Monthly Archives: October 2016

The Girl on the Train

the girl on the trainby Paula Hawkins

I read this book just a matter of weeks before the film was released, and at the time of writing I had not yet seen it, so can’t comment on any similarities or differences between them. What I can say is that I can understand why it was transferred to film.

The story is told through the eyes of the three women at the centre of the action. Each tells their own story in the form a diary, but not all running synchronously. 

The first we meet is Rachael, on her morning commute into London. She catches the same train every day and knows the stops and houses on the route very well. She begins to invent stories about the people she sees, in particular the young couple whose house she invariable stops beside as the train waits for signals to change. Little does she know that very soon she is going to be more intimately involved in the life of Megan and Tom than she could ever have anticipated. 

Next up is Megan, whose story begins a year before Rachael’s. As her tale creeps closer to the present we discover that pretty young Megan has a dark secret that threatens not just her relationship, but her life.

The third side of this intriguing triangle is Anna. Now married to Rachael’s ex-husband, Anna struggles to keep her new husband on the path she has set out for him. 

As their separate stories weave in and out of each other, each must face their own demons, be that drink, sex or a past they cannot hide forever. Each character has something to hide, something that threatens everything they have built, and it is the unraveling of these secrets that makes the book so utterly compelling.

From the very beginning this book grips the reader and keeps you guessing right to the very end. Just when you think you know the truth, Hawkins pulls the rug out from under your feet! The Girl on the Train is full of imaginative twists and turns, whilst keeping the integrity of the characters and the overall plot. Well written and utterly compelling, The Girl on the Train is a book that is well deserving of its position on the bestseller lists.

Their Finest Hour and a Half

their finest hour and a halfby Lissa Evans

Set mainly in London during the Blitz, Their Finest Hour and a Half is a witty and heart-warming story about life on the home-front. It has a wonderful cast of characters, each dealing with the challenges of the war in different ways.

For some, like actor Ambrose Hilliard, times are tough as he tries to adapt to the changes in the film industry. For others, like advertising copywriter Catrin Cole and seamstress Edith Beadmore, the conflict opens new doors with unexpected opportunities. 

I found the book utterly compelling. Lissa Evans manages to combine a gentle wit with some touching and emotional moments. Her characters are believable and consistent throughout.

The war itself plays a large part in the plot, the deprivations and difficulties faced by Londoners during this period is brought vividly to life by Lissa Evans’ wonderfully crafted pros. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the style, plot and the historical realism of this book. 

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire #1)

Game of Thronesby George R R Martin

Game of Thrones is a worldwide phenomena. The TV serialisation has captured the imaginations of millions, becoming one of the most talked about shows of the last few years. I am one of those who has found myself captivated by the intrigue and savagery of the story, so I thought it was about time I read the books.

Very often the book and the TV or film version differ a great deal, with screenwriters taking the plot off in a completely different direction and introducing new characters along the way. But I am pleased to say that in this case, this has not happened. The bulk of what I read on the page I could remember from the screen. This can sometimes be a hindrance as the producer’s vision is usually quite different from my own. 

Game if Thrones is set in a fictional world where dragons and magic exist, but only just. The story is centred around the fight for the Iron Throne, the seat of the king of the seven kingdoms of Westeros. But as the various houses fight with each other for what they see as the ultimate prize, events in the frozen north and the deserts of the east look set to upset all their plans.

The book is filled with wonderful characters, some you love, others you will hate (all for the right reasons) and the multi-layer storyline drives the characters and plots almost relentlessly. Despite the weaving in and out of the various stories, the book is easy to read and totally captivating. George R R Martin is a natural storyteller. He makes his characters believable and simple to understand, and the way he weaves the different threads of the tale together is nothing short of genius. I loved the book even more than the series, and that is saying something. 

Captivating, cleverly plotted and full of interesting characters, Game of Thrones is as immersive and imaginative tale of intrigue, murder, regicide, incest and war, with a little bit of magic and some dragons thrown in for good measure, as you could possible want? 

I will definitely be reading the rest of the series.

Emma (The Austen Project #3)

Emmaby Alexander McCall Smith

Whilst there have already been several sequel’s to Jane Austen’s books, the very idea of this short series of modern retellings just sounds wrong. But, as a fan of Austen’s work, and with an ever open mind, I decided to give this one a try.

I wouldn’t say I was disappointed. The story itself is well told, as you would expect from a writer of McCall Smith’s calibre, but somehow, brining Emma Woodhouse kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century just didn’t quite work. Finding modern equivalents to the various dilemmas and manners of the early 19th century is an almost impossible task. And part of the charm of Austen’s works is the gentle and at sometimes innocent world in which they are set. The modern world is no place for the likes of Mr Woodhouse, Miss Bates or even Emma herself. It is a story of manners, and this is lost in the retelling.

Rather interestingly, what we do get is much more of a back story for the main characters. Whilst Austen concentrates on mobbing her story forward. McCall Smith takes much more time to flesh out his characters. This is interesting and adds some originality to the story. But for me, the whole thing seems to lack the integrity of the original. There is no modern equivalent for many of the events or social interactions and expectations, so the whole thing has an air of unbelievability to it that I found disappointing.

All that said, there is a kind of timelessness about the character of Emma Woodhouse that does manage to come across. Her attempts to manipulate the love lives of those around her does have an element of truth to it.

All in all, an enjoyable bit of light reading. I very much doubt I will return to it later, something I do fairly regularly with the original, but I don’t feel I wasted the time it took to read it. A good summer read, but hardly challenging.