Book Review - Capital

by John Lanchester (Faber & Faber) ISBN 9780571234615


If you like to be a fly on the wall, this is the book for you. The author has a knack for describing other people's lives and mind-sets, which often rings true. Capital is about a group of people with very different backgrounds and cultures, who all live in London. The only connection between them is Pepys Road, which has a long history. 

They are the British banker, Pakistani shopkeeper, the Polish decorator, the Zimbabwean traffic warden, the Senegalese footballer and so on. Each character is portrayed with depth and insight: some are amusing, others annoying and many elicit the reader's compassion. We are involved with the characters as onlookers. 

Every household has received a card containing a simple message, 'We want what you have', which gets the plot rolling. The book is thought-provoking and depicts the diversity in society. An epic contemporary novel that looks at life in modern London.

Dawn Blankfield
3.5/5

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Playing Dead

by Julia Heaberlin (Faber & Faber) ISBN 9780571287680 



Tommie McCloud receives a letter in the post from a stranger shortly after her father's death, that changes her life and makes her question her very identity. 

The woman who wrote it claims that Tommie is her daughter—and that she was kidnapped as a baby 31 years ago. The reader is sucked into Tommie's world through the author's ability to describe the settings perfectly. The characters are all too human in their desires and they feel real enough that you expect to bump into them in the street. 

This is a mystifying, absorbing, enjoyable suspense thriller that constantly challenges the reader to guess what the solution is. My only criticism is that the danger is brought in too soon to build up to nail-cracking suspense toward the end. The ending feels like it was tacked on to satisfy the reader's yearning for a happy ending. 

Claire Crawford
3/5

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Flight Behaviour

by Barbara Kingsolver (Faber & Faber) R215 ISBN 9780571290789 


My expectations were high, when I got hold of the latest book by the queen of literature, Barbara Kingsolver. And she has not disappointed me. Her writing style is superb, her plot flows and I could relate to the characters. This is a book that cannot be read in a rush, for each word and each sentence must be savoured. The plot line is almost of secondary importance to the way Kingsolver spins her magic with words. 

Dellarobia is on her way to follow her flirtation when she is distracted by what at first seems a forest of fire: millions of butterflies flaming the valley orange with their colours. Everyone interprets this phenomenon differently. Dellarobia sees it as a cautionary miracle, for the scientist Ovid it is a sign of devastation and the media jumps in on this opportunity. The small town opens to the world and Dellarobia’s life changes. 

The underlying themes are the impact of global warming and social injustice. The butterfly wonder releases emotions in activists, politicians and close family members: everyone acts from their own motives and the dynamics of the family and the village where Dellarobia lives change in her search for truth.  

Pauline Vijverberg
5/5

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The Ruins of Us

by Keija Parssinen (Faber & Faber) ISBN 970571282180

 

Rosalie is a Texan who was brought up in Saudi Arabia. She met and fell in love with Abdullah in the United States and then went back with him to Saudi Arabia where they married, had two children, and lived a wealthy and happy life for twenty five years.

 

That is until everything unravels. Abdullah takes a second wife and keeps it a secret for two years until a jeweller unwittingly lets the proverbial cat out of the bag.

 

At the same time, their confused sixteen-year-old son is being influenced by his radical best friend. He is also attending lectures with a sheikh who wants to see all unbelievers purged from Saudi Arabia.

 

This leads to a situation where everyone in the family is forced to examine their emotions, attachments, and needs, and make decisions about their future.

 

This is an interesting well-written novel with vivid descriptions and metaphors.

 

Amanda Blankfield

4/5

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Siberian Red

by Sam Eastland (Faber and Faber) ISBN 9780571260676

 

Who knows where the missing treasure of Tsar Nicholas II is hidden? 

 

The Nazis are poised to invade Russia. Stalin’s need for the Tsar’s gold is greater than ever. When Stalin learns that a prisoner who could have revealed the place of the gold has been brutally assassinated, he sets off to send a second spy in to look for the gold.

