Saturday, 21 January 2012

Before She Was Mine

Before She Was Mine by Kate Long

Another brilliant Kate Long book.

Freya was adopted as a baby but as an adult got in contact with her birth mum. Since then she's been juggling adoptive mum Liv, who is a down to earth environmentalist, and birth mum Melody who is vibrant and bohemian, acting as though she's still a teenager. Freya herself feels as though she doesn't really fit in with either mum and at the age of 23 doesn't really know where she's going in life. When Liv gets cancer and Melody gets pregnant, both mums need to lean on their daughter for support, and Freya is pulled in several directions. Add to this her best friend is marrying a man Freya fancies, and then the wedding falls through, and Freya's disastrous on-off relationship with her loser boyfriend and she's got loads to deal with.

As always with Kate's books I felt I really got to know all the characters well. The little details she sprinkles throughout make you feel you're living the plot along with them. The voice of Freya is particularly strong. There's humour mixed in with the heartache too. The ending is lovely, but slightly open which makes me wonder whether a sequel is possible...

An excellent book, currently only out in hardback but I think the paperback is due in March 2012. Definitely highly recommended.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Saturday, 14 January 2012

The Woman in Black

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill (Kindle edition)

If I buy books of a certain length for my Kindle, I can read the whole thing on my train journey to and from London which I do once a fortnight. I'd been wanting to read this book for a while.

Lovely, classic ghost story, with a wonderful build-up of tension. A young solicitor is sent to go through the papers of a deceased, reclusive woman, who lived in an isolated house on an island reached by causeway, in the middle of a marsh. At high tide the house is cut off. Despite warnings from the locals, the young man, of course, decides to spend the night there. All sorts of creepy things happen, all the better for most of them being only heard or felt rather than seen.

Very enjoyable book if you like something a bit creepy (though not macabre).

Saturday, 7 January 2012


Drood by Dan Simmons

Bought for me for my birthday, by my 16-year old son who scored a huge hit last year when he bought me This Thing of Darkness. From the blurb I thought he'd done it again - a Victorian-set novel, narrated by Wilkie Collins, starring Charles Dickens and a gothic fiend, Drood. What's not to like?

Well, almost 800 pages later, my verdict is that I quite liked it. It could have been great but was actually vaguely disappointing. The author has clearly done A LOT of research into the lives of Dickens and Collins, and included all of it. The novel might have been stronger had he cut a lot of it and made it half the length.

It's a hard plot to summarise, but here goes. Five years before the end of his life, Dickens was involved in a train crash (fact). Flitting amongst the survivors, was a spectral figure named Drood (fiction) who Dickens becomes obsessed with, and passes his obsession onto Collins. Drood inhabits the tunnels and sewers and labyrinthine catacombs which exist beneath London, and the two men undertake an expedition into Undertown to search out Drood. As time goes on, Collins becomes more and more dependent on 'medicinal' opium, and also becomes more and more jealous of Dickens's success compared with his own. He gradually becomes an unreliable narrator, and his drug-fuelled delusions and fantasies become hard to separate from reality. Dickens by contrast seems increasingly well-grounded, although he's working himself into an early grave. Collins's obsession with the mysterious Drood leads him to believe he's being controlled by the fiend, and needs to commit a murder in order to be free. Who better to murder than his friend and rival, Dickens?

The ending, constrained as it had to be by history, is a little disappointing, though I have to admit I was glad to finish it and more than ready to read something different. Having said that, the book was intriguing, and Simmons has done a great job of mimicking the style of Victorian fiction especially that written by Collins. I'd recommend this if you're a huge Dickens and Collins fan, and have a lot of time to spare to read.