Tag Archives: fiction

Book review: Vanishing Acts

Jodi PicoultThis is the first book by Jodi Picoult which I have read, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I would describe Vanishing Acts as long, intriguing, multi-layered. Is it the greatest? No, but it makes me want to read more of her books. Her multiple-perspectives mean you get a 360° view of a situation and see how different people view the same thing, something we are not always privy to in real life.

Delia Hopkins lives in New Hampshire with her widowed father Andrew and her daughter Sophie. She works with her own search-and-rescue bloodhound to find missing people. She is about to marry Eric, a friend since childhood. Everything seems happy, except for strange dreams which she cannot explain. ‘I am little, and he has just finished planting a lemon tree in our backyard. I am dancing around it. I want to make lemonade, but there isn’t any fruit because the tree is just a baby. How long will it take to grow one? I ask. A while, he tells me. I sit myself down in front of it to watch. He comes over and takes my hand. Come on, grilla, he says. If we’re going to sit here that long, we’d better get something to eat.’ Fitz, a journalist, who also grew up with Delia and Eric, cannot explain the significance of the lemon tree. But the puzzles keep coming, after a policeman knocks on the door and arrests her father for kidnapping.

This is a story about repressed memory and triggered memory, the difference of which is central to the court case which is the core of this novel. It is about trust, instinct and loyalty and how sometimes the hardest thing to do is the right thing to do.

It is a long book and some sections felt over-written, a style I sometimes find with American authors; using two metaphors where one will do. But the plotting is excellent and the rope of tension pulls you mercilessly onwards. My paperback [below] is an American edition by Washington Square Press, it changes typeface for each different point of view which I found surprisingly irritating.

Click here to read the first paragraph of Vanishing Acts and read more about Jodi Picoult’s books at her website.

If you like this, try:-
‘Somewhere Inside of Happy’ by Anna McPartlin
‘Something to Hide’ by Deborah Moggach
‘Crow Blue’ by Adriana Lisboa

Jodi Picoult

‘Vanishing Acts’ by Jodi Picoult [UK: Hodder]

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Book review: Winter

Ali Smith Winter by Ali Smith is second in her Seasonal Quartet but unconnected to its predecessor Autumn in terms of character and location. Like all Smith’s novels, it pays to read with patience. The story is at times choppy and sections seem unrelated; but have faith, it will make sense, connections will link up, characters will coincide and small details laid down early will connect to something much later. And simmering beneath the words is Smith’s anger at our unjust messed-up modern world where we don’t notice what’s going on around us and don’t seem to care. So much fiction today looks back at our history, Smith’s Seasonal Quartet is so modern if feels as if she is writing a page ahead of the one I am reading.

First we meet two sisters, Sophia and Iris who are as unalike as sisters can be. Art, Sophia’s son, has had his Twitter identity stolen by his angry girlfriend. Charlotte is posting incorrect tweets about Art’s ‘Art in Nature’ blog and these untruths are now trending. Art, who has committed to taking Charlotte to his mother’s house in Cornwall for Christmas, instead invites a girl he sees sitting at a bus stop. Lux, who starts off pretending to be Charlotte but then admits the deception to Sophia, is a catalyst in the wintry household. It is Lux who encourages Sophia to eat, Lux who discovers an outbuilding full of old stock from Sophia’s retail business, Lux who insists Art call his Aunt Iris. And so these four mis-matched, total and almost strangers, spend Christmas together.

As in Autumn there are some passages which made me laugh out loud. This time it was Sophia’s eye test at the optician after having seen a disembodied head floating in her peripheral vision; and the incident with her Individual Personal Advisor at the bank who was unable to give her advice. There is the grumpiness of growing old, observing a youth obsessed by irrelevances while forgetting the basic things that matter, and things that don’t work. There is the dislike of big business selling us stuff we don’t need in the guise that it’s essential, un-missable, while re-making new stuff so it looks like more valuable old stuff. “But now the world trusts a search engines without a thought. The canniest door-to-door salesman ever invented. Never mind foot in the door. Already right at the heart of the house.” The theme of winter runs throughout; the death of autumn, the decay that comes from lack of care and effort, the decline of relationships, the winter of ageing, nuclear threat and political division.

