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 Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

Dot – Araminta Hall

Women's Fiction 5*
Women’s Fiction
5*

Everything and Nothing was one of those books I didn’t simply love at the time of reading it, I still remember it now over two years later. Why did I love it so much? Because it was written so skilfully that I felt like I was actually viewing the story as it was revealed so I put Dot on my wish list, and kept my fingers crossed that after the long wait the next offering would be just as good. In my opinion it is. Reading this book gave me that magical feeling that I really knew the characters I was reading about.

Dot is a young girl, playing hide and seek in her Grandmother’s house with her best friend Mavis, when we first meet her. This is not just Dot’s story though. Araminta Hall expertly weaves many stories into a satisfying read with each one narrating their own part in an everyday if often tragic drama of family life. Dot, her beautiful mother Alice and her Grandmother Clarice all struggle to communicate with each other which is not the same as not loving each other. Mavis’s mother Sandra is trapped in a life of endless cleaning to stop her life falling apart and Dot’s absent father also has his own story to tell.

This is fundamentally a story about female relationships and how it can be hardest to reveal our secrets to those closest to us all told with an undertone of humour; `his lungs felt useless, as if he’d got them cheap in the Primark sale.’ The girls take on life had me smiling as I read the tragedy of lives not lived to the full.

This is such a beautiful story that I had tears rolling down my cheeks when I turned the last page.

My review of Everything and Nothing on Goodreads
Everything and NothingEverything and Nothing by Araminta Hall

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I came across this book as recommended by Amazon, one of those I was glad I looked into this psychological novel is even more eerie for the way the story slowly increases in tension.

It all begins when Agatha attends an interview for a position of Nanny in a chaotic household where both parents work.

She is determined to become indispensible and takes over the running of the household and managing the children wonderfully. Ruth (the mother) feels she is strugggling with motherhood, work and wonders if she was right to take her husband Christian back after he had an affair whilst she was pregnant, and life goes on with Agatha managing everything perfectly…. so what could possibly go wrong?

The book is so well written, the characterisation is brilliant, you feel like you are looking through the window at a real family as you read this.

This is not a book I will forget in a hurry!

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