The House on the Strand – Daphne Du Maurier

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The House on the Strand –  Daphne du Maurier

I blooming love Daphne Du Maurier and not because she writes of Cornish places and folk (okay partly that) but her books are so captivating and are such page turners I find myself losing hours engrossed in her novels.

 

I bought The House on the Strand aaages ago and to be honest I don’t even remember reading the blurb when I purchased it. Which is why when I went to read it, I found myself in a bit of a pickle – I thought I had gone mad. Gone were the female heroines of Rebecca and Jamaica Inn and in their place was a middle aged man on LSD.

 

Yep, you read that right. The House on the Strand tells the story of Dick, a middle aged man who has just left the publishing industry and is somewhat floating. His American wife Vita tries to organise a job for him in New York, which the reader knows he is never going to take.

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Set in the sixties, Dick takes himself off to Cornwall to a manor owned by his scientist friend Magnus, who offers him drugs to experiment with during his stay. Du Maurier had clearly been influenced by the hippy Sixties movement when writing this book.

 

Dick takes a dose of the drugs and is immediately transported to the 1300s. He becomes addicted to them and the people in his visions, using any opportunity he can to send him back to that time, so much so it’s not only his life which on occasions hangs in the balance but those of his family too.

 

I will admit that I skipped over large parts of his trip back in time. Not only was I confused about how the 10 billion characters Du Maurier introduces were related to one another but I didn’t think this part of the plot was not particularly gripping.

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If I am completely honest the only thing which kept me reading was the fact it’s set just down the road from my home back in Cornwall. The book is centered around Tywardreath and is set in the fictional manor of Kilmarth (actually Menabilly). There’s even a mention of the St. Austell Library – my favourite haunt in my youth.

 

Unfortunately I didn’t think this book was of the usual brilliance Du Maurier usually produces. This may be one for her diehard fans.

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The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh

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The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh

When Weekend Reads announced The Lemon Grove was the book to read for the month of July the copies in the office became like gold dust. Then two weeks ago I found a copy – hurrah!

I have read some very mixed reviews of the book. Most of the reviews in the media seemed quite positive but looking at the feedback on Amazon, the general public didn’t seem to like the book. It does have rather a lot of sex in it and inevitably most compared the novel to the Fifty Shades of Grey series.

Jenn and her husband Greg are enjoying their annual holiday in Mallorca. They are awaiting the arrival of Greg’s daughter Emma and her new boyfriend. From the moment Jenn sees Nathan there is instant sexual tension and attraction between the pair. This chemistry bubbles and simmers throughout the novel.

As Jenn contemplates her seemingly average life, she tried to eradicate this on a new journey of sexual discovery. But what follows is guilt towards her family for her infidelity and further cracks between her already fragile relationship with her step-daughter.

 

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So the sex…there were a few occasions where I did find it uncomfortable reading and skimmed past the naughty pages conscious someone would be reading it over my shoulder on the tube.

However the reason why so many people including myself found it uncomfortable, I think, was because the sex wasn’t between some goddess of a woman and a hunky man. It was between an average looking middle-aged woman and her step-daughter’s greasy boyfriend. A pretty taboo situation and it’s not your typical characters for a sexy novel.

It’s not just a novel about sex, which is what people seem to be forgetting. There is a large focus on an unhappy woman and her quest for her youth and excitement in her life. Once Jenn attempts to find this, it doesn’t make her any happier. There is also a focus on the relationship between a reluctant mother and an angry stepdaughter. And Walsh’s description of the Mallorcan scenery was so vivid that I immediately wanted to be transported there.

 

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As for people commenting on their dislike for the characters I didn’t see that. I did think Emma was slightly irritating at times but she’s meant to be – that typical teenage attitude where they are always right and their parents are disgustingly uncool – we’ve all been there.

The Lemon Grove has caused heated debate, however I urge you to read it and make your own judgment. I really enjoyed it and it’s totally different to all the other holiday reads you’ll find on the shelves this year.

First Sight by Danielle Steele

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First Sight – Danielle Steele

I have never read a Danielle Steele novel. There, I’ve said it. The lovely people at Transworld sent me a copy of her latest book and I thought it would give it a go. And of course Danielle Steele is without a doubt one of the biggest authors of our time, she has sold over 600 million books.

After reading books with rather heavy subject matter – I am Malala and Do No Harm, it made a nice change to return to fiction when reading First Sight.

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First Sight’s protagonist Timmie O’Neil is a force to be reckoned with – an extremely successful fashion designer with stores around the world, several houses and all the money she could dream of. But one thing is missing from her life – love. With a failed marriage behind her, her love life has always come second to her business. Her current squeeze, failing actor and model Zack, is to put it bluntly a complete waste of space and uses Timmie for her lavish lifestyle and her network of clients.

One night Timmie falls ill in Paris and calls a doctor her friend suggested, and here we have our love match. Jean-Charles (who’s characteristics I think, resemble Mr Big’s in SATC) is in a marriage which is struggling to stay afloat and here in lies the problem.

Timmie and Jean-Charles’s union is blighted by his marriage and inability to leave it. Timmie spends most the book waiting for him but cancer, car-accidents and guilt all play a part in keeping them in different continents. Meanwhile Timmie is hiding her own secret from Jean-Charles.

The book also has other narratives embedded including Timmie’s awful childhood where she was put up for adoption as a small child and her jet-setting antics.

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I think the subject matter is very relevant at the moment as Steele asks if women can have it all. Not a week goes by without a journalist questioning whether women can have everything they desire and still be successful in all areas of their lives. There seems to be the notion that women have to sacrifice either their career or family for the other and they cannot have both.

I will admit I did enjoy reading First Sight and I became one of those people who read on the platform waiting for the tube to come. So yes, I have become a fan of Danielle Steele and I would definitely consider reading another from her vast back catalogue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alarm Girl by Hannah Vincent

 

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Alarm Girl by Hannah Vincent

Alarm Girl is one of those books where if it were possible I would have loved to have devoured it from cover to cover in just one sitting. Alas, I had to read it in chunks on the tube but that did not detract from the eloquently written debut novel from Hannah Vincent.

The story begins when 11 year-old Indigo’s plane touches down in South Africa, accompanied by her brother they are visiting their father for the first time since he moved the country. Written mostly from Indigo’s perspective, we learn early on that there is a suffocating and unusual silence surrounding her mother’s death. It was all I could do not to flick through the book in the quest to discover what had happened to her. Thank you will-power.

Indigo finds herself in a strange house, land and continent whilst her father is busy making a new life for himself evidenced by his new girlfriend –Precious. Back home in the UK, Indigo and her brother are looked after by their grandparents and Vincent wonderfully captures the pure relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren. Indigo’s perspective and feelings towards her grandparents are ones I remember having at that age.

Vincent cleverly writes in Indigo’s eleven-year-old manner, making for at times a humorous read. She brilliant captures the bluntness and inquisitive nature a child of that age has. It made me slightly nostalgic and I found myself thinking back to what I was like at that age…hello Tammy Girl and Pokemon cards.

Back to Alarm Girl, the book centres on Indigo’s need to know why her mother died and the repercussions from this. This is the dark aspect of the novel, what should be a totally pure and trouble-free time for Indigo and her brother is blighted by their mother’s absence. I’m not going to give away how their mother died but it is deeply saddening and an issue which, in my opinion, is not addressed enough in novels. There are sections of the book written from their mother’s perspective which makes the read even more harrowing.

Alarm Girl is a book you will love at any age and one that will be staying on my bookshelf. Hannah Vincent is clearly an exciting talent and I am excited to see what else she has in store.