Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads, The Classic Club

Ethan Frome – Edith Wharton

Classic
5*s

Well, if you are looking for a cheery book, this isn’t for you! But if you want a book that eloquently takes you further and further down a despairing path, you’ve knocked on the right door, much as our enigmatic narrator does when one bleak winter he finds himself stuck and he’s welcomed, well almost, into the Frome’s home.

By the time our narrator hears the story we already know that Ethan looks older than his years, he walks with a pronounced limp and is taciturn in the extreme, but as to his past, the other residents of Starkfield, Massachusetts are not inclined to say. Our narrator is then treated to this tragic tale which involves Ethan, his wife Zeena and her cousin Mattie.

A story of a marriage which has turned sour although it’s clear that Zeena was a different woman, at least in Ethan’s eyes when she first came to Starkfield to care for Ethan’s mother but a mere seven years later, Zeena is unwell. It is up for debate that her reliance on doctors and patent medicines is a necessity or hypochondria.

“Ethan looked at her with loathing. She was no longer the listless creature who had lived at his side in a state of sullen self-absorption, but a mysterious alien presence, an evil energy secreted from the long years of silent brooding.”

Ethan life is cheered when Mattie comes to live in their house to help the ailing Zeena because she brings conversation and a sparkle to the miserable cold life that the pair share. And of course he can’t help but compare the two women and no prizes for who comes off better out of such a comparison. With his habitual reticence Ethan becomes fonder of Mattie and the wheels are set in motion for a tragedy of epic proportions.

For such a slim novel it soon becomes apparent why this is a classic. The writing is beautiful and it effortlessly conjures up the Frome house, the winter in Starkfield that almost becomes a character in its own right.

“The village lay under two feet of snow, with drifts at the windy corners. In a sky of iron the points of the Dipper hung like icicles and Orion flashed his cold fires. The moon had set, but the night was so transparent that the white house-fronts between the elms looked grey against the snow, clumps of bushes made black stains on it, and the basement windows of the church sent shafts of yellow light far across the endless undulations.”

The author really allows the third person narrative to paint the picture for us, her readers in a way Ethan never could do – after all he barely speaks which prompts the thought of why he decides to bare his soul to the man who is seeking shelter in his house. But out rolls the story of the misery of Ethan’s life. First his father’s illness curtailed his brief foray into the world where he studied engineering. Ethan was dragged back to the farm and mill, already floundering would literally become a millstone around his neck. Then his mother fell ill and Zeena cared for her only to marry Ethan and become an invalid herself. Oh but dear reader, this is just the start!

In the hands of a lesser writer all of this unhappiness could have got too much but I finished the book with a huge lump in my throat and yet a deep-seated longing that the book would last just a little bit longer.

Ethan Frome is number 8 on The Classics Club list and the second of my fifty choices that I’ve read and reviewed. A tragedy of mammoth proportions that stole a piece of my heart.

 

First Published UK: 1911
Publisher: Penguin UK
No of Pages: 128
Genre: Classic Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (February 21)

This Week In Books
Hosted by Lipsy Lost & Found my Wednesday post gives you a taste of what I am reading this week. A similar meme is run by Taking on a World of Words

Well at the moment I’m reading Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton which is the second of my Classic Club reads.

Blurb

‘He seemed a part of the mute melancholy landscape, an incarnation of its frozen woe, with all that was warm and sentient in him fast bound below the surface’

Ethan Frome works his unproductive farm and struggles to maintain a bearable existence with his difficult, suspicious and hypochondriac wife, Zeena. But when Zeena’s vivacious cousin enters their household as a ‘hired girl’, Ethan finds himself obsessed with her and with the possibilities for happiness she comes to represent. In one of American fiction’s finest and most intense narratives, Edith Wharton moves this ill-starred trio towards their tragic destinies. Amazon

That was after finishing The Image of You by Adele Parks, a compulsive read that had me entertained throughout with a surprising amount of perception.

Blurb

Can you ever trust someone you meet online?

Anna and Zoe are twins. Identical in appearance, utterly different in personality, they share a bond so close that nothing – or no one – can rip them apart.
Until Anna meets charismatic Nick.
Anna is trusting, romantic and hopeful; she thinks Nick is perfect.
Zoe is daring, dangerous and extreme; she thinks Nick is a liar.
Zoe has seen Anna betrayed by men before. She’ll stop at nothing to discover if Nick is as good as he seems.

