The Confessions of Frannie Langton

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Read 24/06/2019-25/06/2019

Rating 3 stars

A friend recommended The Confessions of Frannie Langton to me ages ago, so I reserved it at the library. Everyone else in Manchester wanted to read it, apparently, so it took weeks and weeks and arrived just when I already had an armful of library books to read. When I finally got to it, I only had two days left in which to read it. Fortunately, it’s a page turner, and I managed to whip through it.

The story of Frannie Langton is a feisty one. She begins her tale as a prisoner on trial for murder, but not even she is sure whether she did it or not. Her lawyer asks her to write down anything she remembers that will help her case, and so she writes her life story.

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The Shape of the Ruins

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Read 18/05/2019-29/05/2019

Rating 5 stars

The Shape of the Ruins is the story of the writer Juan Gabriel Vásquez and his involvement with two men who are obsessed by the assassination of Jorge Eliécer Gaitán in 1948. Gaitán is real. Vásquez is real. I don’t know whether Carlos Carballo or Dr Francisco Benavides, the man who introduces Vásquez to Carballo, are real. It’s a novel about truth and the multiple truths of history. It’s a novel about how politically charged events can have decades of reverberation, affecting the lives of those who are unaware of the origin moment. It’s a novel of connections obscured by the twists and turns in their paths. Ultimately, it’s a novel about power and its influence over truth. Continue reading

The Crimson Petal and the White

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Read 22/12/2018-08/01/2019

Rating: 5 stars

I loved the BBC adaptation of Michel Faber’s novel about life in Victorian England from both sides of the wealth divide. It was a pleasure to finally read the book. Faber writes with fluidity and poise, balancing a phrasing appropriate to the era he describes with a tone that suits the modern ear.

I truly loved this book, Continue reading

Washington Black

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Read 21/10/2018-10/11/2018

Rating: 3.5 stars

I was itching to read Washington Black as soon as it made the long list for the 2018 Booker Prize. Its strapline “Escape is only the beginning” carried an air of intrigue and adventure with it, and the premise of a young black slave plucked from the horrors of plantation life to assist an inventor in his flights of fancy promised something a little different in approach to the usual telling of the story of slavery. The book mostly hits its mark and is worthy of its place on the Booker short list, the thing that prompted me to pick the book off the New Stock Just In shelves at the library. Continue reading

White Houses

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Read 24/07/2018-29/07/2018

Rating: 5 stars

I don’t recall who brought Amy Bloom’s White Houses to my attention, but I’m grateful. Since my first degree I have had a history crush on FDR. It was later that I developed a separate history crush on Eleanor.

Bloom’s book is an imagining of Lorena Hickok’s relationship with Eleanor Roosevelt. The prologue got me thinking about being in thrall to love. Or maybe the feeling of falling in love. Continue reading

The Letters of Ivor Punch

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Read 10/07/2018-15/07/2018

Rating: 3 stars

Read for The Reader’s Room European Backpacking Challenge

Colin MacIntyre records and performs as Mull Historical Society. He’s one of my favourite musicians. He’s also an author. The Letters of Ivor Punch is his first novel and it won the Edinburgh International Book Festival First Book Award in 2015.

Set on an unnamed island that is easily identified as Mull, the story begins with Jake Punch visiting the sports ground where his late father broke the island’s long jump record. He’s there because his uncle Ivor Punch has died and Jake, who has been distributing letters written by his uncle, has one last letter to deliver. Except he can’t deliver it because it’s a letter to his dad and his dad was killed by Pan Am flight 103, the aeroplane brought down over Lockerbie by a Libyan terrorist.

Instead Jake reads the letter and discovers that his curmudgeonly old uncle missed his brother, Jake’s dad, in ways similar to Jake. The letter triggers memories for Jake, centred on his uncle and the letters he wrote to the great and the good. Continue reading