I picked this from the shelves of my holiday cottage, mainly because I thought I’d be able to rattle through it and for the reviews on the back cover, claiming REICHS is the very best at this genre of crime writing – forensic anthropology. There is certainly a great deal of realistic detail but I have to admit I tended to gloss over much of it. The opening scene finds the main character, Tempe Brennan, waking up in what she slowly realises is a grave of sorts – one she is sharing with a few corpses. REICHS is good at conveying the horror of this predicament and those bits of the book were my favourite. Otherwise it’s fairly run of the mill stuff about dead bodies (and nothing like as good as Waking the Dead), with many of the sub narratives seemingly designed simply for the author to demonstrate her subject knowledge, rather for any other purpose. It helped get me through the train journey from Penzance back to London though, and kept me guessing right to the end, so I can’t complain too much.
Monthly Archives: August 2012
This made me laugh. A great deal. And out loud. All of which is surprising given the serious content – feminism. I bought the book for my daughter and have been itching to read it myself for well over a year. It’s brilliant and although I don’t agree with MORAN on everything (she doesn’t seem to rate the wonderful Object, for example), as an introduction to feminism, especially for teenagers apt to reject anything their mothers tell them, this is perfect. From fashion to porn, via having babies and language (what the hell does a modern feminist call her various girly bits?), HOW TO BE A WOMAN, is really a guide for how to navigate the world, including how to detect sexism. Its no-nonsense, man loving approach is healthy and eminently sensible, whilst the facts about equal pay, for example, and common attitudes towards rape are no less powerful for being interwoven with MORAN’s anecdotes. Every woman and man should read this book. It’s also very funny – did I mention that?
Moving between the Second World War and the 1970s, RESTLESS is the story of a spy who finally reveals her real identity to her daughter in an attempt to expose a former colleague as a double agent. Suspenseful and intelligent, it is a fantastic read and a convincing insight into the British Secret Service. That said, being weaned on James Bond and Spooks, I found the moment of denouement deeply unsatisfying. I also found the presence of European anarchists and Iranian dissidents, presumably thrown in to fulfill the role of shady types and add to the unsettled atmosphere of 1970s Oxford, rather a distraction and they added very little to the book. These flaws didn’t spoil my enjoyment though and RESTLESS was the perfect accompaniment to the start of a week’s holiday in Cornwall.
This is one of those books that it is quite difficult to review, because I don’t want to give away too much about what happens. It all starts with Alice Goodwin looking after her neighbour’s young daughters and a mistake that has tragic consequences. The Goodwins are dairy farmers who have escaped from the city to live in their idea of a rural paradise and whose fragile standing in their adopted community is badly shaken, then destroyed, as a result of Alice’s error. The novel is essentially a portrait of a family unravelling, as the Goodwins struggle to come to terms with guilt, betrayal, regret, sorrow and forgiveness. It’s also a book about acceptance – of ourselves by others, of what we will do to survive, and of the future really being the only way to try to change the past. Every word Jane Hamilton writes seems to drip with emotion and her use of the Midwest landscape to develop key themes and build context reminds me of film makers like the Cohen Brothers. A really beautiful, if heart wrenching, book.