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Category Archives: literary fiction

The Oystercatcher Girl by Gabrielle Barnby

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Oyster catcher

The Oystercatcher Girl is set in the stark, windswept landscape of Orkney where Neolithic graves mark the ancient residents while the present-day community work hard and seek love and friendship. Returning for a heart-breaking funeral, Christine narrates her story and that of her sister, Lindsay, and her best friend, Tessa. For once, Lindsay, a tempestuous, unreliable personality, supports her sister as she mourns Robbie, the love of her life, who had married Tessa.

It is, therefore, a surprise to find Christine sharing her house with Tessa and her young daughter Jenna. Starting work in St Olaf’s primary school, she remembers her childhood, how she and Tessa became inseparable and how they marked the rhythm of the seasons such as Halloween and the November bonfires, as they grew up. But a teenage party changed everything. Secrets separated friends and inevitably Christine resented her troublesome sister.

Gabrielle Barnby writes in detail of everyday routine, of the beauty of the countryside or sordid appearance of a street and of the confusion Christine feels. Tessa appears to be an enigma; a butterfly or an oystercatcher, scampering with the tide. She gave up music on a whim, she shows little sign of grief for her husband and yet she is a caring mother. We see Robbie through the eyes of others and through a bundle of letters, which hint at the secrets we do not understand.

As the story progresses, Christine finds herself endangered by past deeds. Can she find contentment and a sense of belonging or will happiness be elusive? This literary, mindful novel has a spiritual quality and yet is firmly grounded in everyday predicaments of love, loss and secrets.

Gabrielle

Gabrielle Barnby

The longer I live in Orkney the more I have come to love the wild landscape and the lilting dialect, which stings the ear like the wind. This book was written over the last three years, it is set in Orkney, but I wanted to write about relationships in a way that spoke to everyone no matter where they live.

Christina’s story is about life and death, and the messy complications that increase rather than diminish as time goes by. The desire for perfection in herself and other people is in danger of leaving Christine isolated from everyone she loves. Ultimately, her journey to self-knowledge will be irrevocably linked with loss.

Gabrielle is a graduate of Oxford University where she studied Human Sciences and received a Phd for research into the molecular genetics of autism.
Gabrielle’s first collection The House with The Lilac Shutters and other stories was inspired by repeated summer visits to a small town at the base of the Pyrenees. She now lives in Orkney, where she is involved in writing groups, storytelling and creative workshops for children. A variety of her work, including poetry, has been published in anthologies and magazines.

‘I find joy in everyday happenings, give reverence to small moments that touch deeply and might otherwise pass by unremarked.’

You will find The Oystercatcher Girl at Amazon UK or at Amazon US

#FridayBookShare ~ Emotionally Weird by Kate Atkinson @ShelleyWilson72

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#FridayBookShare is a game created by Shelley Wilson to help search for an ideal read.

Anyone can have a go – all you need to do is answer the following questions based on the book you are currently reading/finished reading this week and use the hashtag #FridayBookShare

First line of the book.

Recruit fans by adding the book blurb

Introduce the main character using only three words.

Delightful design (add the cover image of the book).

Audience appeal (who would enjoy reading this book?)

Your favourite line/scene.

Ever since I discovered Case Histories many years ago I have been a great fan of Kate Atkinson.  Emotionally Weird is one of her early books, set in Dundee, which I read appropriately while staying in Dundee, although that is not necessary.

First Line   My mother is a virgin (trust me) my mother Nora- A fiery Caledonian beacon- says she is untouched by the hand of man and is as pure as Joan of Arc or the snow on the Grampians.

Recruit fans by adding the book blurb

On a peat and heather island off the west coast of Scotland, Effie and her mother Nora take refuge in the large mouldering house of their ancestors and tell each other stories.

Nora, at first, recounts nothing that Effie really wants to hear, like who her father was – variously Jimmy, Jack, or Ernie. Effie tells of her life at college in Dundee, where she lives in a lethargic relationship with Bob, a student who never goes to lectures, seldom gets out of bed, and to whom the Klingons are as real as the French and the Germans (more real than the Luxemburgers).

