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About Ben

Hello, my name's Ben, and I'm 20 years old. I'm an avid writer, reader, and you'll find me all over the internet.

Early review: The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison

The Silent Wife tpb.indd

The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison.
Published: June 25. Headline.

★★★★☆.

A.S.A. Harrison’s The Silent Wife is an engaging foray into the complexities of the human psyche – a psychological exploration of one couple’s long-lasting relationship that now threatens to break apart in spectacular fashion. The familiarity and routine that has for so long has held the good ship of life in a relatively study position, now suddenly threatens to collapse and dash everything against the rocks.

Jodi and Todd are living a life of comfort and relative luxury. With a beautiful waterfront condo in Chicago, furnished with everything they could ever need, they have settled into a routine way of living that seems to work for both of them. With solid jobs – her working part-time as a psychiatrist who works from home and him as a building investor that makes enough money to comfortably get by – it soon becomes clear that the only thing that is turbulent about their lives is undoubtedly their marriage. He is a serial adulterer, she a hopelessly naïve individual who is in constant denial. Each exists in their own private world, and the discussions over wine and dutifully-cooked dinner essentially avoid the problems that they – each in their own way – pretend do not exist.

Disclaimer: if you want characters that are decidedly wonderful and who you would probably go out for drinks with, this may not be the novel for you. Harrison’s characters for the most part have awful personalities, are essentially flawed. Todd fancies himself as the ultimate playboy – a bit of a stud that roves his eyes over a multitude of girls, objectifying them at will, his self-confidence and conceit evidently knowing no bounds. He is selfish, ignorant, and a compulsive liar. He never considers himself to be in the wrong, even in the most outrageous of situations – even when he goes so far that even he cannot talk his way out of trouble. It is unsurprising, then, that Todd, by his very nature, struggles to elicit any sympathy from the reader.

It would seem logical to make the assumption that Jodi – someone who has to deal with a character as ridiculous and as obnoxious as Todd – would be easier to invest in for the reader. However, for the most part it is a struggle to feel nothing but contempt for someone who seems to have zero objections to it all, content in the apparent safety of her home and general situation. Even as she works with a variety of different clients, talking to them, helping them resolve their problems, she displaces her own – both in the present and from the past. Even when given solid evidence that everything is not quite as secure as it seems, she is still incredibly reluctant to create a fuss. Only when things get to their most extreme and she is driven as far as she can take, does she decide to take matters into her own hands.

Harrison’s cast of supporting characters are not overwhelmingly strong, but they offer a nice balance. A lawyer that Todd has known for as long as he can remember – bitter because of the string of divorces he has behind him; a receptionist that is forever drinking all the expensive coffee, and who can successfully unnerve the normally unflappable Todd. Throw in your pregnant girlfriend’s father and you have a character-list that bubbles away menacingly, threatening to boil over at any moment.

The author deftly manages to cleverly intertwine the past and present in a narrative that will have you on tenterhooks as you eagerly flip the pages in anticipation. Sadly, A.S.A. Harrison cruelly passed from the world before she had chance to see The Silent Wife go to publication, but she was rightfully proud of what she created. A deliciously entertaining roller-coaster of a novel, jam-packed with love, betrayal, death, this is a novel that deserves every bit of the attention that it will undoubtedly receive.

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The Thief by Fuminori Nakamura

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Synopsis:

The Thief is a seasoned pickpocket. Anonymous in his tailored suit, he weaves through Tokyo’s crowds so smoothly sometimes he doesn’t even remember the snatch. Most people are a blur to him, the nameless faces of his victims. He has no family, friends or connections…

But he does have a past, which catches up with him when Ishikawa, his first partner, reappears and offers him a job he can’t refuse. It is an easy job: tie up an old, rich man, steal the contents of the safe. No one gets hurt.

Only the day after the job does he learn that the old man was a prominent politician, and that he was brutally killed after the robbery. And now the Thief is caught in a tangle from which even he might not be able to escape.

