January 2020 Reading Roundup
Confession. I hate the beach. Our annual family beach holiday is only bearable if accompanied by several immersive reads. This year the books that got me through were eclectic and unexpected.
The Likeness by Tana French
I was spellbound by Tana French's first novel, In the Woods; the language, character, atmosphere and plot. All of it. And this is from a reader that doesn't read much crime. With the imminent release of the TV adaptation, The Dublin Murders, I decided to read the second book immediately. This series doesn't follow the same character - rather it picks up on a supporting character from the previous book and focuses book and focuses on them. All the books are first person.
But I was disappointed. I struggled with the actual premise of The Likeness. A body turns up with false ID, that was invented by undercover police. She looks identical to the police officer who once used that undercover identity. The police decide to lie about the mystery woman's death and plant the police woman into her life, masquerading as her, to catch the killer. It's so far fetched! The language wasn't as poetic and the voice of this character not as engrossing as the first.
Gravity is The Thing by Jaclyn Moriarty
Years ago I read Jaclyn Moriarty's I Have a Bed Made of Buttermilk Pancakes and proceeded to tell everyone and anyone I met that they had to read it. (Yes I'm that annoying person.) The overwhelming memory is one of delight. I am a huge fan of Jaclyn Moriarty's children and YA books too so I was very excited that she has written another book for 'grownups'. Jaclyn brings the same whimsy from her children's writing to her adult work and infuses her story with a sense of magic that is uplifting and heartbreaking. Gravity is the Thing is the story of a single mother, Abigail, her broken heart and unresolved grief weighing her down despite owning and operating the Happiness Cafe. But in real Jaclyn Moriarty style the plot is delightfully bonkers - for twenty years Abigail has been receiving mysterious anonymous chapters of The Guidebook and now has been invited to find out what it is all about. Sounds kooky but everything is underpinned with a self deprecating hilarious voice and a perceptiveness about life that at times takes your breath away. This book is unique, uplifting, clever, entertaining and all sorts of wonderful. I admire Jaclyn Moriarty's ability to balance whimsy with truth, lightness with true heartbreak.
The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
How does she do it? This book is set in a hospital bed with a bored bedridden detective investigating the mystery of Richard the Third and the murdered nephews in the tower - I mean ho hum - and yet I could not put it down. The language is sublime. Written in 1951, this is masterful. I should have been taking more notice of the writing but I was too busy enjoying myself reading it.
The Heavens by Sandra Newman
The plot involves time travel through a dream to Elizabethan times and will frankly fry your brain. The sentences are perfect. Dense ideas are layered gently to create surreal storytelling that builds depth with every moment. Questions of time, poetry, history and what and who can change the world. My only drawback was that I didn't care enough for the characters.
The Nancys by R.W.R. McDonald
THE BEST READ OF THE SUMMER! Entertaining and jam-packed with memorable characters and visceral sense of place, this book manages to be funny, dark, gory - so many things - all in the voice of an 11 year old girl. It's amazing. When 11 year old Tippy Chan is left in the care of her gay uncles, they start to investigate a murder in small town New Zealand. As a gang they call themselves The Nancys after their dhared love of Nancy Drew. Add in fashion designer boyfriend, recognisable small town characters and twists and turns and you have a rollicking read with biting wit and lots of heart. When is the Jane Campion TV series coming out??