About Me

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Having reviewed over 1100 books on this blog, I have now written one myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. It is available on Kindle through Amazon. Read it and find out whether this critic can write. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Sunday, 7 March 2021

"Look Who's Back" by Timur Vermes

Adolf Hitler, Rip van Winkle style, wakes up in Berlin in 2011. Still dressed in his uniform and instantly recognisable, he is assumed to be a comedian on the satire circuit: he soon gets a TV show and a huge You Tube following. But he plans to revive his political career.

As a book, this plot enables the writer to make lots of 'man from Mars' style observations about modern German culture. This, for me, was a major part of the humour of the book (regular readers of this blog will know I am not an aficionado of 'funny' books). 

It is more difficult to discern a structure to the plot. Initially I thought I could see a classic four-part structure. He is 'discovered' one-seventh of the way through and his first 'comedy' rant is 40% of the way through, so close to the classic half-way turning-point. He receives hate mail just over half the way through, which suggests a possible serious turn, again appropriate as a turning point. But after that I felt that things meandered and the 'not with a bang but a whimper' ending felt as if the author had run out of ideas, or was positioning himself towards a sequel. 

There were, however, some funny bits, one or two of which make me chuckle out loud.

Some of the best bits include:

  • "We all know ... what to make of our newspapers. The deaf man writes down what the blind man has told him, the village idiot edits it" (Ch 3)
  • "Political parties existed again, with all the infantile, counter-productive squabbling this entails." (Ch 3)
  • "I had also noticed the occasional passer-by whose Aryan ancestry was questionable, to put it mildly, and not only four or five generations back, but right up to the last quarter of an hour." (Ch 5)
  • "I detected barely any correct syntax; it sounded more like a linguistic tangle of barbed wire, furrowed with mental grenades like the battlefields of the Somme." (Ch 11)
  • "As far as I can make out press photographers seem to wear the ragged cast-offs of television cameramen." (Ch 17)
  • "They shrieked with laughter and tried to say something, but a lack of consonants rendered their babble unintelligible." (Ch 31)
  • "Some of these young pupil-like characters wore expressions of such intellectual frugality that one could scarcely imagine what useful activity they might one day be able to perform for society." (Ch 11)

March 2021; 365 pages

This review was written by
the author of Motherdarling


Thursday, 4 March 2021

"A Fatal Facade" by Linda M James

This fast-moving thriller involves murder, religious obsession, fine art, jazz, sex, drug smuggling, prostitution, and the tabloid press. When a playboy and art collector is found dead, ex-DCI Jack suspects foul play. But few of the people involved are what they seem and the crime can't be solved until all of the multiple interconnections have been unravelled. 

It's told from the multiple perspectives of many of the people involved, jumping backwards and forwards in time in a no-frills style and short chapters which really kept the pace up; I read it in a couple of evenings. It has all the classic ingredients of the genre and some bonus features. I particularly liked the fact the the investigator-protagonist was not an alcoholic loner but a happily married man with a son: his family problems stemmed from his wife's terminal illness and made him seem thoroughly human as a result. I also loved the vivid and realistic description of the disposal of a body: "She had to find the strength to get the body into the car. She had to! Her Lexus was parked outside the kitchen; she started dragging the body again. It took her another half-an-hour to reach the kitchen door. She sat down at the kitchen table to rest and thought how she could lift him into the car. The boot was high. It was impossible!"

Other great moments included:

  • "If Alan was a plant, he’d be ivy, Jack thought. Strangling everyone with ambitious tenacity." (Ch 1)
  • "a face so crumpled it looked as if people had been drying their hands on it." (Ch 3)
  • "watching the greedy sea gobbling up the shore" (Ch 6)
  • "Had men falling at my feet all the time. Most of them were drunk, of course." (Ch 6)

Great fun to read.

