Throwback Thursday: Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan

throwbackthursday

Throwback Thursday is a meme created by Renée at It’s Book Talk to share old favourite books rather than just the new shiny ones. This is a great idea to bring back to life some much-loved books. Please feel free to join in.

This week I have chosen Bonjour Tristesse which I read back in 2009.

9780141198750Bonjour Tristesee by Francoise Sagan

This book was written by an 18 year old which, when you consider the richness of the narrative and the emotions involved, I find quite astounding. Or maybe I’ve just got too old and have forgotten how complex emotions are when you’re teetering on the brink of adulthood. Either way, I thought it was brilliantly done.

Bonjour Tristesse (Hello Sadness) is a tale of one tragic summer through the eyes of a seventeen year old girl. Spoilt and extrovert, Cecile is used to living the high life with her 40 year old Dad whom she goes out drinking and gambling with as if she were his contemporary. They head off from Paris to a villa in the south of France for 2 months one summer (taking along Elsa, her fathers current girlfriend) and spend the first few weeks doing little else other than sunbathing and swimming in the sea. Then Anne arrives (Cecile’s dead mothers best friend) who is sensible, intelligent and calm (everything Cecile and her father are not). Cecile loves Anne, but having been used to doing exactly as she pleases, she is not pleased when Anne treats her as the child she is and makes her study for her exams. Cecile is adamant that she doesn’t need exams – she is already leading the life she wants (living in luxury and partying none stop). Shortly after, Anne and Cecile’s father announce that they are getting married and here Cecile hatches a plan to stop the wedding at all costs (fearing for the lifestyle she loves with her father and knowing that it will all change). She involves Elsa, the spurned girlfriend, and Cyril, the boy from the next villa whom she has been sleeping with, to help her plot the undoing of the engagement. Everything seems to be going according to plan, and then it all goes horribly wrong…

I loved it. I don’t know if it is because Sagan was the same age as Cecile herself or that she was an incredibly perceptive young lady, but she really captures the fine balance of not being sure whether you’re an adult or a child. Interestingly, although Anne appears to treat her as the latter and her father as a contemporary, Cecile herself says that she feels like their pet kitten (something to be cooed at and petted).

Verdict:

I instantly fell in love with this book. I have since read a few more of Sagan’s books and been similarly blown away by how perceptive of humans and what makes us human she is. An extremely talented writer.

 

Have you read any of Sagan’s books? Any others you would recommend?

Review: The Thousand Lights Hotel by Emylia Hall

5129S0mNC-LWhat I thought:

I chose this book as I was going on holiday to Italy and like to take books with me that are set in the place I am visiting.

Sitting by her mum’s bedside just before she dies, Kit asks one last time about the father whose identity and name she never knew. Kit is stunned when her mum, Rosa, admits that he is not dead after all, but very much alive. After a period of mourning her mums passing, she tracks down the man she has believed dead for the last 30 years and sets off to the tiny Italian island of Elba to find him.

Emylia Hall’s descriptions of Italy (and its food) are sumptuous. Evocative passages about the landscape, flowers, fragrance, colours and taste of the food were mouthwatering. The Hotel that sits of a cliff edge with lush and blooming gardens, wit winding paths to the sea and candle-lit evenings: divine!

The Thousand Lights Hotel is a book about loss and betrayal and fear and hope. Kit has grown up in England with a mother who escaped Italy just before she was born and has always warned Kit to stay away from men and not to fall in love. She has an image of a man who should be held in contempt, and not the one who greets her at the hotel he owns and is loved by staff and guest alike. Valentino is a wonderful character who cares deeply about the people in his life, but there is a profound sense of something missing or lost in his life. When he and Kit finally meet and he is told who she is, it sets off a chain of events that unravel the past in a way that neither of them were expecting.

