I am pretty sure that I read more than 8 books this month, but Goodreads tells me that is my monthly roundup so I guess I will just go with it!
Apart from the books I have already reviewed, these 3 I have clustered together as I am planning my books for October so I can draw a line under September.
‘No Fixed Address’ by Susin Nielsen (Andersen Press)
I received a copy of this book from Lovereading4kids in return for an honest review. This honestly broke my heart. Endorsed by Amnesty International, ‘No fixed address’ looks at the issue of the invisible homeless from the perspective of Felix (almost 13 years old) and his mother Astrid. Through a series of poor decision making and factors outside of her control, Astrid has ended up with nowhere to live. She and Felix live in a Westfalia van, it is meant to be temporary-only for the summer-but as one month rolls into 2, then 3 then 4, Felix begins to suspect that this might be permanent.
Felix is dealing with a tremendous amount-he has to keep up appearances at school, look after his mum and his hamster whilst lurking in the background is the ever present fear of being taken away from Astrid. His voice rings clearly through the narrative-the shame he feels, the pride in not letting anyone know and most of all, the sharp, incisive way in which he deduces the steps that have led them to living in a van. It’s going to be ok though, Felix has a plan….
This book promotes social awareness of a situation that is particular to Canada in this book, but relatable on global scale. In the UK, specifically Wales where we have more children living in poverty than any other part of the country, more families are living on the edge than ever. We are constantly reminded that anyone of us is only 3 pay checks from homelessness. Many children are living in emergency or ‘temporary’ accommodation such as described in the book which is not fit for them to be living in, let alone studying or having any privacy. At the end of the book there are questions to guide how to process the book, notes on the inspiration behind it and a message from Amnesty on how to support children like Felix.
‘Guess Who?’ by Chris McGeorge
Who doesn’t love a locked room mystery? Not this crime addict! I read the synopsis , ordered it as quickly as possible, started to read it then sadly it got lost in my constant reshuffling of my TBR(to be read) piles …ARGHHHH! Fast forward a shameful amount of time during which I was constantly being pulled back to what had happened, it resurfaced-Hurrah! And I dived straight in….
Morgan Sheppard is on the verge of being written off. As a tv show host-a self proclaimed ‘detective’ who solved his first crime as a teenager-he brings guest onto his show to try and detect the solution. Think Jeremy Kyle crossed with Rogue Traders with a charismatic host and you are somewhere close to Morgan.
Past his prime, with psychological issues from his childhood, in therapy but it’s not helping, neither is a stream of faceless women or drugs and alcohol, Morgan is, quite frankly, a mess.
So when he wakes up in a hotel room after blacking out he is unsurprised. What IS surprising is that he is in a room with 5 other people, a dead body and no discernible way of escape. Then the tv comes on and a man(possibly) in a horse head mask tells them that it’s Morgan’s fault that they are locked in. They have 3 hours to solve the mystery of who the man in the tub is, why he was killed and who did the deed. Or the hotel will be blown up. The clock starts ticking away as these random strangers have to piece together if they know each other, how do they know each other
The pace of this book is so confident and assured it is hard to believe this is a debut novel. I genuinely cannot wait until Feb 2019 for the next one, a sample of which is tantalisingly dangled at the end of the book…
‘The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair’ by Joel Dicker
I wanted to read this because I am an impatient sort, and not wanting to wait until the Sky Witness programme concluded , I needed to find out what happened to Nola Kellergan sooner rather than later (btw, it is a superb adaptation!).
Marcus Goldman, ‘Marcus the Magnificent’ is stuck on his second novel. The first was a runaway success and everyone-especially his publisher and agent-is clamouring for a follow up. But nothing is happening, he finds himself unable to write so reaches out to his college professor, Harry Quebert, himself a published novelist of critical acclaim.
Upon being invited to his home at Goose Cove, Marcus inadvertently finds a box full of letters from a woman and also a picture of Harry-but he is not with a young woman, she is a girl of 15…
An argument ensues following which Marcus leaves only to be called a few days later by a distraught harry who has been arrested. The 15 year old girl, Nola , had vanished in 1975 and never found until Harry’s garden was dug up by contractors and bones were unearthed as well as a manuscript for Harry’s first novel. Harry has been arrested for her murder.
Running back to Goose Cove to support his friend and mentor , Marcus is drawn in to the investigation as he tries to discern the truth about who Harry is, what he was capable of doing in 1975 and how to write again.
This novel starts at the end and works itself back to the table of contents, basing each chapter on one of Harry’s rules for writing. Neatly flipping back and forth between 1975 and 2008 , the narrative covers various characters perspectives from first and third person narratives. Every time you think you know where the story is going, you end up wrong footed as revelations are dropped into the reader’s mouth like a bird feeding their chicks. The actual truth of what happened to Nola is as relevant as the truth about Harry-he arrived in Goose Cove looking for inspiration and was seized upon by a number of locals who used his title of ‘writer from New York’ to advance themselves socially, gain professional kudos or provide an escape from small town life.
It is uncomfortable at times reading about a love affair-allegedly unconsummated-between a 34 year old man and a 15 year old girl and the whole ‘It was the 70’s! Things were different then!’ rationale to sweep away any sort of impropriety is does not sit easily in the era of #Timesup and #MeToo. It will be interesting to see how the tv programme will deal with this….However, in the context of the novel it makes sense. Harry was a conduit for the townspeople as he is a conduit for Marcus. No sooner than he rushes to his friends side than his publisher is ringing him asking to turn the media circus into the contracted second novel. Does Marcus continue to shoot for glory over people or does he genuinely want to clear his mentor’s name?
This is a book about book writing as well as being the story of a fateful summer in 1975. It could be argued that it is metafiction, but that is up to the reader to decide. One of the central tenets of the book, to my mind, was to whom does a book belong? Is it to the writer, or the reader who sees and creates images of the book in their own mind that could be entirely different to what was intended? Or does it belong to the subject, the muse, the inspiration behind the book. I absolutely felt hungover on finishing ‘Harry Quebert’, it was an experience that I lived through and am looking forward to reading the semi follow up novel ‘Baltimore Boys’.