Review

Fuminori Nakamura’s The Thief at the heart is a wonderfully-crafted piece of work, steeped in philosophy and darkness. Translated from Japanese for the first time, we follow the journey of the Thief; a pickpocket who roams the streets, relishing the thudding anticipation of the steal as he snatches wallets and watches seemingly at will. A psychological thriller, Nakamura takes us on a fascinating exploration of the criminal underworld, while offering mediation on human nature and fate.

This is no ordinary ‘crime’ novel, if indeed that label fits the mark; instead we delve deep into the mysteries of the human mind. Our pickpocket still has his gift, stealing with perfect precision – but something is missing; there is a void, an absentmindedness that he can’t seem to shake free. It is a sense of foreboding that plagues his waking dreams; he blacks out for long periods of time, returning to reality with no memory of what he has done since. The return of an old friend is the catalyst for our protagonist’s fall from fortune; snapping the thin thread holding his life in relative comfort, and plunging him into a downward spiral of ruthless mob leaders, from which he will struggle to escape. The past, then, sneaks up on our protagonist in the way that he so successfully manages to creep up undetected to his victims.

In truth then, the plot moves slowly in Nakamura’s text. The characterisation isn’t particularly strong, and as readers we are given next to zero information about our protagonist’s past – aside from a murmured name of a previous lover. Despite this, I believe this is the point – it works. The ambiguity of the novel adds to the tension and anticipation throughout, and I for one was interested to see where it would go next. At times it is slow going, but although the philosophical musings of our narrator and indeed the criminal that holds his life in his hands are not particularly profound, they do much to infuse the story with an interestingness that makes up for the lack of plot.

Our protagonist, aside from being a talent in his field and ponderous in life, is also sympathetic. Through a sub-plot surrounding a young boy and his mother, Nakamura develops another level to his text and reveals more about the nature of our pickpocket. In a store he spots a mother and her son, poor and stealing from the shelves in order to put food in their stomach. He saves them from being caught, and as the novel progresses, reluctantly begins to take the young boy under his wing. It is interesting to watch as their relationship develops, and indeed how he comes to care for the boy. It is something that pleases him, fills the void that has begun to open; the emptiness and loneliness is replaced by a warmth when he gazes upon the boy that admires and looks up to him. I feel that throughout the text the author manages to craft a fantastic conflict in our protagonist: that blend of an introverted criminal forced to hide in the shadows of society, against the need to be a part of it. After all, even the most reclusive of people need someone in their lives.

The dénouement of The Thief is an interesting one. In some ways it feels almost unfinished; an ambiguous ending which answers no questions, and leaves the reader with perhaps a host of fresh ones. Yet in others there seems to be a strange sense of finality. Even we know not how things will turn out, in some ways whatever happens, this acts as a rebirth for our protagonist. I have heard from many that have raged against the ending of Nakamura’s novel, but I for one felt profoundly affect by it, and perhaps that was the idea: to leave the reader asking the questions hours after turning that final page.

Overall then, The Thief is cleverly written; offering a refreshing look at human nature, while at the same time providing us a glance at the seedy criminal underworld. Perhaps there will be some that will frown at the slow pace and ambiguous ending, but in my eyes it is a fantastic psychological thriller, that is more than worth a read.

4/5.

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If You’re Reading This, I’m Already Dead. – Andrew Nicoll

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Synopsis: Sitting in his caravan, drinking what is left of his coffee (dust), Otto has narrowly escaped death at the hands of allied bombs. Convinced his luck has run out and he will not see morning, he decides to record the story of his life for the poor soul who finds his body.

And what a story it is. Years earlier, when he was in either Buda or Pest, working at the circus, a newspaper article was brought to his attention. Why? Because in it was a picture of a particular Turkish prince, called to Albania to be their new king. And this prince just happens to bear a striking resemblance to Otto.

A plan is formed, adventure is born and with the help of Otto’s friends, enemies (and a camel), Albania is about to get a king it never bargained for.

Review

If You Are Reading This, I’m Already Dead, Andrew Nicoll’s third novel, is at heart a joyous, rip-roaring romp of a tale, so utterly unbelievable and completely ridiculous that you can’t help but be swept along by this sensational story. In many ways, though, this is far from Andrew’s tale; it is that of Otto Witte, former talented acrobat, possessor of some simply wonderful whiskers, and King of Albania. All he has now, sat in his little caravan as the bombs fall around him and he awaits his death, is his memories, and a story that he is determined to tell before it is his time to go.

