Rating: 3.5 stars Category: Crime fiction Synopsis: Victor Van Allen is proud of the ordered life he has created for himself. He runs a sought-after printing press, holds a respected position in the town, and is the father of a precocious little girl. The only taint to this perfect facade is his wife, Melinda. Their relationship is tenuously held together by Vic sleeping in a separate room and pretending to ignore her involvements with other men. Yet a new arrival in the sleepy town of Little Wesley means Vic may not be able to look the other way for much longer...
Rating: 3.5 stars Category: Short stories, literary fiction Synopsis: Christopher Isherwood, an English tutor and novelist, is rootless. Yet it is this quality of rootlessness that allows him to seamlessly drift between the high and low of Berlin society, from decadent lakeside houses to cramped attic rooms shared by entire families. Goodbye to Berlin is a semi-autobiographical collection of episodes that portray life in 1930s Berlin. Poverty, suffering and the rise of Nazism is beginning to give a threatening edge to all of the rich possibilities of the city.
Rating: 5 stars Category: Literary fiction Synopsis: In Girl, Woman, Other, Bernardine Evaristo intertwines twelve lives - mostly black, British women. Their voices range from Hattie, an ancient mixed-race grandma struggling to keep her family farm and her pride along with it, to Amma, a black lesbian playwright whose radical work is showing at the National Theatre for the first time. Through this lively spectrum of characters, Evaristo explores the nuances of identity, connection, and what it means to be proud of who you are.
Rating: 4 stars
Category: Historical fiction, crime, literary fiction
Alias Grace is based on the actual historical figure Grace Marks, who was convicted of murdering her employer and his housekeeper in 1843, alongside James McDermott. In this fictionalised account, it is uncertain whether she was acting under duress, out of fear for her own life, or if she was McDermott's lover and co-conspirator.
The ambitious psychologist Dr Jordan is sent to the penitentiary to draw out the truth. However, with Grace claiming to have no memory of the incident, it will be difficult to separate the innocent, exploited young girl from the woman capable of unspeakable violence.
This week, it would have been the 100th birthday of inimitable author Iris Murdoch. What better time to bring back this review of her novel, The Red and the Green?
Andrew: a slightly reluctant soldier in the First World War.
Pat: a member of the militant Irish Volunteers.
Millie: an eccentric and passionate woman whose home is being used to store weaponry.
The Red and the Green interrogates the lives of this troubled family as events escalate towards the Easter Rising, a pivotal moment that would change the course of Irish History.
Sometimes the characters in a book are so relatable, interesting or just plain loveable that they make it a joy to read. A few that come to mind for me are The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, Room by Emma Donoghue, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. However, what happens when the characters in a book are not relatable or even completely dislikeable? Is that a barrier to our enjoyment of the story?