Tag Archives: modern fiction

#19 The World Beneath – Cate Kennedy

22 Mar
The World Beneath - Cate Kennedy

The World Beneath – Cate Kennedy

Goodreads rating: 3.45/5 (250+ ratings)

My rating: 7/10

First Published: August 2010

Genre: Modern Fiction, Australiana

The first thing that I noticed in this book, and loved, was how it depicted a pretty regular broken family. Sandy and Rich were activists in the  80’s at the Franklin River blockade in Tasmania, and are both stuck in nostalgia of the time. They later went on to have a daughter, Sophie, who is now 15. Sophie is a feisty, strong-willed, slightly ’emo’ teenager, who is very obsessed with her weight. . Rich left the family before Sophie was 1, and has been practically estranged since then, aside from the occasional postcard from his travels as a photographer, or a birthday call to his daughter.

Rich comes back into Sophie & Sandy’s lives when he asks Sophie to come on a trek at Cradle Mountain in Tasmania, Australia. Sophie jumps at the chance to get to know her dad, and also to get away from her slightly nutty, occasional pot-smoking, jewellery stall hosting mother who is currently driving her insane. While on the trek, Sandy goes to a ‘Goddess’ retreat to try to sort her mind out and figure out who she is and what she wants from life.

I love the first 75% of this book. The depiction of family life was interesting and believable, and the description of the Tasmanian landscape was wonderful. I particularly enjoyed that as I’ve done a trek down the Freycinet Peninsula on the East Coast of Tasmania with my dad! However thankfully I have a much better relationship with my dad, and didn’t have nearly as much drama on our walk!

However, the last quarter of the book irked me a bit. It felt like Kennedy took a lot of time with the majority of the story, and then rushed a whole lot of drama into a small amount of time – anorexia, injury, getting lost in the forest, possibly sighting of an extinct animal, and a frantic mother. I think, at 352 pages should have been expanded and explained more thoroughly.

Overall I enjoyed this story quite a bit, and would definitely recommend it.

Bits & pieces

  • The World Beneath was Cate Kennedy’s first novel. She is an acclaimed short story author.
  • Winner of the People’s Choice Award for the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards 2010, as well as being shortlisted for multiple other awards

-H-

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#18 The White Woman on the Green Bicycle – Monique Roffey

4 Mar
The White Woman on the Green Bicycle - Monique Roffey

The White Woman on the Green Bicycle – Monique Roffey

Goodreads rating: 3.41/5 (1,100+ ratings)

My rating: 6/10

First Published: April 20th, 2010 by  Pocket Books

Genre: Modern Fiction

Set in Trinidad, switching between the 2000’s and the late 1950’s to early 1970’s, The White Woman on the Green Bicycle explores racism, politics, marriage and injustice. Sabine and George Harwood move to Trinidad in the late 50’s after George’s company sends him there for work. Originally only meant to be a 3 year thing, Sabine grins and bears it through those years, although often expresses to George how much she wants to return to England. Promotion after promotion for George results in the Harwoods starting a family in Trinidad, and staying around for a lot longer than 3 years.

The first part of the book is set in current times, when George & Sabine are in their 70s. It displays what the country has done to them, both as individuals and a couple, and it’s not pretty. Sabine is clearly depressed, sad and lonely; George a philandering, rum loving man.

The rest of this novel goes back to when the couple arrived in Trinidad in the late 1950’s, and how a Dr Eric Williams takes over the country as Prime Minister, and Sabine’s mind. From living in a tiny apartment, to owning lots of land in Trinidad and having multiple maids and help. And to the downfall of Eric Williams, and the high racial tension and hate of the white people living on the island.

It took me a while to get into this book. Towards the end of the first third is when it started to get interesting, and the chapters about them arriving in Trinidad and the beginning of their lives there were captivating. It’s a place I’d never actually thought much about and I enjoyed reading about it. The fact that the author was born in Trinidad (educated in the UK) adds validity to the novel and the experiences these ex-pats would have had, especially considering Roffey says this book ‘blends family biography with a lot of fiction’.

None of the main characters are very likeable, except for the maids. Although Sabine is a bit of a miserable woman, I found myself feeling very sorry for her and her situation, particularly towards the end. She hates this country and wants to leave, but is forever trapped.

I think at just over 450 pages it was too long. Many chapters dragged on for me and I think it would have been a much better book had it been 50 – 70 pages shorter.

Overall this was a decent book, and had some interesting ideas and stories. I think that many of the story-lines in the first part of the book weren’t fully explained or closed off, which was disappointing.

-H-

#16 Lone Wolf – Jodi Picoult

17 Feb
Lone Wolf - Jodi Picoult

Lone Wolf – Jodi Picoult

Goodreads rating: 3.61/5 (22,100+ ratings)

My rating: 6/10

Why it’s on the list: I have read all Jodi Picoult’s books except for her latest, and Songs of the Humpback Whale. I went through a phase of reading all her books so of course I have to finish all of them!

