February, 2014


22
Feb 14

From Dust to Dust and a Lifetime in Between by Katherine Anne Lee

Book: From Dust to Dust and a Lifetime in Between
Author: Katherine Anne Lee
Available: Monday 24th February
If you enjoy this book you might like: One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel García Márquez

SummaryDevoted grandmother Mollie Cooke always dreamed of writing her own eventful life story, but sadly dementia robbed her of the opportunity. Mollie’s granddaughter Katherine has finally published her biography, two years after Mollie’s death at the age of 96. Discover the momentous events in Mollie’s life from her childhood in the countryside, to the tragic losses in her life, and her final struggle with dementia.

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Picking up Katherine Anne Lee’s novel, I was a little apprehensive – I wasn’t sure whether it would be easy to connect with someone else’s grandmother in a book which was essentially a tribute. So I was pleasantly surprised to find myself growing increasingly attached to Mollie, the protagonist, as she navigated her way through the highs and lows of life. By the time I finished the novel, it felt as if I had lost a family member of my own.

Mollie’s story is beautiful, but sad. She experiences tragic losses in her life, notably of people who are extremely important to her (I won’t say who as I don’t want to spoil it for you), and the way Katherine writes allows you to experience Mollie’s devastation right alongside her.

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The novel also deals with hard-hitting themes such as war, however it doesn’t delve too deeply into what is happening outside of Mollie’s life. When World War II erupted, she was a young woman old enough to understand what was happening around her. The focus remains on the small rural town in which she lives, making it easier to get drawn into her story as you experience the devastation on a more personal level.

Cancer is another emotionally-difficult theme in the book, but I found Katherine’s representation of it particularly interesting. Imagining it as creatures that enter Mollie’s dreams and taunt her as it attacks her loved ones, it really emphasised the way Mollie felt it was an invisible monster, and constantly preyed on her mind.

Moving away from the sadder themes, I really enjoyed the way love was presented in the book. When Mollie meets her first husband Jack, it’s an all-consuming, romantic love, full of dreamy dates and love letters. When Mollie meets her second husband Billy, it’s a quiet, unassuming love: she slowly falls for him and when the two eventually wed, she remarks how safe she feels in his arms.

At 96-year-olds, Mollie’s journey through life is epic, but what I really loved about the book is the way Katherine makes you feel that time is passing by too quickly, so you really feel for Mollie both through the ups and downs. It’s what makes the dementia passages so moving: you experience everything with Mollie and then watch her final struggle as she tries to remember it all. It can be frustrating as a reader, because you know the answers and want to help her.

The novel is beautifully written, and Mollie’s story is definitely worth a read.


18
Feb 14

The Vintage Girl by Hester Browne

Book: The Vintage Girl
Author: Hester Browne
Publisher: Quercus Publishing
Available: Out now
If you enjoy this you might like: The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic – Sophie Kinsella

Summary: Evie Nicholson is obsessed with all things vintage, so when her sister volunteers her to visit Kettlesheer Castle in Scotland to archive family heirlooms, she thinks she’s hit the jackpot. However, in each heirloom lies a story, and as Evie uncovers long-buried family secrets, she becomes increasingly determined to find the truth. Add the handsome, gloomy heir Robert McAndrew and a traditional candlelit ball in the mix, and Evie’s heart is sent reeling. 

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It usually takes a lot for a book to make me laugh, but Hester Browne’s The Vintage Girl is very funny – it has all the elements of a great romantic comedy.

The main character, Evie Nicholson, is very easy to identify with, especially for those of us who have a slight tendency to hoard. As she gets carried away with fantasies of living in the past, it’s almost impossible not to be swept along with her, as Hester Browne gives us the fairytale-esque setting of a Scottish estate, complete with a candlelit ball. The book definitely caters to vintage-lovers, with descriptions of huge rooms filled with antiques, vintage clothes, and even some undiscovered gems…

Evie’s love interests, the dashing Fraser and gloomy Robert, provide a great love triangle: Fraser is essentially a Prince Charming, but I found Robert to be more interesting as his character was a bit more flawed, for example his complete indifference to the family’s heritage.

There are some really funny characters, particularly the estate owner Duncan, who tries to create his own brewery. Evie’s sister Alice was one of my favourites because she constantly both causes and solves problems for her sister, including letting Evie cover up when she drops out of an important dance at the ball, giving no explanation.

While the plot line was sometimes a little bit predictable, it doesn’t stop the book from being really fun to read – I would definitely recommend it for a lazy Sunday.

 

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