Review: “The Night Watch” by Sarah Waters

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For some reason this book has been on my To-Be-Read list for 5 years (according to the trusty source that is Goodreads). I can’t even remember why I put it on my TBR list to begin with, since it’s more or less a romance novel set in England during World War 2.

I’ve tried to stay away from novels about World War 2 because it’s just too close for my likingMy grandparents were both from different sides of England and were serving respectively in the ATS and Royal Navy when they met and fell in love during World War 2. They just happened to be at the same pub in Liverpool (again, not where either of them were from) and the rest, as they say, is history. So growing up I had always heard things about World War 2 and as a reflex, my eyes would start rolling out of my head.

Now that I’m older and a lot more aware about the pretty shitty things going on in the world, I’ve begun to appreciate just how much the War meant to my grandparents and their generation. Now it makes perfect sense to me that they would constantly bring it up. It was a pretty big deal and “The Night Watch” really gave me a sense of the fear and uncertainty of that time.

I think that my recent trip to the UK (my second one ever) has also renewed my interest in the War. I spent a lot of time walking the streets randomly, just observing the different styles of architecture, and noticed how there were big scars running through sections of the city. I don’t mean that any part of London that I saw was ugly. I just noticed the bits where bombs had clearly dropped and new buildings were built or old buildings were repaired but not quite blended in with the original structure. For an architecture AND archaeological nerd like myself, I found it a great way to immerse myself in the city’s history.

Back to “The Night Watch”… I was actually quite surprised at the homosexual element of the story. I don’t actively look for novels with lesbians as the central characters and I guess it just surprised me because I’m so biased towards World War 2 novels set in England to begin with. When I think “English wartime novels”, I think of very stereotyped gender roles with perhaps some feminist undertones peeking through (but of course nothing to wild because, you know, they’re English) .Quite frankly, I assumed this would be a novel my grandmother would happily sit down and read on a Sunday afternoon… but I’m not too sure I would give this one to her. She may have a heart attack *touch wood*.

I’m glad I was surprised by this novel though. It’s probably the reason why I kept reading it. The only drawback about it was the structure. I didn’t quite understand why the 3 separate parts were in reverse chronological order and I really think the last bit could have been chopped out altogether. Also, I found myself skimming the parts relating to the only central male character named Duncan. I just didn’t find myself caring enough about him.

So Reader, have there been any novels you have found yourself really surprised by recently? Do you have certain topics/periods in history you just can’t bring yourself to read about? Let me know in the comments!

I hope this week has treated you well.

A x

 

 

Review: “Wynn in Doubt” by Emily Hemmer

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From Goodreads:

The memory of a stolen kiss ten years ago stirs up an adventure eighty years in the making.

Wynn Jeffries has wanderlust. Unfortunately, her life stalled somewhere between graduating college and slinging drinks at the local dive bar. Stuck in a one-room apartment with no career, no boyfriend, no…life, she dreams of something more. Something amazing. Something like Oliver Reeve’s, her high school crush, whose back in town and reminding Wynn of the way she used to want things.

When a forgotten news-clipping about two prohibition moonshiners falls out of a book belonging to Wynn’s grandmother, a well-kept family secret is finally revealed. Is Wynn’s gypsy spirit the result of an overactive imagination or did she inherit it from a woman so determined to live a big life she gave up everything to have it?

The choices we make now shape our future. It’s the fear of making the wrong ones that give us doubt. So the question is: how much are we willing to sacrifice to have the life we want?

I must be really drawn to the “let’s find out about my long lost relative” stories right now. In a way, this book had some similarities with “The Dress”, which I really enjoyed. I would say that I enjoyed both books equally. I suppose I find myself drawn to characters that are quite similar to myself and I felt that Wynn was eerily relatable. I feel like a lot of young women that have read this book would get what I mean when I say that. I also suppose that many people, of all ages and sections of society, would relate to that feeling of wanting to do something, to be something and not just go through the motions of life and feel like you are wasting your life and potential.

I thought some aspects of the story weren’t believable (I dunno, maybe there were certain parts that I felt needed to be fleshed out more and the pace could have been better). The likelihood of having a rock star come back “home” for you and stumbling across your ancestor’s diary in the same week seem pretty slim to me, but I guess IT’S A BOOK and NOT REAL LIFE. Ugh. See, if a book has little cracks and makes me think about real life, it gets me down.

Over all though, I would recommend this book to Young Adult readers and fans of chick-lit.