Lies may hurt. But honesty can kill.

Next I’m going to be reading the psychological novel by one of the mistresses of the genre; Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris.

Blurb

The Disappearance
Twelve years ago Finn’s girlfriend disappeared.

The Suspicion
He told the police the truth about that night.
Just not quite the whole truth.

The Fear
Now Finn has moved on.
But his past won’t stay buried… NetGalley

Having made a big effort to read some of my own books as well as joining The Classics Club has really mixed up my reading this year which means I’m approaching each new book with even more enthusiasm than previously. It was one New Year’s resolution that has been worth sticking to.

So what do you think? Do any of these titles take your fancy?

Posted in The Classic Club, Weekly Posts

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph (February 13)

Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Vicky from I’d Rather Be At The Beach who posts the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book she decided to read based on the opening. Feel free to grab the banner and play along.

This week my opener comes from Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton which is one of the books on my Classics Club list.

Blurb

‘He seemed a part of the mute melancholy landscape, an incarnation of its frozen woe, with all that was warm and sentient in him fast bound below the surface’

Ethan Frome works his unproductive farm and struggles to maintain a bearable existence with his difficult, suspicious and hypochondriac wife, Zeena. But when Zeena’s vivacious cousin enters their household as a ‘hired girl’, Ethan finds himself obsessed with her and with the possibilities for happiness she comes to represent. In one of American fiction’s finest and most intense narratives, Edith Wharton moves this ill-starred trio towards their tragic destinies. Amazon

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph ~ Intro

I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and, as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different story.
If you know Starkfield, Massachusetts, you know the post-office. If you know the post-office you must have seen Ethan Frome drive up to it, drop the reins on his hollow-backed bay and drag himself across the brick pavement to the white colonnade: and you must have asked who he was.

Well I’m not sure how much of a taste you get from that but I know I’m looking forward to the tragic destiny part!

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (January 28)

You may have noticed my absence last week while I was on a weekend break in the Peak District. This was actually my Christmas present from the OH and it was everything I hoped for: it was peaceful, it snowed and this was the stunning view from our bedroom window.

So we got to walk around the lake, have a few drinks in the local hotel and I even managed to read some of my books!

This Week on the Blog

My excerpt post this week was from the very intriguing concept mystery, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton.

I was part of the Blog Tour for Cara Hunter’s crime fiction novel Close to Home which is set in Oxford. Cara kindly sent me a piece about the setting and I rounded off with my review which awarded this book the full five stars.

On Thursday I reviewed Hell Bay by Kate Rhodes, a dark crime thriller set on one of the smallest of the Scilly Islands, Bryher.

My final review of the week was for Dead Souls by Angela Marsons, the sixth in her DI Kim Stone series which was just as brilliant, if not more so than the five preceding books.

My week was rounded off by finally publishing my list for The Classics Club – I think I could have read about five of these in the time I’ve spent deciding which ones to put on the list, or those to leave off – take a look and see if you think I chose wisely.

This Time Last Year…

I was reading The Good People by Hannah Kent. A book steeped in the folklore and superstition that I’m sure reigned worldwide at the beginning of the nineteenth century but possibly had its most ardent followers in the Irish countryside with its stories of fairies, changelings and many rituals to ward off evil. The Good People is set in County Kerry in 1825 and is best summed up as a disturbing tale.

You can read my review here or click on the book cover

 

Blurb

County Kerry, Ireland, 1825.

Nóra, bereft after the sudden death of her beloved husband, finds herself alone and caring for her young grandson Micheál. Micheál cannot speak and cannot walk and Nóra is desperate to know what is wrong with him. What happened to the healthy, happy grandson she met when her daughter was still alive?

Mary arrives in the valley to help Nóra just as the whispers are spreading: the stories of unexplained misfortunes, of illnesses, and the rumours that Micheál is a changeling child who is bringing bad luck to the valley.
Nance’s knowledge keeps her apart. To the new priest, she is a threat, but to the valley people she is a wanderer, a healer. Nance knows how to use the plants and berries of the woodland; she understands the magic in the old ways. And she might be able to help Micheál.

