Posted in #20 Books of Summer 2016, Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

An Awfully Big Adventure – Beryl Bainbridge #20booksofsummer

Book 2

An Awfully Big Adventure
Classic Fiction 5*s

Unfortunately I am away during Annabel’s from Annabel’s House of Books  reading week for Beryl Bainbridge: Reading Beryl but after falling in love with this author’s writing through Harriet Said, I put one on my 20 Books of Summer 2016! list.

An Awfully Big Adventure is set in 1950s Liverpool, a landscape still filled with rations and other post-war deprivations and the theatre. What a mix for this coming of age novel through less than rose-tinted glasses. It is therefore no surprise that Bainbridge chose to borrow her title from the classic play by J.M Barrie, Peter Pan where Peter has a throw-away line:

‘To die would be an awfully big adventure.’

With the title borrowed from a story about a boy who doesn’t want to grow the protagonist, Stella of Bainbridge’s creation is sixteen, far from grown up, yet with her first job as a stage hand in the theatre thrust amongst grown-up lives, a world she struggles to understand.

The setting is brilliant, the boarding house (and its occupants) is easily pictured amongst the bomb scarred streets and the lodgers who bear their own scars from the war. It was Stella’s Uncle Vernon who first proposed working at the Playhouse. Here is a man who champions her to the hilt while she, as is so often the attitude of girls this age, is embarrassed by absolutely everything about him. Despite the way he brags to his boss he is also worried and exasperated by her:

“Debating anything with the girl was a lost cause. She constantly played to the gallery. No one was denying she could have had a better start in life, but then she wasn’t unique in that respect and it was no excuse for wringing the last drop of drama out of the smallest incident.”

Vernon’s wife Lily is a more shadowy figure, forever at the edge of Stella’s life although towards the end of the book she ponders that:

‘it was unjust of her to disregard those thumb-sucking years in which Lily had held her close’

But away from the prying eyes and ears of Uncle Vernon and Lily, Stella visits the phone boxes around the theatre to ring her mother. The reader hears Stella reporting to her mother, but we only get to know that mother says ‘the usual things’

So it’s fair to say Stella is typical of her age, no more so when she develops a crush on the handsome director Meredith Potter, who at first pays her some attention but this is soon diverted by others. Ever the mimic Stella tries out a number of personas on him to try to recapture his interest, but it seems that her love is to go unrequited. In parallels to the play they are putting on at the Liverpool Playhouse when Stella arrive, one that Stella pronounces simplistically the plot is all about people loving someone who is in love with someone else, perfectly sums up the cast. There is much to love in the book as a whole, the symmetry being one of the biggest pleasures for me. The set-up at the beginning of the book which only becomes clear at the very end, is an example of the excellent structure that resounds throughout.

Although this reads a little more like a series of vignettes at first, the linking only truly becoming apparent at the end, individually as well as together each of these is vivid and simply fascinating. Fairly early on I realised that what is blatantly obvious to the reader has completely passed Stella by, and so only the sternest heart can’t overlook her slightly odd manner and have a little sympathy for the poor girl! But when she decides to make Meredith jealous, she sets in chain a sequence of events that slowly becomes apparent, making for a sublime ending.

I am now a firm Beryl Bainbridge fan, I love the darkness, the cleverness, the period details and the sardonic humour. Luckily, I have another title waiting to read on my bookshelf. I simply can’t believe it took me quite so long to discover such this national treasure.

Posted in Challenge

20 Books of Summer 2016! #20booksofsummer

20 Books of Summer 2016

Cathy at Cathy 746 has a yearly challenge to read twenty books over the summer months starting on 1 June 2016 and running until 5 September 2016, and I’ve decided to join her. In preparation I had already decided not to read ARCs during June to get me off to a flying start.

As I’m competitive I’m signing up for the full twenty. My personal challenge is to read these twenty books from my bookshelf, physical books that I already own before today. Funnily enough I have plenty to choose from… a whole 95 in fact!

Because I know that facts in one book tend to lead me to seek out other books in my tangential reading style, I’ve decided to start with a spread of genres and authors for the first ten books – fat books, thin books and books inbetween! I will post the next ten when these are all finished hopefully mid-July, if I’m on schedule!

The links below will take you to the Goodreads description

The Testament of Youth by Vera Britten

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

The Poison Principle by Gail Bell

The Curious Habits of Doctor Adams by Jane Robins

Other People’s Secrets by Louise Candlish

You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz

An Awfully Big Adventure by Beryl Bainbridge

Pictures of Perfection (Dalziel & Pascoe #13) by Reginald Hill

Buried Angels (Patrik Hedström #8) by Camilla Läckberg

The Shrimp and the Anemone by L.P. Hartley

I will be joining Cathy by tweeting my way through the challenge using the hashtag #20booksofsummer and I will provide (a yet to be decided logo) to demonstrate when one of my reads is part of this challenge!

PicMonkey Collage

Like last year there will be a master page linking the titles to my reviews as they are posted, and of course eventually listing the entire twenty books.

