Monday, December 10, 2012

The Black House

I really should resurrect Eagleton Notes properly because last night I finished Peter May's book The Blackhouse.  I can think of no book I have read for many years that kept me so riveted to it: particularly towards the end when I couldn't put the light out until I'd finished it.  It's complex (though not really complicated)  and, in parts, implausible (are not most novels?) but the characters and places are so real it's uncanny.  Having lived the majority of my years on Lewis makes it all the more poignant and I can see many of the characters in people I know or am acquainted with.  Contrary to at least one reviewer I do not think it is insulting in any way to the people of what has long been my home.  Every place has it's characters both good and bad and Lewis is no different.  Some of the less central characters who are there for the embellishment of the story though not from Ness are immediately recognisable (sometimes as an amalgamation of real people).

The descriptions of the Island and the places (I'm fortunate enough through my work, for example, to have been all over the Lews Castle before it was declared dangerous and closed to the public) are wonderfully evocative of the place and reading the book here in New Zealand I was transported back to Lewis: almost like being beamed there à la Star Trek.

Oh yes, the story.  Police officer, unpleasant senior police officer, friendly and loyal police officer colleague, murder, deaths and so much more (some of which would sow ideas which could give the stories - this is not one story - away).  Frankly you don't need to have a synopsis: it seems to me in many ways that the murder is just a way of having a setting on which to hang (sorry) the characters who are really what I think the novel is all about.

I would stick my neck out and say that I think that anyone I know who reads this book will enjoy it at one level or another.

I bought it on Kindle (as I will now do the others in the trilogy) but when I return to Lewis I will have to have the real copies as well. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Frances Garrood, Novelist

I have now read Frances Garrood's three novels: all on Kindle. Usually I would write separate reviews (usually being a rather loose term given that I haven't written any book reviews for several years) on Eagleton Book Notes but this is one post and it isn't a review. Why? Several reasons: I follow Frances's blog and feel that I know her (to the extent that I am more acquainted with her than with any other published novelist) and although quite different there is a commonality shared by the three books.

Any book that starts off "Nobody expected Ernest to die.  Least of all Ernest." had to be worth some further exploration.  So I explored and found a source of enjoyment, pathos and a whole gamut of emotions.   One of the things that all three books have in common is that they are about ordinary (well, fairly ordinary) people doing what fairly ordinary people do.  Another is that I can't help the feeling when I read some of the interpersonal relationships that the author is speaking with a great deal of personal experience.  I know that there is a theme that recurs in all the books of which I have some experience and I don't see that anyone could just imagine the emotions that go with being in that situation.  But then I'm not an author and I don't have a very vivid imagination.

Getting back to Dead Ernest this is not, in many ways, a comfortable book.  Leastways I found parts of it very uncomfortable indeed.  Unfortunately without giving far too much away I can't really say more.  

I enjoyed the books.  If you are a person who is very uncomfortable with emotional issues then you may, just may, be able to enjoy these on another level but you will miss out.  I'd suggest you give them a try anyway.  The order doesn't really matter.

I do know that Meike who blogs at From My Mental Library has written reviews of all three books.   I wanted to write the opening to this post without re-reading her reviews but I shall now go and do that and I would also suggest that you read her posts at Dead ErnestBasic Theology For Fallen Women and The Birds, Bees and Other Secrets.