But strange things are happening. Why is Effie being followed? Why is everyone writing novels? Is someone killing the old people? And where is the mysterious yellow dog?

Introduce the main character – Effie is an observer, a novelist, a wordsmith.

Delightful Design

emotionally-weird

Audience appeal  This might appeal to those who are familiar with Atkinson’s recent novels or more to those who like absurdity such as Flann O’Brien’s books.  You are taken back to 1970s student life.

Your Favourite Scene

I was sitting next to Terri- a black wolf prowling the night.  Terri’s assignment for Martha was poetry.  Terri’s poems came under the collective title My Favourite Suicide and you can probably imagine the content matter.  Some of them (although undoubtedly derivative) were surprisingly cheerful-

I drank the glass of

milk you left on the

bedside table. It was

sour, thank you

Martha was wearing a long cashmere plaid woven from the dull colours of infinity, that she had fixed, toga-style, with a claw of some bird, a grouse or a ptarmigan maybe, set with a purple amethyst.

Andrea was making a great show of sharpening her pencils and laying everything out on her little table while Kevin was staring at the space Olivia’s feet would have occupied if she had been there.

“I think we should begin with a little exercise to flex our writing muscles,” Martha said, speaking very slowly as if she was on prescription drugs but I think it was just her way of trying to communicate with people less intelligent than she thought she was.

“Write me a paragraph,” Martha enunciated clearly, in just 10 minutes, which incorporates these three word bractate, trowel and vilifies.”

If you want to join in, then answer the F.R.I.D.A.Y questions and use the Friday Book Share meme. Tag Shelley (@ShelleyWilson72) in, so she can read what you have added, too.

#FridayBookShare After Dark by Haruki Murakami

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#FridayBookShare is a game created by Shelley Wilson to help search for an ideal read.

Anyone can have a go – all you need to do is answer the following questions based on the book you are currently reading/finished reading this week and use the hashtag #FridayBookShare

First line of the book.

Recruit fans by adding the book blurb

Introduce the main character using only three words.

Delightful design (add the cover image of the book).

Audience appeal (who would enjoy reading this book?)

Your favourite line/scene.

After Dark is the second book I have read by Haruki Murakami.  It is slim and easy to read but that doesn’t mean that it is easy to understand.

First Line  Eyes mark the shape of the city.  Through the eyes of a high flying night-bird, we take in the scene from midair.

Recruit fans by adding the book blurb

The midnight hour approaches in an almost empty all-night diner. Mari sips her coffee and glances up from a book as a young man, a musician, intrudes on her solitude. Both have missed the last train home. The musician has plans to rehearse with his jazz band all night, Mari is equally unconcerned and content to read, smoke and drink coffee until dawn. They realise they’ve been acquainted through Eri, Mari’s beautiful sister. The musician soon leaves with a promise to return before dawn. Shortly afterwards Mari will be interrupted a second time by a girl from the Alphaville Hotel; a Chinese prostitute has been hurt by a client, the girl has heard Mari speaks fluent Chinese and requests her help.

Meanwhile Eri is at home and sleeps a deep, heavy sleep that is ‘too perfect, too pure’ to be normal; pulse and respiration at the lowest required level. She has been in this soporfic state for two months; Eri has become the classic myth – a sleeping beauty. But tonight as the digital clock displays 00:00 a faint electrical crackle is perceptible, a hint of life flickers across the TV screen, though the television’s plug has been pulled.

Murakami, acclaimed master of the surreal, returns with a stunning new novel, where the familiar can become unfamiliar after midnight, even to those that thrive in small hours. With After Dark we journey beyond the twilight. Strange nocturnal happenings, or a trick of the night?

Introduce the main character –Enigmatic, solitary, observer.

