Post Script: Beside Myself – Ann Morgan

Beside Myself

Beside Myself

Ann Morgan

Bloomsbury Publishing Australia

Bloomsbury

ISBN: 9781408870303

 

Description:

Beside Myself is a literary thriller about identical twins, Ellie and Helen, who swap places aged six. At first it is just a game, but then Ellie refuses to swap back. Forced into her new identity, Helen develops a host of behavioural problems, delinquency and chronic instability. With their lives diverging sharply, one twin headed for stardom and the other locked in a spiral of addiction and mental illness, how will the deception ever be uncovered? Exploring questions of identity, selfhood, and how other people’s expectations affect human behaviour, this novel is as gripping as it is psychologically complex.

 

 

My View:

Powerful! Intense! Confronting! This book has it all.

 

This book was a very difficult read- I read the first fifty pages or so and was in a dilemma – to continue or not? I found these first pages strangely horrific – the voice of the little girl, Helen, who constantly seeks to “teach her a lesson” (her being her twin sister Ellie), Helen’s voice is so nasty and malevolent I considered not reading any further. (And then there was the underlying hint of potential sexual abuse from a friend’s older brother, another sinister voice/character). I really was in two minds as to carry on or not.

 

Curiosity and a few days break from the book and I started reading again with an intensity that had me picking up this book every opportunity I could make. What a powerhouse of emotions and psychological twists this was! A brilliant study of identity, influences, how expectations effect children’s (and adults I presume too) personality, mental health, achievements and general wellbeing.

 

Mental health issues, suicide, self-harm, suicide are themes that are laid bare for all to consider. And the big one – the damage that is done when we do not believe a child – when they share they are being bullied or abused – in all forms of abuse. The most damage we can do is not believe or take seriously.

 

WOW! Just WOW! I am exhausted! This book is complex and intense and illuminating and surprisingly optimistic. I am so pleased I decided to continue on reading this book. Everyone should read this book – the world might be a better place if it pricks our conscience and makes us look at the person next to us with a little more compassion.

 

A fantastic debut novel!

 

 

Post Script: The Patterson Girls – Rachael Johns

Cover The Patterson Girls

The Patterson Girls

Rachael Johns

Harlequin Mira

ISBN: 9781743693070

 

Description:

How can four sisters build the futures they so desperately want, when the past is reaching out to claim them?

 

When the Patterson daughters return home to Meadow Brook to be with their father after their mother’s death, they bring with them a world of complication and trouble.

 

The eldest sister, obstetrician Madeleine, would rather be anywhere but her hometown, violinist Abigail has fled from her stellar career, while teacher Lucinda is struggling to have the children she and her husband so desperately want. The black sheep of the family, Charlie, feels her life as a barista and exercise instructor doesn’t measure up to that of her gifted and successful sisters.

 

Dealing with their bereft father who is determined to sell the family motel, their loves old and new and a series of troublesome decisions doesn’t make life any easier, but when they go through their mother’s possessions and uncover the shocking secret of an old family curse, they begin to question everything they thought they knew.

 

A warm and wise novel about secrets revealed, finding your soulmate and the unique bond between sisters.

 

My View:

Engaging, entertaining, salacious; this narrative is a blend of many genres including  romance, contemporary fiction,  drama and a lot of family and relationship issues set in many locations including London, Baltimore, Perth, Melbourne and small town South Australia mixed with a glimpse of the trials and tribulations of long distance relationships in this era of the fly out work workforce.

 

I particular enjoyed the settings – it is always a joy to be able to identify an area that you are familiar with in a read and when Lucinda and Joe take their romantic trip to the South West of WA – Bunker Bay, I could picture the area clearly – and then I could not believe the coincidence – Rachael Johns has this couple stop for an ice-cream – in the exact location we stop for an ice cream when we do a trip from Perth to home – a road house between Bunbury and Busselton. How amazing. (I would love to have been researching this book, so many great locations).

 

This narrative is big on drama, big on issues (infertility being the binding issue, it is good to see this issue being aired in such an upfront way, it is a topic that needs more public airing). Themes regarding identity and family; obligations, ties, secrets, history and connections all play a part in this complex story.

 

Each sister has an opportunity to share their view point as they take turns in narrating. This is very much a character based plot and the different personalities are very well expressed and the connections and expectations within the family unit are ones we are all familiar with.

