I Will Not Kill Myself, Olivia – Danny Baker

I’ve had this sitting on my kindle for a while and a recent weekend away provided the opportunity to read it. Written in the first person this reads like an autobiography, although I’ve no idea if it is autobiographical I suspect the author does have personal experience of the issues in this book.

It follows the story of Jimmy and his journey from champion surfer to suicidal young man. Its an insightful account of a spiral into debilitating depression written with an incredible honesty that has definitely helped me understand more about what it is to suffer from depression and the relentlessness of this illness. However it is more than this, it’s also a story of growing up, of intoxicating first love and experimenting with drink and drugs. At times I found some of this a bit too explicit and unnecessary but overall that doesn’t take away from the power of this book in shedding light onto the nature of depression. Well worth a read.

 

 

The House on Sunset Lake -Tasmina Perry

This was our book group book for February. I have never read anything by this author but the blurb sounded promising so was looking forward to getting stuck in. The story centres around the house in the title, a beautiful lakeside mansion in Savannah in Americas deep south. The book opens with the news that this house is for sale and will be bought by a hotel chain the main character Jim Johnson works for. He will oversee the sale and transformation into exclusive hotel. This house is particularly significant to Jim as he spent a life changing summer there in his youth. The mystery of what happened that summer is gradually revealed as Jim travels back to America  and is reunited with Jennifer who had lived in the house and whom he had fallen in love with 20 years previously during the summer of 1995. The book follows both Jim and Jennifers stories, what happened in that long ago summer and how their lives are now. Both stories are fairly interesting and the book is atmospheric at times, capturing youthful passion and longing however I felt it took itself a bit too seriously. It takes a long time to really get going and eventually leads to a twist towards the end that I don’t think works very well. I found the ending a bit too contrived for my liking too! It’s not a bad read, probably a good holiday read but it definitely won’t send me out hunting for others by the same author.

In The Beginning – Catherine Dunne

At the end of January I had a few days until my next book group so was looking for a fairly short read to tide me over. I remembered about a couple of books I had picked up on a trip to Barter Books in Alnwick (a veritable haven for book lovers) and decided to give this one a bash. It fitted the bill perfectly, a fairly easy and short read but warm and with a well written character that kept me engaged.

It tells the story of Rose, an ordinary housewife from an ordinary family whose life changes suddenly one morning when without any warning her husband announces he is leaving her.  The book then tells the story of how Rose copes in the immediacy of this announcement as well as re examines their marriage as she tries to work out what went wrong. Rose is a likable and realistic character and I think this book captures the essence of daily life in the aftermath of a shocking change. It’s simple yet engaging, warm and honest and made for a thoughtful little read.

Cartes Postales from Greece – Victoria Hislop

This was our book group book for January. Having previously read books by this author I know how well she paints a picture of the settings in her stories and was really looking forward to being immersed in beautiful Greece. In this sense I was not disappointed, vivid descriptions perfectly capture the atmosphere of the locations Hislop describes and in many ways this book takes the reader on a journey through Greece. The main story itself is not as strong as the writing within it. Initially we are introduced to Ellie who keeps receiving postcards from Greece addressed to a name she doesn’t recognise and signed only with an initial A. They brighten her otherwise fairly mundane life and when they cease she decides to take a trip to Greece to see the country for herself. Just as she is leaving a notebook is delivered. She packs it in her handbag and begins to read it when she arrives in Greece. We read this with her, the journal of a man’s journey through Greece, from heartbreak to healing and a desire to live again. Essentially this is a book packed full of short stories, legends and tales from the many places A visits. Some of these are more compelling than others, I found I enjoyed these more the further I got into the book perhaps as I became more comfortable with the format and less interested in the overarching story of Ellie! I found the ending a bit contrived however the storytelling and descriptions of Greek life do make up for that and mean that I did find it a good read!

Small Great Things – Jodi Picoult

A fantastic start to my reading of 2017 with Jodi Picoults latest novel. This was Jodi at her finest,  presenting all sides of a moral dilemma with understanding, empathy and compassion culminating in a gripping court case and leaving the reader thinking about the issues long after closing the book.

Small great things tells the story of Ruth, a midwife with over 20 years experience and single mother of a teenage son following the death of her husband who died serving in Afghanistan. One day during her shift Ruth is told she can longer care for the newborn she has just performed newborn checks on. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, an African American, caring for their baby. The hospital comply with their request and Ruth is assigned to other patients. The following day, due to no fault of her own,  Ruth is left in the nursery alone with the baby when he develops a complication. She has to make a decision between following orders or trying to save the baby. Despite her efforts the baby dies and she is charged with his murder.  The rest of the book explores the unfolding events and the subsequent court case from the viewpoints of Ruth, the babies father and the public defender. It is at times a challenging and uncomfortable read,  particularly the story of Turk and his life as a white supremacist. It is extremely well told allowing the reader into worlds  we may not have experienced before and asking us to confront our own biases and prejudices. Jodi Picoult has a real ability in being able to illustrate her points exceptionally well and barely a page is turned without such an illustration giving the reader many opportunities to think and reflect on what is happening. This occasionally feels a little bit repetitive but is an excellent way of driving home a point.

I enjoyed reading this book and wanted to find out how it was going to end however I think it’s most important quality is the manner in which it has the potential to open the eyes of the reader to issues surrounding race and prejudice that we never have considered before. A very good but also powerful and important read.