The Squeeze by Lesley Glaister – A Review

This book has sent me into a Glaister buying spin and has opened my eyes to possibly a new favourite author.

I saw this one on booktube and (rather superficially) loved the cover *but* in my defence also loved the premise (I’m not that shallow…….I totally am).

The Squeeze tells the story of Marta a young Romanian girl who after the death of her father is finding it difficult to support her family on her factory job wages, processing harmful chemicals.  She dreams of a new life, one where she can earn enough money to also give her young sister a head start in life too.  She is vulnerable and naive and it is this vulnerability that leads to her being charmed by a mysterious man and ending up being sex trafficked into the UK.

We also meet Mats a Norwegian businessman who relocates to Edinburgh from Norway with his wife Nina.  A solid, dependable, some might say dull man who just wants to have a family and a peaceful life.  However, he finds himself coming into contact with Marta and becoming intrinsically linked to her in a much deeper way than her ever anticipated, meaning he has some hard decisions and sacrifices to make.

The story is told from the perspectives of Marta, Mats and Mats’ second wife Vivienne. We also have some short vignettes at the start from the perspective of Alis, another girl who has been trafficked and becomes friends with Marta.  Her chapters tellingly dwindle out fairly early on.

This book is fast paced and (I loathe to say it) a page turner.  The plot most definitely draws you in but Glaister (I have discovered since reading more of her work) is brilliant at combining fast paced plot with real character development.  I could feel empathy with all of the characters and really got drawn into their lives.  Glaister also does that great thing where the ordinary and the mundane gel perfectly with extraordinary circumstances.

This book covers such subjects as sex trafficking post Berlin Wall, marriage, relationships, family ties and criminal underworlds. It was an really intriguing, engaging read and has prompted me to buy pretty much all of Lesley Glaister’s back catalogue. No lie.

I guess you could say that’s a good recommendation!

See you again soon with another review.

Bookish Chat. Xxx

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Big Brother by Lionel Shriver – A Review

This particular book was my first foray into Lionel Shriver.  I suppose the most famous one of hers is We Need To Talk About Kevin which of course was also made into a film.  I’ve often seen copies of this book on charity shop shelves but have always given it a wide birth without really knowing why.  I think it’s maybe the dark content and the fact that it’s so widely talked about.

However after reading Big Brother I feel like I now need to scoop up everything she has written immediately, if not sooner.

So, what the dickens is Big Brother all about you may ask?

Well, this is the story of Pandora and her brother Edison, who happens to be her ‘big’ brother in more than the obvious way.  Pandora is married to Fletcher a struggling furniture maker and has adopted his two teenage children.  Pandora herself has her own very successful company which makes pullstring dolls for adults.  Edison, a jazz musician, comes to stay with Pandora and her family after not seeing them for four years and having fallen on hard times.

Pandora is shocked and horrified when she meets Edison from the airport and he is pushed out by airport staff in a wheelchair due to his huge weight.  The last time she saw him Edison was of a ‘normal’ size but had now gained hundreds of pounds.

We then see the effect that this weight gain has on not only Edison, who is virtually unrecognisable to his sister but also Pandora and her family too.  Fletcher her husband does not get along well with Edison and Pandora’s determination to help her brother puts a massive strain on her marriage and her family life until ultimatums are issued.

Now, I’m no wordsmith or lyrical gangsta, however I pride myself on the fact that I can gather the meaning of most words given the context they are used in.  However, this book tested me somewhat!  Some of the words in this book I hands down have never heard in all of my 39 years on this earth and will most likely never hear again.  Short of keeping an Oxford dictionary to hand at all times I just had to assume the meaning or bypass it completely.  I should say here though that this wordyness (is that even a word?) didn’t dissuade me from reading or ruin my comprehension of the story.

This book is quite funny at times but also very emotional.  Having struggled in the past with my weight and my relationship with food it was perhaps more emotional to me as a reader as I could attach more meaning to the events that happened.  Its much more than a story about weight gain/weight loss, identity, body image etc.  It also deals with sibling rivalry, family ties, successes and failures, childhood events and family loyalties.

There was a fairly big twist in this story a chapter or so from the end which had me thrown.  I’m no Columbo, but I like to think I can sniff out a twist before it happens.  I this case I really didn’t.  Did I enjoy the twist?…..The jury is still out on that I’m afraid.

All in all this book was a very enjoyable read, a bit of a thinker which leaves you feeling a bit raw and emotional.  At least it did me.

Have you read it? And what other Lionel Shriver books would you recommend?

See you soon.

Bookish Chat xxx

You Can’t Teach An Old Reader New Tricks……

Or can you?

Just a quickie today whilst I have a few minutes spare. I figured it was time for a bullet pointed list because let’s face it, who doesn’t love a good list?

I’ve been meaning to get some thoughts down for a wee while along the subject of reading habits, in particular how mine have changed since becoming more involved in the bookstagram community and switching this blog to a purely book based/book review platform rather than a personal blog (which is what it started life as).

My reading habits have changed in lots of ways over the past maybe 6 months or so, I barely recognise myself as a reader now guys! Who even am I?……

Let’s find out together with that bullet-pointed list I mentioned at the top. Let’s crack on……

  1. I now read *whisper it* more than ONE book at once. I know right! I have NEVER been the kinda gal who has a few books on the go, but reader, lemme tell ya…..I’ve become somewhat of a book slut. (Yes that’s a thing). If you’d have told me last year I’d potentially have 3 or 4 books on the go I’d have said hell to the no way fella! Yet here I am, currently sticking my bookmarks in 3 books. Such a loose fickle woman. I think this change has been brought about by the fact that I’m blogging more, hearing about far more awesome sounding books via booktube and I. Just. Can’t. Wait to read them all! That said I’m not sure I’m entirely comfortable cheating on books but I’m doing it….for now.