In what can only be described as an outrageous narrative, Otto takes us on his daring, death-defying journey from the life of a circus performer in Buda or Pest – in his old age he can’t seem to remember – to the throne of Albania. It is a decision based on a whim; a photo that looks exactly like him, but surely not enough to pack up, steal a camel and a cash box, and depart from town? Apparently so, as this is exactly what he does. Sensing adventure, his friends agree to accompany him on his crazy quest; even if some are more reluctant than others.

A blind, intelligent professor; his beautiful daughter Sarah; the wild, provocative character of Tifty; Otto’s best friend Max, strong as an ox and as loyal as they come. Let’s not forget the camel, of course. Nicoll creates a wonderful web of characters that will help Otto on his ludicrous quest, seemingly destined to end in failure. From duelling with a maniac named Varga, who first arrests them and takes an unwelcome fancy to his best friend, to a shouting match with a stationmaster, based on impulse and improvisation. Otto reminisces of the past as the ash blows down from the sky and the flames flicker outside his home.

Otto knows he has precious little time left, and is brutally honest in his anecdotes, bringing a mixture of colourful language and many boastful hints at his youthful adventures with the ladies. Otto, ultimately, is an endearing character; the reader feels for him as he sits alone, a former shadow of his once illustrious self, and nearing death. This for me is what makes Nicoll’s novel a marvellous creation: the blend of humour and of humility that is shown as the narrative switches between his previous life and the one he suffers in now.

Nicoll’s writing is captivating; he engages the reader and makes you feel like your part of the journey. Swept up with Otto’s journey, the incredulity that you feel at such a preposterous tale is soon forgotten as you get caught up in the vivid picture Otto, and thus Nicoll, creates. From boisterous brass bands to the strange and mysterious Arbuthnot, Otto and his friends must face many obstacles if they are to achieve the impossible aim of conquering Albania.

Then again, with a camel in tow, it should be a breeze.

4/5.

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The Bones of Avignon. – Jefferson Bass

ImageSynopsis:

It’s the discovery that will make Miranda Lovelady’s career… if she can prove it. And the secret she’s unearthed is enough to convince Doctor Bill Brockton to abandon the Body Farm and fly to Avignon. The medieval city is picturesque, but deadly.

When their colleague is found crucified in a ruined chapel, Brockton and Miranda become entangled in a terrifying conspiracy, far bigger than either of them can imagine. For the bones of Jesus of Nazareth would be the find of the millennium.

And when the secret leaks, there will be people watching: the Vatican, the police, and a murderous fanatic, who plans to use the bones to trigger the Apocalypse.

Review

The Bones of Avignon is the seventh novel in the Body Farm series, and is the most ambitious one to date. The writing partnership that gives its name to ‘Jefferson Bass’, Jon Jefferson – veteran journalist and documentary filmmaker – and Dr Bill Bass, a world-famous forensic archaeologist, is a fantastic collaboration, producing a wonderful blend of culture and history, juxtaposed with fiction. The result, it has to be said, is a truly thrilling tale through time.

Dr Bill Brockton, whisked from the routine of the Body Farm, arrives at the ancient city of Avignon, with no clue of what is going on. Not long after, he is wishing he had remained ignorant. Stephen, Miranda’s colleague and old flame, has a discovery which will change everything: bones that will threaten to destroy a secret that has remained hidden for two thousand years.

The reader, through terrific description and a ferociously paced plot, is taken on a sprawling journey; from the hidden dungeons of the Palais de Papes, to the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist, which holds the infamous Shroud of Turin. We move on a journey with the characters as they strive to answer questions that for a long time have gone unasked. As they attempt to unravel the mysteries, there are those that are determined to stop them; many eyes watch in the shadows of the night, each with their own agenda.

From a kind-hearted priest that takes pity on the doctor when he receives some bad news, to the delightful couple that house Bill Brockton in the charming Lumani residence, the authors weave a rich web of characters through our tale. Painters from the past, their actions shown to us in flashbacks, a dangerous fanatic that plans to bring the world to its knees. Who can be trusted in a tale where one misplaced instinct could bring disastrous circumstances?

