Claire Wright is an attractive young British woman with aspirations to becoming a successful actress in the US. She is obliged to succeed in the States rather than return to the UK (for reasons that become apparent during the course of the book), but Claire has no Green Card. However, an opportunity presents itself to help her subsidise her acting career – some work for a divorce attorney. But the job is a queasy one: she is to act as a honey trap for errant husbands.
Claire sees it as an extension of her acting career; she is a woman of seductive charms, and men fall like nine pins before her. But then she encounters Patrick Fogler, whose wife, Stella, she has already met. He is an academic with an almost obsessive predilection for the erotic poems of Charles Baudelaire. Patrick resists Claire’s attempt at seduction, but later the same evening, his wife is discovered savagely murdered in a hotel room (Delaney has based elements of the plot on a real-life entrapment case involving a brutal murderer).
I subscribe to Audible so listened to this book while I made curtains and I could not stop listening – it took about a day and a half – where I think I was barely breathing! I even managed a pile of ironing as I had finished the curtains before finishing this book.
I loved The Girl Before so I was eagerly awaiting the publication of this new novel and what a rollercoaster it is. If you loved, Gone Girl or Girl on the Train then this is along the same lines although in a league of its own!
Delaney keeps the pace up -right though the novel, it is suffocating, intense and dark – Claire is flawed, but above all, she is a survivor. She does what she needs to do to get by, and isn’t that what we all do?
Set in New York but with a central English Character is delightful change, I can relate to Claire – in many ways – the way she evolves to fit in. We all play roles, especially women – wife, lover, daughter, employee, which one is the real us? Delaney uses this theme to explore it to deeper, darker depths.
I love the way psychology is also exposed for its overly simplistic blanket approach – the connection with BDSM and sexual violence is explored and dismissed. Delaney gives us much more of a subtle exploration of human psychology that is masterful in its unravelling.
I had heard the name, Bau de Larre before but I began to wonder if I might read some of his poetry when the characters were quoting it, but then I was afraid to!
I am in awe of this writer, his tales are masterful – engaging, breathtaking and thrilling. The perfect wife. another of his novels is on my wish list… but need my heart rate to recover before I go on another breathtaking adventure.
If you haven’t read the book, don’t worry, you can read this review there is no spoiler.
Grace Bradley went to work at Riverton House as a servant when she was just a girl, before the First World War. For years her life was inextricably tied up with the Hartford family, most particularly the two daughters, Hannah and Emmeline.
In the summer of 1924, at a glittering society party held at the house, a young poet shot himself. The only witnesses were Hannah and Emmeline and only they—and Grace—know the truth.
In 1999, when Grace is ninety-eight years old and living out her last days in a nursing home, she is visited by a young director who is making a film about the events of that summer. She takes Grace back to Riverton House and reawakens her memories. Told in flashback, this is the story of Grace’s youth during the last days of Edwardian aristocratic privilege shattered by war, of the vibrant twenties, and the changes she witnessed as an entire way of life vanished forever.
The novel is full of secrets—some revealed, others hidden forever, reminiscent of the romantic suspense of Daphne Du Maurier. It is also a meditation on memory, the devastation of war, and a beautifully rendered window into a fascinating time in history.
Originally published to critical acclaim in Australia, already sold in ten countries and a #1 bestseller in England, The House at Riverton is a vivid, page-turning novel of suspense and passion, with characters-and an ending-the reader won’t soon forget.
Kate Morton is a very talented writer, of that there is no doubt… I found this book an engaging read.
It is so beautifully written in places:
I told you about the memories I’ve been having. I told you about the curious sensation that they are becoming more real to me than my own life. The way I slip away without warning, I am disappointed when I open my eyes and see that I am back in 1999. The way the fabric of time is changing, and I am beginning to feel at home in the past and a visitor to the this strange and blanched experience we agree to call the present.
What beautiful observation – simple genius.
There are so many metaphors where the house and the family reflect the wider society. The house personifies the fate of the aristocracy, the family’s decline is a slow painful death, as the dust begins to collect in corners. Class is brushed aside as bankers and business take control, reflecting the change in the wider society, it is the nouveau riche in the guise of Teddy that intend to bring the house back to its former glory.
