Sunday, 27 February 2011

Midnight Fugue

A new Reginald Hill is always a treat and Midnight Fugue is no exception. Dalziel and Pascoe feature again and their relationship takes on a new twist. This story takes place over 24 hours and the mystery is thoroughly entertaining and absorbing. The book is shorter than recent novels but this suits the timeframe of the story. Corruption is rife and the interplay between the characters is cleverly done.  

Tuesday, 22 February 2011


Another re-read of a book I first came across over 20 years ago. This is a fictional interpretation written by Anya Seton, of Katherine Swynford’s story as mistress and then wife of John O’Gaunt. In my opinion Seton is an underrated writer of fiction and as well as being well written this book appears to be based on very thorough research and many sources are cited. Katherine’s story is fascinating and as well as being a direct ancestor to the Tudors and therefore the current royals she was also sister-in-law to Geoffrey Chaucer. Some artistic license and a considerable amount of 'romanticising' has been employed in the writing however, and it is worth reading Alison Weirs biography of Katherine to redress this. But if you enjoy good writing, interesting and memorable characters and historical fiction give this story a go – it is well worth it.

Monday, 21 February 2011

The Birth of Venus

I really enjoyed Sarah Dunant’s Mapping the Edge (review here) and went on to read The Birth of Venus with great expectations. It didn’t disappoint although, for me, the thriller genre always has the edge.

This story evokes 15th century Florence wonderfully well, with the uncertainty and horror of life there appearing to be admirably researched. Alessandra, the central character, is a teenage girl growing up in the city. She is very bright and artistically talented and is born into a wealthy family but there are few opportunities for women in these times. Her merchant father brings a young painter of frescos into the family home and she becomes fascinated by him and his artistic ability. But who is he, and what is he doing during his nightime ‘walks’? 
Alessandra marries an older man, (a ‘friend’ of her hated brother), in haste to gain the freedom she desires, but, as Florence is taken over by Savonrola, the ‘Mad Monk’and becomes a city full of people to be feared she discovers family secrets and lies that have consequences for her for the rest of her life.

I learned a great deal reading this novel and would recommend it to any one who appreciates good writing, characters that remain in your head – Alessandra is wonderful – and historical interest.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

The Handmaids Tale

I recently reread The Handmaids Tale after around 20 years and was just as impressed this time as I was then. Margaret Atwood is a suberb writer and this book set in a future where infertility is threatening the survival of the human race is wonderfully imagined. It is a very dark tale with a gripping storyline and believable characters. The story is many layered questioning the way we live our lives and commenting on power, gender, rebellion, sexuality, friendship and betrayal (really these are just a few of the themes that run through this book). It is a horrifying account of ‘what could happen’ and is definitely a 5 star read.