Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J K Rowling
A year after buying our first house, my parents seem to have decided that I definitely won’t be moving back so are slowly going through all my childhood books and toys and essentially telling me I need to find a place in our house for these items or chuck them off the nearest cliff.
One such series of books they are off loading onto me is my beloved Harry Potter books. I remember when I was younger I was obsessed with the front covers and thought they were so cool. They were probably the first sort of older books I had read and I think at the time I thought the covers were so grown up.
The books are so well loved with creased pages and faded spines from them being on my bookcase for years.
I remember exactly where I was when I first heard about Harry Potter. I was probably about seven or eight and I remember being in my grandparent’s kitchen with my mum and my granny showing us a news article in the paper about the series and suggesting I might like to read them. I was too young to read the books so my mum read the first few to me. She was just as obsessed as me and she would read to me before I went to sleep and weekend afternoons.
Reading the Philosopher’s Stone has brought back so many childhood memories and what’s most shocking of all is that I probably first read this book nearly 20 years ago!
Less by Andrew Sean Greer
There has been so much buzz around Andrew Sean Greer’s Less so I was keen to see what all the fuss was about.
Arthur Less is about to turn fifty and is essentially having a mid life crisis. He’s a novelist who has written one good book and the love of his life is about to marry someone else.
Arthur feels enough is enough and decides to embark on a round the world tour by accepting invitations to literary events. His travels take him to Mexico, Germany and India to name a few.
The chapters are broken down by countries and each chapter could be read independently from the rest.
The novel offers antic-dotes for the reader to understand how Arthur has ended up how he is.
Arthur is reeling from his ex-boyfriend’s impending marriage and as a result has lost confidence in himself and considers himself a failure. He has a wide network of friends, some of whom are more supportive and encouraging than others.
Although there are some funny one liners, the novel is essentially about mental health and how learning from mistakes can make you a richer and happier person.
The 250 page book took me three weeks to read and the first half was an absolute struggle. I felt I perhaps needed to be a little older to understand Arthur’s woes and as a result couldn’t to relate to him. It has won lots of awards and has received high praise so don’t let my review out you off!
Force of Nature by Jane Harper
I had really high hopes for Force of Nature – from the chilling title to the dramatic cover to the praise it received. I thought the novel would take me no longer than a week to read as I wouldn’t have been able to put it down, in actual fact it took me just over a month to finish it. I felt as though I was constantly waiting for it to get going and the suspension and tension, for me, was too vague and ambiguous therefore I started to lose a bit of interest.
It wasn’t all bad though. The last hundred pages saved the book and was where all the action happened.
Five work colleagues, as part of a team bonding weekend, go into the Australian bush. None of the women partially like each other. There’s Jill Bailey, who’s brother owns the company they work for. Sisters Bree and Beth who on the surface cannot stand each other and the latter is slowing getting her life together after drink and drug problems. There’s Lauren who’s work conscious but it constantly thinking about her anorexic teenage daughter who used to be friends with Alice’s daughter before a big falling out. Alice’s mind is also on her daughter who is the subject of having naked photos posted on the internet supposedly by her ex-boyfriend.
Throughout their weekend there is constant arguing of which route to take, when to stop for food and their personal baggage spills over into the team bonding trip. Following an argument Alice sets off to find her own way back to the lodges and this is where the trouble starts. Lauren chases after Alice and the pair have a huge physical fight about their daughters. Alice hits her head and Lauren leaves Alice, who she believes to be still alive. Bree then goes out to find Alice dead and looks at her bag which has an item marked ‘property of Beth’. To save her sister Bree moves the backpack and removes the item. When Alice doesn’t come back the group go into panic mode.
Woven into the novel is the narrative of the detectives trying to find out what has happened to Alice and the chance that her death might have something to do with the a murderer who has already claimed the lives of three women.
The last hundred pages highlights the social politics of a group of women and the lengths women will go to to defend their family.
Can You Hear Me? By Elena Varvello
I thought Can You Hear Me was going to pan out completey differently to how the blurb describes the novel.