The incident weaves in and out like a ghost, we catch snatches, we know someone died, we know there were two witnesses but we ebb backwards and forwards in time the story is pieced together like a jigsaw. At one point I was frustrated with the writing, we get closer and closer and then suddenly we are transported away to another time. Perhaps that is what is it is like in old age?
The last piece is not supplied by the narrator but as a recorded epilogue from Grace to her son. To be honest, I felt rather cheated by this, we never really get the story straight, the details are second hand and not fully there – we are left to surmise our own opinion about what happened.
But then so much of the novel is hinted at, Grace’s father, her mother, the game .. the mystery swirls around the story, just like the mist around the house itself.
I am not entirely sure I agree with the publishers that this is reminiscent of Daphne Du Maurier – Rebecca is a novel about a house of ghosts, but the tale has none of the suspense or tension of Rebecca as it whirls to a crescendo where this tale just fades away.
It was an engaging read, she deserves her place on the best seller lists but I am reluctant to pick up the second book: the Forgotten Garden just now, because I am not really satisfied with the ending – it just simply faded away with Grace’s death and perhaps that was intended by the writer.
I did not mourn its loss which is an indicator of how I feel about books, when I am usually sad to let the characters go. In this instance, it was a peaceful passing!
The spattering of rain on the window, the crackle of a warm fire and the heavenly scent of spice and cinnamon wafting from the kitchen – warm blankets, cosy sofa and a good book! Welcome winter.
As you can see from the picture above -I have been playing with autumn leaves and crab apples, aren’t they delightful? Almost like fairy sized fruit!
We had friends visiting for the weekend and local friends popping over so I thought I would make a little sweet treat
In no time the mixture was ready to pop in the oven
I love the swirly shapes made by the fluted tube
They hold much more chocolate! All ready for a lovely girlie afternoon.
I love the scent of winter – rather than reaching for a synthetic candle
(migraines are not tolerant of synthetic aromas)
I have been bubbling cinnamon, mixed spice and apple on the warming plate (a crock pot is just as good)
The whole house is scented with warm spice and loveliness.
Winter is a time we need resistance to bugs, coughs and colds and a very dear friend is in need of pepping up so I thought I would make some ginger cordial. Ginger and Turmeric are great antivirals so the cordial should hopefully help the body fight off infections. You simply slice a large cupful of ginger (you don’t even need to peel it) add a teaspoon of turmeric, two cupfuls of sugar, zest and juice of two lemons and cover with water. Bring to boil and simmer gently until it thickens approx 20 minutes. Strain the ginger and decant into bottles and store in the fridge. You can either drink with carbonated water, or warmed by adding hot water. It will keep for a month or you can freeze it into ice cubes.
My friend P and I have been meeting regularly following this delightful course by Sarah Ban Breathnach, it is such a pleasure to take time out for self reflection; made more effective by discussing the chapters together with a kind friend. We are studying a chapter all about promises we make to ourselves (I love it when a lesson comes twice from different sources). Reflecting on how we allocate time and making a more conscious choice – the chapter ends with a lesson in listening to your intuition and being guided by it. I am really enjoying this journey and will be continuing throughout November.
Which brings me nicely onto my crochet failure! LOL I challenged myself in October to make something from a pattern – for some reason I really can’t follow patterns. I think it is partly to do with fear and partly to do with wanting to simply stitch without having to concentrate. So it all started well – the flower was delightful and I was thrilled to have learned a different way to make flowers. But… I started the hat.. and to be honest it was a skullcap style that I was a little dubious about anyway.. by the second round I had too many stitches.. I re-read the instructions .. tried again.. but it didn’t work.. I needed an extra two stitches to close the circle.. by the third time I just ignored the pattern and did my own thing..(I was following my intuition!) Thus the slouchy cloche was created!
It was much admired – hints were dropped about being a wonderful Christmas present so here is a sparkly version – for my sparkly friend B! I shall be making at least another three in order to keep up with the not so vague hints from admiring friends!