The Bones of Avignon is a story of murder and blood, death and deception. A combination of history and fiction gives the reader a tale rich with action, each page promising to bring new twists and turns in the journey to discover the true meaning behind the bones of Avignon.

4/5.

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Lethal. – Sandra Brown

ImageSynopsis:

 When her four-year-old daughter informs her a sick man is in their yard, Honor Gillette rushes out to help him. But that ‘sick’ man turns out to be Lee Coburn, the man accused of murdering seven people the night before. Dangerous, desperate, and armed, he promises Honor that she and her daughter won’t be hurt as long as she does everything he asks. She has no choice but to accept him at his word.

But Honor soon discovers that those close to her can’t be trusted. Coburn claims that her beloved late husband possessed something extremely valuable that places Honor and her daughter in grave danger. And Coburn is there to retrieve it – at any cost.

Review

 A web of lies that runs deep through a family and their immediate friends. Corruption that runs deep through the police, the sheriff’s office, even the FBI. A man on the run after escaping a warehouse where he is alleged to have murdered seven people in cold blood. A four-year-old girl and her mother caught up in a whirlwind of death and deceit. An elusive, mysterious criminal mastermind called The Bookkeeper who presides over all, turning the screws in the grand plan.

From the moment Honor Gillette rushes outside to help a sick man, instead to find a gun pointed at her chest, the reader knows they are in for something special. Honor finds herself unable to trust anyone, even those around her, as she works to unravel the mysteries of her husband Eddie’s death. Coburn is menacing and ruthless, tearing apart their idyllic family lifestyle and their home to pieces – stopping at nothing to achieve his goals. Yet there is something more to this man that meets the eye and Honor soon starts to realise not everything is as it seems.

To find answers hidden by a dead man would be difficult enough, but the job becomes a whole lot tougher when you are on the run, with nowhere to hide. Doral Hawkins, tough guy and city manager searches tirelessly, while Stan Gillette – Honor’s father-in-law and ex-marine – will stop at nothing to make sure his family is found safe. It seems everyone is on their tail, as Coburn tries to remain one step ahead of the law enforcements. Then there is The Bookkeeper, the thread which weaves the characters together, remaining in the shadows, not afraid to give the order to kill in order to tie up the loose ends.

The author takes us on a sprawling journey of love and of death from a dirty swamp and a decrepit boat that threatens to sink into the muddy marshes at any given time, to an abandoned train track where an explosive meeting threatens to ruin everything they have worked towards. Stolen kisses in the midst of danger, a young man who stalks the streets with his razor in hand and a history that shows he is not afraid to use it. It seems Honor must remain faithful to her instincts, if she is to see this one through to the very end.

Sandra Brown’s latest novel is a rip-roaring, turn-pager of a thriller that has you glued to your seat, unable to move until you have seen it through to its conclusion. With twists and turns that continue to the very last page, never accept anything at face value with this intricately written, fiendishly clever tale.

4/5.

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The Good Father. – Noah Hawley

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     Dr Paul Allen is a well-respected man. He lives a comfortable life with his second wife and their family. Until the night when a knock at the door blows his world apart: a hugely popular presidential candidate has been shot, and they say the young man who pulled the trigger is Paul’s son. Daniel, the only child from his first, failed marriage, was always a good kid and Paul is convinced his quiet boy is not capable of murder. Overwhelmed by a vortex of feelings, Paul embarks on a mission to understand what happened and why. Following the trail of his son’s journey across America, he is forced to re-examine his life as a husband and a parent, and every decision he ever made.

Review

Have you ever had the sense that you truly know someone? The belief that you can identify with them deep down: their every thought and feeling. Then, in another instant the certainty is shattered, replaced by the realisation that you never knew them at all. Instead, that what you took to be a connection, an understanding, was you convincing yourself that all was well; the delusion that the relationship you held was one that was infallible.

As Dr Paul Allen lives carefree in the unspoiled happiness of his life – a perfect job, a wonderful second wife and two kids – his world is suddenly turned upside down by the arrival of the news that his son has murdered the potentially future president of the United States. Paul strives to understand what has happened, refusing to entertain the idea that his son has carried out these acts. He will go to extraordinary lengths, as far as it takes to try to prove his son’s innocence, but as events unfold and the thread which holds his comfortable lifestyle together starts to unravel, Paul must face the grim reality and make some important decisions.

