Flowers For Algernon – Daniel Keyes

Flowers for Algernon is a brilliant choice for a book club but not so easy to review. There’s so much to discuss, but I’d hate to give anything away. So please proceed with caution…

This real tearjerker of a read is written in diary entries, or ‘progress reports’, by Charlie Gordon who, at the start of the book, has an IQ of 68 and limited understanding of the world around him. During the day he sweeps the floors of a bakery and in the evening he attends a school for people with learning difficulties. His unflinching desire to learn and be ‘smart’, leads him to be chosen for an experimental operation to increase his intelligence. As he notes down his progress, changes become apparent. At first it’s improved spelling and grammar, but soon Charlie is absorbing new information like a sponge. Continue reading

When God Was a Rabbit – Sarah Winman

I simply adore this book. It appeared as if by magic on my shelf and introduced me to a wonderful, if strange, family and their eventful lives. The writing is delightful, humorous and almost whimsical, but there is a darkness running through the book, allowing the reader to truly feel invested in the characters and their lives.

Starting in Essex in the early 1970’s, we meet narrator Elly as a young child. Her family comes with baggage in the form of dysfunctional parents and a misfit older brother. When a disturbing incident occurs, it’s Elly’s brother Joe that looks out for her. He buys her a pet rabbit which they decide to name ‘God’, much to the disapproval of Elly’s school teacher. Continue reading

The Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham

I so enjoyed John Wyndham’s classic tale set in a post-apocalyptic Britain. It’s such a ridiculous premise – the world goes blind overnight and gets taken over by giant flesh-eating plants – but somehow Wyndham makes it work.

We meet the narrator, Bill Mason, in a hospital bed in London, where he is recovering from an eye operation. He soon realises something is terribly wrong, and it’s a familiar scene, as he goes through the steps of confusion, denial and then dawning realisation that the world will never be the same again.

I have a fascination for this type of story. It’s not so much the monsters or strange supernatural events, but rather the exploration of how people cope with it. Continue reading

The Power – Naomi Alderman

Over February and March, I’ve been participating in the #readforwomen hashtag on Instagram, set up by sarasreadingdiary to celebrate the 100th anniversary of some women getting the right to vote in the UK. This means reading only women writers for two months, which hasn’t been a struggle as I read a lot by women anyway. However, I have been more mindful than usual, trying to find books that might fit into the theme of feminism.

I kicked off with The Power, the book on everyone’s lips at the moment. And what a powerful start to the challenge! The novel explores a grim world where gender roles have been reversed Continue reading

Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens

I grew up watching the 1968 film Oliver! but for some reason only bought a copy of the book last year. The magic of the film has stayed with me throughout my life. When I was little I loved the fact that it was both frightening and funny, and I still can’t get enough of the wonderful songs!

Perhaps because of the music and singing, I was always under the impression that Oliver Twist was a children’s book. However it’s much grittier and at times downright gruesome. There’s also less laugh-out-loud humour, which is replaced by sharp and dark satire. In fact, the book is simply dripping with sarcasm, showing Dickens’ total disgust of the workhouse and justice systems of the time. Continue reading

The Silent Companions – Laura Purcell

I bought this book purely for its prettiness, but it turned out to be a situation of ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’.

I read it in November on my mini honeymoon to Český Krumlov, a fairytale-like town in the South Bohemian region of the Czech Republic. I often crave dark, mysterious novels in the autumn and The Silent Companions sounded like just the thing, with reviews promising a haunting Gothic tale.

At first I thought I was in luck. The book was easy to get into with a sinister plot and an atmospheric setting. In fact, it kept my attention all through the train journey. However, after the scene had been set, I was disappointed to find the book was full of clichés and obvious plot twists. Continue reading

Human Croquet – Kate Atkinson

The acorns and conkers decorating the cover of this book led me to believe it would be a perfect read to kick-off  the autumn. Human Croquet certainly had that fairy-tale quality that I crave when the weather turns, but I did feel that something was missing.

I’d hoped that Human Croquet would live up to the brilliance of Kate Atkinson’s more recent novel, Life After Life. Unfortunately I didn’t get off to a good start. In fact, it took about 90 pages to get into the book, even though I could see it had lots of promise. There was just about enough to intrigue me and keep me turning the pages, but it’s hard to ignore such a slow start. Continue reading