If you like a linear story and loose ends tied, then perhaps Ali Smith is not for you. If you are prepared to relax into a story, trust the author and wait to see what happens, then try her. She is experimental, quirky, not afraid to try something different.

Read my reviews of Autumn and How to be Both by Ali Smith.

If you like this, try:-
‘Barkskins’ by Annie Proulx
‘In Another Life’ by Julie Christine Johnson
‘The House at the Edge of the World’ by Julia Rochester

‘Winter’ by Ali Smith, #2 Seasonal Quartet [UK: Hamish Hamilton]

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Book review: The Last of the Greenwoods

Clare MorrallClare Morrall is so good at writing about people on the margins. In The Last of the Greenwoods, Johnny and Nick Greenwood are estranged brothers who live separately in two abandoned, adjacent railway carriages; with shared kitchen and bathroom. They are adept at avoiding each other.

Nick lives in Aphrodite on the right, Johnny in Demeter on the left. Aphrodite has horizontal blinds at the windows, open at a slant so someone inside can look out but no-one outside can see in. Demeter’s windows are unknowable with permanently drawn curtains. The carriages sit amidst trees and shrubs, hidden from the main road in Bromsgrove, West Midlands. They have been the brother’s world since they were boys. Until one day, into the lives of these emotionally separated but geographically close brothers comes a letter which reignites haunted memories. “The floor is vibrating under his feet, there’s a sensation of motion, as if the train has started to move. What’s happening? Is he slipping backwards, losing his place in the present and tumbling back to the past? How can this be?”

The letter is from their older sister, Debs; the sister who was murdered when the boys were children. As the brothers consider whether the letter is real, a fake, or a joke we learn more about their background via Zohra, the postwoman who delivered the letter. Zohra has a past of her own which she tries to forget. What brings together these seemingly disparate story strands? Trains? And what effects change in the lives of the Greenwoods and Zohra? Trains.

Slowly, with exquisite and often humorous detail, Morrall unravels the mysteries of the past, building a picture of these people’s lives. They are ordinary people but in telling their story she makes them extraordinary, reminding us that the life of each of us has a story to tell and that elements of life can be repetitive. “Are they doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again – play, replay, round and round on an endless loop?”

Running throughout is the question of verifiable identity: the woman who returns could be Deb, or Deb’s friend Bev pretending to be Debs; and who are the girls who harassed Zohra on social media, did they use their real names or not? The brothers consider how they can accept Debs, do they need evidence, DNA proof, or can they trust their instincts? And why are the two brothers not talking?

Another masterful Morrall novel. Read my reviews of After the Bombing, The Man who Disappeared, The Language of Others, The Roundabout Man, and Natural Flights of the Human Mind, all by Clare Morrall.

If you like this, try:-
‘If I Knew You Were Going to be This Beautiful, I Never Would Have Let You Go’ by Judy Chicurel
‘The Lie of the Land’ by Amanda Craig
‘Skin Deep’ by Laura Wilkinson

‘The Last of the Greenwoods’ by Clare Morrall [UK: Sceptre]

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Book review: The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock

Imogen Hermes GowarQuite a few things in The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar are not as they seem. The mermaid, which may or not be real, is actually dead and quite gruesome. And the story starts with shipping merchant Mr Hancock, not Mrs. He is a widower.

This story about London in 1785 is a full-on feast for the senses and at first is a bit overwhelming: wind ‘sings’, raindrops ‘burst’, skin is ‘scuffed and stained’, a face is ‘meaty’. But then I fell into the life of Jonah Hancock and wondered when the mermaid, and Mrs Hancock, would appear. Soon the captain of the Calliope, one of Jonah’s ships, returns homes without the ship but with a mermaid.

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock overflows with contrasts: Deptford and Mary-le-Bone are villages outside London, whales are dismembered and rendered beside the river but in nearby Blackheath the air is to be treasured. It seems unlikely that the path of Jonah, conservative, hard-working, will intersect with Angelica Neal, a former upper class prostitute. But thanks to the mermaid, they meet and their lives take different turns as a result. Gowar juxtaposes sumptuous silks, satins and pearls of the girls at Mrs Chappell’s high-class brothel, where they are tutored at some expense in dancing and singing, performing masques for their high-paying clientele; with the potatoes peeled and stockings darned by Jonah’s niece Sukie and maid Bridget. The beauty of the whores, the ugliness of the mummified mermaid. Contrasts are everywhere.

