Friday, 21 November 2014

National Short Storey Week - Advent

Ok so it’s national short storey week and to celebrate it I have combined the one rule of book club (to read a Christmas book in December) with one of the groups suggestion that we write our own short storey and come up with my own Christmas short storey. Ok so it’s not very Christmassy and it’s not really a short storey, more like a first Chapter/Introduction but it’s better than nothing and it is called Advent. So if you’re sick of reading me banging on about how rubbish a book is then let’s turn the tables. Read it then critique away! Eek! PS don’t forget to let me know your #marksoutoften or #reviewinanutshell on twitter @crambookclub


Christmas is coming! It’s at last the first day of December, the first day of advent. While most people are waking up to chocolate shaped santas behind little foil doors Grace wakes up to a knife being held to her throat by a man she doesn’t know. She is bound, cold and doesn’t remember how she arrived at the dark room with the damp cement floor. The man leans into her. He is dressed in black and in the darkness Grace can only make out the outline of his face. She can smell his breath, cigarettes and as he brushes up against her ear to whisper something to her she can feel his rough stubble grazing her skin. ‘Merry Christmas Grace it’s going to be your last’ The knife moves to cut as Grace screams.

Harriett returned to her seat just as the phone stopped ringing. Damn she thought the boss will no doubt have caught that. With a sign she ushered her rather plump rear on to her squeaky office chair and replaced her earphones ready to resume her typing. It was then she noticed a plain white A$ envelope had been placed on her desk, lying on top of the pile of filing she was supposed to have already done. Harriett sighed again, missing a ringing phone was one thing but not even noticing someone had arrived in reception and then left was another. It would no doubt be one of her bosses regulars who would no doubt mention it to Mr Rigby very loudly in her presence the next time they came to visit. Harriett picked up the envelope, it wasn’t addressed to Mr Rigby but Harriett knew better than to open it. She pushed back on her squeaky office chair, walked to the heavy imposing wooden door knocked and waited until the words ‘come in’ were heard before opening it. Envelope for you’. Harriett said passing Mr Rigby head of Rigby and Co Solicitors for the last 30 years the envelope. The stern very well dressed English gentleman took it from Harriett and started to open it. Harriett turned to go but just as she reached the room the expected comment came ‘I do believe the phone rang 6 times without it being answered I pay you to answer it so earn your keep.’ ‘Yes Mr Rigby’ Harriett replied and returned to her desk.

‘Who gave you this?’ Harriett turned with a start. Mr Rigby seldom entered the reception preferring to bellow his orders from behind his mahogany desk. ‘Erm I’m not sure Mr Rigby, the envelope was left on my desk’ stuttered Harriett ‘I suppose this was whilst the phone was ringing as well was it? Incompetent woman’ And with that he stomped into his office and slammed the door.

Retreating to his desk Charles Theobald Winchester Rigby once again opened the envelope. Inside was a lock of hair attached to a letter. Bracing himself he re-read its contents.

For the first day of Christmas I give to you a lock of golden hair. I have been kind, tomorrow I will not be. I will remove a piece of Grace Harper for every day of advent until I either get what I want or Christmas Day arrives. At which point Grace Harper will be returned, whatever is left of her.

Rigby reached for his phone dialled a number from memory and waited as it rang 3 and then 4 times. The phone was picked up ‘Detective Inspector Robert Crow’. ‘It’s Rigby, I’ve received a very interesting letter concerning Grace Harper’ silence followed as Rigby knew it would ‘Meet me at 11, usual place make sure you’re not followed’ came the reply. Rigby was just about to hang up when Crow followed up with a further sentence ‘God help us’. The line went dead.

Her Fearful Symmetry - Audrey Niffenegger

It took me a long time to brave this book as I loved The Time Travellers Wife and thought that nothing could compare so why bother? Nevertheless it found its way under my bed and then into my next to read and low and behold before I knew what I was doing I had suggested it as Novembers book.

The book got off to a good start. I loved Martins storey witnessing him and his wifes struggle with his OCD (could have read a whole storey about this alone) and even Elspeth as a ghost didn’t put me off (The Time Travellers Wife had a husband who travelled randomly through time and that had me in tears so a little ghost wasn’t going to put me off)

There were also some really good moments - Elspeth going to hide/sulk in the drawer and then seeking warmth from the TV – traditionally seen as being so cold and causing lack of communication

I also loved reading about the cemetery and now want to go!

Unfortunately that’s where the plus points ended and not just for me but for all of the group.

We thought the twins were weak characters. I understood what Niffeneger was trying to impress on us by the twins needing to separate and how Valentina found it suffocating however this was only grasped at here and there and Valentina’s chosen solution was extreme, unforeseen and silly really. She wasn’t suicidal and although there might have been more going on in the back ground (Julia’s black eye) the reader wasn’t given enough to make the decision believable.

The whole love triangle was also unbelievable or was that just Robert and Valentina and what was the point of Jessica, what did she add to the storey?

The diaries that could have revealed I feel a much more explosive secret were again, like Valentina’s decision, unbelievable and confusing. We all totally lost track about which twin was who and weren’t clear even when we were all sat down talking about it ‘So Elspeth who was really Edie and was Valentinas real mother took over Valentinas dead body and then gave birth?’ Silly sentence right?

The ending felt like Niffeneger realised her word count was up and had to tie all lose ends up quickly which was done by giving everyone as far as possible a sugar coated happy ending. The twins dad knew all along of the twin switch so no big drama there, Julia couldn’t be with Martin so conveniently in walks Martins son who we are expected to think is ok because he is Martins son despite the fact he had not been around to support his father at all through the storey. Martin who hadn’t left his landing in more than a year upped, left and travelled all the way to Amsterdam in one fell swoop to live a supposedly happy and cured life with his wife. It was all just far fetched, unbelievable and convenient.

There were talking points - why did Robert leave at the end? One member of the group pointed out that Robert had been left by his father when he was young so this was history repeating itself or another example of symmetry that was evident throughout the book. Why did Elspeth prevent Edie and husband from entering the flat? Was it spite to illustrate even early on her nasty character? Was Elspeth always going to go back into Valentinas body or was it just because she realised she couldn’t keep Valentina to herself? You were left with the feeling that if there had just been more word court and a bit more thought a good book could have been unearthed.

It wasn’t though and we ended up gave it a 5. The verdict was pretty unanimous which is unusual for our group. There is nearly always at least one loan voice who dissents from the pack but we overwhelmingly all liked the beginning then thought it just became silly. Do read Niffenegger but make sure it’s the Time Travellers Wife rather than this one.

Question of the month – What’s your favourite Ghost Storey?