Posted by: billpurdue | May 11, 2009

54 Richard and Judy recommendations and more

Small town USA

Down RiverDown River by John Hart [John Murray £7.99 9781848540958] is one of Richard and Judy’s 2008 Summer reads, so I thought I would give it a try. Adam Chase has been living in New York for five years after being acquitted of a murder. The only evidence against him was given by his stepmother. Prompted by a call from his friend Danny, Adam returns to the small town in Rowan County where he grew up to see his family once again, but is met by hostility and suspicion. Almost as soon as he arrives, a girl whom he believes to be the daughter of his father’s best friend (revelations later in the book prove otherwise) is savagely assaulted, and soon after, the remains of his friend Danny are found in a remote spot.

Naturally the police are suspicious of Adam, but Adam’s former girlfriend Robin is a policewoman and manages to keep him out of jail. Adam sets out to find out the real murderer and who committed the latest atrocities. As events unfold, many family secrets from the past gradually see the light of day, such as the real reason why his mother committed suicide many years ago. Adam’s apparently close knit family turns out to be more and more dysfunctional as the tale unfolds. As the author says in his acknowledgements at the end, dysfunctional families provide lots of good material for authors.

I don’t think I was ever totally happy with this book – perhaps it was the style or the expressions used which sometimes caused me to do a double take- or perhaps it was the characters themselves who seemed to be miserable most of the time! I’m not sure, but I did want to finish the book, which did get a little more like a page turner as I got very near to the end. A deckchair read I would think.

Trying to follow that…

History of LoveI like variety, but I don’t like books that look as if they are going to make me miserable. Unfortunately when I turned to The History of Love by Nicole Krauss [Penguin £7.99 9780141019970] – another Richard and Judy recommendation, this time from 2006 – I found an opening that seemed to be quite depressing. It begins with Leo Gursky describing the lengths he goes to to make sure that he doesn’t die on a day when he has not been seen by anyone. But there’s far more to this book than that: many years ago in Poland, our main character Leo wrote a book called “The History of Love” about a girl called Alma, but he has long forgotten about it. The book survived and a teenage girl who was named after the girl in the book sets out to find her namesake.

Now, perhaps you are thinking that I should have continued to read this as you shouldn’t be put off by the opening pages of a novel – read a bit further. Well, maybe I will, but not for the moment as I took up a totally different  novel which I’m really enjoying and I’ll tell you about that one next time.

One man and his dog

BeachcomberI really enjoyed a recent BBC2 documentary series about the recreation of the simple life of a crofter in a remote part of the Scottish Highlands. If you did too, then you might like the book that goes with it: Beachcomber Cottage by Monty Halls [BBC £11.99 9781846076213] tells how the author renovated a roofless cottage, raised livestock and grew his own vegetables as well as joining in with the life of the local people, watching wildlife and enduring a yearning for the mod-cons of urban life and plagues of midges.

The book has plenty of colour photos including some great ones of his dog Reuben, who obviously thoroughly enjoyed his time out in the wilds. During their last night in the cottage before returning to the more comfortable life, Reuben became very agitated and would not settle. It appears that they may not have been alone in that remote spot: Monty writes that he had always had a slight feeling that he was not the only resident in the lonely bay which his cottage overlooked.

BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week…

…is My Mame is Daphne Fairfax [Hutchinson £18.99 9780091921033] the autobiography of Arthur Smith. See the Radio 4 page for more details. Should be good.

Also next time:

An interview with Jonathan Foster from Mansfield Woodhouse whose book The Death Ray: the secret life of Harry Grindell Matthews [Inventive Publishing £11.99 9780956134806] has just been published.

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