The story is slow to build and I admit to skipping some paragraphs of description, many dedicated to situations and characters with no bearing on the main storyline. But then I would stop and admire a sentence like this, ‘Overnight, Deptford’s heady miasma had begun to settle, like silt in a puddle, but sunrise stirs it back up again and Mr Hancock stumps through that great rich stink of baking bread and rotten mud and old blood and fresh-sawn wood with the cat trotting on her tiptoes beside him.’ Over-stuffed with imagery, but beautifully written. I enjoyed the final third but was left regretting threads and characters left dangling that could have enriched the story; Tysoe Jones and Polly particularly.

This is a bawdy morality tale set in Georgian London that issues the warning to be careful what you wish for and compares inner and outer beauty, man’s treatment of women and the exploitation of a mermaid for money. The story is predictable, given the tradition of mermaids, and because of this the pacing would benefit from more audacious plot twists and turns. I liked Jonah and wanted to shout to him, ‘have nothing to do with her’. He is simply too nice.

If you like this, try:-
‘The Quick’ by Lauren Owen
‘An Appetite for Violets’ by Martine Bailey
‘The Wicked Cometh’ by Laura Carlin

‘The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock’ by Imogen Hermes Gowar [UK: Harvill Secker]

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Book review: The Believers

Zoe HellerThe Believers by Zoe Heller is the story of a New York family and how serious illness challenges each person to consider in what they believe. The Litvinoffs are a Jewish family used by Heller as a prism to question our beliefs, not just religious but also motherhood, fidelity and politics.

The story starts with the meeting of English student Audrey and American lawyer Joel, at a party in London in the Sixties. The action then shifts swiftly to 2002. Audrey and Joel live in New York, he is a prominent and outspoken radical lawyer, she does good works. They have two daughters, Rose and Karla, and adopted son Lenny. On the day he is due to appear in court representing a controversial defendant, Joel has a stroke. As he lays in a coma, Heller shows each of the family confronting the situation, its impact on their own lives, or not as the case may be. None of the characters are particularly likeable, and the storyline can be difficult in places, but I found the pages turned quickly as I wanted to know the ending. Of course, like life, there is no neat finale only more life to follow as the stories of the family continue.

Audrey is a deliciously outspoken and brutal mother to her daughters, though she mollycoddles her son to a ridiculous degree. Rosa is re-discovering her Jewish roots, having been raised in a non-observant Jewish family. We follow her exploration of the oddities of Orthodoxy, as she wrestles with the concept of accepting things she doesn’t understand. Karla, unhappily married and trying for a baby, is the recipient most frequently of Audrey’s caustic tongue. Not looking for an affair, she nevertheless stumbles into one, and has difficulty believing and accepting her suitor could possibly be attracted to her. Lenny is a drug addict who believes in nothing except his next hit. Meanwhile, Joel in his hospital bed is the cog of the wheel around which they all move.

I was left loving Heller’s writing, she has a wonderful turn of phrase. ‘Depression, in Karla’s experience, was a dull, inert thing – a toad that squatted wetly on your head until it finally gathered the energy to slither off. The unhappiness she had been living with for the last ten days was quite a different creature. It was frantic and aggressive. It had fists and fangs and hobnailed boots. It didn’t sit, it assailed. It hurt her.’

But, I finished the book dissatisfied with the story. Audrey’s Englishness did not come into play, except in the first chapter which feels unrelated to the rest of the book, and she seems unnecessarily harsh and unfair without real justification. What made her so bitter? Something which happened between the Prologue in 1962, and the main story in 2002? The big surprise, when it comes, is perhaps predictable to everyone except Audrey.

Read the opening paragraph of Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller.

