Spring is finally here, hurrah! Soon I'll be able to sit out on the patio with a good book, bliss.
My bad read award this month goes to "The Pilgrimage" by Paulo Coelho. This was a book club choice and it's fair to say it got the thumbs down from all the group. I did enjoy "The Alchemist" but this is a rambling mish mash of mysticism and travelogue. Coelho is travelling across Spain on the road to Santiago De Compostela, accompanied by his guide. He is aiming to find a sword ( we never find out what this is for) and he is taught RAM exercises ( no, me neither) as part of his journey of self-discovery. This was really badly written, just mumbo-jumbo, glad I bought it second-hand!
I have really enjoyed Marina Lewycka's three previous books and "Various Pets Alive and Dead" continued this trend. She has tackled the thorny contemporary subject of immigrant workers ( in Two Caravans) whilst this book is a biting satire of the banking industry. Doro and Marcus are children of the sixties who lived in a commune and brought their children up to embrace the ideals of a free society. However, their children live very different lives and there is a lot of humour in how the whole family interacts, especially their son who desperately tries to keep his existence as a city trader a secret from them. Lewycka writes so well, her characters really sparkle and it manages to be both a funny and very touching book.
Esther Freud's "Lucky Break" was a bit of a disappointment, a real "meh" read. It follows a group of students at a drama school in London over the years, but nothing really happens. Some make it "big" but most do not. There are cliched characters galore and I really didn't care about any of them. I've read a couple of her books and had high hopes for this, but it didn't add up to much at all.
Barbara Trapido is another author I enjoy and "Sex and Stavinsky" was a real delight. Her books always contain such great characters whose lives intertwine and come together at the end like a Shakespearian comedy. The settings of Oxford and South Africa are beautifully drawn and I couldn't wait to find out what will happen to Josh, Hattie, Caroline and her truly awful mother. It is hard to describe the plot really but trust me, it's a good read!
Charlotte Rogan's debut novel "The Lifeboat" was another excellent read. A ship sinks in the Atlantic in 1914, and forty people make it onto one of the lifeboats. We first encounter Grace as she stands trial for murder. How she survives and how she ends up in jail is truly gripping and does make you think about how you would behave faced with extreme circumstances. I did like the Irish Times review "just don't read it on a cruise"! It is a very well written book and the characterisation is excellent, I couldn't put it down.