Noah Hawley’s novel The Good Father is at the centre a story about journeys: a young man on a quest for identity and meaning, sprawling across the states of America, wandering aimlessly in an effort to find some answers about who he is; unable to throw of the chains of restraint clamped on him from a chaotic childhood. A father who frantically follows in race against time; his once rational, scientific mind reduced to theories and conspiracies in an effort to ignore the truth: that he was never quite the father his son needed. As a doctor he has learned to be objective, to break down the facts methodically, logically; to be emotionally detached. Yet as we all know, sometimes the emotions of the heart leave one unable to accept what is often staring you right in the face.

From a farm in Iowa, home to nice parents who are willing to give a young man a chance, to the college dorms of alcohol-drinking, drug-taking students, Hawley takes us on a sweeping journey through the United States, painting a picture with the endless pit of different characters that he has to offer. Interspersed within the plot, the author presents us with a wealth of knowledge: from information on the assassination of John F. Kennedy, to the exploits of other famous killers such as Charles Manson – facts both fascinating and thought-provoking. His writing is at times heart-wrenching, always utterly compelling, and ultimately Hawley leaves the reader asking questions about themselves and the type of person they really are.

5/5.

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Legacy of Blood. – Alex Connor

Synopsis: London, 1732. William Hogarth is called to a murder scene. A woman lies dead, her unborn child ripped from her body. It is a warning. Hogarth painted the future king leaving her bed. He must destroy the painting to survive. But her killers made one mistake. They left the Prince’s son alive. Centuries later, one man holds proof of this line of succession and keeps watchful eye on the Prince’s heir. The legacy is a terrible burden, but also an incredible opportunity. During a flight in a private jet, when a fellow passenger speaks of having gained possession of proof of this, the Royal Family’s darkest secret, everything changes. Within hours of the flight, three of the seven passengers have silenced. Who killed them? Why? To keep the secret or to expose it? Where is the proof?

Review

After thoroughly enjoying Alex Connor’s The Rembrandt Secret in March of last year, I felt a sense of eager anticipation when turning over the first page to her latest offering, Legacy of Blood. I definitely wasnt disappointed. Once more Connor delves deep into the murky, murderous depths of the art world, this time emerging with a sensational secret which threatens the very monarchy itself.

A fateful journey on a private jet: the mad whisperings of an art dealer confused and in a mind-state far from calm. One sudden foolish mistake: with dreadful and potentially devastating consequences. The confirmation of a William Hogarth painting believed to be lost – but who heard Bernie Freeland splutter out his secret? Three art dealers, ruthless and manipulating in a world that takes no prisoners; three call girls who have information at their fingertips, and a madam that has contacts in high places. The secret is huge, and people are prepared to do unspeakable things to have the painting for their own. The Russians, the Chinese, and those in the English hierarchy that know the painting must remain safe at all costs.

What impressed me the most about Legacy of Blood was the delightful way in which the author weaves a complex, intricate web of characters; each with their own stories and secrets, each with their own motives, but whose paths, and in some cases pasts, are closely interwoven. As a result, the reader is pulled cleverly from side to side, thoughts racing in an attempt to form an opinion of each of the characters involved, the list possible culprits endless. It seems impossible to know who to trust and who to be wary of, as Connor keeps us guessing; we flick through the pages, captured like a fly to a spider’s web as we struggle to penetrate a world that holds many secrets, to find our answers. On she weaves, as the plot twists and turns right to the very last page.

In a sense, the dénouement is one which has multiple layers; the answers never so simple in the elusive and secretive art world. It is unclear who the tale will unravel, because each character has separate ideas about the painting and its importance. Someone is committing murders, ruthless and gruesome; another, dying himself of a terrible illness, knows he must keep the painting safe to insure the future of his family when he is gone. A recently disgraced man, fallen from the art world, takes up an investigation more dangerous than he realises; dreaming of the painting he believes will restore his prominence in the art world once again. A mother weeps as her son lies dying in a coma, the fateful overdose coming just hours after stepping off Bernie Freeland’s private jet.

