Posts Tagged With: family

Mother’s Milk by Edward St. Aubyn

As might be expected from the title, this is a novel which centres largely around motherhood, mothering and the effect that it has on people’s lives.

The Melrose family is in freefall.  The father, Patrick is torn between feelings of betrayal and compassion for his mother – betrayal because he feels that she has always been utterly selfless to everyone except her own family, and it now looks as if he will be disinherited, and compassion because of her deteriorating mental and physical health.  Additionally, he feels neglected by his wife, who has just given birth to their second son, and is totally wrapped up in the demands of motherhood.  In an effort to console himself, he lurches from one vice to another.

His wife Mary feels that she has lost all sense of self, and knows that her husband is frustrated at what he perceives as her obsession with being a good mother.  Mary is determined that she will give her children the love and affection that her own mother failed to give her.

Their five year old son Robert is a child wise beyond his years, and at the start of the book, he is a little put out by the arrival of a new baby brother.

 

The book is told in the third person but most of the sections (there are four, told over four consecutive summers) focus on events from just one person’s point of view.  I have mixed feelings about it; it started off promisingly, but eventually I was happy to finish it.  

There is actually very little plot, although this was not a problem for me.  The book simply paints a portrait of a family which has fallen on hard times, financially and emotionally.  All of the characters were certainly very well drawn and believeable, but after a while I stopped caring about what happened to them.  There were however some moments of genuinely bitter humour, and I laughed out loud on a couple of occasions. However, this is not a work of comedy.  It was well written and credible, but ultimately, it left me fairly cold.

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Life on the Refrigerator Door by Alice Kuipers

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Synopsis:

Beautifully told through notes left on their kitchen fridge, this is an intimate portrait of the relationship between a hard-working mother and her teenage daughter. Stunningly sad but ultimately uplifting, it is about being a ‘good mother’ or a ‘good daughter’, and is a reminder of how much can be said in so few words, if only we made the time to say them.

What a sad, touching book, that made me cry. The story is told through notes written by both mother and daugher, Claire, in the hardest year of their life – when Claire’s Mum was diagonised with breast cancer. Both are busy so the best way to communicate is through notes left on the refrigerator door. The notes are intimate, with them considering love, life, their relationship and whether they are good people.

I read this book in one sitting. It was quick to read but engaging. And so sad. I really enjoyed this book. We see growing pains of a teenager, as she discovers boys, works hard at school and deals with divorce. Kuipers looks at breast cancer and how it effects the sufferer, and their family. It is so honest and raw. We see pain, heart break and illness. It is a good awareness for cancer. It is realistic and honest, and achingly sad.

There are unanswered questions, and I don’t think the characters could be developed properly as their form of commuication was notes but this was a lovely book and well worth reading.

8/10

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Over by Margaret Forster

Louise and Don’s daughter Miranda has died in a freak accident.  After her death and the initial grieving, Louise decides that, although devastated, she has to try and move on with her life.  However, the tragedy has affected Don tremendously and he becomes obsessed with finding someone or something to blame for it.  His obsession has torn their marriage and their family apart.  They have two remaining children – Molly (Miranda’s twin) and Finn.  The children have their own grief to deal with, but on the whole seem to be coping as well as can be expected.  However, the family is slowly being torn apart by Don’s obsession and Louise’s changing feelings towards her husband.

 

This is a beautifully written book.  Louise herself is the narrator, and I think the first person narrative helps the reader to empathise with her, and the other characters.   The book starts after Miranda’s death, and although the details of what happened to her are explained, the story centres on the aftermath and the struggle to come to terms with such a terrible event.

Each and every character is extremely well written and totally convincing.  It is easy to like Louise, and still be able to see her actions through the eyes of others.  Despite the fact that the others don’t narrate any part of the story, it is also easy for the reader to understand their actions and reactions.

Despite the subject matter, the book is not depressing, although it is very moving.  The author does not dwell entirely on the effect that the accident had on the family, but also portrays situations of complete normality, showing how their lives, while forever changed, must in some ways remain the same.

I have never read anything by Margaret Forster before, but this book has absolutely made me want to read more of her books.  This is a highly recommended book.

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Alphabet Weekends by Elizabeth Noble

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Synopsis:

The fabulous new novel from the No 1. bestselling author of “The Reading Group” and “The Tenko Club”. Love lessons from A – Z. A is for Affection – between childhood best friends; between their parents; between brothers and sisters. B is for Brokenhearted – Natalie when the boyfriend who was meant to propose dumps her just before Christmas. Her mother when she realises what her life has come to. Lucy, as she thinks of ending one relationship, and maybe beginning another. C is for Chemistry – Could Natalie and Tom have it (and what does it actually mean, anyway)? Number One bestselling author Elizabeth Noble’s new novel is a tender, funny novel about love in all its guises.

