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

Nod: A Novel – Adrian Barnes

I’m one of those people that really appreciates a full eight hours of sleep. When I have a bad night, everyone suffers the next day. I become grumpy and impatient – I’m sure it’s no fun to be around me! So imagine if the whole world suddenly became insomniac. How quickly would society break down? The answer is very quickly.

Welcome to Nod, a world where only one in every thousand can sleep.

A depressing choice for a holiday read this might be, but I found myself oddly drawn to the plight of the narrator. Paul, a sleeper and a writer, records his experiences in this new world of chaos, while trying to survive long enough to outlive the zombie-like awakened. Continue reading

Where’d You Go, Bernadette – Maria Semple

I was very pleased to spot Where’d You Go, Bernadette on the bookshelf of my B&B in Edinburgh. I snapped it up and jumped right into it on my flight home. It’s a perfect aeroplane book – so easy to get into and with a simple, but catchy storyline.

It also contains some wonderful characters. Bernadette being my favourite, with her big sunglasses, silk scarves and eccentric personality. She doesn’t fit in with her neighbours in Seattle and  the other mothers of Galer Street school resent her. This leads to some very comical arguments between Bernadette and an especially unlikable Audrey Griffin. Continue reading

My Favourite Character from Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

Anna Karenina took up about six weeks of my life and left me with a huge book hangover. Months later, I still find myself thinking about the novel, but it’s been difficult to put my thoughts into a coherent review.

There are many things I’d like to discuss about Anna Karenina – the characterisation, the writing, the themes explored. So I’ve decided to do something a little different and write a number of shorter posts about the book. Today I’ll start with a few thoughts about my favourite character and, in my mind, the real protagonist of the novel.

Levin made quite an impression on me, with his constant contemplation of life, religion, love and death. Continue reading

The Luminaries – Eleanor Catton

the-luminariesSet during the gold-rush era in Hokitika, New Zealand, The Luminaries is an ambitious and incredibly detailed novel, inventively structured around astrological charts from that time.

The reader’s curiosity is piqued within the first few paragraphs. Twelve unlikely men are secretly gathered in the smoking room at the Crown Hotel, when in walks Walter Moody, fresh off the boat. Suffering from a terrible shock, he is unaware that he has stumbled upon a clandestine meeting. And so there are already two puzzles for the reader: what are the twelve men discussing? And what has shaken Walter Moody? Continue reading