Monthly Archives: February 2016

Hidden Knowledge

by Bernardine Bishop
 
Hidden KnowledgeDespite this books seemingly dark and serious subject matter, Hidden Knowledge is a surprisingly upbeat and interesting read.

The story itself centres around two families, the Trees and the Winterbornes, each dealing with tragedies both old and new. Roger Tree is a Catholic priest facing an accusation of child abuse ten years previously. He confesses at once to the crimes but there is a much darker secret that he cannot bring himself to admit to anyone. His brother, a famous writer, lies in a coma and he find himself supporting his sister, Romola, who is struggling to come to terms with life without he beloved Hereword, and his brother’s much younger fiancé, Carina.

Life for the Winterbornes is also facing great upheavals as mother and daughter, Betty and Julia, find themselves reassessing their own relationship in the face of the challenges they both must face.

The story of the two families are linked by the tragic death of Julia’s brother Mark on a school trip twenty years earlier. It is Betty Winterborne’s decision to re-examine her son’s last days that bring her some hope of closure.

For me, Hidden Knowledge proved to be something of a hidden gem. It is not the kind of subject that would normally attract my interest, but I am glad I did.

It seems that Bernardine wrote just three novels in her retirement after a varied and full life. I am certainly going to look out for the other two on my travels.

Child abuse is not an easy subject to write about, but Bernardine does it with great compassion and empathy. As the story unfolds it is easy often to forget that Roger is the abuser. There is no getting away from the serious nature of his crimes, but for the duration of the story Roger is the rock that supports his family. 

We all have secrets, some we keep from those closes to us, some we try to hide from ourselves. Each of the characters in Hidden Knowledge find themselves confronting their own demons. Some are more profound than others, but are equally demanding emotionally.

In the end, Hidden Knowledge is a book about ordinary people having to face extraordinary truths. It is a powerful story told with skill and experience. It is a much easier and more satisfactory read than I had imagined it would be. It challenges the reader, but doesn’t overwhelm.

 

The Eyre Affair

by Jasper Fforde

The Eyre AffairImagine, if you will, a world in which England (not the UK) is still fighting the Crimean War and facing birder skirmishes with the People’s Republic of Wales; where airships are still ambling across the ski ways; where re-engineered Dodos are the favourite family pet; and where special government departments police literature and time. And just as your head begins to ache, imagine a world where no one bats an eye when the hero introduces herself as Thursday Next!

If you find these things unimaginable then “The Eyre Affair” is probably best avoided. But, if you can get your head around these ideas then grab yourself a copy and step into one of the most bizarre, entertaining and original books I have read for some time.

The afore mentioned Thursday Next is an agent for the Literary Detective Agency of the Special Operations Network, or SpecOps 27 for short. Her job is to police the lucrative literacy market that has been infiltrated by criminal gangs. Not a role that normally involves car chases, gun fights, kidnappings and murder, but with a new “Mr Big” on the scene things begin to take a more sinister turn. And it is Thursday’s job to bring him down.

In this alternative version of 1985, England is virtually controlled by the Goliath Corporation whose influence in every aspect of government and the media make them as bad as the villains themselves.

Told mainly in the first person, Thursday’s adventures are full of the kind of twists, turns and betrayals you would expect of a good detective story, but Jasper Fforde is no ordinary writer, and Thursday Next is no ordinary detective.

The world Jasper has created is full of wonderful characters and the alternative history he has created is oddly believable. I found the book difficult to put down, and not because it had been glued to my hands! The style is somewhat reminiscent of early Tom Holt, with great characters you can have some empathy for and a plot that is difficult to explain to anyone who hasn’t already read the book. Bizarre, funny, imaginative and great fun.

“The Eyre Affaire” is the first in a series of books following the adventures of Thursday Next. I for one will be on the lookout for the next instalment.