The Green Road by Anne Enright

imageSpanning thirty years and three continents, The Green Road tells the story of Rosaleen, matriarch of the Madigan family, and her four children.

Ardeevin, County Clare, Ireland. 1980. When her oldest brother Dan announces he will enter the priesthood, young Hanna watches her mother howl in agony and retreat to her room. In the years that follow, the Madigan children leave one by one: Dan for the frenzy of New York under the shadow of AIDS; Constance for a hospital in Limerick, where petty antics follow simple tragedy; Emmet for the backlands of Mali, where he learns the fragility of love and order; and Hanna for modern-day Dublin and the trials of her own motherhood. When Christmas Day reunites the children under one roof, each confronts the terrible weight of family ties and the journey that brought them home. The Green Road is a major work of fiction about the battles we wage for family,faith and love.

My thoughts:

I had seen quite a lot of publicity about this novel in various book of the year lists in newspapers at the end of last year. A bit of a departure from my comfort zone but it was a step that I was glad I took.
Telling the story of an Irish family, much like any other family they all had their own dreams and their own troubles. At first I thought that Dan was selfish and quite cold, especially when the AIDS crisis was causing so much anguish for those affected. As he got older and more honest with himself I changed my view slightly. Emmett always seemed to be full of anger although he used it to try and make the world a better place. Constance was harassed, the only one out of the four who had stayed close to Rosaleen. The scene where she did her Christmas shop was very funny and very accurate, anybody who has ever done the Christmas shop will agree. Hanna, the first one we met and re-introduced to last. I didn’t connect to her immediately, it was only after she made the trip home that I warmed to her more. Rosaleen seemed very real. Through much of the novel she was alone, resentful and feeling abandoned by her children but uncertain how to be when they were altogether.
I loved the way it was written, there was sadness at times but it was also quite witty. All of the five main characters felt real even though some were hard to like at first. I enjoyed reading the Irish accent, sometimes in a novel an accent doesn’t read properly but I felt that it did in this book.

The Darkest Secret by Alex Marwood

imageApologies for the general email, but I desperately need your help.

My goddaughter, Coco Jackson, disappeared from her family’s holiday home in Bournemouth on the night of Sunday/Monday August 29/30th, the bank holiday weekend just gone. Coco is three years old.

When identical twin Coco goes missing during a family celebration, there is a media frenzy. Her parents are rich and influential, as are the friends they were with at their holiday home by the sea.

But what really happened to Coco?

Over two intense weekends – the first when Coco goes missing and the second twelve years later at the funeral of her father – the darkest of secrets will gradually be revealed…

My Thoughts:

First of all I have to say how good Alex Marwood is at creating characters that the reader will loathe. I have read books before where I struggled to like anybody but the ones in this book were the most despicable that I have ever come across. There were a handful that I liked. Mila, Ruby, Joe and Claire. Apart from Claire they were all children in 2004 when Coco disappeared.
The story covers two events. The weekend of Sean’s 50th birthday party when Coco disappeared and twelve years later at his funeral. Mila has very reluctantly agreed to accompany Ruby to the funeral so they can say their goodbyes to the father they never really knew. Mila spends some of the time suspecting that she is more like him than she wants to admit. She questions why the friends she socialises with have been absent since the news broke about her father’s death. She also enjoys the time she spends with Ruby who she hadn’t really got to know.
The revulsion I felt towards the other characters was there all the way through but at one point I actually felt sickened by Sean. If you have read the novel you would probably be able to work out which part of the novel I mean. If you haven’t you will just have to read it to find out. Another character was a manipulator who would turn the situation into something that would make them look wonderful and they could control everything.
It’s a cracking read and very addictive. Each chapter focuses on a different character and covers both periods in time. You want to read another chapter so you can go back to the period that interested you to see what happened next.

I have read all the books by this author and this is my favourite one. Not the easiest topic to read but it didn’t really focus on Coco and an investigation. It was more about the people who failed her.

Thanks to the publisher for the copy received, I have since purchased the book.

 

The Ballroom by Anna Hope

imageHaving loved Anna Hope’s debut novel Wake I was really looking forward to reading her second novel The Ballroom.
It is set in 1911 at Sharston Asylum on the Yorkshire moors. Charles is a doctor who has an interest in music. He gets a position there and his wish is to improve the lives of the patients. He decides to play in an orchestra every Friday evening, patients are selected to attend so that they can have a dance. It is the only time that they get to meet patients who are the opposite sex.
John and Ella are just two of the patients there, and they meet on one of these evenings. John was very reluctant to attend. He is at the asylum after tragedy affects his personal life. Ella has been admitted after breaking a window at the asylum where she had worked since she was eight years old. She had only wanted to see the sky. Both of them have good friends in Dan and Clem. Dan is a bit of a rebel, a seaman who yearns for his freedom. Clem is happy with her books and is one of the few who has family visitors. John and Ella start to fall in love and try to make contact away from the dance. They are helped in this by Dan and Clem. At the same time Charles has become obsessed with John and is also following with great interest the debate in Parliament regarding eugenics.

