I decided to see where I was with the resolutions I set myself at new year and the results are….. very average. I don’t think I’ve forgotten any birthdays so far, but I think I’ve only sent one non-birthday card since Christmas. Blogging more and making my own lunches have both gone out the window lately due to stressful times at work, but now that’s levelling out I will hopefully have time to do more of both soon. I do think I’m looking pretty glam though, so that’s going well.
I have however managed to read three books since New Year, so I thought I’d have a go at writing some little reviews. I was hoping to read more, but again work stress made it much easier to just go home and stick E4 on. My Andy Samburg crush is getting intense.
The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
I just finished this book and I absolutely loved it. It’s actually really hard to say anything about the plot without giving away the story but… In post-war London, Frances and her mother are forced to take in lodgers to help pay the bills in their big Champion Hill house. Well to do and sheltered, they are not ready for the young ‘clerk class’ couple that move in. But they slowly get to know each other (and anyone that’s read Sarah Waters before will know what that means) before something terrible happens that changes all their lives completely.
All the characters are well-written and so interesting. The story is told by Frances, a spinster who doesn’t want to be married but also isn’t ready to accept the life she’s fallen into, looking after her mother in a big, crumbling house while her friends live exciting, independent lives. There’s also the Barbers, the paying guests of the title: cocky, arrogant Leonard Barber who makes Frances so uncomfortable and his wife Lillian, a dreamy, self-styled free spirit unhappy in her marriage. The plot doesn’t sag at all and it both gets going straight away and doesn’t finish until the last page, which I really liked for some reason. I also thought the time it was set in (straight after the first world war, where soldiers had returned and were struggling to find jobs) was really interesting.
I highly recommend this book, it’s classic Sarah Waters and I honestly had no idea how the story would end. If you like historical fiction with a bit of courtroom dramz thrown in, look no further!
I would also like to add that I downloaded this book on WhisperSync so I could listen to it on my walk to work and it’s beautifully read by Juliet Stevenson.
Buy it here
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
I read this on holiday in Amsterdam a couple of months ago and finished it in about 3 days which is quite rare for me. It’s the story of Rachel, a borderline alcoholic and recent divorcee, who becomes a bit obsessed with a couple whose house she can see into on her daily commute. She names them Jess and Jason and when Jess goes missing and its reported on the news, Rachel believes that she has a vital bit of evidence and decides to help the police.
This book was quite a big deal, becoming a huge best seller and even Reece Witherspoon was talking about it on Instagram. It’s easy to see why. The book totally taps into the voyeur part of you that checks out people’s living rooms when it’s dark and looks into how desperate people are to be part of something, even harassing the police and lying just to feel important.
If I have to be negative about the Girl on the Train, I’ll admit it does get a bit silly towards the end and, given the relatively small list of suspects, its not hard to figure out whodunit. I also read that it’s being made into a film but I personally think that this has “ITV 9pm drama” written all over it, to the point that I wondered if it had been written just to be sold to TV. Please don’t think that’s a criticism though, ITV dramas are one of my favourite things, I can think of no higher praise.
Despite its silliness, this book is still a solid 4 out of 5 and perfect for reading on holiday. Just don’t expect to like any of the characters, everyone’s pretty hateful.
Buy it here
The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
And now to a book I really didn’t like and I so wanted to. The Miniaturist is the story of Petronella, an 18 year old from a grand but poor family. She leaves home in the Dutch countryside to move to Amsterdam and marry Johannes, a super rich merchant who lives on the canal with his staff of two and his scary, strict sister Marin. Johannes’ gives a wedding gift to Petronella of a perfect miniature version of the house and suggests that she hire a miniaturist to fill the house with furniture. But the miniaturist sends unasked for objects that show they know exactly what’s going on in the unhappy house and what is about to happen.
And that’s it. It just goes nowhere and it’s so BLEAK. The first half of the book is so good; learning about the different members of the household and why Johannes seems so nervous to go near his new wife, but once that’s been explained it becomes just another unhappy part of the story. And the mystery of the miniaturist and why they know (and care) so much about the household is a really good idea, but it’s never resolved, it just fades away as if the author didn’t know how to end it. The second half of the book is just absolute misery, with almost every character coming to some kind of sticky end. The sheer, relentless gloom of the book reminded me of Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue, so if you enjoyed that, knock yourself out, but it was too much for me.
There are some good points to The Miniaturist; the descriptions of Amsterdam are really beautiful and as I finished this waiting for my flight to go there, I was excited to see the areas mentioned in the book. And I guess there was a slight feeling of hope at the very end of the book. But overall The Miniaturist was not for me.
Buy it here
I’ve got a few books to read on my Kindle and I think I’m going to with Dark Places by Gillian Flynn next, I loved Gone Girl and found Sharp Objects horrible but very readable so I’m looking forward to seeing what that’s like. If anyone’s got any recommendations of good books then please send them my way!