Legacy of Blood is a story of greed, ruthlessness, murder and deceit. In the race to own the painting that causes so much scheming and lies, who will emerge victorious? Will good prevail over those who intend evil, and will a secret that has remained buried for centuries emerge to befall the government itself? Read Alex Connor’s rip-roaring, action-packed tale that will make your jaw drop and your fingers itch with excitement as you turn the pages.

5/5.

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Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Synopsis:

Hidden in the heart of the old city of Barcelona is the ‘Cemetery of Forgotten Books’, a labyrinthine library of obscure and forgotten titles. To this library, a man brings his ten-year-old son Daniel, one cold morning in 1945. Daniel is allowed to chose one book and from the dusty shelves pulls The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax. But as Daniel grows up, several people seem inordinately interested in his find. What begins as a case of literary curiosity turns into a race to find out the truth behind the life and death of Julián Carax and to save those he left behind.

Review

First of all I must mention that I will remain forever thankful to a friend that plucked this out of hundreds of choices for me to read, otherwise it would have been left gathering dust on my shelves; a tragic waste for certain.

The novel piqued my interest immediately when I discovered it were to be a novel about novels, but it should be noted that it works on so many more different levels. From the moment Daniel stumbles upon one of Carax’s books, he becomes caught up in a world more terrible than he could have ever imagined. His instant connection with the book draws him in, and from then on he is captured and entangled by the author’s story, which won’t let him go; he feels the need to discover the truth behind the mysterious Julián Carax.

On his journey he suffers unrequited love, pain and misery, as he begins to grow up and see the world in a different light. From the loss of his best friend, who begins to hate him; the love of Bea, of Clara, the discovery of passion and of lust, Daniel in a sense becomes out of his depths. He finds hope and inspiration in a beggar he finds on the streets; a beggar that becomes an acquaintance, a friend, and who has his own story to tell.

Yet it is not just he that searches endlessly for the truth surrounding Carax. A mysterious, dark figure stalks the shadows, questioning book-stores and collectors alike for information on Julián’s novels. He seeks them not to read, but to destroy; he longs to burn and eradicate the stories of Carax forever, and it is unclear why. The past holds the answers to all, and for all the efforts of some, it struggles to remain buried.

Those that were once friends, now turned evil; death, destruction and murder litters the streets. Daniel is in more danger than he could possibly ever know; for every person that works with him, another more sinister conspires against. And yet it is a connection that can’t be broken; Daniel must search onwards. Will he discover the truth behind the eerie Julián Carax?

In essence, this novel was fantastic; a wonderfully written plot integrated with brilliant characters that each stood out individually for me. The story is an ambiguous one; unanswered questions lead to sub-plots, which lead to further seemingly endless mysterious that have the readers guessing and wondering throughout. The way Zafón weaves the parallels into the different characters’ journeys is clever, and often I found myself surprised at revelations that I was definitely not expecting.

The observant readers may guess some twists, but it seems that these turns will not stop right until the very last page, and the fast-paced action will carry you to that destination before you even realise the hours have past. I would recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys a good fast-paced mystery novel that ultimately has you questioning everything, and everyone.

5/5.

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Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel García Márquez


Synopsis:

Florentino Ariza has never forgotten his first love. He has waited nearly a lifetime in silence since his beloved Fermina married another man. No woman can replace her in his heart. But now her husband is dead. Finally – after fifty-one years, nine months and four days – Florentino has another chance to declare his eternal passion and win her back. Will love that has survived half a century remain unrequited?

Review

Well, where do I start with what has been such a wonderfully charming read? I picked this once up on whim from the classics section of a bookstore a couple of months back now, and I certainly haven’t been disappointed. It seemed like from the onset something special and poignant was in store, when I discovered that I was to start this novel in the shadows thrown up by candlelight, after my electric had cut out.

From the very first page I was gripped by the imagery thrown up; Márquez writes with such simple but beautiful elegance, and this style continues throughout. For some, the story of a love-stricken man waiting over half a century just to tell his teenage love that his feelings have never changed, could be considered desperate; for others like me, it is a heart-breaking story of love, and I found myself the most sympathetic towards the character of Florentino throughout.