While I did really enjoy this book, I didn’t love it. For some reason, despite the beautiful prose and heavenly setting, I felt somewhat detached from the book and its characters. I never felt that I got to know Kit properly. I appreciate that she was coming to terms with a major loss and uncertain of the future but even so, I didn’t ever really warm to her at all felt unconnected to her story. I think my main issue was that it was paced slowly and steadily, and dare I say, monotonously. If I’m really enjoying a book, I can’t wait to pick it up again, but with this book, I honestly had nothing pulling me back to it when it was set down.

Verdict:

An enjoyable but slow read for me. Not much pulling power in this book. Delicious prose and lip-smacking foody descriptions make an ideal escapism read but I wan’t blown away by it.

 

Review: The Hourglass by Tracy Rees

51vjrbn217LWhat I thought:

I bought this book on a whim because I saw that it was set in Tenby. I had spent Christmas week in a cottage in Pembrokeshire last year and visited (and fallen in love with) the coastal town of Tenby. This book turned out to be exactly what I needed this week too: I had an urge to be swept to another place and to enjoy the company of characters I cared about (the kind you think about even when you’re not reading the book). It was both those things and more.

Set in a dual timeframe, The Hourglass follows Chloe in 1950 and Nora in 2014. Chloe is a teenager from a tiny Welsh village who, for 3 weeks every summer, goes to Tenby to stay with her cousins and where she runs free, swims in the sea and picnics on the beach with her best friend Llew who lives in the town. It’s a magical time for Chloe and I could feel her excitement and joy at being there. Fast forward to 2014, Nora is on the cusp of her 40th birthday and coming to the realisation that she is in a relationship that’s going nowhere and in a job that has burned her out. She is questioning her whole life and after suddenly jacking her job in one day, finds herself drawn to the Welsh town of Tenby where she once visited as a child while staying with her Grandparents. Booking a week there in a hotel, Nora finds that she can suddenly breathe again: she wakes at leisure, takes long walks along the coast and reads books that aren’t business related. She feels so drawn to Tenby that she decides to stay on and rents a house overlooking the beach with a new friend.

I lived in the pages of this book for 4 days and even began to read slower because I didn’t want it to end. I was invested in the characters and I missed them when I wasn’t reading. The town of Tenby was the perfect setting for this book and I completely understood Nora and her desire to flee from the rat-race (who doesn’t have that dream every now and then?), to be still, to live in the moment. And I just loved Tenby in the 1950’s as Chloe is growing up. In both eras, Tracy Rees has managed to capture the allure and magic of this small coastal village with its pastel-coloured houses along the seafront and it’s sand dunes. It has made me want to go back there again and soon.

Verdict:

The perfect escapist read. Evocative and heartwarming, The Hourglass has secrets, drama and nostalgia. Honestly, one of my favourite books of the year so far. I loved every minute of this book and have already downloaded the authors other two books onto my Kindle.

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The Book Whisperer’s Month in Review: April 2017

month 2

April has been a real mixed month for me. I have been spoiled with some utterly fantastic books and started some I couldn’t even finish. I completed 7 books and out of that seven, I adored 5 of them so much that I am going to struggle to put them in order.

So, I am starting with a joint first purely for the fact that I loved these 2 books so much but they were completely different from one antoher and I loved them for totally different reasons:

 

Joint 1st

 

Let Me Tell You About A Man I Knew by Susan Fletcher

This book was a joy to read from start to finish. Susan Fletcher can write. I mean, REALLY write. If you love beautiful storytelling and pitch-perfect prose, you need to read this book. I cannot recommend highly enough.

 

Tall Oaks by Chris Whitaker 

Such a great book – mystery, humour, humanity, the whole works. And included one of my favourite ever characters in a book – 17-year-old-wannabe-gangster Manny. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant!!

 

Honestly, I do not know why either of these books is not being more widely read. They are both fantastic and highly, highly recommended.

 

3rd

sweetpea

 

Sweetpea by C J Skuse

This book is dark, it’s crude, it’s shameless, it’s but it’s utterly and absolutely freaking hilarious! Sweetpea is a serial killer but I guarantee you’ll fall in love with her. A riot of a read and highly recommended.

