Arm yourself against my dawn, which may at any moment cast you and Harry into obscurity, Alice James writes her brother William in 1891. In Judith Hooper's magnificent novel, zingers such as this fly back and forth between the endlessly articulate and letter-writing Jameses, all of whom are geniuses at gossiping. And the James family did, in fact, know everyone intellectually important on both sides of the Atlantic, but by the time we meet her in 1889, Alice has been sidelined and is lying in bed in Leamington, England, after taking London by storm.
We don't know what's wrong with Alice. No one does, though her brothers have inventive theories, and the best of medical science offers no help. So, with Alice in bed, we travel to London and Paris, where the James children spent part of their unusual childhood. We sit with her around the James family's dinner table, as she - the youngest and the only girl - listens to the intellectual elite of Boston, missing nothing.
The book is accompanied by Hooper's Afterword,"What was Wrong with Alice?," an analysis of the varied psychological ills of the James family and Alice's own medical history.
Based on the diary of Alice James and correspondence between Alice and the rest of the James's family I found Judith Hooper's Alice In Bed to be an utterly fascinating and compelling novel.
We meet Alice, daughter of the famous author Henry James, in her late 30's during the latest bout of illness which has rendered her bedridden. Similar episodes of illness have plagued Alice since she was young and no one has been able to diagnose what is wrong with her. During this episode of incapacitation Alice reminisces about her life, friendships, family, and lovers, giving the reader a glimpse into the private lives of this often amusing, intelligent but ultimately tragic family.
I was particularly fascinated by Alice's relationships with her cousin Sara, and Katherine Loring with whom she formed intensely passionate affairs. The emotions and subsequent sexual encounters, particularly relating to the former friendship, were a revelation to Alice, but also confusing especially as the relationship was not on equal footing.
Alice comes across in Hooper's novel as a highly intelligent, quick witted, articulate young woman, who inside the family, is encouraged to participate in stimulating conversation and argument with her brothers and father on a multitude of topics. However outside of the family her spirited enthusiasm to engage fully in life's experiences is deemed unnatural, and inappropriate behaviour for a young lady.
There was so much that I enjoyed about the book; the prose was exquisite, and entirely in keeping with the period. My reading copy is full of highlighted text, sentences and paragraphs of beautifully written descriptions of the conversations and acerbic quips between the members of the family. I spent hours looking up words in a dictionary and although I do recognise that this may be a drawback for some readers, I found it enlightening.
Alice In Bed is an intelligent thought provoking, cleverly imagined life of Alice James and one which I recommend unreservedly to anyone interested in American literature, and the lives of privileged women living during this era. It would be an ideal choice for book reading groups as I'm sure it would generate a lot of debate and interesting discussion.
Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of Alice In Bed in exchange for my unbiased, honest review.
Publisher: Random House UK Vintage Publishing (14 April 2016)
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: Scandi-crime, Adult, Thriller
The International Sensation
It starts with just one body – tortured, mummified and then discarded.
Its discovery reveals a nightmare world of hidden lives. Of lost identities, secret rituals and brutal exploitation, where nobody can be trusted.
This is the darkest, most complex case the police have ever seen.
This is the world of the Crow Girl.
Now for a crime story which, unlike Fiona Barton's 'The Widow', definitely is not so simply told, or lacking in nasty scenes. This one contains a multitude of extremely violent scenes of torture, child abuse, child trafficking and murder so definitely NOT for everyone.
At over 750 pages this is a huge tome which I devoured in just a few days. Written in short easy to digest chapters I had no problem keeping track of who was who; who did what to who; etc., etc,. Not since reading Stieg Larsson's 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' have I been so enthusiastic about reading or recommending a Scandi/Nordic crime novel.
The Crow Girl by Erik Axl Sund is a very dark, violent and intensely disturbing read with in-depth descriptions of suffering, abuse and rape, and a plethora of shocking scenes. This most certainly won't be a book for everyone, and definitely not for those upset by such scenes.
I am not going to say anymore about this one except that if you are not one of the above then 'just read it'.
Shamelessly twisted and at times sensationally over the top, The Crow Girl was for me a hugely enjoyable, addictive read. Perfect for fans of, Stieg Larsson, Jo Nesbo, and David Lagercrantz.
Disclaimer: A complementary proof copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
About the author:
Erik Axl Sund is the pseudonym for 2 authors who have been friends and collaborators for years: Jerker Erikson and Håkan Axlander Sundquist.
