Preview: ‘The Snow Child’ by Eowyn Ivey.

I must admit, I struggled with the first third of this book: it seemed to be trudging through a depressing scene, the characters seemed to be stock types and I couldn’t see how the overall story would take another two-thirds of the novel without becoming boring.

It took a while, but I did get into this book: Mabel and Jack’s initial tragedy wasn’t well-explored or particularly emotional in my view, but their link with Faina grew from being a retelling of a fairytale to being enchanting in its own right. The thawing of their relationship, and the gentleness with which Faina was portrayed, enabled Ivey to portray the growth of her characters alongside the life of their snow child, progressing slowly at first before rushing to adulthood and full bloom.

I think it was the final portion of the book that really began to capture my interest: the pace changes completely, and things race towards a heartbreaking conclusion. The conflict of emotions was particularly fascinating: Jack’s strained relationship with Garrett particularly so. The only disappointment here was the drop-off of Esther. She was only re-introduced when functionally needed, rather than being a constant emotional source, and it is for this reason that I cannot get beyond seeing Esther as a stereotypical mother, doing everything behind the scenes and chatting people into happiness.

Asides from this, occasional slips in style were slightly deprecating to the characters Ivey had created: for instance, having a rustic, practical character like Jack announce that he doesn’t ‘precisely’ know his location jars with what we are told about Mabel being the well-spoken member of the couple, and Jack speaking for necessity only. There are more examples that conflict with what we think we understand about the characters, and whilst you can get past it, it bristles you for a moment.

However, this book is enjoyable and readable. Although a bit of a slow-burner in parts one and two, it is worth the journey to see the final, raw scene, where the snow brings joy and sorrow simultaneously, allowing us to see that despite its hardships, life can continue and still be beautiful.

 

(Preview for http://www.waterstones.com. Book available 16th February 2012.) 

Preview: ‘Me Before You’ by Jojo Moyes

I’ve literally just put this down, and I don’t think anything I can say will do justice to the tumult of emotions this book has made me experience from the beginning.

I’ll admit, I thought I had this book pegged from the outset: girl helps boy realise life is worth living, cliche after cliche. Wrong wrong wrong.

Jojo Moyles has an extraordinary talent: she weaves her characters’ lives seamlessly, making you become part of their lives. Each character comes alive in a truly unique way, helping Moyles to build tension through subtle changes in how they behave and react to each incident.

Will’s story itself is sensitively explored. We are not patronised, neither are we dictated to about how we should feel. Instead, we are given room to make our own decisions, and if we cannot, we can follow those of the character without them impinging on us, except in the intense sadness at the ultimate decision. The complexity of Will’s right to life, the tragedy of his accident and the clash of sadness and anger lead you through this perfectly paced novel to its wonderfully expressed conclusion, which fittingly leaves the end at a new beginning.

Overall, this is a fantastic book, and one I will certainly be recommending as a heartfelt, stunning novel that reminds us how wonderful life can be.

 

(Previewed for Waterstones: http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/jojo+moyes/me+before+you/8650354/)

Review: ‘Last Dance With Valentino’ by Daisy Waugh

At first, I’ll admit, it was difficult to get to grips with ‘Last Dance With Valentino’: it seemed a bit clunky, moving between time frames quite obscurely. However, this all changed after the first three chapters, when the novel gathered its pace, and I’m so very glad I stuck with it, because Daisy Waugh has written a truly enchanting book.
The fictitious account of Jenny Doyle, a.k.a. Lola Nightingale, is sprinkled with factual accounts to substantiate the plot, as well as allowing readers to gain a real insight into both Valentino’s rollercoaster life and the gloss-filled world of Hollywood. The tone never slips, as I don’t think there was a moment I didn’t believe this was a novel set in the early twentieth century: Waugh certainly has done her homework! This is put to particularly good effect with the inclusion of the de Saulles incident, which seamlessly links the novel together and allows the tone to be set for the rest of the book. In fact, I found Waugh’s use of history so fascinating that I ended up poking around the internet to find out more about the characters!
The only (very small!) thing that bothered me was the three uses of slightly colourful language, and this isn’t on principle, but just because it added nothing to the situation, and detracted from what was otherwise an artistically built up scenario.
The title says all you need to know about the ending, and the denial of the happily ever after for most of the novel is a poignant touch: the ability to maintain their love despite the prolonged absence always feels real, it never grates or grows tiresome, and this is in part due to the superb construction of the surrounding characters, particularly Perry. As the nearest to a villain in the piece, he builds tension and causes frustration, allowing the reader to feel almost exactly as Jenny/Lola does, allowing us to share her traumatic and wonderful journey through life.
A definite must-read for anyone who loves Titanic-esque love stories: it’s a simply stunning read, and one that I struggled to put down.

 

 

(This was a preview copy of ‘Last Dance With Valentino’ sent to me to review for Waterstones, the review can also be found at http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/daisy+waugh/the+last+dance+with+valentino/7955227/)