 

Overall an entertaining read that has much to offer the contemporary reader.

 

 

Post Script: The Other Side Of The World – Stephanie Bishop

Beautiful prose that subtly explores so many issues – post natal depression, migration, relationships, identity, racism, the meaning of home…

Cover The Other Side of The World

The Other Side of the World

Stephanie Bishop

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9780733633782

 

Description:

In the tradition of Rachel Cusk’s A Life’s Work or Maggie O’Farrell’s The Hand That First Held Mine comes a complex, tender and gorgeously written novel of parenthood, love and marriage that is impossible to put down. Cambridge 1963. Charlotte struggles to reconnect with the woman she was before children, and to find the time and energy to paint. Her husband, Henry, cannot face the thought of another English winter. A brochure slipped through the letterbox gives him the answer: ‘Australia brings out the best in you’. Charlotte is too worn out to resist, and before she knows it is travelling to the other side of the world. But on their arrival in Perth, the southern sun shines a harsh light on both Henry and Charlotte and slowly reveals that their new life is not the answer either was hoping for. Charlotte is left wondering if there is anywhere she belongs, and how far she’ll go to find her way home…

 

My View:

Gently written with visually explicit landscapes and relationships put under the microscope this book is a delight to read. I particularly enjoyed reading about the era the migration to Perth Western Australia took place in and the experiences of the migrants Charlotte and Harry and their young family; I was child when we migrated from England to Perth in 1966 and my early memories are of similar experiences – not for me as a child – I think children just except whatever is thrown at them and the notion of migration and living in another country really didn’t impact me directly but it did my mother.

I think the adults were not particularly well prepared for the physical conditions, the cultural changes and the isolation. Like Harry my father had a job to go to, he had a purpose in his day. Accommodation was provided with the job – but a timber framed house with wood stoves for cooking and water heating in the middle of an extremely hot Australian summer do not make life easy for the homemaker, the wife left at home with no transport, no support network and basic cramped living conditions and unbearable heat. We were a family of six (at the time, which became seven) living in a two bedroom house. My parents had no experience of such heat and the sunburn, heat rash, and dehydration that came with it. Mosquitoes and flies… and other little pests can make life unbearable. I think it was a particularly difficult time for my mother. However, we stayed, maybe there were no other real options?

 

Was Charlotte brave? I think so. She had insight and was able to identify the problems in her life but not the causes. She made a difficult decision, actually several very difficult decisions – but still seemed lost and at odds with her identity. To admit that motherhood as she experienced it, was not for her is a huge undertaking – to go against the popular culture and socially determined role expected of a woman in the 1960’s, of a married woman with children, must have been enormously difficult. I think it would probably still be as difficult today to buck societies expectations but maybe the opportunity for depression to be identified and treated would be better but the underlying struggle to rediscover ones identity when in a long term relationship, when responsible for children…that battle is still be waged. Some deal with it better than others.

 

A fantastic novel that gently looks at the intersections of migration, sexism, racism and women’s place in society. This book is guaranteed to make you think and is a delight to read.

Post Scritp: Pretty Baby – Mary Kubica

What a remarkable read! Intense and thought provoking.

Cover Pretty Baby

Pretty Baby

Mary Kubica

Harlequin (Australia), TEEN / MIRA

MIRA

ISBN: 9781743690352

 

Description:

Mary Kubica — bestselling author of The Good Girl — delivers a stunning new psychological thriller about a chance encounter that sparks an unrelenting web of lies where a chance encounter sparks an unrelenting web of lies…

 

Heidi Wood has always been a charitable woman: she works for a non-profit, takes in stray cats. Still, her husband and daughter are horrified when Heidi comes home one day with a teenage girl named Willow and her four-month-old baby in tow. Dishevelled and apparently homeless, this girl could be a criminal — or worse. But despite her family’s objections, Heidi invites Willow and the baby to take refuge in their home.

Heidi spends the next few days helping Willow get back on her feet, but as clues into Willow’s past begin to surface, Heidi is forced to decide how far she’s willing to go to help a stranger. What starts as an act of kindness quickly spirals into a story far more twisted than anyone could have anticipated?

 

 

My View:

Mary Kubica is an author to include on you must read list. I loved her first novel – The Good Girl, and this new book is as powerful and surprising; a complex yet not complicated narrative, characters that will affect your emotions and prompt you to think about issues that surround us daily, issues perhaps we have been desensitised to. Kubica makes us look with fresh eyes. Mary Kubica has the real talent of being able to wrap up contemporary issues in complex engaging plots whilst insidiously pricking your conscience and holding your emotions to siege. This is an outstanding, absorbing read.