A fascinating book to read. I thought that most of the blame when disaster struck was down to Charles. A man, very unhappy in his personal life who couldn’t be honest about his feelings. He feels under more pressure and gets vindictive with his decisions. I enjoyed the love story between John and Ella. Two people who shouldn’t have been there and trying their hardest to be together. But the most fascinating character for me was Clem. I thought her role in the novel was amazing, I don’t want to reveal why. To do so will be a spoiler but she will be the character who I will think about for a while. There also all the minor characters, some who remained nameless but all essential to the setting and they all felt real. I liked the way it ended, it was a bit of a surprise but it worked and was very fitting.
I knew that people were placed in asylums that shouldn’t have been, I was told stories throughout my teens about why people, especially women ended up there. Thankfully attitudes have changed.

With thanks to Alison Barrow for the copy received.

After You Die by Eva Dolan.

imageAfter You Die is the third book in the Zigic and Ferreira series and is one that I have been waiting impatiently to read since the cliff hanger ending in book two. It was well worth waiting for!
Unlike the first two books, which involved hate crimes against those from a different country this was about hate crime aimed at a disabled blogger. Holly was paralysed in an accident a few years previously. Her accident caused her parents marriage to breakdown, her mother was active on dating websites and she had very little contact with her father who blamed himself. When Dawn is murdered, Holly is left to die from natural causes in her bedroom.
Ferreira has just returned to work after a bad injuries she suffered while on active duty. She is still affected by them, both mentally and physically but is determined to prove that she can cope despite concerns from her colleagues. Zigic is fighting to keep the case in the hate crimes department and is angered by restrictions placed on him when a potential witness needs to be interviewed. Nathan was an enigma, I kept on reading just a little bit more to find out what his past was and why Zigic was having to hold back.
A lot of people have views on the right to die issue. The topic was handled very well in the novel. I imagine that the abuse that Holly received via her blog was pretty accurate. She was a great character, one of the nicest and definitely one of the bravest people in the book. She had a big impact on Ferreira who was desperate to get answers into the killings.
Quite sad at times, especially the storylines with the younger people who feature. It was harder to feel any sympathy or warmth towards any of the other characters. The crime itself was very cold and calculating. Probably one of the most calculating that I have read for a while.
The Zigic and Ferreira detective series is one of my favourites. I’ve enjoyed each book, you get to know the main characters a little more in each one but their personal lives don’t impact the main story. If you haven’t read them I would recommend reading in order.

With thanks to the publisher and the author for the copy received.

Night Blind- Blog Tour

imageSiglufjörður: an idyllically quiet fishing village on the northernmost tip of Iceland, accessible only via a small mountain tunnel. Ari Thór Arason: a local policeman, whose tumultuous past and uneasy relationships with the villagers continue to haunt him. The peace of this close-knit community is shattered by the murder of a policeman – shot at point-blank range in the dead of night in a deserted house. With a killer on the loose and the dark arctic winter closing in, it falls to Ari Thór to piece together a puzzle that involves tangled local politics, a compromised new mayor, and a psychiatric ward in Reykjavik, where someone is being held against their will. Then a mysterious young woman moves to the area, on the run from something she dare not reveal, and it becomes all too clear that tragic events from the past are weaving a sinister spell that may threaten them all. Dark, chilling and complex, Nightblind is an extraordinary thriller from an undeniable new talent.

My thoughts

Snow Blind was amongst my top ten books from 2015 so I was pleased that Night Blind was published just as I finished it.
It is set roughly five years later, with three books covering the period between the two still to be published. This did feel slightly unusual but both books could easily be read as a standalone or out of sequence.
Ari Thór is back in a relationship with Kristen and they now have a young son. I struggled to like her, and at times I thought that Ari felt the same. What he did love was being part of a family which is something that he had missed out on.
The claustrophobic atmosphere was still there but not as much, the little town wasn’t as cut off from the rest of the country as it was when Ari first moved there. Even though he had now lived there for five years he was still considered to be an outsider. He found it difficult to accept that everybody knew him and his family but he didn’t know them. I found this quite amusing and could imagine it being very accurate. It also made me smile how offended Tomas was when he noticed that changes had been made to his old home.
It felt like a fairly ‘quiet’ read for most of it.Much of the novel focuses on the investigation into the policeman’s murder but there were also some sinister diary excerpts from the 1980s. You aren’t told who the diary belongs to and I couldn’t work it. I was then taken completely by surprise by a couple of very convincing violent scenes, one in particular left me feeling a little bit tense.

I now have my second signed Ragnar Jónasson novel, but thanks to Karen Sullivan for providing a proof copy for review.

See below for details regarding the blog tour.

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