Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Rise and Fall of Great Powers | Tom Rachman

I loved this book, it is a treat to read. It's not a linear story, but we have a faithful narrator who guides us through the three time periods that alternate in the chapters. Her name is Tooly and we follow her as she describes her childhood, the years of her early twenties, and the present when she is in her middle years.

Tooly seems to have a very weird and unfortunate childhood. She lives with her father Paul in various countries around the world, moving every year without knowing why. She is then taken by Sarah, who may or may not be her mother. Sarah has a vague relationship with Venn and a Russian older man called Humphrey. The trio seem to bring her up all over the world, ending in New York.

Tooly's life in the present is about trying to unravel and understand what happened to her as a child, and her search for the people from her past who could explain it to her.

Riveting, well written, inventive and thoroughly engrossing. Loved reading this book.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Claimant | Janette Turmer Hospita;

This is the best book I have read all year. Although loosely based on the Tichborne affair, it is separate and a contemporary take on the role of identity, family, image and a moral riddle of inheritance, wealth ,power and privileged.

I have not read this author before but I will go and find all she has written, she's amazing. I was engrossed by the story and by the characters, taken in by her wealth of classical knowledge and the breadth of her story.

In this novel, a young boy is reclusively brought up in France by his devoutly Catholic mother. The gardener's daughter discovers him and is adopted by the Countess as a surrogate sibling to the cosseted young boy. Their lives converge and diverge as they grow older. He is sent off to America, to an Ivy league college due to his surname, his family privilege and wealth. The Vietnam war, the assassination of political figures and the growing-up of America all come into play.
The young man fights his heritage and his wealth, and is lost. His mother and young friend never loose hope of finding him, even when he does not want to be found.

The story is beautifully told, the author is a master storyteller. Well worth reading.

Monday, July 28, 2014

An Appetite for Violets | Martine Bailey

This is a delightful novel. Well worth reading as it has a good combination of story and suspense and adventure.
Set in 1772-3 it records the journey of a lowly assistant cook, Buddy Leigh, from northwest England to Florence. She travels with her Mistress Carinna, who is seeking to escape her marriage to an old man full of the pox to whom she was married so as to gain an inheritance.

The story is recorded by Biddy in the "The Cook's Jewel", an old recipe book she has inherited from the cook who apprenticed her. She records the behaviour of Lady Carinna and her maid, the journey to Italy and most enjoyable, the recipes of food she tastes along the way.
I love travel and food, so this was a lovely story to read. The history of food and eating is well researched, I particularly enjoyed the history of the 'notion' of restaurants. Each chapter begins with a recipe written out, from the UK fare right to Italian confections.

Mixed in with all that is a mystery of sorts, which is lightly handled and not too taxying.

A very enjoyable read. Makes you hungry though!!