Saturday, 28 April 2012

The dressmaker - Kate Alcott

The dressmaker was published just in time for the 100th anniversary of the Titanic sinking. I think that this book stayed true to the spirit of the Titanic and the souls that were lost on it but certain aspects of the book let it down.

Tess is an aspiring seamstress who is sick and tired of being in service. After hearing that jobs were available on the Titanic she quickly quits her job and heads to the docks to try her luck. Soon enough she recognises Lady Lucile Duff Gordon, a famous designer and manages to talk herself into a job as a personal maid. It is not the position that she wanted but the opportunity to be near her idol is hard to pass up. While on board she meets Jack a rich older man and Jim a kind sailor. She is attracted to both men but that all changes when the Titanic sinks.

This book covers what happens after the sinking and the inquiries and scandals that followed. Only around 40 pages or so is set on the Titanic  so don't expect that to be the focus of the book. Tess is soon living her dream but the sinking of the Titanic still haunts and has huge implications on its survivors.

I thought that this was an entertaining read. I read it in one sitting. However I thought that the characters were rather flat and unlikable. I never really became attached to anyone in this story. Pinkey the reporter by far outshines the other characters. I thought that Tess was stiff and one-dimensional and I did not care for her love interests. The most interesting sequences were the ones set in the Titanic hearings. I was really interested and enjoyed learning about the aftermath of the sinking. Overall this was a fair novel. Others will enjoy this more than me.

Rating: 3

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Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Jack Holmes & his friend - Edmund White

This is my first Edmund White book and I was thoroughly impressed.This delicious novel is set in 1960s New York. Jack Holmes is ashamed of his sexuality and tries to rid himself of unwanted yearnings through women and therapists. All that changes when Will Wright enters his life and Jack falls head over heels in love with his new straight friend. So begins a lifelong friendship between a straight man and his gay friend.

This book was extremely sexual and did not shy away from the realities of gay life/sex. I must admit it could be quite repulsive at times. Nothing was sugar coated.

I absolutely loved Jack. He was such a wonderful character. There were many different facets to his personality. He was not perfect. He was oversexed, bitter at times and really mistreated the men he was with. There was one scene where he went over the physical shortcomings of his lovers and then was surprised that a young man he had slept with was humorous and easy to talk to. Lets just say that he was not in the business of getting to know his lovers. His desperate unrequited love for Will meant that he had trouble opening up to other men. I really don't know why he fell for Will as I found him utterly unlikable at times and it wasn't as though he was an Adonis.

Will's and Jack's relationship was flawed and strange. They were like two puzzle pieces that just didn't fit. However, these flaws were what made the story so engaging and interesting.

White's writing was impeccable and I felt that I took something away from this novel. Perhaps a new appreciation or understanding about men? I can't really say. However, this is an absolute must read. I think that I will have to read this previous novels. This review was hard to write, I didn't really know what to say or even how to express my love for this book. I hope that I have explained myself well enough.

Rating: 5

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

When nights were cold - Susanna Jones

Grace Farringdon has always been mesmerized and fascinated with the great explorers and often daydreams that she could one day accompany Shackleton on a voyage to Antarctica. Grace decides that she will attend university against the wishes of her family and the expectations of society. There she meets like-minded women and forms an Antarctica Exploration Society. Soon play acting is not enough and they begin to embark on a life changing journey. The tragic events of their first real climb haunt Grace and its members - Locke and Parr for the rest of their lives. 

Grace is a unreliable narrator. Her loved ones are of the opinion that she is not sound of mind but who are we to trust? because through her eyes they are the ones that are not sane. There are vague references to medication and hallucinations that once afflicted her father but there is great mystery surrounding her state of mind.

Mountaineering did not have as large a part as I thought that it would and that disappointed me slightly but this novel was in no way boring or uneventful.

This was a dark atmospheric novel that sought to mislead and deceive the reader. Grace and women in general seem to suffocate under the restrictions and expectations of their sex. The entire novel had a very claustrophobic feel to it, both socially, mentally and physically.

A great novel, very much in the vein of Sarah Waters.

Rating: 4

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