As these three women are drawn together in the hope of restoring Micheál, their world of folklore and belief, of ritual and stories, tightens around them. It will lead them down a dangerous path, and force them to question everything they have ever known.

Based on true events and set in a lost world bound by its own laws, The Good People is Hannah Kent’s startling novel about absolute belief and devoted love. Terrifying, thrilling and moving in equal measure, this long-awaited follow-up to Burial Rites shows an author at the height of her powers. Amazon

Stacking the Shelves

Even though I have now read three of my own books, I haven’t spent my token yet with no books bought in 2018 so far. I’ll come back to the New Year’s Resolutions later in the post…

I have received two approvals from NetGalley, I’m actually not sure which one I’m most excited about!

I have a copy of The Cliff House by Amanda Jennings which I am desperate to read after her previous novel In Her Wake in 2016. The Cliff House will be published on 17 May 2018.



Blurb

Cornwall, summer of 1986.

The Davenports, with their fast cars and glamorous clothes, living the dream in a breathtaking house overlooking the sea.
If only… thinks sixteen-year-old Tamsyn, her binoculars trained on the perfect family in their perfect home.

If only her life was as perfect as theirs.
If only Edie Davenport would be her friend.
If only she lived at The Cliff House…

Amanda Jennings weaves a haunting tale of obsession, loss and longing, set against the brooding North Cornish coastline, destined to stay with readers long after the final page is turned. NetGalley

And.. after being blown away by the first in the DI Adam Fawley series, Close to Home (see above) I am delighted to have received a copy of book two called In the Dark by Cara Hunter which will be published on 5 July 2018.

Blurb

DO YOU KNOW WHAT THEY’RE HIDING IN THE HOUSE NEXT DOOR?

From the author of CLOSE TO HOME, comes the second pulse-pounding DI Fawley crime thriller. A woman and child are found locked in a basement room, barely alive… No one knows who they are – the woman can’t speak, and there are no missing persons reports that match their profile. And the elderly man who owns the house claims he has never seen them before.

The inhabitants of the quiet Oxford street are in shock – how could this happen right under their noses? But DI Adam Fawley knows that nothing is impossible. And that no one is as innocent as they seem . . . NetGalley

Now in addition to originally reading six classic books this year my aim was to visit my local library more regularly. Well yesterday with my list for The Classics Club finally completed I took a trip to see which one I should pick up to get me started. After spending quite some time looking through the shelves I came away with four that appeared on my list so I can decide which one to start with.

So I will be choosing from:

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

Our Spoons Came from Woolworths by Barbara Comyns

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

And I picked up a copy of My Life in Houses by Margaret Forster which has sat on my wishlist since it was published back in 2014. I was a huge fan of this author’s work, particularly her non-fiction books and this should fit well with the insight’s she gave us into her life through her previous books on her family such as Hidden Lives.

Blurb

‘I was born on 25th May, 1938, in the front bedroom of a house in Orton Road, a house on the outer edges of Raffles, a council estate. I was a lucky girl.’

So begins Margaret Forster’s journey through the houses she’s lived in, from that sparkling new council house, to her beloved London home of today. This is not a book about bricks and mortar though. This is a book about what houses are to us, the effect they have on the way we live our lives and the changing nature of our homes: from blacking grates and outside privies; to cities dominated by bedsits and lodgings; to the houses of today converted back into single dwellings. Finally, it is a gently insistent, personal inquiry into the meaning of home. Amazon

tbr-watch

Since my last post I have read 5 books and appear to have gained 2 so my TBR on the downward slide to 186

Physical Books – 109
Kindle Books – 55
NetGalley Books –22

 

I have banked another third of book token this week and as I haven’t bought any books I’m in credit!

Posted in Weekly Posts

Friday Finds (May 23)

Friday Finds Hosted by Should be Reading

FRIDAY FINDS showcases the books you ‘found’ and added to your To Be Read (TBR) list… whether you found them online, or in a bookstore, or in the library — wherever! (they aren’t necessarily books you purchased).

So, come on — share with us your FRIDAY FINDS!

