When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro is a detective novel published in 2000. This is the third Ishiguro novel I have read and as in his other works, I enjoyed it.
Told in the first-person by a man named Christopher Banks whose parents disappeared in Shanghai one after the other, this story explores Banks’ motivation to devote his life to ridding the world of evil with the belief that it will eventually enable him to discover the whereabouts of his missing parents.
I think this is a sad story. In it, Banks is a lost soul fighting a lost cause. He is surrounded by others who are lost in their own ways; not only people, but a chaotic world as well. This is what I love about Ishiguro’s work. He writes on many levels at once. It makes the reader think about the big picture.
Throughout the novel, I found myself cheering for Banks. How I hoped he would find his parents alive and well. What he ultimately discovers made the novel all the more worthwhile to me. Perhaps you will find it as thought-provoking as I did. I welcome your feedback!
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Tagged Books, China, detective novel, drugs, fiction, Great Britain, Imperialism, Japan, Kazuo Ishiguro, kidnapped, Mystery, opium, orphans, Shanghai, when we were orphans
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins has been on my ‘to read’ list for quite a while. Unfortunately, I listened to the psychological thriller during a night of thunderstorms! Whew, what a ride that was!
As you may already know, the premise of the book is that a divorced woman daily rides by train past her former house where her ex-husband now lives with his new wife and baby. One day, Rachel, who has a drinking problem, sees a former neighbor embracing a man in the backyard who is not the neighbor’s husband.
When the neighbor woman goes missing, Rachel becomes obsessed with the case and embroiled in the mystery.
This novel had me feeling anxious for the duration of it. I’ve never been one to figure out who the bad guy is and this book was no different! These are well-defined characters who the reader can feel something for. The plot twists and turns gave me the chills!
Even though the book reminded me of Rear Window by Hitchcock and other movies where someone witnesses a murder, I thought it was terrific. The book has been made into a movie scheduled for release next month. Be prepared to be suspicious of everything and everyone!
The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis is a novel I really enjoyed. The story takes place in two different eras, but the transitions between the them are very smooth and I was impressed.
The setting of the story is the well-known Barbizon Hotel in New York City. While living there with her married boyfriend, a journalist named Rose becomes intrigued with the history of the building and its former inhabitants. During the course of her research for a story, Rose uncovers a dark secret involving an elderly woman named Darby who came to New York fifty years earlier who still resides at the Barbizon.
Rose feels an inexplicable connection to the historic building, its former residents, and the mystery surrounding a woman who fell to her death from a Barbizon terrace five decades prior.
This is Davis’s first novel; a page-turner worthy of praise. It kept me guessing and I enjoyed every minute if it!
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Tagged Barbizon Hotel, Books, culinary arts, drugs, fiction, Fiona Davis, jazz, models, New York City, secretarial School, the dollhouse
The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons left me disappointed and I am sorry I wasted time on it. After reading Solomon’s more recent novel, I vowed to give her work another go. Once again, I sensed seeds of a good writer, but as the novel leapt to its conclusion, I felt let down.
This novel is about a young Jewish girl named Elise whose Austrian family sends her to England prior to World War Two where she is engaged as a servant in a large manor house. The family’s plan of reuniting in America is thwarted by the war and Elise finds herself marooned in England waiting on the manor house inhabitants and their guests. Predictably, she falls in love with the manor house heir.
From that point on, too many events and people in the story made me lose what hope I had in the conclusion of the novel being believable. Perhaps I am a sucker for a happy ending, but this one bordered me on many levels. Elise became someone I didn’t even like and as in Solomon’s subsequent novel, the momentum of the novel disappeared.
So much for Solomon’s work. I am throwing in the towel.
The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin is a stunning story based on the lives of Truman Capote and a cluster of women belonging to the New York jet set who befriended him. A real-life woman named Babe Paley figures most prominently in the story as she and Truman were best friends for many years. Truman was the group’s token gay friend up until the time he foolishly betrayed Babe and her friends by making public very private secrets which had been told to him in confidence.
Knowing much of the novel is based on real people made this is an extremely interesting book to me. I have read some of Capote’s writing and remember what a character he appeared to be when appearing on television shows years ago. I thought the end of the book dragged on a little too long for my taste, but overall, I enjoyed it on many levels. In some ways, it reminded me of Bravo’s Real Housewives series populated with higher class women. You may want to read it with an ice-cold vodka stinger! Enjoy!
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Tagged Books, breakfast at tiffanys, fiction, gore vidal, Harper Lee, Hemingway, in cold blood, Manhattan, Melanie Benjamin, New York, the swans of fifth avenue, Truman Capote, vanity fair
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad is one more of the Top 150 novels I can cross off my list. It is an eerie, dark story told in the first-person by Marlow, a boat captain, who is sent into the dark recesses of Africa to rescue a man named Mr. Kurtz who has been living in the Belgian Congo for many years.
This is Marlow’s maiden voyage into Africa and the author’s vivid description of the unsettled wilderness and its inhabitants are such that I felt my skin crawl. The story is a social commentary which questions the motives behind colonization and the effects on the people on both sides of the fence.
Although I appreciated the quality of the writing, and the author’s message, I did not enjoy the novel. It was no Tarzan story! Nothing in it is lighthearted, but what about one country stealing the riches of another ever is? I wish the main character had not been named Marlow because I kept thinking of the famous detective while reading the story and nothing could be more incongruous. I suggest reading the book if the subject is one which interests you.
We are pleased to announce that Penguin/Random House publishing has offered to provide a copy of The Empress of Tempera by Alex Dolan to one of our followers living in the U.S.
To enter, email us at bookwinked at gmail.com A winner will be announced on September 10, 2016. Good luck!
Congratulations to Emily G whose name was chosen in our book giveaway! Many thanks to everyone who entered. Your patronage is deeply appreciated.