March 2021

This review was written by
 the author of Motherdarling


Tuesday, 2 March 2021

"First Light" by Peter Ackroyd

 An astronomer works nights in an observatory in Dorset. Nearby an archaeologist with a crippled wife excavates a tumulus around which strange shapes flit. A retired TV comedian whose act is based upon the innocent malapropisms of his wife seeks a cottage he remembers. And are the local yokels comical or sinister?

It is written in the past tense, head-hopping between the PoVs of a number of characters in very short chapters.

In some ways this is typical of much of Ackroyd's work: normal life encounters a supernatural element. There are some extravagant, almost Dickensian characters (the city-living representative from the government who pretends to be wildly enthusiastic about everything as a PR technique was my favourite) and the exuberance of the portrayal more than compensated for the stereotyping (of, for example, the farmer, the camp antique dealer, and the comedian). There were some jokes. But the plot seemed very hackneyed: archaeologists disturb ancient and occult powers; it reminded me of the ancient TV show 'Raven' starring Phil Daniels but also of countless similar novels. And the prose was sometimes very dense. Given the Dorset connection I wondered whether John Cowper Powys (eg Wolf Solent) or Thomas Hardy had been influences.

Some memorable moments:

  • "Everything has to end ... All we're doing is waiting for the end." (Ch 32)
  • "They say that suffering is noble. But it's not. It's a mean thing. A petty thing. It crushes the meaning from you." (Ch 32)
  • "I was dazzled by my own madness, like a man upon an operating table who looks up and sees the lights at the same moment as he shrieks with pain." (Ch 45)
  • "But everything was left unsaid. There were avenues of silence down which they walked by mutual consent" (Ch 48)

March 2021; 328 pages

This review was written by
the author of Motherdarling

Other novels by the prolific and talented Peter Ackroyd include: 

He also writes some pretty brilliant biographies including:



Saturday, 27 February 2021

"Swallows and Amazons" by Arthur Ransome

 The book that started it all, for me. I read all twelve books in this series, which starts with this one, when I was a child. If anything turned me on to reading, these did. And now, returning after more than fifty years, what do I find?

John, Susan, Titty and Roger are on holiday in the Lake District. Their parents (Dad is a naval officer serving abroad) allow them to camp on an island in the middle of the lake, sailing a dinghy called Swallow. They encounter Nancy and Peggy who sail in the Amazon and adventures occur.

The characterisations are easily accomplished:

  • John is the adventurous boy, a keen and accomplished sailor and a very pukka sahib. He swims all around the island but he gets into a bit of a stew when he is called a 'liar' and when he realises that sailing at night is foolhardy.
  • Susan is the home-maker who mothers everyone and cooks all the meals.
  • Titty is the dreamer. She reads books and makes up the stories of pirates and adventure which add a romantic colour to everything the children do.
  • Roger is the little boy who provides a comic effect.
  • Nancy is an adventurous tomboy whose piratical phrases ('Shiver my Timbers') add verve and fun.
  • Peggy, the Amazon equivalent of Susan, is over-talkative and frightened of thunder; she is Nancy's stooge.

These and the minor characters reflect the expectations of people at the time (it was written in 1929). John says that he and Roger will one day join the Navy; this is assumed as inevitable. The girls will be home-makers. The children are from privileged families: Nancy and Peggy have a cook at home; when they encounter a policeman (Sammy) they tell him off and boss him around (he is working class). The boats are hierarchically arranged: Captains John and Nancy, Mates Susan and Peggy, Able-Seaman Titty and Ship's Boy Roger: there are a lot of 'Aye Aye Sirs'. 

A lot of the imaginary adventures involve the implicit assumptions of racist colonialism. Thus, the children are intrepid explorers; adults are referred to as 'natives' or 'savages' who might be cannibals. 

My pre-teen self in the early 1960s noticed none of this. 