If you like this, try:-
‘Freedom’ by Jonathan Franzen
‘A Spool of Blue Thread’ by Anne Tyler
‘A Little Life’ by Hanya Yanagihara

‘The Believers’ by Zoe Heller [UK: Penguin] Buy at Amazon

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#BookReview ‘The Dreams of Bethany Mellmoth’ by William Boyd #shortstories

Partly good and partly disappointing: The Dreams of Bethany Mellmoth, the latest collection of short stories by William Boyd, is a bit of a curate’s egg. The shorter the stories, the more satisfying. William BoydOrganised in three parts, the first comprises seven short stories. If asked for my favourite from Part 1, I would say the first, ‘The Man Who Liked Kissing Women’. Ludo Abernathy is an art dealer who has foresworn affairs, his previous dalliances having finished three marriages. Now, he sticks to kissing women. Except when he can’t resist the temptation of making a killing on a Lucien Freud painting.
The title story, the longest in the anthology, makes up Part 2. It is more novella than short story, and I almost wish Boyd had developed it as such with a full plotline rather than letting Bethany Mellmoth drift from scene to scene. Bethany is a naïve twenty-something who drifts from boyfriend to boyfriend, dreaming of what she can do with her life but failing to make it happen. Each time it goes wrong, she gives up and moves back with her mother. It was a pleasant read but I’m unclear of Boyd’s central message – perhaps, the over-reliance of young drifters on parents rather than being truly independent – which meant I felt no urgency to read to the end. Of course I did. Bethany’s drifting started to annoy me; perhaps that was Boyd’s point?
Part 3 comprised one story, ‘The Vanishing Game: An Adventure’ which stopped abruptly. It starts off well: Alec Dunbar is an actor who keeps being called to auditions, mistakenly for Alexa Dunbar. His bad day improves when an actress who is waiting for an audition for the same film, offers him £1000 to deliver a package for her to Scotland. Dunbar’s road journey is peppered with references to the various films he has appeared in, and this is humorous. But the action becomes increasingly oddball, and the ending was disappointing. I prefer stories and novels that don’t tie up all the loose ends, but this one finished with too much remaining unexplained.

Read my reviews of:
… and try the first paragraph of ARMADILLO

If you like this, try:-
‘All the Rage’ by AL Kennedy
‘The Story’ ed. Victoria Hislop
‘The Milk of Female Kindness’ ed. Kasia James

‘The Dreams of Bethany Mellmoth’ by William Boyd [UK: Viking]

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Book review: The Night Child

Anna QuinnThe Night Child by Anna Quinn caught me by surprise and took off racing from the first page so that I read half the book at my first sitting. But it is not a thriller, it was simply that I didn’t want to stop reading. I confess to selecting the book on my Kindle having forgotten the book blurb; perhaps I should do that more often.

Nora Brown teaches teenagers about Shakespeare and poetry; so she knows about the imagination, imagery and dreams. Then one day at work, floating in front of her she sees the face of a blue-eyed girl, a face without a body. Quinn writes about Nora’s fear, panic, guilt, shame, with an insight into the private mind and this made me believe Nora from page one. Seeking answers, she talks to a psychiatrist and so starts an unravelling of Nora’s past, a past buried so deep she had no idea of its existence. As the revelations pick up pace, she must deal with a damaged teenager at school, decide whether to confront her unfaithful husband Paul, and reassure her six-year-old daughter Fiona. Stress layered on top of stress, which makes the child’s face appear more often. Soon she hears the accompanying voice too.

Why have Nora’s difficulties started now? Is there a connection with Fiona, who has just celebrated her sixth birthday? Is the trigger to do with Nora’s own sixth birthday? At the root of it all, perhaps not surprisingly, is the death of her mother and the subsequent abandonment by her father. The only constant in her life is her younger brother James. Raised by their grandfather in Ireland, Irish myths and Catholic saints are woven throughout Nora’s story. The present day action takes place between Thanksgiving in November 1996 and February 1997.

This is the sort of book which makes you think ‘please not that’ and turn the page to see if you have guessed correctly. The subject is not new but Quinn approaches it from a fresh angle which shows how the impact of childhood unhappiness can be repressed only to reappear with a vengeance decades later. I liked Nora. She is not a victim. At first she is afraid she is going ‘crazy’. Her primal instinct is to protect her own child, she constantly reassures Fiona that she loves her ‘beyond the stars and back’. But as the memories begin to return thick and fast in her sessions with psychiatrist David, things also unravel at home as Paul accuses her of being ‘a zombie’. David reminds her that she is in control but to ‘be careful not to scare yourself’. Where will the memories lead her and will she be able to cope?

I really enjoyed this book. It came as a bolt out of the blue after having read a series of historical novels. It is a powerful and sensitive portrayal of emotional damage and a person’s capacity to face it and recover. This is a debut, but I would never have guessed, it is written with a steady hand and full heart. The juxtaposition of Quinn’s beautiful prose, and her subject matter, is startling.