I will be posting the pattern on my other blog, if you fancy making your own.
These pictures don’t really do it justice – the head is a good three inches smaller in diameter than my own head! but it illustrates the point!
My November reading popped through the post – I adore Simple Things – there are so many wonderful ideas and inspiration that it is like a breath of fresh air. Talking of which, I have made weekends more of a computer free zone: while I adore browsing Pinterest I have discovered that I get over stimulated which shuts down my creativity completely. I am learning the joy of ‘white space’ in terms of peace and silence of just being. Or the delights of dog walking and collecting leaves.
It has been a long time since I had to queue outside a cinema – our local Picturedrome was full to bursting! What a great film, I really think they are getting better and better. Awesome performance from Daniel Craig, I hope it won’t be his last!
Having read marvellous reviews on Good reads I thought I would read Mrs Miniver. I am a real old movie fan and watched the film a few months ago – it was complete propaganda with the intention of convincing the Americans to join the war. It was very typical Hollywood style – her home is enormous and not English at all – she has a dressing room that will be the envy of a lady saint, but even I began to sigh reproachfully as the film reached it’s conclusion. After seeing the film I would never have picked up the book – but the Goodreads reviews were so convincing – I gave it another chance. After all there have been many books spoiled by terrible films.
I have peeked a the first pages:
it was lovely, this settling down, taking up the tread of one’s life where the holidays, (irrelevant interlude) had made one drop it. Not that she didn’t enjoy the holidays, but she always felt – and it was perhaps the measure of her peculiar happiness – a little relieved when they were over. Her normal life pleased her so well that she was half afraid to step out of its frame in case one day she should find herself unable to get back.
I can relate entirely – while I love travelling but there is no place like home. I can’t wait to sit down all cosy this afternoon – hopefully the rain will continue to patter its little rhythm while I read.. there is so much joy in simple things don’t you agree?
While I was browsing Pinterest I came across some Ladybird book illustrations that had me all misty eyed in no time! Those little hardback books have such an endearing quality full of joyful memories. This illustration was the first book in the Key Word Reading Scheme the mainstay of primary education in the 1970s. Just looking at the pictures brings back vivid memories of toil as the five year old me tried to decipher the strange squiggles -into words.
Despite never being read stories and books, once I learned – I became an avid reader -these books were beautifully illustrated – the series depicting family life of the 1950’s that was already seen as old fashioned in the 1970’s but had a profound influence on the children it was educating – including me.
Ladybird books were the start of my life long love of reading, seeing this picture gave me a tingle of joy – Beauty and the Beast was beyond my reading ability when it was a favourite, I scoured the pictures to decipher the story and that memory is vivid forty years later – The slight fear, the ugly monkey in fancy clothes, I could not understand why the girl in the story stayed with him. As an adult I can look upon this and see another underlying message, that beauty comes from within and rich people can make demands!
Another was Rumplestiltskin – he might have been a rather nasty character but I did feel that he was unfairly treated, by then my reading was much better and I have a clearer idea of the story. Imagine spinning straw into gold.
Another favourite was the Elves and the Shoemaker (is that where my love of sewing came from?) Those beautiful clothes made for the Elves at the end were so quaint. Ladybird had a love affair with the 17th Century all the stories seemed to be set in that time frame, Cinderella, The Porridge Pot and Sleeping Beauty.
Ladybird did not just stick to reading schemes and fairy tales; there was a vast range of Learn about books with subjects covering Crafts, Nature books to Science, History and workplaces. It is why they are such a valuable resource for social history as well as illustrating the development of technology, the book on space included a trip to the moon long before the moon landings of the 1970s.
I remember thumbing these crafting books desperate to try out some of the projects, only now do I see the dawning of my crafting obsessions! I still collect crafting books that are running into six bookshelves. My love of sewing began with Ladybird.
There has been a great deal of criticism regarding the depiction of traditional White British Middle Class family life and stereotypical gender role models in the reading scheme – which makes me want to leap to their defence.