There’s still time to join in and Cathy has also provided a 10 Books of Summer image or even a 15 Books of Summer image for those of you who feel aiming for 20 is quite frankly ridiculous. Visit Cathy to get the full details here

So what do you think to my choices? Do you have any suggestions on where I should start or perhaps you think some of these need to be put back on the shelf and forgotten about? All comments welcomed!

Posted in Weekly Posts

Stacking the Shelves (April 24)

Stacking the shelves

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you’re adding to your shelves, be it buying or borrowing. From ‘real’ books you’ve purchased, a book you’ve borrowed, a book you’ve been given or an e-book they can all be shared.

Well my TBR is now truly out of control… From NetGalley I have the following irresistible books:

From Twenty7 books who publish debut authors I have Little Bones by Sam Blake which will be published in eBook format on 17 May 2016.

Little Bones

Blurb

Attending what seems to be a routine break-in, troubled Detective Garda Cathy Connolly makes a grisly discovery: an old wedding dress – and, concealed in its hem, a baby’s bones.
And then the dress’s original owner, Lavinia Grant, is found dead in a Dublin suburb.
Searching for answers, Cathy is drawn deep into a complex web of secrets and lies spun by three generations of women.
Meanwhile, a fugitive killer has already left two dead in execution style killings across the Atlantic – and now he’s in Dublin with old scores to settle. Will the team track him down before he kills again?
Struggling with her own secrets, Cathy doesn’t know dangerous – and personal – this case is about to become… NetGalley

I was also lucky enough to get a copy of Angela Marsons fourth book in the Detective Kim Stone series, Play Dead, the first three had me hooked in 2015.

Play Dead

Blurb

The dead don’t tell secrets… unless you listen.
The girl’s smashed-in face stared unseeing up to the blue sky, soil spilling out of her mouth. A hundred flies hovered above the bloodied mess.
Westerley research facility is not for the faint-hearted. A ‘body farm’ investigating human decomposition, its inhabitants are corpses in various states of decay. But when Detective Kim Stone and her team discover the fresh body of a young woman, it seems a killer has discovered the perfect cover to bury their crime.
Then a second girl is attacked and left for dead, her body drugged and mouth filled with soil. It’s clear to Stone and the team that a serial killer is at work – but just how many bodies will they uncover? And who is next?
As local reporter, Tracy Frost, disappears, the stakes are raised. The past seems to hold the key to the killer’s secrets – but can Kim uncover the truth before a twisted, damaged mind claims another victim …? NetGalley


Play Dead
will be published on 20 May 2016 by Bookouture.

Lastly I have a copy of The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena which will be published by Random House UK on 14 July 2016.

The Couple Next Door

Blurb

You never know what’s happening on the other side of the wall.
Your neighbour told you that she didn’t want your six-month-old daughter at the dinner party. Nothing personal, she just couldn’t stand her crying.
Your husband said it would be fine. After all, you only live next door. You’ll have the baby monitor and you’ll take it in turns to go back every half hour.
Your daughter was sleeping when you checked on her last. But now, as you race upstairs in your deathly quiet house, your worst fears are realized. She’s gone.
You’ve never had to call the police before. But now they’re in your home, and who knows what they’ll find there.
What would you be capable of, when pushed past your limit?

The eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed that I’m posting this a day later than normal and there was a reason, that being that today was one of the Island’s book sales for the blind ,and so in the name of charity I have a few more books to show you. I would like to say as mitigation I put back a few and I resisted picking up many more!

Book Sale April 2016

 

I have a copy of The Sixth Heaven to go with The Shrimp and the Anemone which I already have sitting on the TBR following my love-in with The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley last year.

I always pick up an Agatha Christie book at these sales, it is a challenge that involves finding the best copy that I haven’t bought in previous excursions, this year’s pick is one I don’t remember (at the moment) Murder is Easy.

I’m a huge Barbara Vine fan and my copies  mainly have the classic orange spine by penguin, but I don’t (didn’t) own a copy of The House of Stairs; I did read this one but seem to remember I didn’t particularly rate it but want to check just in case it was a case of reading it at the wrong time.

So after the very recent success of Harriet Said as a reading experience I picked up the only two Beryl Bainbridge books I could find, both in immaculate condition; An Awfully Big Adventure and Winter Garden

I love Carol Shields’ writing and her book The Stone Diaries rates among one of my favourite reads so I just had to pick up Dressing Up for the Carnival, a book of short stories.

And I’m ashamed to say but I haven’t actually read The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne so this is my opportunity to correct that.

It was a lovely morning, I always go with a close friend and so we had lots of chit-chat about books and other (less) important stuff, visited a garden centre and rounded the morning off with a lovely cup of coffee at a gentile tea shop neither of us had visited before – see even on a tiny island we can find new and exciting things to do!

So what has all this done to the TBR?

PicMonkey Collage TBR

TBR WATCH
Since my last count I have read 7 books, and gained, 10 so the total has shot up to 180 books!
96 physical books
67 e-books
17 books on NetGalley

What have you found to read this week? Please don’t tempt me too much!