So this week somehow I have just one new find from NetGalley which is The Secret Place by Tana French, the fifth in The Dublin Murder Squad series (and I’ve read the previous four)

The Secret Place
Blurb

The photo shows a boy who was murdered a year ago.
The caption says, ‘I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM’.
Detective Stephen Moran hasn’t seen Holly Mackey since she was a nine-year-old witness to the events of Faithful Place. Now she’s sixteen and she’s shown up outside his squad room, with a photograph and a story.
Even in her exclusive boarding school, in the graceful golden world that Stephen has always longed for, bad things happen and people have secrets. The previous year, Christopher Harper, from the neighbouring boys’ school, was found murdered on the grounds. And today, in the Secret Place – the school noticeboard where girls can pin up their secrets anonymously – Holly found the card.
Solving this case could take Stephen onto the Murder squad. But to get it solved, he will have to work with Detective Antoinette Conway – tough, prickly, an outsider, everything Stephen doesn’t want in a partner. And he will have to find a way into the strange, charged, mysterious world that Holly and her three closest friends inhabit and disentangle the truth from their knot of secrets, even as he starts to suspect that the truth might be something he doesn’t want to hear. NetGalley

I have added Out of the Silence by Wendy James to the TBR after coming across a reference to this on Confessions of a Mystery Novelist… if you haven’t come across this blog and you love crime fiction you really should take a visit.  Margot Kinberg  has a wealth of knowledge and is always willing to answer questions if your recall isn’t up to her high standards!

Out of the Silence

Blurb

I have a baby, two shillings, no reputation and nowhere to go, but even so I cannot imagine what far worse might be.
Out of the Silence is a stunning debut novel about three women from very different worlds: Maggie Heffernan, a spirited working-class country girl; Elizabeth Hamilton, whose own disappointment in love has served only to strengthen her humanity; and the remarkable Vida Goldstein, the suffragist who was to become the first woman to stand for Parliament.
When Maggie’s life descends into darkness after a terrible betrayal, the three women’s lives collide. Around this tragedy Wendy James has constructed a masterfully drawn and gripping fiction. Based on a true story, it unfolds at the dawn of the twentieth century against the compelling backdrop of the women’s suffrage movement and a world on the brink of enormous change.
The novel powerfully evokes the plight of women in the early 1900s – not least their limited options, whatever their class and education. However, at its heart this is a story of love – of love gone wrong; of its compromises and disappointments; but ultimately of its extraordinary transformative power. Amazon

A favourite contributor to my very large TBR is FictionFan who did it again with a compelling review of Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton which has now been added to the pile.

Ethan Frome

Read FictionFan’s review here

On Book’d Out I came across a feature about the writer Felicity Young who has written a series of books about a female autopsy surgeon Dr Dody McCleland in The Anatomy of Death (in Australia The Dissection of Murder)

An Anatomy of Death

Blurb

At the turn of the twentieth century, London’s political climate is in turmoil, as women fight for the right to vote. Dody McCleland has her own battles to fight. As England’s first female autopsy surgeon, not only must she prove herself, she must prove that murder treats everyone equally…
After a heated women’s rights rally turns violent, an innocent suffragette is found murdered. When she examines the body, Dody McCleland is shocked to realize that the victim was a friend of her sister—fueling her determination to uncover the cause of the protestor’s suspicious death.
For Dody, gathering clues from a body is often easier than handling the living—especially Chief Detective Inspector Pike. Pike is looking to get to the bottom of this case but has a hard time trusting anyone—including Dody. Determined to earn Pike’s trust and to find the killer, Dody will have to sort through real and imagined secrets. But if she’s not careful, she may end up on her own examination table… Goodreads

Read the feature about Felicity Young from Book’d Out here

I just need to add a non-book item, well nearly… after a conversation on Twitter with one of my favourite authorsErin Kelly, I was persuaded to buy the box-set of Barbara Vine DVDs comprising of; Gallowglass, A Dark Adapted Eye and A Fatal Inversion which were on the BBC in the early 1990’s. Finding myself with a weekend to myself I really enjoyed watching the first two.  Along with this purchase I came across the box-set of five Minette Walters DVDs too, which were also filmed for the BBC, so I have plenty more spare hours to fill with two of my favourite authors on the small screen.

Minette WaltersBarbara Vine

Amazon UK