This is a typical chick-lit book, predictable and fun! I loved the idea of a list of dates starting with the letters of the alphabet. That is just a genius idea! And some of the ideas were great 🙂 I might have to try the Alphabet Game myself.

The characters were the normal chick-lit characters – the family, friends and lovers. However, I liked them all. They made for enjoyable reading. I liked Tom most. He was a solid, faithful friend, who would drop anything for Natalie. Strong and reliable – the type of guy you can’t help but like.

The story does explore family, illness, depression (very well actually) and affairs. All were done well, all looked at the consequences of our actions. She writes sensitively and well.

I do have a couple of complaints. Firstly, the swearing. There was quite a bit, which I didn’t like. Sex was very descriptive, which made me a bit uncomfortable. The other problem was there were a lot of characters, and sometimes I felt lost and confused, trying to work out who was who, and who was related to who. Other than that, I enjoyed this book.

7/10

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Blackbird by Jennifer Lauck

blackbirdSynopsis from Amazon:

The house on Mary Street, Carson City, Nevada is the only place five-year-old Jennifer Lauck will ever call home. It’s where the sky is deep blue, forever blue, and there are almost never any clouds up there. It’s where Jennifer lives with her older brother B.J., her father and mother, and their two cats Moshe and Diane. It should be a perfect, peaceful childhood – but Jennifer’s mother is ill, very ill, and a childhood is the last thing Jennifer is going to be allowed.

Oh my word, what a sad book. I read this book in three sittings. It is such a good book, but so powerful and moving. This story follows Jennifer through from the age of 5 to the age of 12. The best way to describe it is like a real like Snow White story – with the death of the parents and the evil step mother.

Jennifer is an amazing girl. She has grown up too fast, had to deal with all sorts of horrid things, yet she is strong and able to look after herself. I can only admire her. I loved the way the family comes through for her, there is such a strong sense of family, and wanting to be happy in one.

I could have cried at most of this book, I laughed in places, and was thoroughly moved and longed for the best for Jennifer. I was rooting all the time for her.

I adored this book.

10/10

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Blue Diary by Alice Hoffman

Synopsis from Amazon:

Ethan and Jorie, the perfect couple, have been married for 13 years, and are still very much in love. But 13 years ago, Ethan committed a brutal rape and murder. A young girl’s phone call exposes him, and nothing will ever be the same for them again.

Well, to be honest, I didn’t enjoy this book. I found myself wanting more and this book just didn’t satisfy me.

The Ethan story was believable, but other strands I found myself disbelieving, such as the journey to Maryland. It was an interesting look at how a family and a small town deal with something like what Ethan did, taking sides in such a matter, but is that what would really happen? I don’t know.  However, I think Hoffman explores people’s characters well.

What I wanted out the book was to find out what happened to Ethan and his family, and the family of the girl, but it was a bit ambiguous. There were other storylines running along side the main story, which added depth to the book but I didn’t think were finished either.

My favourite character was Charlotte. I enjoyed watching her fall in love and stand by her best friend even through the challenges she was facing. There was something lovely about her.

Overall, this book did keep my attention right up to the last page, but I was not satisfied with this book.

5/10

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Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris

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Synopsis taken from Amazon:

Beyond the main street of Les Laveuses runs the Loire, smooth and brown as a sunning snake – but hiding a deadly undertow beneath its moving surface. This is where Framboise, a secretive widow named after a raspberry liqueur, plies her culinary trade at the creperie – and lets memory play strange games. Into this world comes the threat of revelation as Framboise’s nephew – a profiteering Parisian – attempts to exploit the growing success of the country recipes she has inherited from her mother, a woman remembered with contempt by the villagers of Les Laveuses. As the spilt blood of a tragic wartime childhood flows again, exposure beckons for Framboise, the widow with an invented past. Joanne Harris has looked behind the drawn shutters of occupied France to illuminate the pain, delight and loss of a life changed for ever by the uncertainties and betrayals of war.

What a lovely book. I thoroughly enjoyed it and found it hard to put down. There is so much that can said about it. It is full of intriguing recipes, which might be worth trying out. Harris looks into many issues, including love, childhood, death, war, secrets, family and mental illness, yet none of it is so daunting it is a hard read. All are dealt with well and sensitively, and add depth to the book.

There is action all the way through the book, right up to the last page. The descriptions were so thorough I felt like I was there with Framboise.  The narrative does jump around from childhood to middle age and back to childhood again, however this did not bother me at all, I felt it fitted right in with the story.

