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Friday 11 July 2008

The Daughter Game

by Kate Long

Kate Long's books always keep me reading. I read Swallowing Grandma on a transatlantic flight and it entertained me for the whole journey. I especially enjoy her witty, realistic dialogue, and sharply observed characters.

Her most recent novel, The Daughter Game, doesn't have so many laugh-out-loud moments as the others, but I still picked it up first thing in the morning in preference to my laptop.

The book starts with a scene where the main character, Anna, melts her headmaster with a flamethrower – letting us know that she has a good line in imaginary vengeance, and setting the tone for this lively, warm, and funny though sometimes disturbing book.

Anna is a successful school teacher, but her apparent confidence hides conflicts. She has a history of miscarriages, and is increasingly dissatisfied in her childless marriage to an ex-teacher who is now a full-time writer. All of the pressures lead her to question everything about her life, from her relationship with her dead mother to her longing for a child.

She has an affair with her brother-in-law, but he wants more from her than she can give. In school a friendship with a promising new female student becomes too intense as Anna sees her as a daughter figure.

Anna’s journey takes us from classroom to staff room, from her middle-class home to a rented caravan to a run-down slum, and I travelled with her all the way.

I have to admit I was rooting for a different ending, but the one in the book makes sense, and I guess it shows I was involved with the characters.

Reviewed by Alison Merricks

Thursday 10 July 2008

Book news - Best of the Booker

Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children has won the public vote for Best of the Booker prize, as widely tipped.

I'm afraid I never managed to get more than twenty pages into that one.

Friday 4 July 2008

Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks

by Christopher Brookmyre

If you took all the profanity out of a Brookmyre novel it would be half the size and read like a telegram. His prose is not for the faint of heart or the weak of character; they are all full of lyrical passages that make you feel the characters can see you and that they know you. It is for this reason that Rubber Ducks is Brookmyre’s stand out work to date. While it doesn’t have the wing walking thrill of Be My Enemy or the character subtleties of Sacred Art of Stealing, it is a master class in narrative structure: the reader sees what s/he is supposed to while being shown everything.

It will come as no surprise, then, to find out it is about the world of magic, psychics and spiritualism. You will be forgiven for assuming that the book is pro-woo after reading the first person narrative of the first character but this is only the first of many things you will be wrong about (and I’m not just talking about the plot). We hear Jack ‘toddler in a supermarket’ Parlabane’s voice first hand (along with many other’s, in more than one sense of the word) and it is no less vibrant or visceral than usual.

Rubber Ducks will keep you guessing what’s on the next page while you wonder about what was on the last page so you will miss the hidden piece of the jigsaw on the page you’re reading. It’s the most fun you can have without feeling guilty for laughing; and if you do find the only impossible event in the book, you went one better than me.

reviewed by Alison Roughsedge