Tuesday, 30 October 2012

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox

Title: The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox

Author: Maggie O’Farrell

Number of pages: 288

Started: 24 October 2012

Finished: 30 October 2012

Opening words:

Let us begin with two girls at a dance.
They are at the edge of the room. One sits on a chair, opening and shutting a dance-card with gloved fingers. The other stands beside her, watching the dance unfold: the circling couples, the clasped hands, the drumming shoes, the whirling skirts, the bounce of the floor. It is the last hour of the year and the windows behind them are blank with night. The seated girl is dressed in something pale, Esme forgets what, the other in a dark red frock that doesn’t suit her. She has lost her gloves. It begins here.

Plot summary:

Edinburgh in the 1930s.  The Lennox family is having trouble with its youngest daughter.  Esme is outspoken, unconventional, and repeatedly embarrasses them in polite society.  Something will have to be done.

Years later, a young woman named Iris Lockhart receives a letter informing her that she has a great-aunt in a psychiatric unit who is about to be released.

Iris has never heard of Esme Lennox and the one person who should know more, her grandmother Kitty, seems unable to answer Iris's questions.  What could Esme have done to warrant a lifetime in an institution?  And how is it possible for a person to be so completely erased from a family's  history?

What I thought:

This was an intriguing book that told the story of Esme Lennox, a recently discovered aged aunt, and what, some sixty years ago, caused her to be placed in a psychiatric hospital and promptly forgotten – to such a degree that later generations did not even know of her existence.  It was a well written tale with some nice observations and some amusing moments.  As the story unfolded, my frustration grew as the realisation began to dawn on me about why she might have been treated in this way, and that the state would have allowed someone to remain in their care for decades on end.

The book leaves some loose ends, but deservedly so.  Depending on how you interpret the circumstances of the past and then the present, I suspect there is potential to draw very different conclusions about how unjust (if at all) things were.  I think it is therefore fair to say that it was an intriguing read and one that will mean different things to different people.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The Accident

Title: The Accident

Author: Linwood Barclay

Number of pages: 480

Started: 17 October 2012

Finished: 24 October 2012

Opening words:

If I’d known this was our last morning, I’d have rolled over in bed and held her. But of course, if it had been possible to know something like that—if I could have somehow seen into the future—I wouldn’t have let go. And then things would have been different.

Plot summary:

Milford, Connecticut, is a quiet, orderly place to live, a good place to bring up kids.  But people are beginning to feel the bite of financial hard times. Even decent, normally law-abiding folks have started getting a little creative when it comes to making ends meet.

For Glen Barber, the recession has been particularly bad for his construction business, especially after a mysterious fire destroyed one of his buildings.  But Glen’s troubles are about to escalate to a whole new level. His wife Sheila has her own plans for getting them out of their financial jam, plans that seem to involve a secret network of Milford’s wives and are about to pay off big-time.

And that’s when the accident happens…

Suddenly it looks as if the neighbors’ ‘get rich quick’ schemes are more likely to get you dead. Glen – no longer able to trust even the people he loves – must risk everything to find out what’s lurking behind the town’s idyllic façade.

Because some accidents aren’t accidents at all.

What I thought:

I have often had mixed feelings about Linwood Barclay, but I enjoyed this novel much more than a number of his others.  Where a number of his stories tail off a bit toward the end, this one managed to sustain a decent pace right until the end.  It was a good read and a nice easy page turner.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed out of a Window and Disappeared

Title: The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed out of a Window and Disappeared

Author: Jonas Jonasson

Number of pages: 400

Started: 8 October 2012

Finished: 16 October 2012

Opening words:

You might think he could have made up his mind earlier, and been man enough to inform his surroundings of his decision. But Allan Karlsson had never been given to pondering things too long.

So the idea had barely taken hold in the old man’s head before he opened the window of his room on the ground floor of the Old Folks’ Home in the town of Malmköping, and stepped out— into the flower bed

Read a longer extract here

Plot summary:

It all starts on the one-hundredth birthday of Allan Karlsson. Sitting quietly in his room in an old people's home, he is waiting for the party he-never-wanted-anyway to begin. The mayor is going to be there. The press is going to be there. But, as it turns out, Allan is not...Slowly but surely Allan climbs out of his bedroom window, into the flowerbed (in his slippers) and makes his getaway. And so begins his picaresque and unlikely journey involving criminals, several murders, a suitcase full of cash, and incompetent police. As his escapades unfold, we learn something of Allan's earlier life in which - remarkably - he helped to make the atom bomb, became friends with American presidents, Russian tyrants, and Chinese leaders, and was a participant behind the scenes in many key events of the twentieth century.

What I thought:

I enjoyed this book, which was a trip through history through the unlikely adventures of an unknown Swedish man who stumbles across through different characters from history throughout his hundred year life.  That said, I thought that by the end it was beginning to lose some of its originality, but it was worth a read nonetheless.

Friday, 5 October 2012

One For The Money

Title: One For The Money

Author: Janet Evanovich

Number of pages: 320

Started: 1 October 2012

Finished: 5 October 2012

Opening words:

THERE ARE SOME MEN who enter a woman's life and screw it up forever.

Joseph Morelli did this to me -- not forever, but periodically.

Morelli and I were both born and raised in a blue-collar chunk of Trenton called the burg. Houses were attached and narrow. Yards were small. Cars were American. The people were mostly Italian descent, with enough Hungarians and Germans thrown into offset inbreeding. It was a good place to buy calzone or play the numbers. And. if you had to live in Trenton anyway, it was an okay place to raise a family.

Plot summary:

Stephanie Plum is down on her luck. She's lost her job, her car's on the brink of repossession, and her apartment is fast becoming furniture-free.

Enter Cousin Vinnie, a low-life who runs a bail-bond company. If Stephanie can bring in vice cop turned outlaw Joe Morelli, she stands to pick up $10,000. But tracking down a cop wanted for murder isn't easy . . .

And when Benito Ramirez, a prize-fighter with more menace than mentality, wants to be her friend Stephanie soon knows what it's like to be pursued. Unfortunately the best person to protect her just happens to be on the run . . .

What I thought:

A work colleague is very enthusiastic about these books and was rather keen for me to give the series a go.  So much so that she actually gave me this book to get me started on it.  The book was very amusing and a really undemanding read.  I thought this was a really decent commuter read and this is the first in an ever growing series of books (I think in excess of 20 now).  This could be a series that keeps me going for some time to come.