 

Joint 4th

In any other month, either of these books could have romped home in first place. I’ve just been so spoiled this month and it’s actually a travesty that two fantastic books look like they’re so far down my list.

 

The Last Piece of my Heart by Paige Toon

Set in Cornwall and Thailand, this feel-good, romantic book is pure escapism. Big thumbs up.

Dead Woman Walking by Sharon Bolton

Review to follow but utterly gripping as always. If you’re already a Bolton fan, this is up to her usual high standards, if you’ve never read any of her books, what are you waiting for?

 

6th 

bricks

The Bricks That Built The Houses by Kate Tempest

So here’s the thing: while I hated parts of it, and early on could quite happily have put it to one side for later (or never), I ended up racing through this book and really quite enjoying it. I was invested, I wanted to know what was coming next, and I started to look forward to picking it up. Whatever your view on the topics in the book, it’s certainly a good one to read in a book group!

 

7th

quicksand

 

Quicksand by Malin Persson Giolito

Quicksand, for me, lacked suspense or tension: there were no surprises, twists, red herrings and no reason to keep reading on. And yet I did. Because surely an award-winning book must redeem itself, right? Wrong. I read all the way to the end and wasn’t even rewarded for my slog. That said, it is getting lots of rave reviews so definitely one to make your own mind up about.

 

Verdict:

An outstanding month for books (which makes me slightly worried that I will have a run of duff ones now).

I could honestly recommend any of the books on my list for this month. The first 5 because they were all brilliant, and the latter two because I’m curious to hear what others think about them and despite them not necessarily being my cup of tea, I can certainly see why others would love them. Something for everyone.

Have you read any of these books? I’d love to know what you think.

 

Review: The Last Piece of my Heart by Paige Toon

last pieceWhat I thought:

I have long been a fan of Paige Toon’s books. She is one of those authors whose books you just know you will love; a go-to author. Women’s Fiction, chick lit, holiday reading, call it what you will – when all said and done, they are feel-good and will melt the hardest of hearts.

What I like about Paige Toon’s books is that characters from previous books quite often pop up (no plot spoilers, usually just a brief mention by way of a call or email but it always puts a smile on my face to hear from them). In The Last Piece of my Heart, Bridget re-locates to Cornwall to ghostwrite a sequel to a best-selling novel, only the widow of the author who wrote the first book is still grieving and not especially pleased to see her. I don’t want to say more than that, as I find that with these books it’s best to get swept up in the unfolding story without knowing which direction it might go in  (I say that because in some of Toon’s books we’re not actually sure who the lead character will end up with).

I do like books like this in between crime and more literary reads – I consider them palate-cleansers, and I don’t mean that to sound in any way derogatory, as some have become firm favourites of mine; a respite or an escape, real comfort reading. What I especially love about Paige Toon’s books, among all of this genre that I enjoy, is that they are probably the books that make me root for the characters the most. We watch them fall slowly for each other and cheer them on towards the hoped-for conclusion.

Verdict:

Another belter. Feel-good, romantic, pure escapism. Big thumbs up.

Have you read any of Paige Toon’s books? Which other authors from this genre would you recommend?

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for my copy of this book in return for my honest review.

Review: Let Me Tell You About A Man I Knew by Susan Fletcher

man i knewWhat I Thought:

This weekend I sat in the garden, the sun shining, and read the most beautiful, lyrical and vividly written book – Let Me Tell You About A Man I Knew. This isn’t the first book I have read by this author (more on that later) so I knew that I was in for a treat and I wasn’t let down in the slightest.

This book is a feast for the senses. From the very first sentence, I was whisked immediately away to the Provencial countryside as a new spring is dawning and I was immersed in colours and fragrances and sensations that can only be brought about by the most talented author. I was there under the lime tree, I felt the breeze lift the hem of my skirt, and heard the parched earth drink the water from the upturned pail.