Håkan was a sound engineer, musician and artist, while Jerker was a music producer and worked as a librarian in a prison. Both live in Sweden where they are now full-time writers, and also run an art gallery together.
Originally written as a trilogy before being re-worked for the English language markets The Crow Girl is their first book. The complete trilogy received the 'Special Award' from the Swedish Academy of Crime Writers in 2012, with the academy highlighting the trilogy's "hypnotically captivating psychoanalysis in crime fiction form."
The Widow by Fiona Barton Genre: Crime Thriller, Mystery & Suspense, General Fiction, Adult Publisher: Random House UK, Transworld Publishers/Bantam Press (Jan, 2016) Source: Publisher/NetGalley Pages: 320 Rating:
THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER. "The ultimate psychological thriller". (Lisa Gardner). We've all seen him: the man - the monster - staring from the front page of every newspaper, accused of a terrible crime. But what about her: the woman who grips his arm on the courtroom stairs - the wife who stands by him? Jean Taylor's life was blissfully ordinary. Nice house, nice husband. Glen was all she'd ever wanted: her Prince Charming. Until he became that man accused, that monster on the front page. Jean was married to a man everyone thought capable of unimaginable evil. But now Glen is dead and she's alone for the first time, free to tell her story on her own terms. Jean Taylor is going to tell us what she knows. Du Maurier's REBECCA meets WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN and GONE GIRL in this intimate tale of a terrible crime. "My book of the year so far". (C. L. Taylor, author of THE LIE).
My Thoughts: The Widow the debut offering from Fiona Barton is an 'easy-read' crime suspense thriller about the abduction of a little girl from her own front garden. Set in Hampshire, (United Kingdom) it also visits other locations such as Southampton, Portsmouth, Fareham and Gosport during the course of the book. Originating from the Portsmouth area myself, I found it intriguing to read a novel set in and around places I know pretty well.
The sole narrative written in the first person is that of the widow, which sets her apart from the other characters giving her focus and a sense of alienation from everyone else. The rest of the narratives are all in the third person and include that of, the detective, the reporter, the mother and the husband. They have their own space in the form of short individual chapters so there's no confusion of who's speaking or losing your place.
Told through these narratives in a shifting of time, back and forwards The Widow commences with the death of 'the husband' and during the course of the book the truth tantalisingly seeps out, but not without several nice twists and turns along the way. The tension held throughout and I didn't feel cheated by a 'meh' ending which I feared it might have, and even when the fate of the little girl is divulged I eagerly continued turning the pages as fast as I could to get the conclusion.
I am not sure if I was supposed to find any of the characters likeable or feel sympathetic toward them, but for me only 'the detective' had any real sense of humanity or likeable traits, but what I did do was find myself questioning the whole media and police detection processes and how the general public view victims and suspects and apportioning blame and guilt. The Widow certainly made me feel a little uncomfortable about certain areas of our lives, especially our relationships via social media.
I had only intended to do a quick skim of the pages for recommendation purposes at our bookstore but I couldn't stop reading it. A pleasant surprise after hearing that it would be 'another', 'the next' 'The Girl on the Train' or 'Gone Girl', which it isn't. It's different apart from its simplicity of its narrative style. However it may well be the next 'The Girl on The Train' in terms of success, I have no doubt.
It is important to mention, due to the subject matter, that there are no graphic scenes of violence or abuse and safe for readers who are uncomfortable with such descriptions. The Widow is an entertaining thought provoking, compelling read which I highly recommended.
Disclaimer: A complementary copy of The Widow by Fiona Barton was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest unbiased review.
Prompted by a voice that lives in her blood, the fearsome warrior known as Alicia of Blades is drawn towards to one of the great cities of The Time Before. The ruined city of New York. Ruined but not empty. For this is the final refuge of Zero, the first and last of The Twelve. The one who must be destroyed if mankind is to have a future.
What she finds is not what she's expecting.
A journey into the past.
To find out how it all began.
And an opponent at once deadlier and more human than she could ever have imagined.
Well this beauty came in today and I was determined to 'bagsy it' to be the first to read it, however, I was not the only one. There are several of us that coveted this sole copy. I couldn't do it...deprive my co-workers of the chance to read a few lines during lunch breaks. So there it sits on the table in the staff room for us to take turns reading it...howl... Justin Cronin's The City of Mirrors has to be the stores most anticipated book of the year.
Maybe another copy, or two, may find a way to us...we can only hope.
Thank you to Orion publishers for sending this much coveted proof copy to our store. The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin Orion Publishing Group (16 June 2016)