If you like this, try:-
‘The Hoarder’ by Jess Kidd
‘The Crows of Beara’ by Julie Christine Johnson
‘Something to Hide’ by Deborah Moggach

‘The Night Child’ by Anna Quinn [UK: Blackstone]

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Book review: Offshore

Penelope FitzgeraldThis is a slim, powerful novel about a small community of people living on houseboats on the River Thames at Battersea Reach in 1960s London. Anchored on the southern shore, next to the warehouses, brewery and rubbish disposal centre, they long to be positioned on the prosperous Chelsea shore opposite. In Offshore, Penelope Fitzgerald draws you into the world of Dreadnought, Grace, Maurice, Lord Jim and Rochester – those are the boats – and their occupants.

They live in close, intimate proximity as the boats are tied to each other, only one is fastened to the wharf. Despite this, each person lives in an individual island of loneliness caused by marriage, poverty, sexuality, or just being different. Their lives are governed by tidal movement. ‘On every barge on the Reach a very faint ominous tap, no louder than the door of a cupboard shutting, would be followed by louder ones from every strake, timber and weatherboard, a fusillade of thunderous creaking, and even groans that seemed human. The crazy old vessels, riding high in the water without cargo, awaited their owner’s return.’

The people are inter-dependent but don’t know it until a crisis happens. The catalyst is Nenna, a young mother separated from her husband. She lives on Grace with her two children, Tilda and Martha, who run wild in the mud. One day, when they find antique painted tiles and sell them at an antiques shop on King’s Road, the two children seem more mature and capable than their mother. Nenna’s neighbours act as counsellors, offering marriage advice, boat help, and babysitting services. Richard, the de facto leader of the boat community, worries that his wife is bored and wants to retire to a house advertised in Country Life magazine. Meanwhile Willis, a struggling artist, who lives on Dreadnought, has a leak. This endangers his plan to sell the boat.

A beautifully-written thoughtful novel showing how very different people can rub along together.

Offshore won the Booker Prize in 1979, a year sandwiched between Iris Murdoch in 1978 for The Sea The Sea, and Rites of Passage by William Golding in 1980. Fitzgerald had been shortlisted the previous year for The Bookshop and would be again in 1988 with The Beginning of Spring. What a golden time that was.

Penelope FitzgeraldMy paperback copy of Offshore [above] is an old Fourth Estate edition with a moody photo of the River Thames at dusk.

If you like this, try these other Booker prize winning authors:-
‘Life Class’ by Pat Barker [1995: ‘The Ghost Road’]
‘Mothering Sunday’ by Graham Swift [1996: Last Orders]
‘The Children Act’ by Ian McEwan [1998: Amsterdam]

‘Offshore’ by Penelope Fitzgerald [UK: Fourth Estate]

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Book review: In the Midst of Winter

Isabel AllendeIn the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende is the story of three ordinary-looking people, people you would not glance at if you passed by them in the street, and their extra-ordinary lives. Each has faced loss and trauma, each feels isolated, lonely. Laced throughout this deceptive novel are themes of dislocation, grief, human trafficking and the courage to free oneself of these bonds. Set in modern-day Brooklyn and Guatemala, and 1970s Chile and Brazil, it is the story of people relocated thousands of miles away from family to new countries with strange languages and customs where against the odds they must begin a new life.

Richard, Lucia and Evelyn are thrown together in Brooklyn, New York, during a momentous snowstorm. Evelyn, a young illegal immigrant from Guatemala, borrows her employer’s car and in the storm crashes into Richard. Richard is in his sixties, a loner, aesthete and reformed alcoholic, he lives his life according to routine. But when the car crash upsets his rigid ordered life, he is forced to halt his almost OCD existence and do unpredictable, often rash, things. When Evelyn turns up on his doorstep, hours after the crash, he is unable to understand her Spanish and asks Lucia, university colleague and tenant of the basement flat of his freezing cold Brooklyn brownstone, to come upstairs and help him with the hysterical girl.