In 1960s versions Jane was shown helping her mother while Peter was helping his father wash the car. The illustrations were updated and altered a lot over the years. It is evidence of the shifting attitudes in society – the 70s was a decade of sexual liberation – shortly followed by racial equality. It is unfair to judge them as outdated and bigoted – they are representations of the society at that time. Values change with every generation but that doesn’t mean to say the past should be papered over.
The most striking memory when I see these illustrations was an overwhelming sense of being an outsider. My home life was very different, my poor father was working full time, managing a home and bringing up two children on his own while being in a deep and profound state of grief.
I had an idealised vision of what family life was like for everyone else – a realisation that there was a big part of family life missing. When we had a new housekeeper, I remember a vague expectation that I would return home to a table laid for tea and that she would be wearing an apron, but it was the 1970s -they shifted in and out my life with no explanations leaving broken promises behind. Oddly enough – when I see these pictures that state of confusion comes to the fore strongly – I knew never to ask questions so spent my childhood in a state of uncertainty. All this surfacing by looking at a few images!
That sense of alienation is not the fault of the books, times were very different, single parents were thankfully, rare. Yet I cannot help but wonder if these depictions positively influenced me when I had children of my own: I wanted to be a home maker, I baked with my children despite never having done it as a child myself and I remember trying to live up to a rather unrealistic ideal – one that still resonates with me after forty years.
Can these books be responsible, I wonder, for the growth of the Vintage Movement so popular in our culture today? There are so many women reaching out for the clothing and lifestyles of the 1940’s and 1950’s. Vintage Apron patterns abound and traditional home making skills are popular again – is there a deep seated perception about the past that remains imprinted from these early reading schemes I wonder?
I ponder if we are any closer to getting the balance right with reading schemes, my children’s books were alienating for them – no familiar domestic family but with Asian characters dressed in jeans and t’shirts called Biff and Chip. I believe that while politically correct the reading scheme books did not ignite the love of reading in my children. Reading with them became the medicine of our ‘reading time’ I had a sense of unease that my children’s reading was so political. Despite reading some joyful books with them, Dr Dog was a particular favourite neither became an avid reader until they were teenagers with the advent of Harry Potter.
What cannot be denied is the enduring appeal – the pictures are so beautifully done. Ladybird employed talented professional artists – Harry Winfield and Martin Aitchison
I love the movement of the water is depicted in this illustration, and the changing nature of the fox is vivid.
Harry Wingfield was an artist who worked for Ladybird up until his death in the 1980s, he illustrated the nature books and many of the Look and See Series- they are simply beautiful. I have found memories of looking at those beautiful illustrations with awe – there was so much detail to explore
The small bite sized books contained beautifully drawn infographics, making complex subjects accessible to a young audience. There was no sense of dumbing down, science, geography, travel, technology the subject matter was vast.
Ladybird are celebrating their centenary this year as the publishing company was set up in 1915, you can see some of the illustrations at the House of Illustration in London until mid September.
I am sure I am not alone in the love of Ladybird – who are still publishing today there are many enthusiasts out there.
Feel free to share your personal memories of these delightful books, I would be thrilled to read how special they are to you.
I have a bit of a quandary, I have a large pile of books on my shelves waiting to be read and I keep on picking one or two up – reading a few pages and then get busy with something else. I did wonder if I had lost my reading mojo but a couple of books recently came to the fore and I discovered that I could still get lost in a book in fact I can read a really good one in a day!
I ran a book group once – my reading time was very limited (I had teenagers, full time job and other interests), I began to resent reading books that were frankly ‘hard work’ gritting my teeth as I read page after dreary page to discover my instincts were right after the first few pages; I had wasted valuable time that could have been better spent reading the multitude of books I want to read.
I had a few books that ‘stretched me’ Never let you go, was one that I would never have read otherwise: a very haunting book, I can’t say it was pleasurable, but thought provoking. We read a couple of Jodi Picoult books – I loved the way she weaved modern dilemmas into stories like My Sisters Keeper and Faith- they offered some great subjects for discussion. When I moved away I was pleased to leave my book group behind, they were a lovely bunch but I wanted to choose for myself.
