That Old Ace in the Hole

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Read 28/07/2017-05/08/2017

Rating: 3 stars

Read for The Reader’s Room Road Trip Challenge

Bob Dollar is the hero of That Old Ace in the Hole, a hero in the mould of Jim Dixon in Lucky Jim. Aged 25, Bob is unsure about what it is he wants to do in life. After graduating from college, and unable to afford to continue his studies at university, he ends up working for Global Pork Rind as a scout for hog farm locations in the Texas-Oklahoma panhandle. From the beginning, the book has an undercurrent of farce.

Bob reads widely, knows the meaning of a lot of words, and was a good student, but he seems to lack practical intelligence.

… he knew nothing of hogs beyond the fact that they were, mysteriously, the source of bacon.

He is tasked with scouting for locations without letting local residents and businesses know that this is what he is doing. What could possibly go wrong? Continue reading

Ruby

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Read 22/07/2017-28/07/2017

Rating: 4 stars

Read for the Reader’s Room Road Trip Challenge

I bought Ruby a while ago, when it was in the running for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. When I hit Texas in the Reader’s Room Road Trip Challenge, its turn to be read finally came.

It’s a story about love and hate, a tale about trying to escape the memories of a place steeped in wrong-doing, where things that happened in childhood form who people are as adults. The place is called Liberty, but there is little that is free about it.

Ruby Bell returns to Liberty from New York City in 1963. She is a glamorous and self-confident woman who attracts the attention of the men who sit and smoke and talk outside the P & K Market. She becomes the subject of ribald gossip and cautionary tales about the dangers of travel and the consequences of sin. Over time she descends into madness. Her appearance changes, she is distracted and reclusive, and most of the people in Liberty avoid her. Apart from one man, Ephram Jennings. Nobody in Liberty looks at Ephram. Nobody notices him except for Ruby.

There will be mild spoilers in this review, but it was difficult to describe it without referring to key plot points. Continue reading