RSS

Tag Archives: Death

Paula Hawkins’ ‘The Girl on the Train’

Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough.

Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar.

Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train…

Girl on the Train has been one of the hottest books of the year and so from a bookseller’s perspective I wanted to know what all the hype was about and more importantly if it was deserved. At Waterstones, we had been advertising Disclaimer by Renée Knight as the book to go for if you loved Girl on the Train, I read them the other way around but figured the theory would still apply. I will point out though that I do not advise that young females read this particular book whilst on the train as I did, I was going away for the weekend which meant I had to take a long train journey there and back which left me open to some very strange looks (one stranger actually started talking to me!). However, now that I’ve read them both I completely understand why they’ve been paired together, both have mysteries and twists that you don’t quite expect to see coming. What I like about both is that they are not like your average mystery novels in the pursuit of a criminal, trying to get to the bottom of a gruesome murder in an established format but instead is more about the individual characters and perspective even going so far as to have the different characters voice themselves individually.

We meet Rachel on the commute home on a Friday focusing her attention out of the window to see if she can catch a glimpse of the couple she has come to idolise in an effort to distract herself from the disaster that is her own house. That is until she reads an article stating that the Megan, whom she’s named ‘Jess’, has been reported missing and that the police suspect the husband, ‘Jason’, is responsible. Rachel, having become so attached to the perfect couple she’s created in her mind, can’t possibly believe that he would have anything to do with it at first tenuously involves herself in order to clear his name but is slowly sucked further and further in as it makes her feel more and more estimable. The more we get to know Rachel and Megan the more we come to realise that nothing is as it seems and everyone lies, even to themselves.

What makes Girl on the Train standout is its ability to confront your assumptions. Reading the synopsis and then the book itself is a bit like watching The Sixth Sense (I apologise if you’ve not seen it already) where you get to the end and think ‘hang on! That’s not right’ only to go back and see that nothing was technically misleading. The blurb for this story gives an impression that is not necessarily same as the one you are given by the story itself but at the same time not inaccurate. However, that is the case throughout the book as there are lots of little details that you take for granted until they are shown to be completely different later on. Hawkins is the master of slowly introducing salient details that can completely change events and perspectives. I know it seems as though I’m trying to sound as cryptic and evasive as possible but it truly is a difficult concept to explain without giving too much away. The narrative is told by various women featured, in first person but it also spans different time frames. Predominantly the story is told by the girl on the train in the present, as well as ‘Jess’ from an earlier timeline before she is reported missing.

What I love most about this story is that it is that the mystery is really that of human nature, the mystery of what has happened to ‘Jess’ is secondary to that, it is just the scenario in which we observe these characters. Hawkins explores jealousy, abuse, addiction, relationships as well as exploring different character types. It wasn’t until I finished the book that I realised that there is no one good character, not one good person and no-one that is blameless. Girl on the Train was ‘unputdownable’ for me, I was pulled through from beginning to end in the space of two days because I honestly had no idea what would be revealed next!

I would recommend this book if you are bored of formulaic, run of the mill thrillers and want something with strong characterisation that tries to reflect how transient and complex life can be. It’s currently out in hardback, paperback available in January next year.

Have you already got your hands on a copy? What did you think?

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 23, 2015 in Literature Review

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Renée Knight’s ‘Disclaimer’

What if you realized the book you were reading was all about you?

When an intriguing novel appears on Catherine’s bedside table, she curls up in bed and begins to read.

But as she turns the pages she is sickened to realize the story will reveal her darkest secret.

A secret she thought no one else knew…

I chose this book because I found the premise very intriguing and mysterious which is not what I normally go for. I’m more often found reading something comedic or romantic fiction so this was a step outside of my comfort zone for me and at first I was a little disappointed. When I was younger I would also delve into the worlds of science fiction so I was expecting something more along those lines, assuming that the reason that the novel was telling her life was supernatural especially as according to the description the novel just ‘appears’ but that was not the case. So yes, I was a little bit disappointed when I first started reading. But that expectation and disappointment unfortunately lead to some confusion. Because I was looking for the usual themes and tropes that one would find in a Sci-Fi novel and not finding them I couldn’t get a grasp on how the novel worked. Different voices are portrayed from different times and slowly they converge towards the middle of the book. But each chapter doesn’t tell you who’s voice you are hearing, just the rough date from which it comes. Once I cast off my preconceptions it was much easier to get along with. Once I stopped thinking about what the novel could have been or the way I wanted it to be it was much easier to enjoy the story it actually was.

The story is, as the description says, it is about a woman who finds a book on her bedside cabinet but she has no idea who put it there and as she begins to read it she realises that someone has written a book about a dark period in her life, a period that she has never spoken to anyone about and, as far as she knew. she was the only person alive who knew about it. The book follows both her struggle with finding the author and controlling the fallout from the implications of the novel as well as the following the writer and their motivations and fight to ruin Catherine’s life. What I liked in particular about this novel was that facts and connections are introduced slowly, just dropped into the narrative as if they are unimportant but then are repeated, making it a little more obvious each time. At first I found this annoying as we knew very little so it was just the same hints over and over but nothing to give you any clarification of the thoughts running through our protagonists’ heads. But as the story develops and more connections are made it becomes clearer but not clear. It’s a typical ‘answers leaving you with more questions’ scenario.