There is a surprising amount of technical detail in the book. Very early on, well before the adventures proper have started, the children have to learn how to step the mast and hoist the sail of Swallow and this is explained in detail. As a writer I would hesitate to start the narrative so slowly. As a young reader I don't think I even noticed this bit; I certainly didn't understand it (I still don't). I suppose it adds verisimiltude; it makes me feel that Ransome is talking about a particular dinghy whose idiosyncracies were known to himself; it grounds the story in undeniable authenticity and it lends a sort of depth to the narrative that a musician might achieve with a bass line that nobody apart from fellow musicians would notice. 

But it is a big book and it starts very slowly. The first chapter involves them getting permission (by a telegram from absent father containing the immortal words 'better drowned than duffers if not duffers won't drown'; words I have remembered for over fifty years) to go on their adventures; the second the details about preparing the ship and the tents and the stores, so they don't actually set sail until 10% of the book is already finished. In terms of the Hero's Journey this gives the 'ordinary world' of the heroes, the status quo ante, which grounds the heroes in reality and makes the reader identify with them. But it is a slow start.

The structure of the book is classic. The Swallows encounter the Amazons almost exactly at the 25% mark, the adventure that acts as the focus of the book begins at the 50% mark; the resolution of the problems with 'Captain Flint' starts promptly at the 75% mark; the culminating discovery is almost precisely at 90%.

One of the main stories (the Captain Flint subplot) is beautifully foreshadowed. The final few pages also seem to foreshadow several of the other books in the twelve book series.

Some memorable moments:

  • "Somehow there was always more time to do things when you were alone." (Ch 18)
  • "It is never safe to say that nothing more can happen." (Ch 20)
  • "Never any of you start writing books. It isn't worth it." (Ch 29)

I suppose it enchants primarily because of its subject. Like all classic children's adventure stories it promptly gets rid of the grown-ups. And what could be more exciting than camping on an island and sailing your own boat.

February 2021; 360 pages

This review was written by
the author of Motherdarling

The Swallows and Amazon series contained twelve books:

  • Swallows and Amazons: Children camping on an island in a lake have sailing based adventures
  • Swallowdale: More sailing adventures are threatened when the Swallow sinks
  • Peter Duck: The Swallows and Amazons and Captain Flint sail on a big yacht  into the Caribbean in search of pirate treasure; pirates pursue
  • Winter Holiday: the lake freezes allowing a sledge-based expedition to the 'north pole'; the 'D's are introduced
  • Coot Club: The Dd join the Death and Glory kids in the Norfolk Broads but the excitement is just as great when birds have to be protected from rowdies.
  • We Didn't Mean to go to Sea: The Swallows accidentally find themselves at sea in a yacht they scarcely know: for my money this is the most dramatic and exciting book of the series.
  • Secret Water: The Swallows are joined by the Amazons in an expedition to map some tidal mud-flats
  • The Big Six: The Death and Glory kids have to be cleared of accusations of crime; the Ds help.
  • Missee Lee: The Swallows and Amazons and Captain Flint are shipwrecked near China and captured by a lady Chinese pirate with a taste for Latin.
  • Pigeon Post: The Swallows and Amazons and Ds search for gold in the hills above the Lake; one of my favourites
  • The Picts and the Martyrs: The Ds have to hide in the hills when the Great Aunt comes to stay with the Amazons
  • Great Northern: The Swallows and Amazons and Ds and Captain Flint are protecting birds in the far north of Scotland.

Other books by this author:



Thursday, 25 February 2021

"The Problem of Pain" by C S Lewis

In Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, the hero Yossarian gets angry at the thought of a God who has created a world in which there is pain: "Good God, how much reverence can you have for a Supreme Being who found it necessary to include such phenomena as phlegm and tooth decay in His divine system of creation? What in the world was running through that warped, evil, scatological mind of His when he robbed old people of the power to control their bowel movements? Why in the world did He ever create pain? ... Why couldn't He have used a doorbell instead to notify us, or one of His celestial choirs? Or a system of blue-and-red neon tubes right in the middle of each person's forehead? Any jukebox manufacturer worth his salt could have done that. Why couldn't he?

