Hello again, I’m here to give you a little run down of the last 4 books I’ve read recently. One great, two okay and one no-no.
First up was this one:
Night Waking by Sarah Moss
I’d never read anything by this author before but I’ve heard lots about her on Booktube recently. I think her most recent novel ‘The Tidal Zone’ got lots of positive reviews and is something I need to pick up, but I’d also heard good things about this one too and decided to start here.
This book follows Anna, the sleep deprived, beleaguered mother of Raphael (Raph) and Timothy (Moth). She and her husband Giles have just moved to a remote Hebridean island so that her ornithologist husband can study the Puffin population. Now Anna herself used to have a very prestigious job at Cambridge and is trying to write a study on childhood, although my details on this are a bit sketchy as the passages relating to this were taken from text books and studies and were quite convoluted and ‘wordy’. This didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book because luckily they were mostly kept to the chapter headers and I found myself just skimming over these bits.
Anna is struggling with everyday life on the remote island with a very small population, in fact I think they may be the only ones living there as Giles ancestors owned a lot of the property and the old islanders moved away years ago. She is tired, struggling to find time to work, stressed and missing her academic life.
One day whilst planting trees they discover the remains of a baby buried under the soil. This find is then investigated by the police but also gets Anna wondering about what could have happened to the child back in the day. She starts to research the island and the history, using it in her study on childhood. I will say that the book is not based around the discovery of the bones which I was really happy with. I didn’t pick up the book expecting some kind of murder mystery so I was please it was a side story more than anything.
There are interspersing chapters from a nurse sent to the island back in the 1800’s to uncover why babies are mysteriously dying 8 days after being born. She documents her struggles with the islanders shutting her out and being unwilling to disclose their practices and methods.
Overall this book perfectly depicts the utter desperation at times of mothers to young children, trying to keep everything together and be a good mother despite the bone weary exhaustion.
I have been bending over the cot, my index finger locked in Moth’s sticky grasp, for thirty-six minutes, during which time I have made four escape attempts, sung ‘Hush Little Baby’ end to end sixteen times and convinced myself that the pins and needles in my hands promise an early, if slow, release by mercy of a neurological degenerative disease. How may years of my life would I give for eight hours of uninterrupted sleep?…
I mean who doesn’t relate to that? I really enjoyed this book, Sarah Moss’s writing style is one I know I will continue to enjoy and I plan to read more of her work in the future. This could even possibly be a book I re-read and I NEVER re-read anything.
The Wild by Esther Freud
This was a lovely quick read. Well I say ‘lovely’, the content was quite dark and emotional. This is the story of Tess and her brother Jake who, together with their mother Francine have rented 2 rooms from William, a divorcee and his 3 daughters following the breakdown of Francine’s marriage.
Jake struggles to get along with William who is somewhat of a control freak and very manipulative. 8 year old Tess on the other hand is absolutely desperate to win the affections of William and become a part of his family.
This book starts with a tragedy and then flits back to the start of the trouble and takes you on the journey leading up to the event. At times I found this book heartbreaking. The sheer desperation of little Tess trying to win William round was so upsetting.
There’s a point in the book where Tess has spent lots of time and effort knitting William some socks for his birthday and is utterly convinced he will love them and ultimately love her.
‘So now what do we have here?’ The roll of the next present flopped across his hand. ‘It feels like a tie’, he laughed, ‘or a pair of socks’. He chuckled as if this was the least likely thing in the world that it could be. Tess gulped, shivery with waiting, and saw the small worms of the apple darkening brown. And then there they were, her socks unfurling out of the paper, still warm from knitting, a mound of lumpy wool. William held one up by the toe. ‘The look……very practical.’ Tess wanted to tell him, in case he hadn’t noticed, that she’d knitted every stitch of them herself. ‘Thank you, right’ he was moving on, glancing at his watch….
I wanted to grab Tess and hug her and tell her not to waste her time on this vile man.
This was a very enjoyable book despite dealing with some emotional subjects. I really enjoy Esther Freud’s writing and she’s not an author I see talked about much. I’ll definitely be reading more of her work.
The Fire Child by S.K Tremayne
I’d read The Ice Twins by the same author and really loved it. I had high hopes for this one. The premise of it being set in a grand old house near some remote mines was right up my street.
The story follows Rachel who had just married the rich, handsome widower David and moved in with him in his beautiful old house in Cornwall. David has an 8 year old son called Jamie who soon after the marriage begins to behave oddly. He tells Rachel he can hear and see his dead mother walking around the house and he even more oddly starts to predict the future. Most notably predicting the apparent death of Rachel that coming Christmas.
Obviously Rachel is unsettled by all of this but begins to experience odd happenings herself and decides to investigate the death of Jamie’s mother Nina as all is not as it seems and her husband David has been hiding things from her.
Now it does take a lot to spook me out when reading a book but I remember one night whilst reading it in bed, my heart hammering, thinking what the eff am I doing?! The scene starts on Christmas Eve when Rachel and Jamie have been snowed in at the house and inevitably there’s a blackout (of course there is! why wouldn’t there be in a creepy story?!):
‘But that perfume! It’s Mummy. Can’t you smell it? I want Mummy to stay dead now. It’s enough now, isn’t it?’
‘I can’t smell her perfume.’
And I cannot. Not this time. But I maybe detect another presence. An evil woman, capable of evil things.
‘I want Mummy to stay in the mine. Or in the grave at Zennor, wherever she is, I miss her but I don’t want her to talk to me anymore’
‘Jamie, she isn’t talking to you. She can’t be.’
But how can I be sure? That face in the darkness, I saw it, coming from the old hall. And I have not been inside the Old Hall since. An entire wing of this house scares me. I am returned to being an infant, frightened by the thing behind the door.’
I did enjoy this story but I’m not sure about the far fetched twist at the end. It’s worth a read but if you’re looking to read anything by this author, I’d suggest The Ice Twins first as I much preferred it.
The Wicked Boy by Kate Summerscale
I picked this one up because the cover is beautiful (fell into that old trap again didn’t I?!). It also has a tagline of ‘An Infamous Murder In Victorian London’ and we all know I love a bit of Victorian London.
BUT…..I hated this. No that’s a bit strong actually. I didn’t enjoy it. There, that about sums it up.
This book tell the story of two brothers Robert and Nattie Coombes who murder their mother and leave her dead in bed whilst they whoop it up around London, blowing her cash for ten days until they are discovered.
Now this is a true story of an actual crime and we know from the off that one of these boys has killed their mother, there’s no question of it. So in that respect there’s no mystery as such to solve. The main chunk of the book follows the court case and the psychologist investigation behind why one of these boys would do such a horrific thing. Now, I don’t enjoy courtroom drama’s on the telly…..and I didn’t enjoy the trial section of this book. Too many dates and extraneous information which had nothing to do with the story (I really don’t need to know that the court clerks mother was born in 1845 and was the daughter of a shipbuilder blah blah blah).
The second third of this book talked about Roberts time in Broadmoor which was slightly more entertaining, as it detailed other inmates and their crimes but then it got duller still when Robert was released from Broadmoor and moved to Australia….so what? It was a proper damp squib.
The only saving grace was that the back 71 pages were ‘notes’ and I didn’t have to read them. Thank the Lord!
I do not recommend this book unless you really are into facts and dates and history surrounding criminal trials….and even then…….nah.
Oh well, you win some you lose some.
See you next time.