The Chain by Adrian McKinty – I have enjoyed Adrian McKinty’s other novels set in Northern Ireland and with such interesting titles as I hear sirens in the street and Police at the station and they don’t look friendly. Apparently he was trying to break into the US market with this one which is set in a coastal town in America. Rachel’s daughter is kidnapped but rather than having to pay the ransome herself she has to kidnap someone else’s child. The kidnapper has taken Rachel’s child to save their child who was kidnapped in turn by another parent otherwise, their child will be killed. And so on. I struggled to the end of this bland story. I just couldn’t empathise with the characters and the ending was predictable. 2 stars
Erotic stories for Punjabi widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal – this was chosen by a friend for book group. It’s about a young woman who is engaged by the local Sikh temple to teach writing to some of the women who are widowed. Things go slightly awry and they end up telling erotic stories to each other – which all has to be hidden from the scary woman in charge. We had a wonderfully funny time at the discussion, not least because our hostess had this story to tell about reading the book on a flight back to Sydney from Melbourne : Picture me on a flight seated with the only Punjabis on the flight. The old man sitting next to me was very quiet, the text is LARGE and he was not blind. At the end of the flight his elderly wife leans over stating that they are Punjabi and could she get the details of the book. I explained the plot and that it has some naught bits in it. She leaned over her husband and whispered, “we can be very naughty.” I was floored! And he had a smile on his face. This is a fun read 3.5 stars
A single thread by Tracy Chevalier. A friend bought and lent me this novel set in Lincoln between the wars. Violet Speedwell’s fiancé died in the Great War and she has fled the oppression of her mother’s home to live independently in Lincoln. She joins a broiderers group who are embroidering the new kneelers for the cathedral. As always, Chevalier is drawing on real life events and those who are interested can go online and see the kneelers at the cathedral and read about the woman who headed the group. Violet however, is busy falling in love with a married man, while being chased in the country-side by another one. I didn’t quite get what the attraction was for Arthur by Violet and couldn’t fathom what triggered her stalker. Not my favourite Chevalier. 3 stars
Men at work : Australia’s parenthood trap by Annabel Crabb – this is a Quarterly Essay exploring why men do not take on more domestic chores, especially child-related ones and parental leave. Very interesting. 4 stars
The ventriloquists by ER Ramzipoor – this novel grew out of a PhD thesis into resistance literature, and is based on a true story. It is set in Belgium in WW2 among a group of people working to produce a subversive copy of an evening newspaper that usually prints Nazi propaganda, Le Soir. It is narrated from the point of view of Gamin, a girl who survived by dressing as a boy. Chapters alternate between what is happening to the various characters, some of whom the reader is not sure are going to turn collaborator. A different story, an enjoyable read. 4 stars
At the moment I am reading The cut out girl by Bart van Es which won the Costa Book of the Year in 2019. I’m very nearly finished and would highly recommend it. Bart’s grandparents hid Jewish children from the Nazi’s during the occupation of the Netherlands, one of whom was a 9 year old girl called Lien. After some time living with the van Es’s, they were raided and Lien had to move elsewhere, and did so multiple times. At the end of the war she requested to go back to the van Es household and did so, fitting in happily with the family. Somewhere along the line something went wrong though and Lien became estranged from the family. Bart van Es wrote this book about his investigation into this story. 5 stars
Without a word by Kate McQuaile (rb digital) – Well-plotted and engaging Irish police procedural. The storytelling alternates between the perspective of the detective and that of the chief witness. The audiobook uses both a male and a female narrator – both with marvellous lilting Irish voices. 4 stars
Watching You by Lisa Jewell (Borrowbox) – Wonderfully compelling thriller with a cast of interesting characters. The story moves back and forth in time between the events leading up to a terrible crime and (without giving much away) excerpts from the police interviews after the crime. The plot has just the right amount of twists and turns to be both plausible and engaging. At the start of the audiobook I wasn’t keen on the narrator’s voice, but the story was so compelling I had to keep listening and before long I was enjoying it so much I was glad I’d done so. 3.5 stars
Girl, Woman Other by Bernadine Evaristo – though provoking and interestingly written.
Catch 22 by Joseph Heller – for the umpteenth time.
I have been listening to Emma by Jane Austen on Borrowbox – a bit of comfort food for dark times.
DVD London Road – great cast, interesting story, absolutely terrible. Could not endure any more than 20 minutes of viewing and I love musicals. I give it 1 star
DVD The best of Enemies – Great cast and a wonderful thought provoking story. I give it 5 stars
What do our scores mean?
1 star – I hated it / Don’t bother / It felt more like homework than reading for pleasure
2 stars – I didn’t like it / Not for me but worth trying / This book needed something different to make me like it
3 stars – I liked it / Recommended / This book was good. It wasn’t great but it wasn’t bad.
4 stars – I really liked it / One of the best books I’ve read this year / I’m glad I read it
5 stars – I loved it / One of the best books I’ve ever read / I will probably read it again