First Published: February 28th, 2012 by Atria Books

Genre: Drama, Modern Fiction

For avid Picoult readers, the plot will probably be predictable, however a quick rundown – Estranged son Edward Warren has lived in Thailand for 6 years, when he finds out his dad and sister have been injured in a terrible accident back in the US. When he returns home and finds out his father is in a coma which he’s unlikely to recover from, Edward and his sister Cara, who holds a grudge against him, have to decide what is best for their father – whether to keep him hooked up to life support with the likelihood of being brain-dead, or to end the life support.

To add to this, Edward & Cara’s father, Luke, is a famous animal conservationist who became famous after living with a pack of wolves in the wild, and he now runs a wolf conserve.

This story was pretty weak, and I didn’t like the ending. Unlike many of her books, the underlying story was pretty boring, I didn’t really like any of the characters, and there are secrets to be revealed in the book but aren’t really built up to make you want to know what they are.

The only element that saved this book was the information about the wolves. Like most Picoult books, the themes are heavily researched, which is one thing I love about her books. Picoult describes the habits and characteristics of wolves really well, although I feel like she made them out to be much tamer and placid than they probably are in real life!

The chapters that were from Luke’s point of view about living with wolves in the wild were my favourite, I found them interesting and well thought out, as well as really well described – particularly the facts about how a pack works and the different rankings of wolves in a pack.

From reading this article on sheknows.com, Jodi Picoult wants readers to feel three things after reading this novel – Moved, Emotional, Smarter – and I did feel all three after finishing it, so I guess I got what she wanted the reader to get out of it. I mainly felt moved and emotional when thinking of being in the position of the children and having to make life and death decisions about my parents. And of course, as I mentioned, I felt smarter after reading all the wolf facts!

I think it’s worth reading if you’re a Picoult fan, but if not, you should definitely stick to some of her better books such as The Pact or My Sisters Keeper.

Bits & pieces

  • Debuted as Number One New York Times bestseller.
  • Picoult spent time with a man who actually did live with wolves in the wild, Shaun Ellis, for a year. She also met some wolves he had in captivity.
  • Picoult also learnt how to howl like a wolf.
  • When describing Lone Wolf in 140 characters or less, Picoult says – ‘When is it right to end a life? And why is a family like a pack of wolves?’

Sources: Caroline Leavitville blog; Jodi Picoult website; sheknows.com

Quotes

“Like a missing tooth, sometimes an absence is more noticeable than a presence.”

“Me, I was already jaded and tarnished, skeptical that a fantasy world could keep reality at bay.”

“The scariest thing in the world is thinking someone you love is going to die.”

“I used to believe everything my brother told me, because he was older and I figured he knew more about the world. But as it turns out, being a grown-up doesn’t mean you’re fearless. It just means you fear different things.”

-H-

#14 The Secret Ingredient – Dianne Blacklock

4 Feb
The Secret Ingredient - Dianne Blacklock

The Secret Ingredient – Dianne Blacklock

Goodreads rating: 3.74/5 (43 ratings)

My rating: 8/10

Why it’s on the list: I won it in a Woman’s day puzzle competition.

First published: November 1st, 2011 by Pan Australia

Genre: Modern Fiction

This book surprised me. The blurb on the back was a bit ‘airy-fairy’ and not my sort of book. All about how flavours evoke memories and what not. I was hooked within the first chapter. It’s a great story of love and loss.

Andie is the main character, and her marriage falls apart in the beginning of the book. It is set in Sydney, which I always love, because I can imagine the places. It’s mainly set in Rose Bay, Double Bay and Roseville – all places I know.

Her mother and brother have both passed away, and it’s just her irritating sister and her lonely dad left. She’s given up a lot of her dreams and aspirations of being a professional chef to let her husband focus on himself, and is running a deli. She decides to try again with the cooking and starts working at a top restaurant with renowned chef, Dominic Gerou.

I really loved Andie. I find it hard to warm to most female characters in these types of books because either I think they’re irritating, or weak, or self-absorbed, however Andie is great. She’s strong-willed, friendly, and… normal! It’s really easy to HATE her husband Ross, and LOVE all the people who are good to her.

There’s a lot of ups and downs. I felt for Andie during the whole book, her highs and lows. In the end, it’s a feel good book and the good guy wins, which is a nice change from some other books I’ve read lately!

I definitely recommend this book, for an easy, light read that still draws you in, and I think most women will be able to relate to the emotions and feelings brought up in this book. Men could read it, but I’d definitely class it as being for women, however it’s not what I’d call ‘Chick Lit’. Dianne Blacklock talks more about how she classifies her books, here.

Bits & pieces

  • Named ‘Pick of the Week’ in The Age, 14th January 2012.
  • This was Dianne Blacklock‘s 8th novel, and took her to over 1million printed words!

-H-

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