I ended up with the rule 72 (bear with me). I was wading through yet another dreary tome and noticed I was on page 72. I stopped reading and declared that unless a book was gripping me by that marker I would give myself permission to discard the book.
Its odd though, how something simple like reading can filter through other areas of our lives – leaving a book unread feels wrong, as if am am lacking in moral fortitude.
“You never stick at things’ is what comes to mind,
‘you always give up easily’
and my personal favourite,
‘no pain no gain’
(Well that particular one is discredited, we all know that Nietzsche ended up in an asylum, poor chap!)
There is a deep sense that I am missing something, that I don’t have the intelligence to really understand the narrative, there is shame too, my tomes aren’t high brow, or ‘improving’ literature, I read for pleasure – so why then, is it so difficult to abandon a book.
There are so many wonderful adventures out there, I find bookshops terrifying sometimes – I want to walk away with armfuls picking one seems an impossible task. I don’t really have a specific genre – so I can’t narrow down my choice.
I wish I had a formula, if the book is about x then its definitely one to read, but no two books are the same – I can be really loyal to an author such as Mauve Binchy and Robert Goddard, but then I notice they all begin to merge – the same story different characters.
I know right now I have a book hangover so might not be in the right frame of mind, but I wonder if anyone else struggles as I do?
At present I am struggling with Suite Francaise – the film came out recently and so many people have told me the book is sublime but I am bogged down reading about people fleeing from Paris!
Alongside is the Beachfront Bakery – I just don’t pick it up – its OK but not wow.
Miss Scarlett’s School of Patternless sewing had some brilliant reviews… but the sugary sweet women are not floating my boat either! It should work in theory, I love sewing, it was the same with the Friday Night Knitting club – I did not connect with the characters.
Perhaps it is time for a clean sweep, take them all to the charity shop and start afresh, without these novels silent reprimand I think I shall feel a whole lot better.
I must be careful though, I nearly bought a novel in a shop yesterday – thought it would be great – only to remember as I was heading to the till it was one I had given them a month before!
This is Barbara Erskine’s thirteenth tale – so I was expecting ghosts and time travel and I was not disappointed – in her usual style there are two stories running together in different times. I have read a couple of her novels – Hiding in the Light being one of my favourites so I was thrilled to spot this in Waterstones last weekend.
We have the story of Evie trying to make her name as a War Painter during the Battle of Britain. She has an arrangement with a neighbour called Eddie who has enough connections in the Art World to help her to achieve fame and fortune. However she meets Tony a pilot stationed at nearby Westhampnet and they fall in love. Of course no romance had a smooth course and this one has twists and turns that are only unravelled in the present day where Lucy is researching Evie’s life story for a biography – after her husband purchases one of Evie’s paintings. Sadly Lucy’s husband is killed in a hit and run accident which makes Lucy determined to complete the book. She makes contact with Evie’s family – who fall into two categories, those willing to help and support her book and those who are hostile. (There appears no room for middle ground!). Lucy is given access to a lot of Evie’s possessions including Evie’s home and art Studio – we begin to follow Evie’s story back through time and in Lucy’s research.
We have several ghosts – but these won’t keep you awake at night, Erskine writes novels that are more about unfinished business than hammer house horror.
If you want to read for yourself, best stop there and come back in case I spoil the story for you!
I started this book as soon as I came back from the bookshop – I was immersed immediately and could not put it down – I found Lucy a likeable character and found Evie’s life interesting as she struggled with farm tasks and painting. What attracted me to this novel was that she had written about my local area, Lucy’s art gallery was based in Chichester – and the Battle of Britain played out across the Sussex Downs with several small airfields locally were the back drop for Evie’s tale.
I found the plot and storylines plausible but then midway through the book I found my enthusiasm waning.
I think I was frustrated – Evie’s section of the tale was getting repetitive, I lost count of the number of times Evie and Tony could not meet, wrote notes to each other saying they could not meet, only for them to meet briefly and the whole thing repeat itself. Her life was dull, milking cows, and painting – she only went out once and that was when she met Tony. Rachel (her mother) was more real, but I found the wailing haunting really odd, as was the woman living in the house in the present day.
