One of my all time favourite books is "Room" by Emma Donaghue and when one of my blog friends recommended her latest, "Frog Music" I knew I'd be in for a treat. Set in smallpox-ridden San Francisco, bathed in the heat-wave of 1876 it flashes back and forth telling and re-telling the real-life story of murdered, cross-dressing Jenny Bonnet from the perspective of her friend and exotic "dancer" Blanche Beunon. It's not only the climate that is steamy; Blanche's life-style is described in fairly explicit detail as we try to puzzle out who killed Jenny and the whereabouts of Blanche's young baby. I certainly learnt a LOT about the period, but needed a cold bath afterwards!
In stark contrast to the underbelly of 1870s San Francisco, my next read and this month's Book Club choice, "The Last Runaway" by Tracy Chevalier featured Quakers in Ohio and lots of quilting! Chevalier has a gift for including interesting research without overwhelming her readers. Contrasts were drawn between English and American Quakers, the theory of abolition versus the practicality of helping runaway slaves, and the unbalanced opportunities for single men and women. However, I was frustrated by the central character's self-centred daze as she was buffeted by events beyond her understanding and control - I would have given her a good slap!! The lack of a "u" in said English heroine's name meant that Honor annoyed me twice over on every page!
Our "alternative" novel at Book Club was "Major Pettigrew's Last Stand" by Helen Simonson. Now this was a great read with recognisable and appealing characters and setting in the heart of the English countryside. Major Pettigrew's village, lifestyle and values are under threat - which will he champion and will he prevail? A charming comedy of modern (and old-fashioned) manners as the Major gets to know and appreciate the village shop's exotic Mrs Jasmina Ali and her family, whilst resisting his self-centred son Roger's efforts to pre-inherit some funds!
Another book recommendation that I grabbed from the library and loved - thank you!! "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn is a tale full of twists and turns told (in turns) by Nick & Amy Dunne following Amy's mysterious disappearance on the morning of their 5th wedding anniversary. You are kept guessing whether Nick knows more than he's telling, or perhaps Amy's diary entries will help the police catch her killer?! A brilliant thriller, shortly to be made into a movie - read it first!
M. J. Arlidge has apparently worked in high end TV drama production for the last 15 years and to a certain extent that shows in his debut novel, "Eeeny Meeny", which has 117(!) short, pacey chapters a bit like scenes in a TV series. This was a rather gorey thriller with scenes of torture, sado-masochism, rape and worse as Detective Inspector Helen Grace battles with her own demons whilst chasing down what turns out to be a serial killer by proxy ... a kidnapper of couples who are then faced with the choice of killing their partner or being killed. It was certainly a page turner, but the ending seemed very rushed and rather under-developed whilst a glaring continuity error about half way through really took the shine off!!