Review: “The Dress” by Kate Kerrigan

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From Goodreads:

Lily Fitzpatrick loves vintage clothes – made all the more precious because they were once owned and loved by another woman. Thousands follow her vintage fashion blog and her daily Instagram feed. But this passion for the beautiful clothes of the past is about to have unforeseen consequences, when Lily stumbles upon the story of a 1950s New York beauty, who was not only everything Lily longs to be, but also shares Lily’s surname.

Joy Fitzpatrick was a legend. But what was the famous dress which she once commissioned – said to be so original that nothing in couture would ever match it again? What happened to it – and why did Joy suddenly disappear from New York high society?

Kate Kerrigan’s enthralling novel interweaves the dramatic story of Joy, the beautiful but tortured socialite and that of Lily – determined to uncover the truth and, if possible, bring back to life the legendary dress itself.

I love, love, LOVE intergenerational stories. The more generations of the family, the better. I think that’s why I love genealogy and historical fiction so much. I like being able to see how traits have been passed down from one generation to the next and how a family secret or trauma can have a butterfly effect for the rest of the bloodline.

I’ve never had much interest in how clothes are made, but I can appreciate a vintage 1950’s frock. I’m not obsessed enough to start a blog about the fashion, as Lily did in the book, but I have been known to be quite impartial to a Review dress or two… (Nope, this post isn’t sponsored – I just think everyone should appreciate these pretty dresses).

I read this book quite quickly – I would firmly put this in the chick lit genre. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I just can’t really imagine any men picking up this book and finishing it. It has everything you would want in a great chick lit novel – romance, comedy, heartbreak and story lines that are nice and complete by the end of it (don’t worry, I haven’t spoiled anything for you).

I tend to get easily frustrated by some books that change time periods/locations every other chapter, but Kate Kerrigan really did a fantastic job with making these transitions seamless. I knew that I was going to like this book quite early on because each time I finished a chapter, I wanted to keep reading on. The story was unravelled perfectly and if I was talented with sewing, I would want to attempt to make The Dress myself. I sort of want this book to be adapted into a film, just so I can look at a “real” version of The Dress.

A recommended read, especially for younger women looking for something that is pure fun (although this book also has its heavy “adult moments”) and an easy, gripping read.

I received an advanced reader’s copy courtesy of Netgalley and HarperCollins Publishers Australia. Thanks for the great read!

Review: “Death Comes to Pemberley” by P.D. James

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From Goodreads:

The year is 1803, and Darcy and Elizabeth have been married for six years. There are now two handsome and healthy sons in the nursery, Elizabeth’s beloved sister Jane and her husband Bingley live nearby and the orderly world of Pemberley seems unassailable. But all this is threatened when, on the eve of the annual autumn ball, as the guests are preparing to retire for the night a chaise appears, rocking down the path from Pemberley’s wild woodland. As it pulls up, Lydia Wickham – Elizabeth’s younger, unreliable sister – stumbles out screaming that her husband has been murdered.

This book made my heart so, so happy. I enjoy the odd bubble bath or two during the week as it is a good way to unwind and relax. I take a paperback into the bath with me and I have to make sure it isn’t something too heavy because I wouldn’t want to accidentally drop it in the water! This book was the perfect weight.

I am usually sceptical of these Jane Austen fan fiction novels, but P.D. James was a reputable crime writer and I had heard so many good things about this novel, I just had to read it. “Pride and Prejudice” is also one of my favourite books of all time, so it did take me a little bit of courage to final read something from the Austenalia realm. It probably helped that I picked up the television tie-in edition, which had the actors from the series on the cover. The actress Anna Maxwell Martin plays Elizabeth Darcy (nee Bennett) and I recognised her from that amazing show, The Bletchley Circle – so this book was really wanting to come home with me from the book store.

I really enjoyed this book. I thought it was interesting, having a crime novel set 200 years in the (fictitious) past where the investigations were rather limited by the forensic science of the period. The length of the novel was just right and the story wasn’t unnecessarily complicated – which I find some crime novels tend to be, more often than not.

I also loved the references to the cannon text and P.D. James really nailed the tongue-in-cheek humour I so loved in “Pride and Prejudice”.

I would definitely recommend this book to readers familiar with “Pride and Prejudice”. Fans of crime fiction and historical fiction will also really enjoy this novel, but I highly recommend reading “Pride and Prejudice” first, otherwise some of the quips and details about certain characters (Mr and Mrs Bennett, for example) may be completely lost on you.