Friday, 17 March 2017
Miss Seeton’s Finest Hour. By Hamilton Crane.
Oh my Goodness, I am now a huge Emily Seeton fan.
Having been totally unaware of this series before this last few days , it is fortuitous then that this prequel of sorts was my first adventure in her company.
Fans of older detectives such as William Murdoch, Father Brown and of course the canon of “Agatha” herself will be able to bury themselves in this story of the young art teacher engaged by the government to winkle out a Nazi collaborator. It is my understanding that all future outings are the adventures of a much more aged protagonist, but this was a delightful introduction.
She is clever, resourceful and observant, she is sweet without being saccharin and she is interesting and a self contained character in her own right rather than just an observer before whom the action is played out.
The attention to period detail makes this an incredibly immersive read. I liked the way the story often grounded itself in the speeches of Winston Churchill and the title then becomes more resonant.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book and will definitely be making Miss Seeton a constant reading companion.
Friday, 10 March 2017
Britt-Marie was Here. By Fredrik Backman
By the same author as one of my absolute favourite books discoveries in 2016,,this is another one of the kind of books that the Swedish seem to do so terribly well. Forget Nordic Noir, think Swedish sweet and sour.
Wry and darkly comic ,Backman writes a sad tale with a hulking great seam of compassion for those on the fringes of society, running through it. The book made me chuckle and weep. There are huge highs and belly laughs but these are punctuated with moments of wonderfully pitched pathos and loss and grief are beautifully examined in the midst of what seems like a much lighter tale than it actually is.
As with the lovable Ove before her, Britt- Marie’s own personal idiosyncrasies which might at first glance, seem irritating or odd to the average person, suddenly become charming as the full scope of Britt Marie’s situation and heartsickness is revealed.
Homeless and jobless in her early sixties, Britt Marie undertakes a dead end job in a town on the cusp of total economic collapse. It is there she becomes embroiled in the lives of a motley bunch of black marketeers, alcoholic women with severe vision impairment, jovial policemen with a penchant for evening classes and a number of rag tag children. The only common thread just barely binding this fragile community is the upcoming tournament starting their local youth football team.
Into the chaos,Britt brings two very important things; an expertise in making a “good impression” and a prestigious amount of bicarbonate of soda with which she gradually begins to clean up the town. Here she forge bonds of friendship and brings light and hope into the hamlet again and with it, a level of self fulfilment that she has never once experienced in all her life.
This is a wonderful book where again Backman utilises loneliness and missed opportunity as central themes. Football takes on a mythical power as a metaphor for so very much more than boots on leather. It becomes a measure of your personality, your tenacity and your passion.
I still feel a deep empathy for Britt-Marie who never quite reaches bliss, but I am hopeful for her and this book drew me in from the very start. The characters are rough around the edges, all are much more than they seem on first viewing , but so utterly lovable and even the least likeable are still relatable. My initial loathing for husband Kent, was moulded and honed into a sadness that he was just ignorant for too long and that life could have been so different for them both, but that is Backman’s true gift
He presents things with a stark clarity and allowing things to just develop with contrivance.
He is an exceptional crafter of tales.
Britt-Marie is my favourite sort of heroine, the one who strives for the smallest things but actually is a catalyst for the most amazing positive change. She is the tiny screw that suddenly makes the whole mechanism purr into life.
I must admit to wanting a slightly different ending, but you cannot always have the perfect ending even when your strip is spotless, your aim laser-sharp and you turn the game around in the final moments. Life is just is not a game and you cannot win them all. Sometimes a draw is all you can hope for, but when things get difficult, at least you know you can get the worst of the smuts out with the liberal application of baking soda!
Thursday, 2 March 2017
Edward Unspooled by Craig Lancaster
Forget about Lenten Fasts, what the heck am I going to do about my involuntary Stanton Fast?
Hot on the tail of Edward Adrift comes Edward Unspooled and all I can say is cripes what a finale… or is it? Edward seems to speak at random intervals from the recesses of Author Craig Lancaster’s mind. Just when he thinks that this precise and direct man has been silenced, he has a little something more to say, so let’s hope and pray there is more!
Now to the book itself, This instalment is slightly different to the previous two as there is less statistical data and more internal dialogue within the pages of the letters that Edward pens to give to his as yet unborn child. The voice of Edward is complimented by the asides and additions of his wife Sheila, for whom Edward fell in Adrift.
Things are not plain sailing of course and Edward’s familial problems are expanding as more than growing embryos are joining the clan and his mother is Not best pleased. Everything is changing, from Sheila’s body to their living arrangements and Edward is just trying to juggle all the balls he has in the air to keep everyone happy and contented.
The beauty of the books has always been the human heart of Edward and his interaction with his small band of friends and as Edward has loosened his grip on the need to regiment every minute of his life, his circle has grown and his attachments have born fruit.
He has a veritable army ready to fight when the unthinkable happens in the final act of the book, a
masterful stroke by Mr Lancaster and a wonderful way to bring the story to a satisfying and beautiful conclusion.
I have loved these books, they have kept me rapt and made it exceptionally hard to get on with my own life as I travelled with Edward through some of the most important moments of his!