In this book C S Lewis attempts to show why pain is not only necessary but good, from a theological point of view. He argues that God uses pain to shake us out of our complacency. When we are happy and content, we tend not to think of God. But when we are suffering, we seek God as a comfort. “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” (Ch 6)

Fundamentally CSL believes that the ultimate human happiness lies in submission to God. He uses the analogy of a man with a pet dog: “The association of (say) man and dog is primarily for the man’s sake: he tames the dog primarily that he may love it, not that it may love him, and that it may serve him, not that he may serve it ...man interferes with the dog ... In its state of nature it has a smell, and habits, which frustrate man’s love: he washes it, house-trains it, teaches it not to steal, and is so enabled to love it completely. To the puppy the whole proceeding would seem ... to cast grave doubts on the ‘goodness’ of man: but the full-grown and full-trained dog, larger, healthier, and longer-lived than the wild dog ... would have no such doubts.” (Ch 3)

Another analogy, often used in Christianity, is of God as father. But CSL's ideal father is fundamnetally authoritarian: “Love between father and son ... means essentially authoritative love on the one side, and obedient love on the other. The father uses his authority to make his son into the sort of human being he, rightly, and in his superior wisdom, wants him to be.” (Ch 3)

Pain is therefore the way God whips us into obedience, using the pretext that it is good for us in the long run. This sounds like a classic justification for tyranny. 

CSL is aware of this: “These Divine demands which sound to our natural ears most like those of a despot and least like those of a lover, in fact marshal us where we should want to go if we knew what we wanted. He demands our worship, our obedience, our prostration.” (Ch 3)

On the whole this is not the sort of God one would choose, if one had a choice. 

But presumably to a man like CSL, an Oxbridge don, cocooned in multiple privileges, this is the perfect God because he is the perfect excuse for authority, the authority of the master over the slave, the man over the dog, the father over the child, the husband over the wife, the boss over the worker. Pain and suffering can be justified because it props up the status quo. The only true sin is rebellion.

It wouldn't be so bad if I could feel that CSL's arguments were unanswerable. After all, he was regarded as an expert in three fields: theology, fiction, and mediaeval literature. So it is shocking to discover how clumsy his arguments are.

He has a habit of introducing hypotheses as if they were fact. For example, he states: “Now the proper good of a creature is to surrender itself to its Creator” (Ch 6) This statement is unevidenced. But he never makes clear that it is an assumption that could be challenged. He then bases his arguments upon this statement. But there are alternatives! You could instead say: ‘The proper good of a creature is to fulfil its potential’. This would lead to radically different conclusions. Such a use of unacknowledged hypotheses suggests either that he is insufficiently imaginative to conceive of alternative points of view, or that he is using rhetoric in place of reason.

He also enjoys offering dichotomies. This is another rhetorical technique which allows a propagandist to bolster a weak argument. For example, he describes Jesus and says “only two views of this man are possible. Either he was a raving lunatic of an unusually abominable type, or else He was, and is, precisely what He said. There is no middle way.” (Ch 1) Which is an absurd statement. There are lots and lots of middle ways. Jesus might have been sincere but mistaken, for example. He is deliberately narrowing down the reader's choices to two alternatives so that by demolishing one, you are forced to accept the other. And notice how the work of demolition is packaged into the choice by his description 'unusually abominable'. 

In another example he says that our experience of the Numinous (eg dread as opposed to fear) can be explained in only two ways: “either it is a mere twist in the human mind, corresponding to nothing objective and serving no biological function ... or else it is a direct experience of the really supernatural.” (Ch 1). Of course this is not the only choice. And again, he blackens the path he dislikes, with the adjective 'mere' and the qualifier 'nothing objective and serving no biological function'. (I would argue that dreams are natural but potentially numinous and that dread and wonder could easily have a biological function, as does curiosity.)