2. I’m a bookworm (obvs). I walk past a library twice a day to get to and from work and yet…. I only joined the library around 3 or 4 months ago! What the devil is all that about?!? Honestly those places are jam packed to the rafters with awesome, newly released, award winning fiction and I was casually sauntering past unbeknownst on the daily. What. An. Idiot. Nuff said.

3. I’m trying short stories. Previously I’d have never picked a short story collection up because I feel like you don’t get invested enough in short stories and never really saw the point. However I’m changing things up and delving in. I still can’t say I’m overly fond of them but I’m very open minded. Any suggestions of great collections welcome.

4. Historical fiction is now my bag. Well not my main bag…..maybe just a bejewelled side clutch or something BUT I have become far more interested in historical fiction over the last 12 months fo sho. Again if you’d have told me 18 months ago that I’d have my head stuck in a Sarah Waters I’d have laughed you right out of Victorian Lahdahn Tahn (that’s my cockney accent). I used to immediately put a book back on the shelf if the blurb even hinted at a whiff of bustle or Queen Victoria but now I can’t bloody get enough! Sarah Waters and Emma Donoghue have opened my eyes. My favourite book of all time is The Crimson Petal And The White by Michel Faber (I’m always wanging on about it) and that is firmly set in the squalid streets of Victorian London (the BEST era in my opinion). Throw in a brothel, some pox riddled and powdered ladies of the night and a few dastardly blokes and I’m in heaven. Who knew?!

5. Hardbacks. Love ’em or hate ’em?….I used to hate them but with the upsurge in my reading being primarily library loans I’ve found that hardbacks are my friends……but I do prefer them naked. I would have never dreamed of taking a dust jacket off a book but now I’m always stripping……ooh err.

Is 5 points enough? For now I think so. BUT my reading habits and tastes are changing so frequently now that maybe I’ll have enough fodder for a Part Deux? In fact I can think of two more right now but I’ll keep my powder dry on those for now, hell! I can squeeze another blog post out of them!

See you again soon.

Bookish Chat

Xxx

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne – A Review


A few facts before I start the review of this book:

  • It is easily my favourite book of the year…..easily.
  • It is possibly my favourite book ever (bold statement).
  • It made me cry, twice, and I’m not a crying kinda gal. 
  • I only picked it up because I was seeing it everywhere on social media and I hate to miss out.
  • I am SO glad I did…….

 

So, with all of the above said, it doesn’t take Columbo to deduce my feelings on this book.  I could just say read it NOW! And leave the review there but that would be doing the book a disservice so I’ll try and put into words my thoughts and feelings on it.

This novel tells the story of Cyril Avery, a young boy living in Ireland post Second World War, who has been adopted by Maude and Charles Avery after his real mother, 16 year old Catherine Goggins was denounced from her church, disowned by her parents and cast out of her village in rural Ireland.

The story of Cyril’s life is told over a 70+ years span in 7 year increments. Starting from his dramatic birth and subsequent adoption by Maude and Charles who are far from doting parents.  They are fairly well off and provide well for Cyril but are quite cold and detached emotionally, quite often reiterating to Cyril that he’s ‘not a real Avery’.  It is when Cyril is 7 years old that he meets Julian Woodbead (also 7) and develops a close friendship. We then follow both boys through boarding school, teenage life and various scrapes and adventures in their adult years.

Cyril always struggles to find out where he fits in, trying to develop his own identity in the shadow of gregarious, popular, outspoken Julian.

This book is so beautifully, skilfully written. Each and every character, whether they are a main influence in Cyril’s life and are present throughout the whole story or whether they are a ‘bit part’, just a small character who’s around for a few paragraphs, they are all so full of life and believable. Some are ghastly in an amusing way and some are just downright nasty. Some are beautiful people with kind souls who you want to just keep close to your heart.

This book is so funny, such gentle, genuine humour. But as I said at the start, it also takes you on an emotional rollercoaster of a journey and made me cry at two particularly poignant points. I can count on one hand the number of books that have made me cry. I’m an ice queen people! But this book destroyed me! (In a good way, if that’s possible).

When people really enjoy a book they quite often say that they didn’t want it to end and in this case I genuinely didn’t. I wasn’t quite ready to let Cyril go from my life. 

You really feel as if you are making the journey with Cyril. Living his life with him through the various highs and lows and heartbreaks and joys. As I mentioned, the story is told in 7 year increments and I was always a little reluctant to move on to the next chapter in Cyril’s life, just incase I didn’t connect with it as much as the previous one but I found that I was always quickly absorbed in the new chunk of his life and swept away again. 

It would be all to easy to talk too much about this book and let slip some spoilers. So what I will say is that it deals with such topics as loneliness, grief, friendship, belonging, relationships, love and prejudice. 

I hate to use too many cliches but this book at times had me stopping, looking up on the bus and really wanting to just talk to somebody about what I’d just read. There were sections that were just so perfectly written that they blew me away. There are things which will stick out in my memory forever. There is a chapter called The Great Love Affair that is 3 pages of the most engaging writing I have ever read. In fact I had to go back and read it again. 

Be it witty one liners or heartfelt emotional paragraphs this book is as close to perfect as I could ever imagine. 

I will be wanging on about it for a long time to come and have even pre-ordered the paperback ahead of its release as the copy I read was a library loan and need to own it for myself. 

Beg, steal or borrow a copy of this book. Do whatever you can to get your hands on it (perhaps not the stealing option though). 
Bookish Chat xxx