About Me

Glasgow, United Kingdom
My name is Lynsay, and I've decided to start blogging about the books I've been reading, so that I have reviews that I can look back on about the range of books and genres that I have read. I was very lucky to receive a Sony eReader for my birthday, and since then, I've been reading even more!! I read anything and everything, happy to give any style or genre a try!

Monday, 21 March 2011

Secrets of Eden, by Chris Bohjalian

If you've had a look at the list of blogs/podcasts that I follow, you'll see that one of the list is Books on the Nightstand (which is my absolute favourite!). BOTNS is run by Ann and Michael, who both work for Random House, and create a weekly podcast to talk about books they'd like to recommend, new books to watch out for and back catalogue books that they've just loved so much they want to share them with people. This year, they are also organising the BOTNS retreat, which will be a gathering of podcast listeners, blog followers and BOTNS-favourite authors. Unfortunately, I won't be making it to the retreat, but I wanted to read work from some of the authors who are going to attend.

The first book I picked up was Secrets of Eden, by Chris Bohjalian - the story of a murder-suicide that takes place in Vermont. I found this story absolutely compelling. The narrator changes several times, to allow us to experience different points of view in the story, and through the whole tale there's a creeping sense of dread, and an undercurrent of things just not being quite right...

Alice Hayward is a battered wife. This isn't really a secret in her town, and is known by people including her fifteen year old daughter, Katie; her best friend Ginny, and her pastor, Stephen Drew. Alice decides to get baptised, and after it's complete, she goes about her day like any other Sunday, little realising that within 12 hours, her husband will have strangled her, and then shot himself in the head. Although as time passes in the town, rumours and theories start to spread that the circumstances may not be as clear cut as originally thought.

The story starts off being told by Reverend Stephen Drew, the man who baptises Alice on the day of her death. The narrative role switches between several different characters, allowing an insight into how the deaths of Alice and her husband George have rippled out to affect other people, not only their own daughter but people that they had never even known. As the pastor states early on however;

“Believe no one. Trust no one. Assume all of our stories are suspect.”

This is a powerful statement to make in the opening chapters of the book, but I liked it, and it stayed with me throughout. As the tale winds on through the aftermath of Alice and George's death, we start to realise that this earlier statement is, and was very significant to the tone of the entire tale and something that should be kept in mind, not only in terms of the story but in terms of real life. People can hide behind half truths, or lie by omission, and no one can ever really be sure they're being told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I feel that I haven't went too in-depth into the actual ins and outs of the story, but I feel that if I write much more it could possibly ruin the story - some books just have to be read!

I wanted to blog my review for this book as i finished it weeks ago, I've read several books in the meantime, and I'm still thinking about this! I have went in search of other works by Chris Bohjalian (Midwives will be my next read from him), and I'll be listening eagerly to the reports from the BOTNS retreat to learn about possible upcoming works!

This book gets a solid four stars from me, and I highly recommend you check it out (along with Books on the Nightstand!)

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte

As someone who reads consistently, I was quite ashamed to say that this was a book I hadn't read. I have a vague memory of attempted to start it when I was about fifteen, and giving up after about six pages, full of impatience. However, I picked it up again on the recommendation of my friend, and it's one of the best reading discoveries I've had for a while - I'm starting to see a theme with why 'classics' are classics!

Jane Eyre starts by describing Jane's childhood, spend with her aunt, uncle and cousins, as she has been orphaned. When her uncle is on his deathbed, he makes his wife promise to treat Jane as one of her own family, and its a promise that she bitterly regrets making, as she greatly dislikes Jane and favours her own children, to the point where she ends up sending Jane to boarding school, as she no longer wants her at home.

We follow Jane through her time at Lowood, where she has a rough beginning, but grows to love the school as it becomes the home she never had, due to a particular teacher. However, when that teacher leaves, Jane feels that it is time to move on, and applies to be a governess, which is when we start getting to the heart of the story...

Jane describes herself in fairly derogatory terms, although her narration of the story shows the wit and intelligence that lies within the character, along with the goodness of her personality. Always self-deprecating, she tries her best to be honest with people, which sometimes leads to a lack of tact, as shown in one of the first scenes when she meets Mr Rochester and describes him as being ugly - to his face.

Mr Edward Fairfax Rochester, of course, is Jane's new boss, and the owner of Thornfield Hall, as well as starting off as a thoroughly mysterious character. However, as time goes on, the pair become closer and closer, and Jane thrives in Thornfield Hall, despite some strange happenings that occur. They enjoy teasing each other, which leads on to a proposal that sound absolutely horrific when taken out of context without reading the book;

You-- you strange, you almost unearthly thing!--I love as my own flesh. You--poor and obscure, and small and plain as you are--I entreat to accept me as a husband."

Believe it or not, this is actually a romantic speech, but it is much longer and is really best understood in the context of the whole book. I found it interesting as I had seen that snippet before, and enjoyed reading it in the context, as it made much better sense!

Needless to say, there are plenty of twists and turns that still lie ahead of Jane at this point, involving arson, a suicide, homelessness, a new family, another wedding proposal and a reunion with an unexpected character.... but you should go and read that for yourself!

I've also seen that there is a prequel of sorts to Jane Eyre, which is Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, which deals more with the world of the original Mrs Rochester, but I haven't been so tempted to pick that up yet. If anyone has read it and would recommend it, please let me know!

As for Jane Eyre, this classic definitely stands the test of time - three stars!!