Evie never really came across as a full bodied character – she was passive, it was hard to relate to her. I thought it might have been better if we could have had some of her diary entries written in the first person – I needed to understand how she ticked, what she felt – it was all in the third person so she never really came alive.
When she was laying with Tony in the thunderstorm was the closest we had to understanding Evie she was wildly exuberant, it would have been nice for them to have spent more time together, so that the depth of their feelings was understandable. Maybe even meetings where they felt soul to soul – instead they simply met and fell in love. Tony creeping in the house at night to her upstairs bedroom was odd, it did not seem likely that Evie’s father would have tolerated that for one minute – I imagine any man would take that as an insult to his household. Tony would have been a bit of a cad for doing that sort of thing. Why did it have to be sex, why not the pictures or a local dance?
There were other elements of the story that I began to struggle with:
Lucy’s story was more interesting, but she was also passive. Other supporting characters drove the story, dealt with the ghosts, dropped research into her hands – everyone was rallying round her and she really did not do much to bring the story together, in the end I was irritated by her. I thought that Caroline had more substance, I knew what motivated her, she had passion whereas Lucy seemed to drift through her research as she drifted through everyone else’s home.
I also found it odd that despite Lucy’s husband dying in the first few pages, she never misses him and falls in love quite easily! (I’m not telling you who – read it and see!)
Yet, I enjoyed it because I read it solidly for a week – there was enough of a mystery to keep me guessing and it did all come together.
I believe I learned quite a lot from this book – the story itself was very good – I love two stories and unravelling mysteries. I also like to believe that ghosts have unfinished business!
I would recommend it to my friends, they may not have the same reservations – I would love to hear from other readers about how they found it.
I can recommend Hiding from the Light – I thought it was one of her best. About the Witch-finder General – a haunted cottage and of course Witches and ghosts!
I am not a poet, sometimes I catch one – just like a butterfly – if I am lucky I have time to write it down. Today, while my eyes strayed to the bookshelves (I have them in every room), this little poem popped in my head.
The sign of a good book is when I think about the characters even when I am not reading, Maddie, Jane and Celeste felt as real as my own friends.
Liane Morriaty creates believable characters – Maddie was my favourite, maybe the one I can relate to the most because she loves a bit of drama! she is far from perfect, a bit of a stirrer, but has the best of intentions. The characters seem to struggle with the similar issues, big and small, grappling with modern family life. The school gate mothers were so true to life here in the UK I enjoyed a giggle as I could pinpoint a Renata alongside the blonde bobs! My school yard experience seems not quite as unique as I thought, I spent many a terrifying time quaking in my boots waiting for my children to come out of school!
I have to admit the story telling gave me a little headache at first, you flit through so many characters, it seems to hop from one to another but this is put to good use as the tension builds and grows until I found myself reading well into the early hours! The observations that come from minor characters give more depth to the main characters, you get to see them through different eyes.
What could be more hilarious than fighting men wearing Elvis Costumes while a host of Audrey’s gaze on? Murder might not be a usual occurrence at a school event, but its the humanity that Liane weaves into her tales that makes all her books such gripping reads, ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. We might dislike some characters, they may behave in unreasonable ways, judgemental attitudes, bullying that occurs not just among the children. Domestic violence is tackled with understanding and realism, constructed in such a way that it is credible, it helped me to understand why domestic victims have mixed emotions.
It does reach a satisfactory conclusion, we do discover who the murderer is, and more importantly who the victim is, and I am smug enough to report that I guessed correctly! (Perhaps its written so well that the clues are easy to follow!) The loose ends are tied up so neatly, that I found myself smiling as I read the end; although somewhat disappointed that I had lost a host of wonderful entertaining friends.
I cannot recommend this book enough, alongside the Husband’s secret, What Alice Forgot and the Hypnotist’s love story.
If you haven’t discovered Liane Morriaty yet, then I am envious! She is a tremendous writer, I am sure it won’t be long before we see one of her books on film.