Friday, 15 July 2011

Their Finest Hour and a Half

Their Finest Hour and a Half by Lissa Evans

Someone recommended this to someone on Facebook and I went to have a look and liked what I saw. Very glad I did, because I really enjoyed this book. An unusual plot and structure, some memorable (if perhaps a little stereotyped) characters, and lots of humour throughout.

It's wartime and Catrin is working for the Ministry of Information making propaganda films, when she's asked to join a team of writers putting together a script for a film about the evacuation of Dunkirk. The book then follows the stories of other people caught up in the film -a vain aging actor, a spinster seamstress who gets a job in the wardrobe department - as well as Catrin's story as she breaks up with her partner and finds her boss falling in love with her.

It's a great depiction of the home front, from an unsual angle. Bombs are falling all around but the filming must go on, as the powers that be are hoping the film might help bring America into the war. I loved this book, and will search out more from this author.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Her Fearful Symmetry

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

This one's been sitting on my TBR pile for ages - think I bought it in a 3 for 2 offer somewhere. I'd enjoyed The Time Traveller's Wife so was keen to see what the author had written next.

This book is a ghost story, with a whacky plot involving identical twins, souls coming loose from their bodies and resurrection.

Twins Valentina and Julia are left a flat near Highgate Cemetery by their estranged aunt Elspeth. They move in, but find their aunt's ghost is still in residence and her grieving boyfriend Robert lives downstairs. The aunt and the twins' mother are also twins, with a deep dark secret which is revealed when Robert finally gets round to reading the papers Elspeth left for him. Meanwhile he's fallen in love with Valentina. So far so good, but then it all gets weird. Won't say how in case you read it!

One thing I found really annoying about this book is the constant shifts in point of view. Within a single short paragraph you could easily jump between three or four different heads. The result was that you never felt close to any of the characters, and the parts of the novel which should have come across brimming with emotion just fell flat.

It's an intruguing novel and gets top marks for originality, but I didn't like the style in which it was written.