Tuesday, 3 January 2023

HERE'S TO 2023!

It's always exciting to welcome in a new year even though that means cold, snowy winter weather here. It's even more exciting now that I have new agency representation from Trident Media Group and have completed two new novels. More news to come later about that! For now I've attached reviews of two novels I read recently. Both very different. Hope you enjoy!
WARLIGHT by Michael Ondaatje
Only Michael Ondaatje could pull off a novel like Warlight. Named after the twilight that shrouded London during World War 2 when all the streetlights were dimmed to avoid lighting the way for German bombers, the story itself seems to flicker in dreamlike fragments as the world awakes from the horrors of war. The world in this novel is post-war London, brilliantly captured in loving detail in Ondaatje's achingly beautiful prose. This is a battle-scarred and battered London where people who have worked covertly in the shadows, find themselves emerging into the changed world of the Cold War where actions taken during wartime must be answered for. The story begins when teens Rachel and Nathaniel's parents disappear, leaving them in the care of a mysterious guardian named The Moth and his enigmatic friend, The Darter. Over the next year a selection of strange, elusive characters pass through the house. They stay for a while, impart their wisdom, and leave. Rachel struggles with feelings of abandonment while Nathaniel, whose story this really is, finds school difficult to stick with as he's drawn to the fascinating world of The Darter who proves to be an unlikely mentor. The Darter is a barge rat who knows every inch of the River Thames. Nathaniel starts to accompany him on his trips to pick up illegal French greyhounds which are then taken back to the docklands to fuel the newly growing greyhound racing racket. The Darter also gets him a job in a restaurant where he meets and become romantically involved with Agnes. There is a mystery at the heart of the novel that results in a catastrophic end to the arrangement and comes to dominate Nathaniel's life even after he goes to work for the Foreign Office but it's clear that his parents' actions have a lasting impact on his life. This is a haunting story that stays with you long after the last page is turned. Perhaps because of its fragmentary structure where memories drift in and out, mirroring the nature of true human experience and life.
It's clear from the start of this page-turning novel that the main character, Nadine is on edge and burdened by secrets that have clouded her life for a very long time. The story unfolds over the course of one day as she prepares to host a sixtieth birthday party for her mother, a best-selling author. Right for the onset Nadine seems suspicious of other people's motives, a little paranoid and not a little unlikable as a person. But she's a fiercely protective mother to her two children Isobel, 16 and Damien, 14, both of who are struggling with their own personal crises. We already know from the prologue that someone at the party will be dead by the end of the night, so Stuart artfully builds up the tension, introducing characters who may have a motive to uncover some secrets Nadine would like to keep under wraps. Set in a small town somewhere in North America, the setting felt a little generic and lacking atmosphere, though the author does capture some of the drawbacks of small town life where all eyes are on you at all times. A well-written and interesting read.

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