by Barbara Trapido
I picked this book up from a local store’s “bargain bin” one day when I was looking for something a little different from my usual kind of book. And it is certainly that.
Noah Glazer is a strong American doctor researching respiratory illnesses in the UK. But despite the book’s title, this isn’t really his story. Instead it follows the joys and tragedies of his second wife, Ali.
By the time Ali and Noah meet, she is estranged from her abusive second husband and attempting to bring up her eleven year old daughter on her own. Noah blasts into her life like a knight in shining armour, rescuing her not only from an oncoming car, but also from her own self-deprecation and the abuse of almost everyone else around her.
The relationship between Ali and Noah is tested when an old friend from her childhood in apartheid South Africa comes back into her life.
Ali Glazer is a shy woman. She is the victim of her oppressive childhood and two very bad marriages. It is her vulnerability that first attracts Noah to her, but through him she begins to slowly show signs of a new confidence.
Noah’s Ark is a witty and well written story with some very serious undertones. Dealing with abuse and the injustice of apartheid (the book was written in 1984) Barbara Trapido manages to balance the conflicting tones of the book very well.
Although it is not the kind of book I would normally set out to read, I found Noah’s Ark to be a captivating and very enjoyable novel.
by Sarah Lotz
The Three is a captivating and imaginative thriller like none I have come across before. There are ghost and hints of the supernatural, but it is not a horror story; there is talk of aliens and abduction, but it is not science fiction. Written as a series of interviews, articles, reports and blogs, it has a relentless pace.
The story itself centres around three children who are the sole survivors of four aeroplane crashes. The children and their families become the focus of intense media attention as the world looks on and tries to work out just how they managed to survive, virtually unscathed.
The events following the simultaneous disasters are told through the words of those around the children who find that they themselves are also victims.
The action moves between Japan, Africa, the UK and the US, but all are linked in ways that none of those involved can begin to understand. It is obvious that something beyond normal experience is happening, but no one seems to be able to see the whole picture, not even the writer trying to put it all together.
Throughout the book, Sarah Lotz’s narrative encourages the reader to question the things that motivate us and our beliefs. With Christian fanatics predicting the end of the world and conspiracy theorists seeing what they want to see, it is difficult to know who to believe.
I found The Three to be a compelling read; easy to read but difficult to put down. The unusual style of narrative do make the story slightly disjointed, but to me that only adds to the feeling that there is something sinister going on.
by Zack Love
Anissa’s Redemption is the second and concluding part of Zack Love’s Syrian Virgin series. In the first book we were introduced to 16-year old Anissa, living with her family in the Syrian city of Homs at the start of the civil war. Being Christians, they became targets for the Islamist extremists and Anissa was forced to flee from her home. She must now build a new life for herself in New York as she comes to terms with the tragic loss of her family.
In this sequel, Anissa must make some difficult decisions about her relationships and finally come to terms with the secrets of her past she kept hidden from everyone, including herself.
But she is not the only one hiding deep and troubling secrets.
Through her letters we see Anissa’s struggle with her feelings for the two men in her life: fellow student Michael who leads the Mideast Christian Association, working to help fellow Christians in war-torn Syria; and Julien, her wealthy and charismatic college lecturer whose own secrets threaten their growing relationship.
Anissa’s Redemption, told through letters and journal entries takes the reader on a roller-coaster journey. Written with a sympathetic understanding of the realities of the situation in the Middle East and its affect on the people involved, this book presents both a touching and romantic story combined with stark reality and a glimpse of the darker side of the human soul.
In Anissa, Zack Love has created a strong but vulnerable character who I found myself wishing was real. It is much more common these days to find strong female characters, both in books and in film. As she fights her demons and builds a better life for herself, Anissa is one of the most captivating of this new breed of leading ladies.
An excellent conclusion to a moving and well written story.
by Christopher Brookmyre
One thing that can definitely be said about Christopher Brookmyre is that he really knows how to come up with a good title. Thankfully, his books seem to live up to them, at least the two I have read so far do.
Quite Ugly One Morning begins, well, one morning, with the digitally challenged corpse of one of Edinburg’s most respected doctors. As the police try to make some sense of the scene before them, Glaswegian catastrophe-magnet Jack Parlabane finds himself caught up in the whole stinking mess.
But Jack is not just any old neighbour. He may be extremely hungover, but even if he weren’t an investigative journalist on the run from the mob, he could hardly have failed to notice the smell coming from the flat below. He soon finds himself drawn into the affair, particularly when he encounters the dead doctor’s estranged wife Sarah prowling through the crime scene.
Quite Ugly One Morning has a plot with the intrigue and twists you would expect from a crime story, mixed with characters and situations that wouldn’t be out of place in a Tom Sharpe novel. It is full of wonderful one-liners, farcical, but believable plot twists, physical slapstick and verbal dexterity that leave me wanting more.
Brookmyer is a great story teller with the kind of sense of humour that I find drawn to. Like Tom Sharpe before him, he takes great delight in poking fun at our institutions and the people who inhabit them. His characters find themselves in ludicrous situations but you can’t help feeling that they are actually a little too close to being believable.
Great escapism, intelligent and very funny.