 

Detective Inspector Pekkala is horrified to hear that he is being sent back to the brutal Gulag of Borodok - a concentration camp, but he endures all the lack of clothing, shoes, and meagre provisions, in the hope that he will learn something for Stalin. 

 

He becomes a tree marker in the wilderness for two years, his red painted handprint becoming a chilling mystery to the rebels who live there and yet never see him. When the gold is found it is far too heavy to carry. How many bars of gold does one man need?

 

This story is one of violence, terror and the worthlessness of life and yet one reads on. You cannot to wait to arrive at the solution. In the most dangerous place in Russia, can the Truth, and Pekkala, survive?

 

Dee Andrew

4/5

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The Glimpse

by Claire Merle (Faber & Faber) ISBN 978-0-571-28053-7

 

Set in a post-apocalyptic earth in the not so distant future, the population is divided into the privileged, Pures, and the outcast, Crazies.

 

When Ana discovers that she is not truly a Pure, she believes that Jasper is the only one who can save her, by joining with her before her 18th birthday. When Jasper goes missing, she enters the world of the Crazies to find out what has happened to him. Soon, everything she believes about the world is challenged. She joins with Cole and his family as they try to expose the truth, and in the end her love must carry her through.

 

This young adult novel has just the right blend of love and suspense to keep you intrigued. The love story is at the center, but Merle has created a truly layered world, with some very original elements in this very popular dystopian genre.

 

An entertaining and enjoyable read.

 

Victoria Malakou

3.5/5

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Pulse

by Tricia Rayburn (Faber and Faber) ISBN: 978-0-571-27396-6

 

The mythical femme fatale of the sea, the siren, seducer of men is the subject of this book.

 

Vanessa Sands life has turned upside down. Her sister has been murdered and it appears that the sirens are to blame and now they are after Vanessa.

 

Vanessa has a secret, a secret she has to keep from her boyfriend, Simon. I could not understand why Vanessa was continuously thirsty and kept drinking salt water, why she finds boys ‘cute’ when she is supposed to be depressed about her sister’s death. I eventually learnt that Vanessa was a siren.

 

The story was difficult to follow. Vanessa exists in her head and I found this boring. Scenes and chapters jumped from one story point to the next.

 

Pulse is the second book in the Siren trilogy. Most authors create some backstory for readers who enter the story in the second book to get some perspective. Rayburn doesn’t. You will have to read the first book to understand what is happening in this story.

 

Ulrike Hill

2/5

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Death Comes to Pemberley

by PD James (Faber & Faber) 9780571283583

 

PD James has done a remarkable job of reconstructing Jane Austen’s greatest literary triumph. It was easy, at first, to be lulled back into the world of Elizabeth and Darcy. Everything was so familiar.

 

Six years have passed. Happily settled at Pemberley, the happy couple are the proud parents of two beautiful boys.

 

Jane and Bingley live close by with their three children. Mary is married to a vicar, and Kitty is at home with her parents.

 

Lydia arrives, unannounced, on the eve of a grand ball at Pemberley. She is distraught. She believes her husband, Wickham, has been murdered in the woods. With this news Austen disappears and James takes over.

 

Darcy becomes so like her other literary detective, Adam Dalgliesh, it’s disconcerting. He is tormented and cerebral, and I prayed he would not begin writing poetry in the fashion of Commander Dalgliesh. Thankfully, he did not. Elizabeth is subservient and lost in this novel, and it is a good thing that she is not ever present. Most of us prefer to remember her the way Austen created her.

 

James weaves an intriguing tale, as always. She is a great crime writer, and I learnt so much about the English legal system in 1803-1804.

 

If anyone else had written this book, and if it were not linked to Pride and Prejudice, would it even have been published? I don’t think so. The book is dense and slow, and not quite what today’s reader wants.

 

Amanda Patterson

3/5

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