The Reading List #9

It’s been a busy week, but I’ve still found time for reading! Here’s the latest round-up of things I’ve read:

The Lollipop Shoes, Joanne Harris

This novel returns to visit the family of ‘Chocolat’, which I have actually not read yet, but the story can stand alone as well. Yanne lives with her daughters Rosette and Annie above a chocolate shop, until Zozie de l’Alba enters their lives and changes everything. Yanne and Zozie both have pasts, and Zozie’s presence forces Yanne to confront things she has blocked from her mind. This novel has it all: mystery, ruthlessness, fraud, family, love and friendship – there is a lot going on!

One thing that slightly confused me was which character was narrating each chapter, until I realised the picture symbols at the beginning of the chapters were a sort of key, identifying Zozie, Annie or Yanne. Once I had figured that out, I got completely lost in the narrative, and it is superbly written, with distinctive voices. You have to suspend reality a little for certain elements of the book, but if you just let it wash over you it’s an enjoyable read.

Snowdrops, A D Miller

Nick is writing a confession about what really happened during his time as a British lawyer in Moscow. He was drawn into a world of corruption and lies, and the story unfolds quite rapidly. The novel starts very strongly, and the explanation of the title is intriguing. However, I felt this element of the story could have gone a lot further, as it all fizzled out a little. It was written as a confession, but there actually wasn’t much to be confessed.

Moscow sets a stunning backdrop, and the city and its underworld are beautifully described, but the story did nothing for me. It’s a quick read and a simple thriller, but there was a lot missing for my personal taste.

The Art of Fielding, Chad Harbach

A Sunday Times Book of the Year, this novel tells the story of the lives of 5 people all connected to one college, over the course of a baseball season. A college president has fallen in love, Owen is having an affair, Schwartz is guiding Henry’s career and neglecting his own, and Pella is on the hunt for a new life. The five lives overlap, and are neatly contained within this one place, over one season.

I’ll start with what I loved – the realism and the complexity of each character was brilliant, and the descriptions well done. It certainly kept me turning the pages. Schwarz and Henry’s story, in particular, really stood out to me. What I felt was missing was my own connection with sport. I think there would be an extra level in the book you could only connect to properly if you understand that mindset of devoting your life and all of your time to a team sport. This was certainly what my dad loved about it. Either way, it is really worth a read for the fantastic writing of Harbach.

A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian, Marina Lewycka

Sisters Vera and Nadezhda put aside their sibling feud to get rid of 36 year-old Valentina, who has seduced their 84 year-old father. Valentina is Ukranian and desires Western wealth, and the book follows the sisters’ campaign to oust her. The book manages to fit in a fairly wide spread of European history, as well as playing out the inter-family feuds.

This book was shortlisted for the Orange Prize, and was much-hyped when first released, but it was another book that I just thought was silly. There was a lot of potential, and the humorous way it examined European history and wars worked well, but it then became too much when also combined with a silly story at the forefront. A lot more could have been done by using the humour more cleverly, nestled between some more real moments that might allow you to connect more with the story. I’d be interested to hear what anyone else thought…

And now let the final Christmas preparations begin! Who is excited? And what will you be reading over the break?

Sophie x


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