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Friday, 29 February 2008


by Patricia Wood

I’ve been reading Ms. Wood’s blog since its inception but this book never really appealed to me until I saw it for sale in the local supermarket

It’s set in modern day America – I had the feeling of Maine or Connecticut – and tells the story of a man, Perry L. Crandall who lives by his routines. His life is shattered when his grandmother, who looks after him, dies. The rest of his other family, who had given him up because he was ‘slow, swoop in and encourage him to sign away the house she left him. When, by lucky chance (“Gram always said the ‘L’ stands for Lucky”) he wins the state lottery, his friends rally round and try to protect him from his mother, his brothers and their wives who all want to wrest the money from him.

It is a sweetly written book, told from Perry’s point of view as he spends his winnings trying to make people happy. In the end it is Perry who is happy, as he realises that people should get what they want.

I enjoyed reading ‘Lottery’ although there was very little conflict. Perry has little understanding of death and copes admirably with the three in the book. The bad guys remain safely two dimensional and, like life, get away with their bad behaviour. Although the novel had none of the page-turning compulsion of Mark Haddon’s “Curious Incident” (where there is a similar character) I found it reminiscent of the gentleness of, say, John Irving’s ‘Hotel New Hampshire’ and I look forward to reading her next.

reviewed by Rachel Green

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Year of Wonders

by Geraldine Brooks

I was lent this by a friend with the recommendation; ‘I don’t read many books, but this one was just so beautiful, you’ve got to read it, I loved it.’

It is set in 1666 in a Derbyshire village called Eyam (pronounced Eem) during the Great Plague. Based on a true story, it shows how the villagers cut themselves off from the outside world to prevent the spread of the disease to the surrounding area. The book contemplates science and religion; grief, friendship and love, relationships under pressure and disintegration of the community as they face the devastation of an almost unstoppable disease. The growth of mistrust and even violence is shown to be inevitable and largely unavoidable and there are some fascinating twists and turns in the community’s behaviour and interactions.

It is a beautifully written book, the first work of fiction from its foreign correspondent author. The sense of place is evoked so clearly and the characters so truthfully, that I found I raced through it to find out what happened next. I would recommend the book heartily and would love to hear what other people thought of it.

reviewed by Annie Smith

Monday, 25 February 2008

What Was Lost

by Catherine O'Flynn

What Was Lost was something of a literary sensation in 2007. A much-rejected first novel from a small indie publisher, Tindal Street Press, it won the Costa First Novel award and was long-listed for the Man Booker prize.

The novel centres around the mystery of a lost child, missing for 20 years. In the first part of the novel O'Flynn paints a touching portrait of Kate Meaney, a clever and lonely child engrossed in solitary detective activities with her toy monkey. The novel then moves to the present and revolves around the Green Oaks Shopping centre, where record shop manager Lisa and security guard Kurt are both drawn to try to solve the mystery of Kate's disappearance. The writer has managed to capture the life of a large shopping centre and the characters who work and shop there very convincingly, with plenty of period and regional detail.

What was Lost is not a long book and some critics have described it as a young adult crossover novel. The writing is consistently good, particularly in the first section about Kate, which makes it a quick and enjoyable read, though I didn't quite see it as a Booker winner.

reviewed by Catherine Walter