Wednesday, 14 June 2017

The Yorkshire Shepherdess by Amanda Owen #inbetweeny

Another weekend in the countryside, another book about rearing sheep! This was purchased from Sedburgh, England's book town apparently. I had wanted to read it for a while but high pricing on Amazon had put me off.  A trip to a cheap bookshop in Sedburgh later and I was filling the holiday houses roll top bath and diving in to both book and bath.

I was a little disappointed given the books strap line 'how I left city life behind to raise a family and a flock' to find that Owens previous life took place in Huddersfield where she left at an early age to gain experience farming. I expected a solicitor or an accountant who gave up living in London not a trainee farmer who met her farm owning husband and moved into a ready made farm. I did however enjoy the early stories of her farming experiences.

Those of you following the blog will be aware I recently read the excellent Shepherds Life by James Rebanks and where this book primarily differed was with Owens birthing stories. In the book she gives birth to 7 children non without event and I enjoyed reading them all.

In the book she clearly references the fact that her and her husband speak broad Yorkshire and I did wonder reading the book how much of the writing was her own words. There were a lot of occasions where a sentence would be said following three dots "clearly he wasn't as memorable to as she was to him..." which was quite distinctive throughout the book but equally the writing was very incongruous with the various "whoa, don't throw any more of these on t'fire till I've looked in 'em,"

I didn't necessarily agree with every aspect of Owens outlook on life and the book certainly didn't encompass the total devotion that Rebanks book oozed from every sentence. But if you're after a more light hearted, generic book about farming this is worth a browse (especially if you're in a roll top bath on holiday).

Thursday, 1 June 2017

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

This was described as Dickens meets Bram Stoker and liking both of these authors I had high hopes.

The book was primarily chosen for its cover - especially nice in hard back, and whereas we hit gold with the Axemans Jazz chosen solely for its excellent cover The Essex Serpent didn't live up to expectations.

I liked the Dickensian parts, there were some excellent very Dickens like characters - Charles Ambrose, the man who lost his leg (was it Tom?) and the man who lived down by the marsh with his two goats (sorry can't remember his name either). Yet parts of the book were superfluous (Naomi and her disappearance) and the book seemed quite bitty at times - going to great pains to describe the ground breaking heart surgery despite it not being a book about medicine. Perry never really delved in to Cora's backstory with her husband other than to refer to her scar and how she envied how dogs were treated. It would have been an obvious point to expand and yet again illustrated how the book didn't flow quite right. It was put out there for the reader but not fleshed out enough.

I think my main problem with the book (and I appreciate I am on my own here) was the whole Cora/Will love affair. I strongly disagreed with this right from the get go. Will was a deeply committed vicar who by his own admission was deeply in love with his wife. When meeting Cora his wife was not ill (or at least not noticeably) (not that that would make an affair ok) and he had no reason at all to look elsewhere. Its something I've found I really don't like reading about (the affair in a previous book of the month, The Versions of Us really spoilt that book for me as well) so really the book was doomed to fail from my perspective.

I also was really disappointed with the serpent, all the little shadows here and the dark mists there (SPOILER ALERT) for it to turn out to be a big old fish and a rotting boat!!! Was I the only one who thought this?

I missed the meeting but apparently those of us who read it (and there weren't many) gave it an 8 out of 10 which is quite at odds with my take on the book. I can see why the group liked it, its old fashioned, gentile and a bit different to what's out there at present which on paper ticks all the boxes for me. However not even this or the attractive cover could rescue it for me.

I forced myself to finish reading it whilst on holiday and left it on the shelf of the holiday home we were staying in as it wasn't returning to my shelf!

Next book is Their Finest by Lissa Evans who tweeted me the best tweet ever about a goldfish named Seaton Deleval, long story.

Exile - Richard North Patterson #inbetweeny

Ok I'm a couple of books behind on my blog so this is an effort to bash a couple of posts out before bedtime.

This book had been on my bookshelf for literally years and I can't remember whether it was purchased for me or whether I actually picked it up. The topic - the conflict in the middle east was something I, to my shame, only knew snippets about. The book provided a vivid portrait of Israel and its complicated politics, along with the West Bank and the Palestinian movement. I must admit I did struggle getting to grips with who was on which side but Patterson spelled it out as clearly as he could.

I guessed the twist very early on and was disappointed it took the lead character, David, some 600 pages to work it out (I won't spoil it for you) but that does lead to my other criticism of the book, it was VERY long. At times it felt like the page count (nearly 800) was needed - the trip to the middle east (although totally pointless for the trial) was really interesting to read about and the chapters involving the suicide bombers had me gripped. Yet other parts of the story dragged and I found myself having to force myself to just 'get it read' which is never a good sign.

Surprisingly despite the page count there were a number of sections that were not covered in enough detail. Carol disappeared far too quickly, she sighted that David had always been holding back from her emotionally yet we didn't witness this and as soon as things turned slightly un-rosy she legged it despite having been thrilled to have set a wedding date only days before. David and Hana's back storey didn't cut it for me, if she was the love of his life this wasn't conveyed in the few pages that covered it and we were never really informed how David survived money wise despite having no paying clients for months on end as a result of representing a 'terrorist'. This coupled with David's casting aside of his political ambitions, condensed to a paragraph or two, could all have done with more words which wouldn't have worked as the book would then have been unmanageable as opposed to just VERY long.

I couldn't warm to Hana, I understand why she was quite self-contained but her interaction with David began to annoy me and the ending overall was a bit of a damp squib. I hated Hana's husband though, yet his ending too was a bit disappointing.

Overall it was a very difficult topic to write about, Patterson had obviously spent a lot of time researching and did offer up a picture of just how deep rooted and insurmountable the situation is. I would like to understand more on the topic but the book was too long, the twist too early given away and the lead characters just didn't get under your skin like they needed to.

Its already been removed from my book shelf!