The reason for Evelyn’s hysteria becomes clear the next morning. What they choose to do next constitutes In the Midst of Winter. It is a road trip with a difference as the trio set off in convoy in two cars, into a snowstorm, with a task to complete. Their choice dominates the book and, though I found it well-meaning, it seemed emotional and impractical. The journey is the technique by which Allende tells their stories; each is an unburdening, a confession of their guilt, shame, offences and regrets. I lost myself in each of these stories and came back to the modern day strand with a clunk, as I remembered the choice these three people made. It feels surrealistic, as if their horrific ‘problem’ [the reason for the road trip] doesn’t exist. The writing is beautiful, particularly the description of snow, though the stories of abuse are harrowing.

Essentially Allende tells two stories – the accident; and the historical stories of Richard, Lucia and Evelyn. They start as strangers and by the end of the trip they have shared more than a car, their experience bonds them together and shows them a life different from their own. The snowstorm has a double effect. It acts as a vacuum in which the outside world has zero presence, in which these three strangers must react to their discovery and decide what action to take. Perhaps this explains their out-of-the-real-world decision. It also focuses a magnifying glass on each individual as they confess their story, sometimes for the first time, offering themselves up to the other two strangers for rejection or redemption. In the first half I got the backstories of Lucia and Evelyn confused, but as the story went on this became clearer.

This is an unusual story exploring how ordinary people are affected by legal and illegal immigration from South America to the United States, of gang violence, trafficking and exploitation, of the American immigration rules, and of the perils of living outside the law. Which is a lot to handle in one novel. But most of all, it is the story of three people and how they struggle to overcome the challenges which life presents to them, finding friendship at the end.

If you like this, try:-
‘Crow Blue’ by Adriana Lisboa
‘Something to Hide’ by Deborah Moggach
‘Summer House with Swimming Pool’ by Herman Kock

‘In the Midst of Winter’ Isabel Allende [UK: Scribner]

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#BookReview ‘The Heart’s Invisible Furies’ by @john_boyne #literary

From the first sentence I was entranced. The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne starts with such an opening sentence, full of conflict, hypocrisy, resentment and hope, it made me want to gobble up the pages and not put the book down. I wasn’t disappointed. John BoyneThe Heart’s Invisible Furies is the life story of one man, Cyril Avery, but also of a country and its attitudes to sexuality. The story starts in Goleen, Ireland, in 1945; a country riven by loyalty to, and hatred of, the British, at the same time in thrall to its Catholic priests whose rules were hypocritical, illogical and cruel. Cyril narrates his story, starting with how his 16-year old mother was denounced in church by the family priest for being single and pregnant. She was thrown out of church and village by the priest and disowned by her family. On the train to Dublin she meets a teenager, Sean, also heading for the big city. Wanting to help someone so obviously alone, Sean offers to let Catherine stay at his digs until she finds lodging and a job. These first friends she make are some of the most important in her life, and re-appear at important times also in Cyril’s life. Catherine gives birth and, as she carefully arranged, her baby is taken by a nun and placed with a waiting adoptive family. We the readers therefore know the identity and story of Cyril’s birth mother from page one; he doesn’t. As he grows from quiet boy to quiet teenager, falling in love at the age of seven with Julian, Cyril begins to lead a life of lies and shame forced on him by Ireland’s attitude to homosexuality and his inability to be true to himself. Cyril negotiates the first 30 years of his life, trapped between lying in order to stay safe or being truthful and getting arrested. Then he finds himself at the marriage altar. What happens next changes his life in so many ways, ways in which don’t become fully apparent until the last third of the novel.
This could be a depressing novel. It isn’t. It is charming and funny, but can turn on a sixpence and make you gasp with anger, despair or sadness. The characterisation is masterful. I particularly enjoyed Cyril’s adoptive mother Maude Avery, a chain-smoking novelist who detests the growing popularity of her books; his adoptive father Charles Avery who starts off being an awful snob with a talent for unintentional insults; and Mrs Goggin, who runs the tearoom at the Irish parliament with a rod of iron.
I loved this book. Honest, sad, laugh-out-loud funny, touching, with paragraphs I just had to read out aloud to my husband. It is about being true to yourself, the need for honesty in relationships, and the power of love. My favourite book of the year so far.

Read my reviews of these other novels by John Boyne:-

If you like this, try:-
‘A Little Life’ by Hanya Yanagihara
‘How to be Both’ by Ali Smith
‘Tipping the Velvet’ by Sarah Waters

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