Category Archives: General Fiction

Book Review: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Me Before You - Jojo Moyes

Louisa Clark is an average girl who has a steady boyfriend, slightly eccentric family, and a job she loves in a local cafe.  She has never ventured much further than her own village and is content to keep her life simple.  This changes when she the cafe she works in closes down and she is forced to look for a new job during a recession where her skills and education don’t open many doors.  She eventually secures a job working for Will Traynor, a former hedonistic high fligher who is confined to a wheelchair following a freak accident.  Louisa’s happy-go-lucky personality clashes with Will’s moodiness and negativity, and she has to work hard to try to break down his barriers.  When she learns that Will has a shocking plan to escape his current position, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.

The story is very much about Will and Louisa, with less emphasis on the supporting characters around them, but the supporting characters are believable and I could empathise with each of their stories and viewpoints.  The character of Louisa is initially fairly typical of the usual lead female character of a chick-lit novel, but as the book progresses you learn more about her back story and the reasons why she is so sheltered, and these revelations are realistic and truly heartbreaking.  Despite the cover and first few chapters of this book suggesting an easy, chick-lit read, nothing could be further from the truth.

The issues that Jojo Moyes raises in the book are contemporary and controversial and she does well to handle them so sensitively and respectfully.  She has clearly done her research and taken seriously the responsibility of fictionalising such emotive scenarios.  This certainly isn’t your average love story, and it made me cry while reading it, although it does have moments of humour to break up the sadness.  It is thought-provoking, and the story stayed with me for a long time after I finished reading it.  It would make a great movie if the subject matter could be handled as well as Moyes did in the book.  But of course read the book first!  I recommend this book to anyone.

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The Literary Owl rating: 8/10

Read with: an open mind, and at least a couple of tissues for your tears!

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Book Review: The Importance of Being Seven by Alexander McCall Smith

The Importance of Being Seven

The Importance of Being Seven is the 6th book in McCall Smith’s ’44 Scotland Street’ series, but the 1st one I’ve reviewed, despite having also read books 1 t0 5.  The reason for the lack of previous reviews is mainly because as soon as I have read one, I have been so desperate to start the next one that I’m afraid the review time has been eaten up by more reading time!  I have only fairly recently start reading Alexander McCall Smith’s books, but this has meant that I have been able to read several back to back, both from this series, and the Isabel Dalhousie series, which has helped sate my addiction!

The 44 Scotland Street series of books follows the lives of the eccentric residents of the flats within an Edinburgh townhouse, and their friends in the city.    The novels were originally serialised in the newspaper The Scotsman, and the relatively short chapters in the novels are the same as what appeared each day.  One of the most popular characters among readers of the series is Bertie Pollock, who is the young son of demanding mother Irene, and it is he who believes in the importance of being seven, hoping it will lead to more freedom from his mother’s pressure to attend psychotherapy, learn Italian, and play the saxophone.  I don’t want to give too much away about the plot of this particular book because I would encourage you to start from the beginning; the first book helpfully being entitled 44 Scotland Street.

What I love most about these books is McCall Smith’s exquisite writing, in particular his subtle humour and observations about everyday life that are just perfect.  Since reading them, I have developed a bordering-on obsession with wanting to go to Edinburgh, and hunt out the places referred to.  I know the characters are fictional, but they are so convincing that I feel sure that Edinburgh must be full of intelligent, amusing, cultured people ready to entertain me!

So please do read 44 Scotland Street and the other books in the series.  If you enjoy it then you’ll definitely also enjoy The Sunday Philosophy Club, which is the series about Isabel Dalhousie, an Edinburgh based philosopher.  I think Alexander McCall Smith’s writing really is unique amongst contemporary authors and he is deserving of readers’ support.

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The Literary Owl Rating: 8.5/10

Read with: A glass of Scottish whisky on the rocks of course.

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Book Review: The Debutante by Kathleen Tessaro

The Debutante Kathleen Tessaro

Escaping from heartache in New York, artist Katie returns to London to stay with her Aunt Rachel, owner of a niche valuation and auctioneer house.  Rachel hopes to help Katie deal with her despondency by asking her to assist employee Paul with the cataloguing of the contents of an old house by the sea.  Paul has his own torment to deal with and is reluctant to share time with a stranger, but despite his protests, he is obliged to do so anyway.

Endsleigh, the house they are sent to, was home during the 1930s to the Blythe sisters, society’s most celebrated debutantes of the time.  One of the sisters, Diana went missing, and it is this mystery that Katie is determined to solve.  The story follows Katie’s efforts to find out more about the sisters and the events that unfolded at Endsleigh all those years ago.  Interspersed with this are letters that were sent by Diana during the 1920s and 30s, which give a glimpse into her life and loves.

I have read one of Kathleen Tessaro’s previous novels, her debut Elegance, and found The Debutante to be just as sumptuous and engaging.  I love a good mystery, and especially one set during one of my favourite eras.  All of the characters, modern and past, were well developed by the author , so I empathised with them and understood the motivations for their actions.  The use of the letters was a brilliant tool, enabling readers to see actions from the point of view of the key players in the past actions, rather than just through the eyes of those looking back.  I read the book in one sitting, because it was a well flowing, easy read, though that is not to suggest that it is in the realms of ‘chick lit’ fluff, because it is certainly classier than that.  The writing was divine, and the conversations in the book were believable.  I also loved the Author’s note at the end of the book where she describes her influences for the story, and how she overcame problems during the writing of it, which gave a great insight into the life of a writer.

Kathleen Tessaro has a new book out in April 2013, which I have added to my ‘to read’ list – The Perfume Collector – and hope it is as enjoyable to read as The Debutante was.

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The Literary Owl rating: 8/10

Read with: a glass of champagne and some jazz playing on the stereo.

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