There are some thought-provoking moments:
  • I liked his limitation of omnipotence to "all that is intrinsically possible” but not to intrinsic impossibilities such as self-contradictory concepts: “All things are possible with God: the intrinsic impossibilities are not things but nonentities.” (Ch 2)
  • Our prehistoric ancestors made all the useful discoveries, except that of chloroform, which have ever been made. To them we owe language, the family, clothing, the use of fire, the domestication of animals, the wheel, the ship, poetry and agriculture.” (Ch 5) I'm not sure I agree, however.
  • Adam and Eve “wanted ... to ‘call their souls their own’. But that means to live a lie, for our souls are not, in fact, our own. They wanted some corner in the universe where they could say to God, ‘This is our business, not yours’. But there is no such corner. They wanted to be nouns, but they were, and eternally must be, mere adjectives.” (Ch 5) Accept your subservience. Do not rebel.
  • We regard God as an airman regards his parachute; it’s there for emergencies but he hopes he’ll never have to use it.” (Ch 6)
  • The terrible necessity of tribulation is only too clear. ... Let him but sheathe that sword for a moment and I behave like a puppy when the hated bath is over - I shake myself as dry as I can and race off to reacquire my comfortable dirtiness, if not in the nearest manure heap, at least in the nearest flower bed.” (Ch 6) 
  • “If a game is played, it must be possible to lose it.” (Ch 8)
  • The intrinsic evil of the animal world lies in the fact that animals, or some animals, live by destroying each other.” (Ch 9) He is saying that animals are fundamentally evil because some of them are predators.
  • If all experienced God in the same way and returned Him an identical worship, the song of the  Church Triumphant would have no symphony, it would be like an orchestra in which all the instruments played the same note." (Ch 10)

But overall I was appalled at the attitudes revealed in this book and even more shocked at the lack of academic rigour in the arguments. At least it was short.

February 2021; 123 pages

This review was written by
the author of Motherdarling.

C S Lewis also wrote:
CS Lewis was also the author of: these books reviewed in this blog:

His science fiction trilogy
Theology:
Literary criticism:
Autobiography:

Of course he wrote the Narnia children's books as well.

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

"Shampoo Planet" by Douglas Coupland

It took me a little while to get into this book but having finished it I am impressed. I think it is better than his debut novel whose title caught the zeitgeist and labelled a culture: Generation X.

Tyler, the son of hippy mother Jasmine, wants to become an entrepreneur (his first memories are of Ronald Reagan). But he is growing up in Lancaster, an American town whose raison d'etre has been its nuclear processing plant, now closed. He studies hotel management at the local community college; his friends have dead-end jobs. His rich grandparents become homeless after their investment fund goes bankrupt; they start pyramid-selling a cat-food scheme. Nutrition involves the by-products of the oil industry or the processing of the unwanted and unmentionable bits of animals. This is a critique of American consumer culture by a narrator-protagonist who wants to be a part of it.

What helps is that the narrator is himself conflicted. He scorns the "sand candles" and "rainbow merchandise" of his Mum's hippy past. A visit to his natural father, living with two women and ten children in the wilds, has elements of nightmare. When visiting Europe he castigates Europeans for having no ambition. But when he goes to Hollywood he ends up working in a chicken reprocessing plant and then becomes a sidewalk artist. He is seduced by the future but all the time he lives among the wreckage of consumer culture:

  • "The Ridgecrest Mall was where my friends and I, all of us hyper from sugar and too many video games, feeling fizzy and unreal - like products that can't exist without advertising - shunted about in our packs: skatepunks, deathcookies, jocks, psueds, Euros, and geeks. ... I'm almost too old for malljamming now, and to be hoest, there's not much mallleft to malljam in. Today around us I see wounded shoe stores, dead pizzerias, plywooded phone marts, and decayed and locked-up sports stores." (Ch 31)

This American town past its best-before date reminded me of the town in The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold. 

