Book No 10 (2014) : The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

lemon cakeTo be honest, I just didn’t ‘get’ this book at all. In fact, it was so frustrating that I hunted down an online web chat with the author, to see if she herself could shed a light on the mysteries of ‘The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake’.

Rose Edelstein has a peculiar gift. She can taste in her food the emotions of the person who prepared it. This insight turns out to be rather a curse, as mealtimes lose all their pleasure and she discovers that her mother is hiding a secret. chairRose also has a brother, Joseph who is, frankly, a bit weird. He begins to undergo unexplained disappearances, withdrawing for varying periods of time and then re-appearing. When he fails to achieve a place at his preferred university, he moves into a flat on his own and eventually vanishes altogether. Only he hasn’t actually vanished. Joseph has morphed into a chair. In case you think you have read that wrongly, I repeat – Rose’s brother turns into a chair.

My main frustration with the book (apart from the lack of speech marks) is that Rose’s family’s so-called talents are completely pointless. The knowledge Rose gains is not put to any use, either good or bad, it merely seems to be a strange strand to an otherwise fairly ordinary American teenager’s diary. The premise of the book is exciting, but the book just doesn’t deliver. It felt as if the author could see an idea in her imagination, but can’t convey her vision clearly. If it is intended as ‘magical realism’, it’s rather skimpy in the ‘magical’ department.

So, how does Aimee Bender explain her work? Turns out she couldn’t really, claiming that she liked the ambiguity of the ending: ‘I’m not really sure what [Joseph’s] gift was’. A deeply unsatisfying read, which I probably would have discarded half-way through if it wasn’t for not wanting to waste the time I’d invested thus far!

Book No 8 (2014) : Oh dear Silvia

silviaSilvia Shute is in a coma following a fall from a balcony. She is being cared for in hospital by a compassionate nurse (Winnie) and is visited in turn by her husband, daughter, sister, best friend and cleaner! In an attempt to encourage Silvia to regain consciousness, her visitors talk to her, trying to unlock her becalmed mind. It is through their one-sided conversations with the silent Mrs Shute, that the plot is revealed. Each visitor to Suite 5 has a unique and distinct voice, some of which are strongly reminiscent of Dawn French, comedienne. The individual revelations of Silvia’s companions gradually weave together into something altogether much darker than the quirky accents and idiosyncrasies initially suggest. It’s a carefully crafted book, surprising in its complexity.

The reviewers of this book describe it as ‘utterly hilarious’, ‘darkly humorous’ etc. Whilst it undoubtedly made me laugh, the sub-texts of tangled relationships, betrayal, hurt and confusion, made me feel uneasy about laughing at all.

Incidentally, I am not a big fan of audiobooks myself, but I think this is one which would work well, especially with Dawn herself reading some of the parts. Maybe a long-car-journey gift?

Book No 1 (2014) : And the Mountains Echoed

And the Mountains EchoedThis novel, the third by Khaled Hosseini, was on my Christmas list. I have been married to Santa for almost 24 years and he rarely lets me down.

As a fan of both The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, I was expecting to be totally absorbed by  And the Mountains Echoed in the same way. The novel unfolds through the eyes of several characters, all linked to each other in some way. It explores the effects of separation upon families and communities. War is a backdrop, but this is not a political book; its core is the depiction of the central characters, each of whom faces personal challenges brought about, in the main, by the actions of the previous generation. But I was disappointed. The plot is not compelling, the characters thinly drawn.

The trouble is, I couldn’t help comparing with Hosseini’s previous novels, but it wasn’t a patch.

Pretty cover, though.

In the Nicki of Time – take 3!

Lighthouse Whitehaven 2I started this blog in 2014, my 50th year, having set myself a 50/50 challenge. Read 50 books and see 50 films in one year.

By the end of 2014, I hadn’t achieved my goals. I toyed with the idea of closing down the blog. But I recalled one of my children telling me that the man who patented lightbulbs tested thousands before found the one which would work. I’m not sure if the tale is true, but it sparked a lightbulb moment of my own! I didn’t want to give up – failure is a learning opportunity and so I tried again last year. 50 books and 50 films in one year. I did better in 2015, managing to read (and review) 50 books – but fell short of the films total having watched just 31.5.

My failure has irked me, nagged at my conscience. So, here I am for the third time. Third time lucky, don’t they say? I’d say I have more than a 50/50 chance of success!

I hope you enjoy exploring the blog and find some inspiration for your own reading or viewing. You are welcome to get in touch, I love hearing from visitors to the blog!