Delightful Design

After Dark

Audience appeal  Curious, adventurous readers

Your favourite line/scene

All of a sudden out of nowhere I can bring back things I haven’t thought about for years.  It’s pretty interesting.  Memory is so crazy!  It’s like we’ve got these drawers crammed with tons of useless stuff.  Meanwhile all the really important things we just keep forgetting, one after the other.

It’s because I can pull the memories out of the drawers when I have to- the important ones and the useless ones- that I can go on living this nightmare of a life.

You can find After Dark on Amazon here

If you want to join in, then answer the F.R.I.D.A.Y questions and use the Friday Book Share meme. Tag Shelley (@ShelleyWilson72) in, so she can read what you have added, too.

 

Silent Water by Jan Ruth

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The Wild Water series includes everything I desire for a perfect read.  It describes contemporary life in all its complexities; love, passion, family connections, humour and tragedy.  After the changes in family circumstances brought about by the blossoming romance between Jack Redman and his childhood sweetheart, Anna, when they reconnect in Wild Water, the plot grew menacing in Dark Water leaving readers on a cliff-hanger.  Silent Water delivers everything I had hoped for.  Events catch up with Jack and Anna and they must decide whether to reveal their secret.

 

Jack Redman can be embarrassing and foolish, but his passion and commitment to those he loves, make him irresistible.  Anna is quieter and more thoughtful, she takes longer to decide on her actions.  The other main characters are also fascinating.  Ex-wife Patsy is miserable in her new life in Chester and her depression leads her to be more manipulative than ever, but does she really deserve our sympathy?  Jack’s daughter Lottie is hilarious as she enters puberty, acting outrageously to cope with her need for a stable home.

 

In Silent Water Anna matures.  She takes responsibility and doesn’t rely on Jack to take care of her.  When she realises that he has been keeping secrets from her, she has to decide whether their love is strong enough to survive.  And as the storyline winds the threads together, there is a delicious twist at the end.

 

If I worked for a TV company, I would be commissioning this trilogy for a serial.  Against the backdrop of stunning scenery in Snowdonia, dramatic events, family misunderstandings, tears and laughter fill the plot.  If you haven’t tried it yet, you really must read all three books as soon as possible.

Rosie's Book Review team 1

 

 

Smoke and Gold by Pauline Suett Barbieri

Smoke & Gold

Did Count St Germain, a European courtier and brilliant alchemist die in 1784 or had he discovered the secret to eternal life? In 1967 a Parisian, named Richard Chanfray appeared on TV apparently changing lead to gold and claiming to be Count St Germain.

This mysterious figure weaves in and out of the life of Rowena, a student of Art, as she returns to Amsterdam in 1976 to research a book on Dutch food through the ages. Four years earlier, she and her mother had met Meneer Surmount, a Frenchman dressed in 18th century style in a café near the red light district and now, her mother has died and her thoughts return to the mysterious stranger.

Juxtaposed with Rowena’s complicated adventures in Amsterdam is an account of her poverty-stricken childhood in Liverpool. Always dressed in hand-me-downs, her first new dress was a vivid memory spoilt by the actions of her best friend Sylvia, who tore the skirt. So enraged was Rowena that she pulled Sylvia’s plait until the roots bled and tied the girl by her hair to the centre of a manhole cover. But within a day they were friends again.

This intriguing book is packed with references to the artists of the city, to poets and philosophers, enriching the images created by the author. The prose is as rich as poetry. For instance, “The chef’s face was glowing from the heat of the cooking flames. Smoke plumed up from the butter he ladled onto the sizzling hobs, beneath copper pans which hung from a rack like Awards of Merit.”

Rowena (or the author) has an artist’s observation skills. Each Dutch scene, every character in Amsterdam is described vividly. She meets a man wearing five layers of pink brocade, velvet and leather. Although he was about 60, “he had the eyes of an enthusiastic teenager; they were ready to take on the world.”

This is a book to savour, to indulge in a vibrant yet mysterious world steeped in the history of the city. It is quite unlike any other novel I have read but I very much enjoyed it.

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