My favourite character has to be Paul, slow Paul who actually is quite a sly dog, I loved him and found myself growing very fond of him. As the book progressed on and we delve more into the recipe book I felt more and more sorry for the Mother, a misunderstood and ill lady. I think Harris wrote her wonderfully.

The only complaints I can think of were there were a lot of characters with similar names, and I forgot who was who, and there was also some writing in French and German that I didn’t understand which wasn’t translated. Apart from that, this is a superb book.

9/10

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Entertaining Angels by Joanna Bell

Synopsis:

Joshua Gilfoyle has decided there are two things he wants from life before he dies: to find his lost son and to commission an artist to produce his lasting legacy – a new angel for Foxbarton church. His family can’t understand why he’s already bidding his life farewell, but Joshua is not a man used to opposition. However Julia, the artist he’s employed, doesn’t believe in angels – unlike her daughter Hebe. Although she’s desperate for the commission, she’s frightened her artistic inspiration has run dry and is beginning to wonder whether making the angel is beyond her ability. But as Hebe’s extraordinary gift begins to affect everyone around her, including even irascible old Joshua himself, there seems to be more than a touch of magic in the air as the mysteries of the past finally begin to reveal themselves…

This is a lovely book. I loved it. Bell addresses the issues of angels, autism and family. She wrote so well, the issues were all delicately dealt with, even the old-fashioned view of mental health. To write about autism and the different views people have on it was brave, but done so well. There are so many stereotypes surrending autism, and Bell raises them and deals with them, setting the record straight.

I loved Julia and Hebe. Julia’s passion and firey character were well written and I felt I connected with her. When she was betrayed and angry, I felt those emotions as well. Hebe I just wanted to hug. She was an angel, I loved her.

There was comedy in this book too, and I often found myself laughing out loud.

My only problem with this book was the emphasis on sex. There was a lot of sex in this book, I didn’t like that.

The story was great and easy to read. I did see the twist coming but that didn’t upset me. I really enjoyed this book.

8/10

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A Season of Eden by JM Warwick

Synopsis from Amazon:

He’s my teacher. I shouldn’t be alone with him. But I can’t help that he’s irresistible. I let the door silently close at my back. He stared at me, and a taut quiet stretched between us. “I like hearing you play,” I said, moving toward him. He turned, in sync with my slow approach. He looked up at me but didn’t say anything. I rested my clammy hand on the cold, slick body of the baby grand. “May I?” The muscles in his throat shifted, then he swallowed. “Eden.” My knees weakened, like a soft tickling kiss had just been blown against the backs of them. “Is it okay?” I asked. His gaze held mine like two hands joined. He understood what I was really asking. “Let me stay,” I said. “Please.” “You’re going to get me in trouble,” he said.

I cannot rate this book highly enough. It is the best book I have read in ages. I completed it in two sittings; I was gripped from the first page.

I loved the characters, especially Eden, the protagonist. Warwick wrote her in such an amazing way that I completely connected with her and felt all the emotions she did. I was so in tune with her that when she cried, so did I.

The story was so well written. Warwick explored friendship, love, high school, family, death and music. The description of some of the pieces James played were breathtaking, and I could almost hear them. Watching Eden mature and fall in love was beautiful. Feelings were explained magnificantly. To see broken relationships patched up and repaired was lovely, and realistic. Every issue Warwick wrote about was successful. Even the relationship between Eden and James was sensitively written, and believable. I could easily see this happening in reality, playing out just like it does in the book. James was a lovely character. I fell in love with him too, it is hard not too!

I am so happy to have read this book. Nothing has left my disappointed. I loved the ending, the sense of maturity, adulthood, and adventure into the next chapter of Eden’s life was amazing.

I don’t have a bad word to say about the book.

10/10

Buy at Amazon.co.uk

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Kansas in August by Patrick Gale

Synopsis from Amazon:

In this first novel, Dr Henry (Henrietta) Metcalfe falls for a hitch-hiker, Rufus. A psychiatrist and a teacher, both are intent on concealing their true identities. To complicate this comedy of sexual role reversal, Rufus is having an affair with Henry’s brother, Hilary, who wants to be a father.

I don’t really know what to make of Kansas in August. This is certaintly not the best Gale book I have read. The book seemed disjoined, with random characters flitting in and out of the story. There seemed no definite storyline, we just seemed to follow three character, Hilary, Henrietta and Rufus through odd events which distantly relate the characters to each other. I didn’t like the ending, which I honestly was begging to come. I don’t feel the story is ended and I’m left feeling completely unsatisfied. All revelations could have come a lot earlier in the story. That I think would have made the book improve vastly. It was not a long book, 158 pages, but one I did consider putting down a few times. I didn’t really connect with the characters, there was nothing about any of them that I could relate too. I’m left disappointed really.

4/10

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