Friday, 18 March 2016

Silk by Alessandro Baricco / The Children's Home by Charles Lambert / Second Chance Grill by Christine Nolfi

Silk by Alessandro Baricco
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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I borrowed a paperback copy of Silk by Alessandro Baricco from my friend Marta who absolutely loved this book. Written by an Italian author, the story is set in 1860s France and Japan. A French merchant, Herve Joncour, leaves his small town every year to buy silk worm eggs. He travels for a couple of months to the Middle East and always returns on the same date. However, diseased silk worms threaten bankruptcy for the town's silk mills so Herve is encouraged to travel much further, to isolated Japan, in search of healthy silk worm eggs.

The story in Silk is almost incidental to the book itself. The novella's great strength is its beautifully understated writing style which often feels Japanese. The incredible journey to Japan is described briefly, but this passage is repeated word for word each time Herve undertakes the voyage. The repetition reinforces our understanding of his effort. Once in the island nation, his clandestine purchases lead him to meet a concubine. Although the two never even speak, he becomes obsessed with her, taking his obsession home alongside his silk worm eggs. The scenes are so delicately written that they were unlike pretty much anything else I remember reading. At times I found the prose almost too ethereal and I couldn't completely accept the premise of such deep love based on such fleeting encounters. I would recommend Silk though, purely for the beauty of its prose.

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Books by Alessandro Baricco / Historical fiction / Books from Italy


The Children's Home by Charles Lambert
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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I received a copy of The Children's Home by Charles Lambert from its publishers, Aardvark Bureau, via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review.

The Children's Home is set in an unspecified country that is vaguely enough described that it could be almost anywhere. A man in early middle-age, Morgan, lives reclusively behind the high walls of his private estate seen only by a housekeeper, Engel, who arrived mysteriously in the relatively recent past. An earlier accident left Morgan facially disfigured and he copes with his self-imposed isolation by spending hours amongst his grandfather's library of books. He catalogues these books and only occasionally opens one to read it. When a baby is discovered on the kitchen doorstep Morgan allows Engel to care for it and soon other children begin appearing too. All are given a home within the sprawling house.

The Children's Home is another novel which has wonderfully written scenes. Like my last read, Silk, the prose is beautiful and there are numerous memorable images, although I am hoping that the dark moments towards the end of the tale do fade soon as some were disturbing to read. I have only awarded a three-star rating though because other aspects were irritating or baffling. Lambert has his characters be evasive on frequent occasions. One especially, a precocious boy named David who seems to age rapidly and soons becomes a kind of leader, repeatedly tells us, through Morgan, that we must be patient and the time is not yet right. However, the book isn't very long! Morgan is unbelievably passive and the children are never clearly defined. We don't even learn how many of them there are. The final denouement is graphic and powerful, but I ultimately thought it unsatisfying because I still didn't know what was really going on. The whys and hows aren't explained so it felt like I had read only the middle chapters. A shame because much of the writing itself is very good, but the overall story is so well hidden that, much like Morgan himself, I felt I had completely missed the point.

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Books by Charles Lambert / Horror / Books from England


Second Chance Grill by Christine Nolfi
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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A promotion to get a free copy of Second Chance Grill was advertised by its author, Christine Nolfi, on Goodreads so I took advantage! The novel is set in small town America, the town of Liberty, Ohio, and begins when young doctor Mary Chance moves to town to take over the running of her aunt's restaurant. Mary is grieving the loss of her best friend and hopes that her sabbatical in Liberty will help her to overcome her sorrow in order to resume her medical career. She is meant to be returning to Cincinnati after a year, however she hasn't counted on the charms of the local garage mechanic, Anthony, or the perseverance of his terminally ill daughter, Blossom.

Second Chance Grill was an easy read and, to be honest, a light relief after my previous bemusing book, The Children's Home. Nolfi's characters are typical of the people found in small communities the world over and the camaraderie shown by everyone when things get tough makes for an uplifting novel. I was surprised by some of the medical plot surrounding Blossom's illness, especially the inhumanity of the American healthcare system. I am certainly glad of the NHS! Overall though the storyline went pretty much where I expected it would and the romantic ending is telegraphed from Mary and Anthony's first meeting. I am not sure I would read further books in the series as this type of women's fiction isn't really my bag, but as a change it was a fun novel. And I love the colourful image on the cover which encourages me to visit Ohio!

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Books by Christine Nolfi / Women's fiction / Books from America

1 comment:

  1. Get Liberty series novel Four Wishes on sale for just 99 cents through Christine Nolfi's website today!

    http://christinenolfi.com/2016/05/four-wishes-sale/

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