Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Tree Magic Harriet Springbett

This is a captivating, absorbing, little novel aimed primarily at the YA readership but I think there's plenty an OA who will enjoy this magical tale of trees and parallel lives.

For those with spiritual inclinations there is plenty to sustain an interest and maybe even kindle a spark not yet ignited in those who have yet to consider the world on a deeper level.

It's very much the debut novel and possibly overlong in parts due to, what I like to call, 'debut novel exuberance syndrome' but the narrative has a pleasing flow to it with some eloquent descriptions. Characters are mostly functional with the exception of Rainbow whose unpeeling layers will resonate with mothers and adolescents alike. 

To reveal anything of the plot would be to do a disservice to the writer and to Rainbow herself but suffice to say it is intriguing and well constructed. There are elements you may discern, if you have the same smart arse aspirations that I do (!), but overall that doesn’t detract from the plot as a whole.

As the book gathers momentum the latter stages are definitely within the YA spectrum and the broader aspects of the novel fall away a little in terms of sustained interest for a wider audience and whilst that may smack of criticism it isn’t really. This IS a book aimed at a younger audience and it should appeal. 

It is a credibly debut and I have come away from it thinking about trees a little differently.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

The Hiding Places - Katherine Webb

Katherine Webb? You little rascal! I never saw that coming! You had me totally hoodwinked. But once I knew ? It was almost obvious. But so, so clever. The Hiding Places? The book itself is almost a hiding place for the fiction that unfolds. From that reaction you might deduce that this is the first book of Katherine Webb’s I have read so far and you’re be correct.  My cursory research reveals that these kind of endings are a feature of Ms. Webb’s work. And this book and that research will surely lead me to seek out the rest of her books.

What a glorious denouement! And for me it totally elevated this intriguing novel. A prologue that appeared to set the scene concerning a murder. Being seduced into an historical tale of a sleepy little Cotswold village with almost stereotypical descriptions of rural village life. Full of characters you’d expect to find. And the ubiquitous outsider that enters the village with hints of a dubious set of circumstances. And the scene is set. But no more mention of murder. So much so that you begin to think you dreamed the prologue. Village life endures and although you know from the book blurb that there must be a murder you still get a shock when it happens. 

And if that hasn’t whetted your appetite, what will? A well written book with a prose style that flows convincingly, economically, easily. A set of characters in harmony with their surroundings if not themselves. And a plot that conjures and weaves its spell drawing you into the tangle of events that seem to have no hope of a solution and then the wonderful twist at the end.

The sort of book that reading was invented for! No hiding places for this book!! Read it!!

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

The Muse - Jessie Burton

That Difficult Second Book

Quite frankly the only difficult thing about this book is putting it down!! T’is a joyous thing to behold a writer growing into their own skin and finding their voice. If anyone believed that The Miniaturist was a flash in the pan or a one hit wonder, think again. For The Muse is another exhilarating read. 

Similar themes occur, some of them paradoxical, the secrecy of art and creativity, the destruction and the preservation of art and creativity, plenty of food for thought. But whereas The Miniaturist remains in one historical period The Muse swing boats us between two different periods and two different locations. And the wonderful Marjorie Quick is the link between those two periods and locations. For me Marjorie Quick is one of those characters who projects such a presence on the page. as a reader you kind of know she is an unusual person and pivotal to the narrative. And we are never told the whole truth abut her but there are enough clues to understand her motivation and her sadness.

There’s plenty going on in the narrative to keep the reader entertained and curious. There are pictures painted (no pun intended) of a time gone by, of different etiquettes and protocols.  Atmospheric to the extent that you have to check that you yourself are not soaked from the rain. 

It’s a privilege to read a book such as this for it is everything a fiction should be. If there is a down side I think it is that The Miniaturist was so unique the expectation for The Muse might disappoint some readers. But I believe the quality of the writing, the development of the plot and sympathies of the characterisations assure Jessie Burton’s credibility as a modern novelist of some standing.