Best Novel – Sarah Perry

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I have nothing but admiration and awe for Sarah Perry. There are so many highlights I could spoil the entire book but instead I’ll share the most poignant part.

One of the characters is depicted sharpening a pencil with a razor and an almost tangible memory of my Grandad burst from the page. I remember he always had a pencil sharpened this way. It also made me remember the old, battered suitcase, full of felt pens and pencils that were kept for all the grandkids to use. I don’t know what happened to that. Thanks for the memory, Sarah. It makes the book so much more for me.

Costa Book Awards 2016

Essex Serpent Sarah Perry

The short list has just been released and the most pleasing paragraph, I’ve copied below;

The fourth contender and only new face on the best novel list is Sarah Perry, for The Essex Serpent. Adored by critics and readers alike and a surprise omission from the Booker longlist, Perry’s novel follows an adventurous widow who investigates whether the folktale serpent has come to life and is haunting the Blackwater estuary. Perry, who is currently working on her third book, said she’d celebrate with a sherry. “To have a panel of judges consider it one of the four best novels of the year is so extraordinary,” she said. “I think it will give me greater courage and confidence to carry on writing. I wish I had rigid self-belief regardless of outside influence, but when someone enjoys my book, I go: ‘Oh, I’ll do another one then!’” (The Guardian)

And my reaction at learning of Sarah’s nomination?

excited

                                                             Congratulations, Sarah!

Original Review

The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry

Essex Serpent Sarah Perry

Title: The Essex Serpent
Author: Sarah Perry
Publisher: Serpent’s Tail
Date of Publication: 27 May 2016

Rating: 5 stars

 

Summary: Set in Victorian London and an Essex village in the 1890’s, and enlivened by the debates on scientific and medical discovery which defined the era, The Essex Serpent has at its heart the story of two extraordinary people who fall for each other, but not in the usual way.

They are Cora Seaborne and Will Ransome. Cora is a well-to-do London widow who moves to the Essex parish of Aldwinter, and Will is the local vicar. They meet as their village is engulfed by rumours that the mythical Essex Serpent, once said to roam the marshes claiming human lives, has returned. Cora, a keen amateur naturalist is enthralled, convinced the beast may be a real undiscovered species. But Will sees his parishioners’ agitation as a moral panic, a deviation from true faith. Although they can agree on absolutely nothing, as the seasons turn around them in this quiet corner of England, they find themselves inexorably drawn together and torn apart.

Review: I have nothing but admiration and awe for Sarah Perry. There are so many highlights I could spoil the entire book but instead I’ll share the most poignant part.

One of the characters is depicted sharpening a pencil with a razor and an almost tangible memory of my Grandad burst from the page. I remember he always had a pencil sharpened this way. It also made me remember the old, battered suitcase, full of felt pens and pencils that were kept for all the grandkids to use. I don’t know what happened to that. Thanks for the memory, Sarah. It makes the book so much more for me.

The Essex Serpent is one of my contenders for book of 2016.

(Read between 4-18 June 2016)

My Year In Books 2015

With no shame, I have used the infographic created by Goodreads for this post.

 

[Review] The Children Act written by Ian McEwan

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Title: The Children Act
Author: Ian McEwan
Publisher: Doubleday – Nan. A. Talese
Date of Publication: 9 September 2014
Number of Pages: 240

Rating: 5 stars

Disclaimer: Copy provided free by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Summary: Fiona Maye is a High Court judge in London presiding over cases in family court. She is fiercely intelligent, well respected, and deeply immersed in the nuances of her particular field of law. Often the outcome of a case seems simple from the outside, the course of action to ensure a child’s welfare obvious. But the law requires more rigor than mere pragmatism, and Fiona is expert in considering the sensitivities of culture and religion when handing down her verdicts.

But Fiona’s professional success belies domestic strife. Her husband, Jack, asks her to consider an open marriage and, after an argument, moves out of their house. His departure leaves her adrift, wondering whether it was not love she had lost so much as a modern form of respectability; whether it was not contempt and ostracism she really fears. She decides to throw herself into her work, especially a complex case involving a seventeen-year-old boy whose parents will not permit a lifesaving blood transfusion because it conflicts with their beliefs as Jehovah’s Witnesses. But Jack doesn’t leave her thoughts, and the pressure to resolve the case—as well as her crumbling marriage—tests Fiona in ways that will keep readers thoroughly enthralled until the last stunning page. [Goodreads]

Review: Sometimes you discover a book that makes you wish you hadn’t been quite so liberal in awarding 5 stars to others. This is one such occasion.

The Children Act is intriguing. Fiona’s husband admits to a making preludes towards an affair,  after which, she reflects on the product of her life through the cases she has presided over as judge. The interlinking familial overtones are impressive and the level of sophistication necessary to achieve a genuine voice is one all writers should consider. McEwan knows where he wants the story to go and he knows what he wants the readers to engage and emote with. There is something painfully familiar about Fiona and her desire for children even though job opportunity, age and so many other external factors drag the chance further and further out of reach until they are left as a biological figment.

In my last review, I made the observation that the the story was not strongly character driven, though many readers felt differently. The Children Act is a powerful counterpoint to We Are Not Ourselves.

Where We Are Not Ourselves moved quickly from location to location, The Children Act has a “locked room” murder mystery feel. The action is centered on four primary locations and each location feels familiar and is readily imagined because of our own familiarity with the settings.

The familiarity heightens the tension of certain segments and at these moments it is almost possible to feel the strain, the tension, the confusion, seeping off the page. The emotions that Fiona experiences are shared by the reader. This is powerful. This is writing that doesn’t happen all the time. In fact, looking back at the books I’ve read so far this year, my only comparable reaction to the prose is Sarah Perry’s After Me Comes the Flood. McEwan is a force and his style had me obsessed to the last page.

Some may find the style dry and underwhelming but this is to make a circumstantial reading of the content. There is so much to praise in this book that I could write much more, however, it would spoil the joy of discovery for those who haven’t finished reading. I want to also make brief mention of the subtlety of the cover. The simplicity and elegance of the cover is a beautiful reflection of one section of the book. I will leave you to make the discovery for yourself.

This is my first Ian McEwan novel and I doubt it will be my last.

January Reads

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January was, for me, a good month in reading terms. It isn’t often I can get through four standard sized novels and a compilation.

After Me Comes the Flood written by Sarah Perry – 5 stars
The Boathouse written by R.J. Harries – 1.5 stars
What the Apothecary Ordered: Questionable Cures Through the Ages compiled by Caroline Rance – 4 stars
Calling written by Joe Samuel Starnes – 5 stars
Incubus written by Ann Arensberg – 2 stars (barely)

I’m currently reading The Butterfly and the Violin, written by Kristy Cambron and I have to say, it is beautifully written and while I will be disappointed to finish it, I look forward to reflecting on the words and I look forward to anticipating part two.