The blurb focuses on the kidnap of a young girl and the disappearance of a boy. However the book is about the effects of these events on Elia and his father’s involvement in them.
Ettore is a complex man who loses his job and his mental health takes a downward spiral because of this. He disappears for days and when he does come home is aloof and does not speak to his wife or Elia.
This has a huge effect on the family, not least Elia, especially at a sensitive time during his teenage years. His mother is in complete denial about his father’s actions.
So Elia turns to his friend Stefanio’s mother, Anna, for comfort. The two have an enomorous amount of sexual tension but both know entering into an sort of encounter will cause damage to many people.
In between Elia’ s thoughts is the actual event of the kidnap. Although the girl is unharmed, it is at times really harrowing and is a difficult read.
When Ettore is taken in for questioning over the kidnap of the girl, the family’s world comes crashing down Elia’s mother stands by her husband and Elia turns to Anna and does sleep with her.
Elia’s whole teenage years are ruined by his father’s actions and his mother’s reactions to this. His father then dies in prison of a heart attack a few years later.
I think the book is a great exploration into the indirect effects of a parent’s actions which isn’t always explored in novels as the focus tends to be on either the victim or tormentor. Although the novel wasn’t what I thought and at times was difficult to follow with all the changes in time, it was still a thrilling read.
The Beautiful Summer by Cesare Pavese
A Beautiful Summer was recommended in Waterstones weekly email. At the moment I get a lot of the recommendations from the email they send out and having only been to Italy three months ago, I am still obsessed with all things Italian.
Written in 1949 and translated from Italian to English, A Beautiful Summer tells the story of Ginia and Amelia. The young girls don’t really have a care in the world. The things they do hone in on and worry about are the trival things you obsess about at that age. This is what Cesare Pavese so brilliantly captures – I remember at that age not really having a care about the bigger picture and not seeing the consequences of actions. Instead I would worry about trival things, a fly away comment, that in the grand scheme of things was not remotely important.
Although not set in Florence, the novel had me dreaming of those old cobbled streets and old artsy buildings.
I have to admit I enjoyed the beginning and the ending but lost it a bit in the middle. I’m not sure if there was enough to keep me entertained. It felt like one of those books I would have been made to read at uni and one which my lecturers would have gone mad over.
For once I read the introduction (this was by Elizabeth Strout) having background on the author gave more substance to the novel for me.
It’s a nice artsy novel however I don’t know if I’d be reaching for it again.
The Missing Girl by Jenny Quintana
So I’ve read my 6473838 thriller of the year. In comparison to others I’ve read The Missing Girl by Jenny Quintana sits in the middle however it’s not to be dismissed as a bad novel and is definitely worth a read.
The book flits between present day and 1982. Anna is in her hometown for her mother’s funeral and to sort through her family home and late father’s business. Anna rarely visited her mother in her final years and the relationship between the two is incredibly fractured and via flashbacks we learn why.
Anna and her sister Gabriella were incredibly close growing up, that is until Gabriella goes missing. She just vanishes and no one can offer any clues as to what happened. Anna becomes the ‘girl who has the missing sister’ and her parents completely fall apart. Anna is given food and comfort from relatives but nothing compares to the longing and desire to know what happened to her sister. The event tears the family apart and their father suffers a fatal heart attack in the woods looking for Gabriella.
Edward Lilly and his family have recently moved to the village and not much is known about them. Edward is stern and unwelcoming and his children, Martha and Lydia are shunned by their classmates for their peculiar nature. But it’s Martha who turns out to be the missing link in the mystery of Gabriella’s disappearance.
By sorting through her parents stuff, Anna uncovers the secret that Edward Lilly was really Gabriella father and as Martha was one if the last people to see Gabriella alive Anna forces Martha to tell her what really happened on that awful day. Edward and Gabriella had a disagreement and Gabriella told him that she wanted to be with her family, not him. He took her into the house where his wife murdered Gabriella and buried her in the garden. This isn’t Edward’s first murder and the tradegy is he cannot be brought to pay for his crimes having died some years earlier.
This is a good book and defitnitely one you could devour of a summer afternoon.