Heat and Dust by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
Heat and Dust by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala has been sitting on my book shelf/top of my wardrobe for nearly two years, gathering dust, if you pardon the pun. I picked it up whilst I was doing work experience at Little Brown and felt that it was a book I should read rather than wanting to.
Flitting between present day and 1923, a young girl goes to India in the hope of discovering more about her step-grandmother’s affair with an Indian prince.
Olivia is married to Douglas and the couple are posted out to India during a time when the English ruled and it was seen as ‘the’ place to be. Olivia is desperate for a baby and is still settling in to married life. With no women of her age around she strikes up a close friendship with Harry a close ally of the prince and it’s not long before the prince, or the Nawab as he is known, invites Olivia to the palace. Once news hits the community of their affair and Olivia’s abortion she becomes a recluse and lives high up in the mountains in a house the Nawab has bought for her. She is ostracised and ridiculed for her behaviour.
Years later her step-granddaughter, armed with Olivia’s letters makes the journey to India. She learns of their customs such as the Husband’s Wedding Party and lives with Inder Lal and his wife. She encounters beggars and mad men along her journey and just as her step-grandmother did all those years ago she has an affair and becomes pregnant. The story ends with her in her step-grandmother’s house in the mountains.
Although the synopsis does sound full of scandal I felt like this book lacked the impact it could have had. The novel is less than two hundred pages long so I really felt like it was going to be a thriller. The affair is only really detailed on one page while the build up to it lacks fascination and spark. Perhaps this is a scandalous book for the more highbrow reader!
Children of the Jacaranda Tree by Sahar Delijani
Children of the Jacaranda Tree was the last of the books I had to read from my time at Orion. I wanted to get my hands on a copy waaay back in March 2013 when I did work experience there. Then when I was an employee there I spotted it at a book fair and knew I had to have it.
Not only did the cover appeal to me – could those colours be any more wonderful – but the synopsis captured my attention.
Broken down into smaller stories all interwoven, Children of the Jacaranda Tree details the lives of various men and women affected by the tough regime in Iran spanning decades.
Azar gives birth to her daughter in a women’s prison and is even interrogated when suffering from contractions. We later hear of her daughter’s story, made even more poignant in the last chapter when she says that her generation inspired by their parent’s fight against the government are still suffering the same feat.
Leila is bringing up her two sisters’ children both of whom have been imprisoned for fighting the government. Along with Leila’s mother Maman Zinat, both brave women have put their lives on hold to raise these children. Leila refuses to leave the children when her boyfriend suggests running away together. Years later these same children along with their mothers who have been released from prison attended Maman Zinat’s funeral.
Then there is Amir who learns his wife is pregnant while he is in prison. He does get to see his baby daughter just before he is executed. His wife Maryam never comes to terms with his cruel and unexpected death as it was almost certain he was going to be freed. Her sadness then mars her daughter’s life who only in her twenties discovers what really happened to her father.
Sahar Delijani has filled this book full of hope and sadness and it is beautifully written. It reminds me a lot of City of Lies which I read in the summer, a non-fiction book detailing the lives of those living in Tehran. Both books opened my eyes to the lives of those who we don’t see on the news and how the everyday people are suffering in this region. Highly recommended.
Sahar Delijani has filled this book full of hope and sadness and is beautifully written. It reminds me a lot of City of Lies which I read in the summer, a non-fiction book detailing the lives of those living in Tehran. Both books opened my eyes to the lives of those who we don’t see on the news everyday and how the everyday people are suffering in this region. Highly recommended.
The Rosie Effect – Graeme Simsion
I loved The Rosie Project and it was safe to say I was rather excited when I saw there was a sequel. I did however wait until it came out in paperback until I purchased it.
Even though I really enjoyed The Rosie Project I couldn’t remember exactly what happened in it so had to Wikipedia the plot.
The Rosie Effect picks up where the former book left off. Rosie and Don are living in New York in unconventional romantic bliss until Rosie drops an almighty bombshell – she’s pregnant. Don panics and pretty much goes off the rails. He decides to research first-hand how parents interact with their children and decides to go a playground and film what happens. Needless to say this doesn’t go down well and he soon finds himself at the police station being asked why he was filming children. In events you couldn’t even predict Don is then assigned a social worker who asks to speak to Rosie, not wanting to alarm his pregnant wife he then asks a friend to pretend to be Rosie so she doesn’t find out he has been filming children.
From there Don goes from one disaster to a next, he attends a good father’s support group and makes rather the impression. He then involves himself in a lesbian mother’s research project and lets his best friend Gene live with him after his wife has kicked him out.
Needless to say Rosie has had enough of Don’s antics and she is worried that Don is struggling with the idea of adding a third party to their relationship. After a failed antenatal class she decides to book a one way ticket back to Australia. All their friends rally round trying to save the pair’s relationship but Rosie decides to leave Don but even that doesn’t go to plan. Don boards Rosie’s plane but it’s turned back around when there are fears Don could be a terrorist.
After all the hilarity and drama Rosie and Don save their relationship when she enters Don’s bathroom/study and sees the drawings of their BUD (baby under development) on the tiles and realises he is ready for a baby after all.
While my synopsis of the novel does seem full of drama, it is light-hearted and just as funny as the first novel. Don and Rosie and are such wonderful characters which I rooted for throughout the whole book. As wonderful as it is unconventional, I would highly recommend The Rosie Effect to everyone.
In case you haven’t read The Rosie Project here is a link to my review of it https://sweetsdelights.wordpress.com/2014/03/27/the-rosie-project-graeme-simsion/
The Quick by Lauren Owen
It is very rare I give up on a book. This may occur on average once a year and unfortunately this year’s book was Lauren Owen’s The Quick.
I had read dazzling reviews of The Quick in various magazines and newspapers and decided to put it on my Christmas list. I love all things Victorian especially Victorian London – what could go wrong with this book I thought?
It started off wonderfully. James and Charlotte live in the remote Yorkshire countryside and are brought up by a governess, rarely ever seeing their father. After their father’s death the elder sibling James, goes to university and after his studies he decides to stay in London. As his family have plenty of money he is able to live a relaxed and comfortable lifestyle by slowly writing poems and plays.
He lives with a landlady who rents out various rooms in her house. She rents one of her rooms to a gentleman named Christopher, a social butterfly who more often than not comes home drunk in the small hours. James and Christopher soon embark on a passionate romance, which they obviously have to keep from everyone. However Christopher’s family soon get wind of the affair.
And this is where is all starts to get a bit bonkers. Christopher’s family know people in the exclusive Aegolius club – a group of men who are effectively vampires – and orders them to kill James. In the aftermath of the fight James survives and manages to escape however Christopher is not so lucky.
As Charlotte hasn’t heard from James after the death of their governess she decides to go to London to hunt James down. When she does see him she’s in for a surprise as a group of strangers have to come to her rescue after James attacks her. They soon realise he’s been ‘taken’ by the Aegolius club and strive to fight against them.
Here was where it got too much for me, I can just about manage Twilight but this was one step too far. Not only was I not expecting there to be vampires in the book – nowhere in the blurb does it say this – but the plot was just so over the top and ridiculous. Owen’s style of writing is wonderful and I really did enjoy the first hundred pages but the rest was a struggle. After two weeks of reading and with a hundred and fifty pages to go I realised that I didn’t really care what happened to characters. Sadly this book will be carted off to the nearest charity shop.