it has been on that list since I read Sidney Sheldon’s Tell Me Your Dreams, which is fiction, based on similar fact. Sybil is the story of a young woman, who has Dissociative Identity Disorder, and has 16 separate identities.

The book is her account as told by Schreiber, who was an academic consult on the case, in association with her therapist. What is notable about this case is that it was a milestone moment for research and further study of DID as a significant mental illness. Before Sybil’s case apparently, it was disproved by some as not a real illness and more of an excuse for criminals to get out of confessions!

Even though this book is non-fiction, the events and episodes described in it are so bizarre that it reads like a fast paced thriller. Understandably, the book is also controversial, with many accusing the therapist of wrongfully diagnosing Sybil’s mother (who was not a patient) and also of the author making millions at the expense of Sybil.

However, all things considered, I’d like to think that highly specialised cases such as this deserve a retelling, to rally public support to fund more research and perhaps help more victims. If it has achieved that, then at least there is some good. I am really glad I finally got around to reading it, and I wasn’t disappointed in the least!

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter … a review

I had heard a lot about this book so when I chanced upon it, I picked it up. It was meant to be a travel read, and it is a good size and weight for that. So if you are going away on holiday this summer and want something interesting, I would recommend this book.

The plot hinges on Dr. David Henry, who lies to his wife and tell her that one of their twins, a daughter, was stillborn. In reality, she had Down’s and he gave her away to the nurse to put in a home. The nurse Caroline, couldn’t bear it however, and decides to raise the child herself. The plot is a bit too iffy. There are too many coincidences and the fact that Mrs Henry is totally obsessed in her grief but manages to mother her son and have a life anyway (however grudgingly) is a bit strange. She also questions her husband surprisingly less in the initial year after her daughter’s death, even though she cannot get past it.

But, but, once you get past all that, and assume the plot is a given, the portrayal of the fragility of relationships is actually brilliant. The slow decay of the Henry marriage, the dysfunctional family unit for Paul – the surviving child, the evolving relationship of Mrs Henry and her sister, the secret between Caroline and Dr Henry, and the struggles of Caroline with her ‘dauhter’ Phoebe are all excellently handled. Life can sometimes be stranger than fiction and the various people in their individual journeys are well-bound by this strange secret – a disabled child.

The treatment of peoples’ past as well is nicely written and you can see how each character’s past shapes their thoughts and behaviour. This is generally always true for good books, but this one is particular was standout. Down’s children as well are very precocious  in some ways and through Phoebe, those sentiments are nicelyconveyed. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I can see why there was a hype about it.

The Daylight Gate … a review

I was at Lancaster University last week and spending some time walking around Pendle College and ended up at their very impressive student library. What do I do when that happens? Pick up a book and make a beeline for an empty couch! I picked up this book because I had been to Lancaster Castle the day before and only just found out about the area’s connection to witches!

The book is set in 1612, when James I, a Protestant King, is on the throne. He was James VI of Scotland, of course, the son of Mary Queen of Scots. Apparently, he was obsessed with ridding his realm of twin evils, witchcraft and Catholicism, at any price…

The narrative has an old fashioned writing style, it is not halting though, just different. The local sheriff at Pendle hill interrupts a strange meeting as he suspects it to be a witches’ Sabbat. I won’t tell you how, but even Shakespeare plays a cameo – how cool is that!?

It is a very short read although it looks deceptively thick. It took me a couple of hours and a bit to read, although I was totally engrossed in it. The library was fab and the weather outside was, well, underwhelming, so there.

Jamilia … a review

I first heard about the book Jamilia a long time ago, in context of Kyrgyztan. I cannot remember what it was now… I got my hands on the Telegram copy a few weeks ago. It is only a novella, took me only about an hour and a half to read it. It is a beautiful love story and is the first major novel by Chingiz Aytmatov.

The novel is the story if Jamilia, as told by her brother-in-law Seit, a young Kyrgyz artist. Jamilia’s husband is at the front at war and this books talks of her love of Daniyar, a local cripple. While nothing earth-shattering happens, the book recounts the tender emotions of love and the sense of society very beautifully. The story is backdropped against the collective farming culture which was in its peak in that period.

During the Soviet era, Aitmatov was known as the “intellectual father of the Kyrgyz people” and as the “voice of Central Asia.” Under Stalin, he was a tax collector, a warehouse worker and a machinist, before studying veterinary medicine and literature and eventually becoming the most popular Soviet writer.

I’d recommend the book, and I think free versions are available on the web too.

One Day … a review

I read this book over two long haul flights. It was a recommedation from a friend who knows I enjoy books set in Edinburgh. This one starts off in Edinburgh but then is based in some other places, depending on where the characters are.

The year is 1988. Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley have woken up from having spent the night together in Emma’s flat in Edinburgh. It is the day after their graduation. As the book progresses, the story follows the lives of Em and Dex, on that day, every day, for twenty years. The characters meet, unmeet, and then go their separate ways. Life goes on, as do their individual trajectories.The book weaves in and out of their lives with each other and with other people. Many characters come and go, some stay.

There are a couple of things very good about this book. First of all, it is an unusual way to write a book. It is evident that the narrator is witness to these two peoples’ lives and that in itself is like someone has held a lens to their eyes. The other thing is that the ending is extremely believeable. It is not a rom-com ending, and it is not a typical ending. I will not spoil the ending by saying any more but I very strongly recommend the book, it is like reading the story of you or I. It is one of the very best I have read of modern fiction and I thoroughly enoyed it.

Americosis vol 4 … a review

Last year, I wrote about Americosis, and then again followed it up with vol 2 and vol 3. I nearly missed Vol 4, as I was away on holiday and although I knew it was going to come out around the time of the POTUS elections, it slipped my mind. Just as well, because I ended up reading it just as the new President got sworn in.

The characters in this book sort of pick up where they left off. As one would expect, this book goes heavier on the plot of Sanchez’s visions and the elections with him and Archer vying for votes. As this sub-plot takes centre stage, the mirroring of reality and fiction becomes clearer. The tension level is high, the drama is much more tightly knit. The Erica part of the plot is also getting less fluffy and more meaty, as she drifts between solving past mysteries only to come up against new ones. All in all, great writing.

What did jump put at me though, is that the language in this edition was a little too foul for my taste. Not that that is any different from reality and all the names that were thrown at Clinton and Trump, it made reading some of the chapter a little hard. Another very short read delivered by Wilks, and if you haven’t gotten into it yet, the four books back-to-back will take you only a couple of days to get through. I might do that, as I wait for vol 5!