As a young, apprentice telegrapher, immersed in novels and the poetry of love, Florentino Ariza falls hopelessly and irrevocably in love with the haughty teenager Fermina Daza. Although the two barely meet, they manage to continue a passionate correspondence via love-letters and telegrams, until one day, Fermina Daza, realising in a mere heart-stopping moment, that Florentino is more but a ‘shadow than a substance,’ tragically rejects him and eventually marries the wealthy Dr. Juvenal Urbino instead.

Florentino, who has sworn his undying love to Fermina, is, of course, stricken to the core, but Fermina’s marriage is nothing that the young man can’t handle. As one century closes and another begins, Florentino Ariza rises through the ranks of the River Company of the Caribbean and sets off on a series of erotic encounters, both ‘long term liaisons and countless fleeting adventures’, all of which he chronicles. Despite this, his real love is for Fermina Daza, and although many women come and go, he maintains the belief that his destiny is to be with his teenage sweetheart, no matter how long it takes.

Fifty-one years, nine months and four days after Fermina Daza’s wedding, on Pentecoast Sunday, fate intervenes and Fermina becomes a free woman yet again. When he finally gets the opportunity to declare his love once more, the reader holds its breath in anticipation for what she will say. It is in vain, however, as although we have an initial answer, all is not revealed, as the story back-tracks and sends us on the spiralling journey the two have taken to reach the place of that very meeting; we are left waiting another couple of hundred pages before we get some actual finality in our answers. This is a story of monumental proportions: Florentino’s love for Fermina is endless: she is the one he wishes to be with after all this time. Will he get the chance, when old age has crept upon them both, or will he be rebuffed once more and left to suffer with the fact his wait was for nothing?

In essence, this is a novel that tackles the issue of love in all its forms, and although reading it on the surface as a simple story between the two young lovers Florentino and Fermina can be rewarding, to look beyond the realms of surface meaning is where the reader can truly recognise Marquez’s brilliance. Unrequited love, jealous love, angry love, and adulterous love: the author mediates a discussion on all the different forms love can take, in what is such a remarkable and fantastically written novel.

5/5.

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The Rembrandt Secret. – Alex Connor

Synopsis:

A serial killer keeping the past’s darkest secret hidden. A centuries-old conspiracy is about the explode into the present with devastating consequences. The first victim was forced to swallow stones. The second victim was whipped to death. The third was stabbed in the heart. A deadly serial killer is taking people down across London and New York. What did they all know? Why were they butchered? Who else is in the killer’s sights? And how can they be stopped?

Review

Okay so although I said I was starting this novel a few days back, I only managed to get around to starting yesterday. By the end of the day I had finished; one sitting, four hundred and forty-eight pages. A truly fantastic read.

This novel is one which is written so wonderfully; the story seemingly weaved so effortlessly, but with yet such precision. What makes the novel so intense, such a page-turner, is the pace at which the story flows. From London to New York, from galleries to exhibitions, a tale so gripping; dripping with mystery, intrigue and the blood of those murdered in an effort to keep a secret that will turn the art scene on its head and ruin the reputation of one of the greatest artists to ever live.

The secrets are never-ending, the characters constant in their battle for success and power; doing anything and everything to achieve their goals and stop themselves from going under. Someone believes that the papers are important enough to murder, to torture; recreating scenes in such a way that shows in a sadistic manner that he’s cultured and recognises the importance of the Rembrandt letters.

Nobody can be trusted, everyone has a motive.. and it’s impossible to know who to have on your own side. Is it someone trustworthy, believable; someone malicious and manipulative? You’ll find yourself engrossed, captivated by events, following the characters’ journeys like its conclusions will even go so far as to effect even you.

If you enjoy a roller-coaster of a novel; fraught with danger, deception, cunning, remorse and revenge – but at the same time littered with instances of love, affection and heartbreak – then this novel is for you. It has everything to keep you entranced, glued to your seat.. for even when you think the surprises have stopped and the end reached, the shocks won’t falter; everyone has something to hide, perhaps some people more than others.

5/5.

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