But what I found interesting is that as the reader you get sucked into the lives of the characters, it is easy to see how the novel encourages you to take sides which can change at any moment depending on the developments that arise because there are effectively three stories here. Catherine’s, The author’s and the story itself ‘The Perfect Stranger’ that winds up on her bedside cabinet. So as their narratives develop, excerpts from the novel are given to us and the voices of people long since dead are revealed the perspective shifts, our understanding of events shifts. And I’m ashamed to admit it is far too easy to get swept along by ‘The Perfect Stranger’ without considering how much of it is fiction. I can honestly say that the twists and turns taken by the novel took me by surprise more often than not and I am one of those annoying people who prides myself on always knowing what’s going to happen next. But for me this novel was a bit like The Sixth Sense, you don’t see it coming but when you look back, when the characters look back, you realise the clues were all there.

Considering that I started out quite coldly towards this novel, struggling to pick it back up (That’s why it’s been so long since I’ve posted and for that I apologise) by the end I was quite invested and ended up staying up half of the night to see how it concludes. Mystery novel are not normally something I’d go for but based on this novel I might try another should one come up. I would recommend you try this one even if like me it is not what you’re used to, but if you do, prepare to commit yourself to it and stick it out to see where it goes. I guarantee it’s not where you’d expect it to. If you liked the sound of it and think it’s right up your alley then keep an eye out for it in April 2015!

Then you can let me know what you think!

 
2 Comments

Posted by on December 16, 2014 in Literature Review

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Brooke Davis’ ‘Lost and Found’

Millie Bird is a seven-year-old girl who always wears red wellington boots to match her red, curly hair. But one day, Millie’s mum leaves her alone beneath the Ginormous Women’s underwear rack in a department store, and doesn’t come back. Agatha Pantha is an eighty-two-year-old woman who hasn’t left her home since her husband died. Instead, she fills the silence by yelling at passers-by, watching loud static on TV, and maintaining a strict daily schedule. Until the day Agatha spies a little girl across the street.Karl the Touch Typist is eighty-seven years old and once typed love letters with his fingers on to his wife’s skin. He sits in a nursing home, knowing that somehow he must find a way for life to begin again. In a moment of clarity and joy, he escapes. 

Together, Millie, Agatha and Karl set out to find Millie’s mum. Along the way, they will discover that the young can be wise, that old age is not the same as death, and that breaking the rules once in a while might just be the key to a happy life. 

What first drew me to this novel was that it had been likened to The Hundred Year Old Man which I bought many years ago but have never gotten around to reading. But reading the blurb of both novels I could already see the similarities even down to the fact that once I’d read them I thought ‘this is going to be hilarious, I must have them’. And I wasn’t disappointed, I found this novel to be laugh out loud in places, uncomfortable in others and even heart-wrenching in places. But what impressed me the most about this story is its ability to deal with very difficult issues like that of loss and death and abandonment in ways that you wouldn’t necessarily expect as well as bringing genuine life to the characters and their perspectives.

Each character reacts to and deals with their lose in different ways, the most amusing being Agatha who chooses to become a nightmare neighbour, never leaving her wilderness of a home and yelling at passers-by . The most interesting being Millie, Davis seems to get right into the psyche of a child and perfectly displays what you’d imagine the inside of a child’s head to be. But at the same time capturing the simplicity with which children can see the world and cut to the heart of an issue without worrying about propriety, applying unique forms of logic leading to moments of complete and profound clarity like the passage below:

‘The start date and the end date are always the important bits on the gravestones, written in big letters. The dash in between is so always so small you can barely see it. Surely the dash should be big and bright and amazing, or not, depending on how you had lived. Surely the dash should show how this Dead Thing had lived. Did Errol ever know that his life would be just a dash on a gravestone? That everything he did and all the food he ate and the car trips he took and the kisses he gave would all end up as a line on a rock? In a park with a whole lot of strangers?’

What really strikes you throughout this novel however is the sense that neither generation seem to be able to get a handle on the world, to make sense of the people around them. We are never given the perspective of anyone who is not a child or an octogenarian but we are shown their interactions with the average citizen but only as far as to show how our protagonists consider the world. The phrase ‘Once an adult, twice a child’ has never been more apparent than while I was reading this book. Those at the beginning of life are still learning how to navigate the world and society and those at the end of their lives come to realise that it doesn’t matter what you do because ‘you’re going to die’ as Millie would tell you… repeatedly so do what you like.

Considering that, by and large, this novel comes across as a comedy or at the very least highly amusing, it deals with very complex and very dark issues. The comedy makes it more palatable but I found a deep sadness at the heart of this story that when I let my mind linger on it made my eyes well up and my heart sad. But I also found an admiration for Davis because it is she that has achieve all this, taken the time to consider these topics and put them across to the reader that makes it enjoyable to read but does not compromise the tragedy of it whilst acknowledging that it’s never too early to consider the world and it’s never too late to reclaim it.

I know, I know, I’ve loved every novel I’ve reviewed so far but what can I say? I know what I’m going to like and I very much liked this one. I whole heartedly recommend this book to any and everyone. I might even go so far as to say this is my favourite book for review to date (out of all three of them, yes). Worry not, I will be reading Disclaimer by Renee Knight next and I have no idea how I will feel about it, it’s a bit out of my wheelhouse but I will keep you posted. But yes to sign off, I challenge you to read the blurb and not think that Lost and Found is a must read…

 Don’t you think?

 
1 Comment

Posted by on December 7, 2014 in Literature Review

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

 
Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

Books, Movies, Art, Writing, and Cats

mommablogsalot.com

I'm kind of a big deal.

Romance Novels for the Beach

Find out which sexy books to bring with you, or leave behind, on your next beach vacation.

Q's Book Blog

Book Reviews. Discover Good Books to Read.

The Literary Sofa

with Isabel Costello

A Daily Rhythm

Dream Big, Live Free

Perception

Photography. Life.

the literate lens

photography, writing and the spaces between

Arthouse Photography

A curiously refreshing WordPress.com site