001: The Somnambulist, by Essie Fox.
Unlike most of the books I pluck from the shelves of my local library, I'd actually heard quite a bit about this one. I heard good reviews, although then one of the girls I was holidaying with in October was not all that impressed and gave up on it, sparking the discussion as to whether or not it's OK to give up on a book halfway through. I'd always vote 'no' for this, but almost came to regret that decision a little with The Somnambulist.
I just found this really slow to get into. I read the first section, by which time it was becoming glaringly obvious what the "twist" was going to be. I'm fairly sure there isn't anyone who'd read and be shocked by that, although the writing would suggest it was to come as a surprise, to both characters and readers.
There were characters I didn't really like, which probably didn't help my enjoyment of the book, either. Maud, Pheobe's mother isn't someone I found particularly endearing, which probably had an effect on the way I wanted things to turn out for Pheobe.
In the end, I was glad I'd carried on with it and seen the book through to the end; Fox wrapped things up nicely and I'd say that the best things about the entire novel was it's Victorian setting and the author's clear attention to detail to make the setting the most realistic thing in it.
I must just point out that I have read so many good reviews of this, that I wonder if I missed something..
***002: The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price Purveyor of Superior Funerals by Wendy Jones
Set in a tiny Welsh village in the 1920s, Wilfred Price tells the reader the story of how he managed to get himself into quite a pickle when he accidentally proposes to Grace at a picnic, instead of telling her that he likes her dress.
Ok, you think, as the reader. A fairly simple premise, as well as a fairly simple protaganist. Wilfred is likeable in his naivety, which surprised me as I'd usually find that a frustrating trait. I was interested in Wilfred and his attempts to better himself as a person. I found it particularly endearing when he bought himself an encyclopedia. And I loved the way he seemed to change completely as he fell in love.
Without wanting to give anything away here, this book started out fairly simply and I thought it would be relatively staid and predictable. Unlike with The Somnambulist, I wasn't expecting the twist, but thought it really fitted into the story well and helped tie up some potentially loose ends. All in all, this was a charming read.
003: I Remember You, by Harriet Evans
Whilst I don't really want this whole post to be a bit 'meh', I will start by saying I don't think I Remember You is an example of Evans at her writing best. I've read and enjoyed some of her other titles, which is what kept me going through this, frankly dull offering.
Tess and Adam, childhood friends until Tess moves to London for university and the death of Adam's mother means he stays behind, in their tiny, twee-sounding village. Adam seems to have srtayed put, working in the pub and hasn't much to show for himself, when Tess returns to her childhood home to take up a teaching position and escape her failed relationship.The premise therefore seems to be that the two of them may or may not be able to rekindle what was once a close friendship, and that we (as the lucky readers) get to hang on for the ride and find out if they can.
I thought that there were a few too many plotlines which were picked up and dropped when it suited Evans to do so. The proposed water meadows' development, and Tess' relationship with her old flatmate to name a couple. Although Tess seemed to have a bit of an emotinal wobble about whether or not her move was the right decision, this didn't seem to be followed up.
All of a sudden, it seemed, the plot changed and Tess was taking her new students on a trip to Rome. Cue far too much descriptive detail; pages and pages of directional information and an unlikely romance, before something dramatic which perhaps starts to add some potential excitement to the book. I felt it was a bit of a shame this took so long to get to.
After a few flashbacks, which I'm sure were supposed to be poignant, but to me came across as lazy writing (copy and paste and change a few names to fill a few more pages!) the story continues, and I'm still sort of wondering how it's all going to fit together, and where the random family history details and revelations are going to become relevant. In most cases, I'm afraid, they don't.
Even after Rome, Tess becomes no more likeable as a character. There's a quick change of flatmate character, completely different to the last one, yet whom she still finds fault with, and her relationship with Adam is no less complicated. As a reader, you're kept hanging on until the ending wraps up nice and neatly in the last couple of pages, exactly how you knew it would do from the first chapter? Probably.
In summary, it's not the Evans book I'd recommend anyone start with, lest it put you off reading any others. I've enjoyed the others I've read.
What have you been reading?