 

For me there were many levels to this narrative – there is the obvious – a story of child abuse, homelessness loosely knotted together with issues surrounding other health and welfare issues yet for me the strongest and most powerful sub story here was one about the defining of female identity with reproduction and family. This narrative is the perfect vehicle to stimulate such a discussion – and Heidi Wood is the perfect character to lead this discussion. A masterfully written!

 

Post Script: After The Crash – Michel Bussi

Lylie: Life in a glass cage…observed by all

AFter the Crash

After The Crash

Michel Bussi

Weidenfeld & Nicolson

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9780297871439

 

Description:

On the night of 22 December 1980, a plane crashes on the Franco-Swiss border and is engulfed in flames. 168 out of 169 passengers are killed instantly. The miraculous sole survivor is a three-month-old baby girl. Two families, one rich, the other poor, step forward to claim her, sparking an investigation that will last for almost two decades. Is she Lyse-Rose or Emilie?

Eighteen years later, having failed to discover the truth, private detective Credule Grand-Duc plans to take his own life, but not before placing an account of his investigation in the girl’s hands. But, as he sits at his desk about to pull the trigger, he uncovers a secret that changes everything – then is killed before he can breathe a word of it to anyone…

 

 

My View:

This was a very very slow burn for me, a lot of time is taken to set the scene, provide some history and introduce the characters, however if you can force yourself to continue reading you are in for a treat!

 

A large part of the narrative is designated to trying to establish who the child is, and the methods used to determine the identity. Mystery and red herrings abound. The pace increases and before you realise it you are thoroughly engaged with this narrative.

 

This is in multiple view point narrative partly revealed by the sharing of diary entries gifted to one of the main characters who in turn shares the diary with another character. The diary is written by the investigator who plans to commit suicide when he finally concedes he cannot solve the puzzle of the crash survivor’s identity. Other characters also have an opportunity to share their views on the identity and the action taking place. One voice is particularly creepy.

 

The unreliable narrator has a wonderful time in this narrative playing with our perceptions, twisting the truth, conspiracy theories abound; the plot twists and turns and there are so many surprises and a dash of lunacy, murder, missing persons and ugly characters with ugly intentions that will keep you reading.

 

The translation is flawless thanks to the brilliant work of Sam Taylor.

 

Post Script: Second Life – S J Watson

Hate, love, hate….I cant make up my mind.

Second Life

Second Life

Give Feedback

S J Watson

Random House UK, Transworld Publishers

Doubleday

ISBN: 9780857520197

 

Description:

The sensational new psychological thriller from the bestselling author of Before I Go To Sleep . . .

She loves her husband. She’s obsessed by a stranger.

She’s a devoted mother. She’s prepared to lose everything.

She knows what she’s doing. She’s out of control.

She’s innocent. She’s guilty as sin.

She’s living two lives. She might lose both.

 

My View:

This is a very difficult book to review- I had a hate – love – hate relationship with this one. The beginning was way too slow and at one point I even considered putting this one down and not finishing but I didn’t and I finished it and now not sure how I feel. The introduction, way to slow and too long, too much detail that dis not serve any real purpose that I could see except for suggesting that Julia had an addictive personality i.e. easily became addictive – drugs, alcohol and emotional attachments …then the pace rapidly changed – the descriptions here were so realistic – the emotional attachments, excitement, the thrills, the risks…then came the growing doubts, the creepy behaviours, the fear, the bullying, the stalking and more doubts. I was glued to the pages.

 

How does SJ Watson get his female protagonist’s feeling so right? Brilliant.

 

The next few chapters became increasingly tense, the atmosphere electric. I keep screeching – “No No don’t go there! Keep away.” Did Julia listen? No. Things went from bad to worse…rapidly.

 

The conclusion was tense and yet somewhat unsatisfying. So many threads left hanging.

 

So my dilemma – how do I rate this book? It has some excellent moments, some characters you love to hate (and actually not many you like), it has action, tension and excitement but an introduction that is strung out and boring and an ending that is unsatisfactory. I think this is a novel that will divide its readers. Some will love it, some will hate it…and me …I can’t make up my mind.