Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Ferney by James Long / Shadows Of Us by L N Nino / Of Love And Shadows by Isabel Allende

FerneyFerney by James Long
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ferney was one of the paperbacks put aside for me by my sister. I got it in April and have only just gotten around to it, such is the heap of books I have awaiting reading! I have left my copy in the reading room at the Yorkshire Museum, York, registered for Bookcrossing.

Unintentionally similar, Ferney shares a multiple lives theme with another of my recent reads, Life After Life. However, in Ferney, James Long explores the possibility of reincarnation in different lives rather than the repeated reliving of a single life. The character, Ferney, is an eighty-year old man living in a rural, historic village. When young couple Mike and Gally move in nearby, Ferney tries to convince Gally that she is his eternal soulmate and that they have lived many previous lives together. I loved this premise for a novel and Long inventions of historical situations are interesting and exciting. He talks in a brief foreword about his research in the real-life village which inspired his tale and this effort does shine through in his prose. If he has written one yet, I would like to read a whole historical novel as Long has a gift for bringing the past to life. I wasn't so keen on the jumping around in time in Ferney though. For me, the present-day scenes were often flat and I wasn't convinced by the characters of either of our heroes. I thought the most believable character was Mike, who is not a particularly likeable person.

Ferney is a lengthy book which I thought would benefit from being a out 100 pages shorter. There is excess repetition, especially at the beginning when Gally's psychological hangups are established and the pace often slowed too much to maintain my interest.

Buy the paperback from Waterstones.

Shadows of Us: A NovelShadows of Us: A Novel by L. N. Nino
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a copy of Shadows Of Us from its author, L N Nino, is exchange for my honest review.

I had previously enjoyed L N Nino's novella The Brain Within Its Groove so was happy to be approached to read his new novel Shadows Of Us. Set in a fictional closed community, the novel examines themes of wealth and privilege, desire and ambition.

William, the grandson of the richest and most powerful man in Richford Isles is determined to make his mark by becoming a widely respected writer, enrolling on a supposedly obscure university course to achieve this aim. However the reported attendance of the beautiful Julia has meant that the course is wildly oversubscribed by other students wanting to make their mark, not in literary circles, but upon Julia! As Shadows Of Us progresses, William finds himself both falling for Julia and having his eyes opened to the realities of life outside his cloistered existence.

L N Nino has a wonderfully dry sense of humour and, at times, a particularly savage pen! I enjoyed reading of the angry and mean lecturer, the world-weary librarian and William himself who reminded me at times of Stoner. Richtown and Poorvillage, while essentially simple creations, are beautifully described and scenes such as the retrieval of The Great Gatsby set a perfect tone. I remained engrossed in the twists of the story throughout and did not see that ending coming, especially not in that degree of grotesqueness.

Unfortunately Shadows Of Us does suffer from a fair sprinkling of typos and wrong words which is ironic in a novel that champions the literary and incorporates many references from other works. Repeated apparent errors such as on for in could be seen in context as a style choice, but the others are frequent enough to become distracting and are the reason I have awarded four stars rather than five. Cleaned up, Shadows Of Us would be a five star read.

Of Love and ShadowsOf Love and Shadows by Isabel Allende
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another 'Shadows' title, this time my first fictional work by Isabel Allende and a paperback which I swapped for in the great library at Camping Ribamar in Alcossebre, Spain. I have left my copy in the OXFAM bookshop in Petergate, York.

The setting of Of Love And Shadows is never explicitly made clear, but is obviously Allende's home nation of Chile under the years of dictatorship in which so many people were disappeared. One one level a classic love story - working class photographer Francisco meets upper class journalist Irene Beltran and the pair are soon attracted to each other - the novel also examines the eye-opening experiences of Irene as she learns about the side of her country that has previously been hidden from her.

Allende does not shy away from graphic descriptions of shocking acts and there is much in this book that is very hard to read, more so because its essence is truth. I particularly liked the way she portrayed all responses to the regime including those trying to fight back, those involved in perpetrating the violence, those who refused to see, and those who were victimised and powerless. Irene's mother is a great creation, taking advantage of her wealth for freedom and looking away while being completely unwilling to accept the horrors even when her own daughter becomes involved. Irene's loss of innocence is also expertly written and I frequently wondered what I would do in such a situation.

While it feels wrong to have 'enjoyed' a book of such a dark time, I will say that Of Love And Shadows is a fantastic read. The love story is romantic and totally believable, and the intrigue of uncovering hidden truths keeps a compelling pace from start to finish. Even characters that we only briefly meet are well-rounded and Allende has a wonderfully descriptive turn of phrase, frequently almost poetic. I loved this book.

Buy the paperback from Waterstones.

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