Saturday, 26 July 2014

Devil In Amber by Mark Gatiss / Going Back by Rachael English / Secret River by Kate Grenville

The Devil in Amber by Mark Gatiss
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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Devil In Amber is a 39 Steps type adventure loosely set across 1930s Europe. Our hero, Lucifer Box, is a little older but no less dashing. I still love the whole trilogy of which this is the second volume, but they do gently fade from the first one onwards. I think the original steampunk era Vesuvius Club perfectly suited Gatiss' writing and this pre-war horror-thriller just doesn't have quite the same panache.

Perhaps it's the lack of sexuality, perhaps the characters aren't as strong. I can't quite determine the problem. Devil In Amber is still a fun read though and I'm looking forward to my re-read of the third volume, Black Butterfly too.


Going Back by Rachael English
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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My copy of Going Back was that rare luxury for me, a brand new book! I won it courtesy of a twitter giveaway from the lovely Sophie at ReviewedTheBook - a blog well worth a follow.

Set almost entirely in Boston, America, Going Back's first half tells the story of twenty year old Elizabeth's summer getaway, an escape from the Ireland of her childhood to a land where anything might be possible. I enjoyed reading this. I was thirteen in 1988 so recognised several of the nostalgic references. Rachael English's use of Irish-isms is colourful without creating caricature and I got a nice sense of the sudden liberation Elizabeth felt as she raced through a potentially life-changing experience. The madness of the summer romance with Danny is predictable but fun to follow.

I felt Going Back lost its realism in the second half though. We meet Elizabeth some twenty years later, discovering how both her and Danny's lives have turned out. I won't spoil any surprises, but I felt the writing was now too rushed. Major bombshells are metaphorically dropped, but seemingly with little regard for all we had previously learned about our protagonists. Some of the ways they acted left me baffled!

Had Going Back not done just that and been purely the 1988 tale, I would have given a solid four stars. As it is, I think the return let itself down, particularly in its search for a neat conclusion.


The Secret River by Kate Grenville
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of my WorldReads from Australia

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I registered a book at BookCrossing.com

I read a book a few years ago, English Passengers I think, which told some of the story of Australia's colonisation from the Aboriginal viewpoint. Secret River is very much from the white side but in a way that allows the reader to empathise with both peoples.

Will and Sal are sent from destitution in London where petty thieves are hung, violence is commonplace and class distinction rubbed in their faces at every turn. Upon arrival in New South Wales, they believe are no longer the lowest of the low, misunderstanding the native people's independence from material possessions as savagery.

I love how Kate Grenville understands Will and Sal, their partnership and their desperation to improve their lot. Her descriptions of the as yet unspoilt wilderness are inspirational and she has a great sense of time and place. The novel is a lesson in how ignorance breeds fear which breeds anger which leads to destruction. It is so sad that this tale of over 200 years ago should still be as relevant now.

View all my reviews on Stephanie Jane or on Goodreads

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