Hello reading friends!
Where did April go? Not much reading achieved this month as I was lucky enough to spend time with family, but still three excellent books to recommend.
Also, please drop by on the 17th May when I’ll be enjoying an author Heart-to-Heart with Australian author, Kelly Rimmer, when she reveals the real life events that inspired her historical fiction.
In the meantime, stay safe and happy reading!
AFTER THE FALL by CHARITY NORMAN
I’ve mentioned before that it was a friend who insisted I read Charity Norman, so I began with The Secrets of Strangers, which is fantastic, and knew I would read more. After the Fall opens with Martha McNamara and her family moving from England to New Zealand, where they long to embrace a healthy lifestyle and plan a fresh start. However, when five-year-old Finn falls from a balcony, we discover Martha is harbouring secrets and by weaving back and forth between the hospital and events leading to the accident, troubling truths are revealed.
There is lots about Norman’s writing style to enjoy, but I particularly liked the characterisation. Martha, Kit (Martha’s husband), Finn and Charlie (five-year-old twins) are all well rounded, but it was the dialogue between Martha and her sixteen-year-old daughter, Sacha, that particularly rang true. Set against remote sweeping vistas filled with mountains and sandy coves, the family explores, riding horses, but Norman also introduces us to the darker side of New Zealand life. One I hadn’t considered. Norman is a master of effortlessly intertwining the past and present, making this a deceptively easy read, but there is also plenty to consider, making it an excellent book club choice. For those interested in Maori traditions, the reader is treated to a sprinkling of folklore – just enough to make me want to learn more. After the Fall is a page-turning family drama, recommended for lovers of Diane Chamberlain, Kelly Rimmer and Jodi Picoult.
SHUGGIE BAIN by DOUGLAS STUART
The 1980s Glasgow that author, Douglas Stuart creates is a bleak one; a city of tenement schemes where men are out of work, women make do, and weans (children) roam the streets. The place we find young Hugh (Shuggie) Bain trying to make sense of the world, when the adults around him are kicking hard, desperate to stay afloat.
Shuggie adores his mum, Agnes, who in turn finds solace in cheap lager when her taxi-driver husband plays away during night shifts. As Agnes fantasises about a life beyond benefits and buying from a catalogue, young Shuggie fends off bullies who insist he’s ‘no right’.
Shuggie’s devotion to Agnes will break even the hardest of hearts, but the Glasgow humour that underpins scheme life lifts the tale, finding hope amongst the misery. Also, Stuart’s keen eye for the mannerisms of the women of the schemes, arms folded like car bumpers, make this a worthy Booker Prize winner. Shuggie Bain is about love, family, poverty, addiction, and dreams for something more – all beautifully, sensitivity drawn.
THE LITTLE PRINCE by ANTOINE DE SAINT-EXUPÉRY
The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupéry is a children’s classic I’ve heard recommended time and again and was delighted when it was suggested reading on a recent flash fiction course. First published in French in the 1940s, it’s known for its illustrations, also drawn by Saint-Exupéry, as much as it’s quirky hero – the little Prince. It’s a short book packed with wisdom, not only for children but for adults too… This is my secret. It’s very simple. Only the heart sees clearly. The eyes don’t see what’s important…
The Little Prince is a gentle allegory with a powerful message. One for lovers of The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charlie Mackesy.