The man of the book title is, in fact, Vincent van Gogh, however, he isn’t the protagonist; that is Jeanne Trabuc. Van Gogh is more of a supporting character to enable Jeanne to evolve and blossom, and the story is really hers. The year is 1889 and set in the Saint-Paul Asylum, Saint-Rémy, where Van Gogh admitted himself and was a patient for a year, painting some of his most loved paintings during that time before he became more well known. Jeanne lives with her husband Charles in a little white cottage next to the asylum in the French countryside as Charles is the Manager there. Jeanne, whose three grown up sons have all left home, lives by the rules she has become accustomed to over the years and is forbidden to enter the asylum grounds but she finds a way to meet with Vincent often and through their conversations while he paints, she learns to remember the woman (and child) she was; the playful, independent girl who grew up with just her belovèd Father and wore yellow silk dresses, wore  her hair unpinned, and who did handstands in the square. It’s an incredibly moving story as Jeanne considers her life and contemplates her future. Van Gogh’s paintings awaken something in her; a desire and a longing for something more than the life of conformity and routine.

The paperback version due out in June 2017

Seven years ago, I interviewed this author about her book Corrag (which is now re-published as Witch Light and is still one of the most perfect books I’ve ever read) and in this interview, she explained about spending half-an-hour of watching a bumble bee visit foxgloves, writing down how it looked and sounded, and I can completely see this. The scenes of nature in both books are exquisite; full of vibrancy and sentiment. Just stunning.

When I read a book I want to believe I’m right there in the pages. Few authors make me feel this as well as Susan Fletcher. Others that have had a similar impact are Joanne Harris (particularly the Chocolat series) and more recently Sealskin by Su Bristow. 

Verdict:

This book was a joy to read from start to finish. Susan Fletcher can write. I mean, REALLY write. If you love beautiful storytelling and pitch-perfect prose, you need to read this book. I cannot recommend highly enough.

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Have you read this book or anything else by Susan Fletcher? I’d love to know what you think.

The Gambia in photos

Holiday bliss – reading on the beach

The Gambia in photos

Regular readers of my blog will know that travel is one of my passions (I still have to do part 2 and 3 of my trip to Paris yet – sorry I’ve been off the radar for a while but I will get round to it, I promise). Last month, Mr Whisperer and I went to The Gambia on the west coast of Africa and it was one of my favourite holidays.

What I loved about The Gambia:

1) The people – it’s not nickenamed The Smiling Coast of Africa for no reason – the locals are some of the friendliest people I have ever met. They are happy, smiley, chatty and have a great sense of humour.

2) The weather – hot, hot, hot!

3) The animals – we had monkeys and cats on our patio and huge turtles and lizards elsewhere in our hotel grounds. We also went to a crocodile park and I actually got up close and personal with a crocodile (with nothing between me and it). I was expecting its skin to be like armour but it was actually really soft (although as my horrified sister-in-law pointed out, it’s teeth aren’t!)

4) The culture – we went on an open top jeep tour and among other things we visited a local primary school and watched some lessons in progress and also a fishing village in the early evening when the boats were coming back in with the fish. It was crazy and amazing!

5) The relaxation – beaches, palm trees, friendly locals, sun. What more is there?

A holiday to remember

A regular visitor to our patio (usually when there was peanuts or mangos nearby)

The most insane place – the village of Tanje where they bring in the fish each day

Crazy, insane, wonderful!

Trip to see a local primary shcool

Children hanging around the school in the hope of some sweet – luckily we came prepared

Wall art with books – and lots of them 🙂

The fruit ladies on the beach touting for business

The lovely Fatima who adopted us as “her” customer

Trip down the Gambia River and through the mangroves

The oyster ladies in the mangroves

Chilling with one of my books on the beach – bliss

Band on the beach

I’m watching you!!!

Hanmade batik’s

Our hotel

  Have you ever been to Africa? Where else do you recommend that I add to my “travel hist-list”?

NB/ The above photos belong to me and may not be used without my permission. Thank you.