Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín
Originally published: April 29, 2009 (my birthday)
I was at a train station, serious delays in every direction and I would not be leaving anytime soon. To top off my bad luck, my kindle had run out of battery. It was time to purchase a real, paper book.
I perused the bestsellers in WHSmiths and found Brooklyn. I had seen the film advertised and as always I prefer to read the book before watching the motion picture. The blurb on the back wasn’t exactly captivating, but it had won the Costa novel award in 2009 and had been short and long listed for a few other awards since. It seemed like an easy read that would help me pass the time.
It is set in 1950’s Ireland and is the story of a young girl, Ellis, who has grown up in a small rural town with her mum and sister (and a few brothers who have since moved away). She has no real prospects until an Irish priest from Brooklyn offers to sponsor her in New York where she will be able to live, work and study for a better future.
She travels to New York by ship, and has a bumpy ride. She finds a lodging with some other similar minded women, a job in a department store, an evening course and eventually love. But, as with all soppy stories there is also another man, this one all the way back in Ireland.
It is basically the story of Ellis growing up and having to choose between two boys. I would say it is half interesting and a very tame read. There was one dramatic plot twist which I didn’t see coming and actually upset me a little. But I soon go over it and realized I was back in the monotony of this read. This book is exactly the reason why I tend to avoid the WHSmiths bestsellers.
If you want an easy holiday read about young love, dances and courting then please…be my guest!
A great Buzz feed article, asking attendees of the Book Expo America to write down reasons why you need to read more. One of my favourites is:
“Because books tell the stories of people we don’t know, places we haven’t been, and worlds we can only imagine.”
Read the article: http://www.buzzfeed.com/jarrylee/reasons-to-read-more#.fh3AbQwqxo
“Dumbledore watched her fly away, and as her silvery glow faded he turned back to Snape, and his eyes were full of tears.
“After all this time?”
“Always,” said Snape.”
— J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter, #7))
Daughter by Jane Shemilt
It has taken me a while to type thoughts to blog. This is a hard hitting book and I think to provide a review half heartedly would somehow dishonor the story. Plus, when a book leaves a lingering feeling of emptiness, how can one find the words to put into a review?
The book is centred around a missing girl and the subsequent deteriation of her whole family. It infuses past and present narrative to create a seamless flow of thoughts and memories, all from the mothers perspective. When I bought this book, I didn’t realise the strength of the story I was about to unfold, it opens the door to an otherwise locked life, that of a parent with a missing child. The way in which each character intereacts with each other is chilling, shocking, yet so real.
I could never have guessed the ending, but the way in which I got there was predictable. But not in a negative way. It was more Shemilt luring out my understanding of grief. We all know, have all seen tears on the TV news, in films and we all think we know what goes through peoples’ minds. But to read it in such a raw and obvious way makes you realise that you know nothing. That you pray to God this will never happen to you.
In terms of the pace of the story, it is slow. But you don’t need it to go any faster as the perfectly dovetails that of the trauma, fast in the beginning, slow and agonising in the middle, then normal and reluctant towards the end.
This book has a 3.6 on Goodreads. I think the problem lies in the fact that there isn’t a whole lot of action, just memories and anguish. People also don’t recognise the book as belonging to a typical genre, something Shemilt exaplins so well:
How does my work differ from others in its genre?
Psychological suspense, (thriller/drama) is the nearest that I can get to placing the book, not a very meaningful label as so many books within this capacious scope are completely different from each other. My background is medical, I’m an ex- GP, my husband is a neurosurgeon. It was helpful to use this known world to create the back drop to both books, and some issues from that world become important. In Daughter: the dangers of labelling, of short cuts, doctors playing God. But Daughter isn’t a medical drama; it’s a story about a missing girl and the themes of grief, loss, harmful secrets, betrayal and fear do resonate with others in this genre.
An extract from her website.
I am giving this book 5 stars because I think it is brilliantly written, it demonstrates a real talent from Shemilt and I can’t believe this is only her debut.
“It’s impossible to make your eyes twinkle if you aren’t feeling twinkly yourself.” – Danny says to his father
Danny the Champion of the World, Roald Dahl
My year in books: 2014
Not my best year for reading, but I did get engaged and married so I am not going to be too hard on myself. A total of 23 successfully finished, and additionally some half read books I could not bear to finish; one being The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton (Sorry Georgie!).
Just a few awards to dish out, obviously my opinions are my own so please do not start abusing me for my choices…
Best book of 2014
Tracks by Robyn Davidson. The true story of Robyn’s trek from the centre of Australia to the West coast, a truly remarkable account. It was funny, sad and exciting and left me wishing I was there, nay, her! I simply could not get enough of this book and I feel it has made me a better person for having read it. Maybe I appreciate people’s dreams or something, not quite sure how I ameliorated myself but I feel it, and that is what counts.
The End of the Affair by Graham Greene. This book I think deserves to be on everyone’s reading list. It is a love story, written from a sad and distant perspective, and it is beautiful in every way. This is no story, it is a piece of literary art. It pains me to say, but unfortunately a story with this depth and skill is apparently no contender for the modern day dribble that we see on the Kindle best sellers, people need to wake up and smell the well written books!
Worst book of 2014:
This is a no brain-er. It has to be Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. What killed the ambience of this hollywood read was the terrible writing, shallow characters and the poor quality of the kindle version, to boot! I admit, the story had me turning the pages, but compared to a real thriller (John Grisham is a fantastic thriller writer) it was a wet flannel.
January – 😦
February – 12 Years a Slave
March – A Respectable Trade
May – The End of the Affair
July – Insurgent, Allegiant, Tracks
September – Bite, Sycamore Row
November – Birdsong, Philomena,
December – Dear Daughter
Having the books in list form has reminded me of many an unfinished review. Please bear with me…