The way in which the narrator describes his world using detailed lists of consumer items reminded me of American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis: "No seedy spider plants. No depressing sand candles. No gruesome rainbow merchandise. Just extremely tasteful black modular sofa units, a TV and CD sound system built into the man-high 'entertainment totem' (black), the incredibly tasteful nonshag carpet (gray), the futon (gray-and-white stripes), the aforementioned sleek Italian minifridge (gray), the computer (off-white - the catalog says 'oatmeal'), books and tapes, a clock (black), my collection of globes on the table near the window ... and a mirror featuring a bright red, totally desirable Porsche in the middle." (Ch 6) 

Another bit made me think of William Burroughs (the author of eg Naked Lunch): "Futuretowns are located on the outskirts of the city you live in, just far enough away to be out of reach of angry, torch-carrying mobs that might roam in from the down-town core. You're not supposed to notice futuretowns - they're technically invisible: low flat buildings that look like they've just popped out of a laser printer; fetishistic landscaping; new-cars-only in the employee lots; small back-lit Plexiglass totems out front quietly brandishing the strangely any-language names of the company housed inside." (Ch 48)

He can certainly turn a phrase, frequently adding modern concepts to describe something in an original way:

  • "an auto-mall rezoning both deleted and reformatted the landscape." (Ch 7) 
  • "Monkey-suit cocktail parties with the fashion-android wives." (Ch 9)
  • "Monique and her libertarian sexual mores, while not exactly sluttish, have a kind of unclean tinge, like a pack of white sugar that has burst, and is overflowing onto a supermarket aisle." (Ch 36)
  • "Parisians visibly wincing  with anticipation for their August holidays, like a man who has to pee badly." (Ch 22)
  • "unplugged computers dreaming of pie charts." (Ch 61)

Other memorable moments:

  • "You're young. Phone me in ten years. You'll know the limits of your talent by then; just watch doors slam shut all around you. You won't be so cocky then." (Ch 9)
  • "Daisy suggested that Grandma and Grandpa simply use one of those room deodorizers that function by anesthetizing your nose so you can't smell the smell.  'Kind of like Dan's personality' I added, triggering Jasmine to escort me to a weekend-long chiding seminar." (Ch 12)
  • "The new things just seem to erase the old things the way new scenery erases old scenery when you're driving down the highway." (Ch 12)
  • "When you arrive on the doorstep of Europe, you are given a pair of wings ... with which to fly backward in time." (Ch 20)
  • "Girls are like a restaurant, Tyler, with tay-rrible service. Girls will make you wait and wait and wait and wait and wait and wait and wait and just when you think you will scream and leave the restaurant , suddenly a merveilleux meal arrives, more fantastic than anything you had hoped for." (Ch 24)
  • "As you grow older, it becomes harder to feel 100 percent happy; you learn all the things that can go wrong." (Ch 27)
  • "Clean hair, clean body; clean mind; clean life. You could become famous at any moment and your whole personal history could be unearthed. And then what would they find?" (Ch 28)
  • "A few stores still thrive, commercial success being in direct proportion to the unnecessariness of the product being provided." (Ch 31)
  • "We scavenge the tapes from the backseat, which has degenerated into a jambalaya of bicycle shorts, cassettes, maps, and turkey-jerky wrappers." (Ch 48)
  • "Life is essentially the Vikings slashing your family to ribbons, then setting fire to your crops." (Ch 53)
  • "I've been dialling my inner phone so long now, if the other end answered, I'd probably blank out and forget who I'd called." (Ch 58)

I loved this book for the way the author set up the hippy vs consumer culture clash, enabling him to critique them both. His hero is a true Colin Wilson Outsider, being both seduced and alienated by a world that holds out so much false promise while delivering such a squalid reality.

He writes well too!

February 2021; 282 pages

This review was written by
the author of Motherdarling




Saturday, 20 February 2021

"The Almost Moon" by Alice Sebold

 "When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily." (first line) 

The protagonist/ narrator (a life model at a local college) murders her mother at the end of the first chapter. From there until the end of the first quarter, she is alone with the body. The police get involved almost exactly at the half way mark; the narrator goes 'on the run' with about ten per cent of the story to go. The plot is therefore mostly a classic three act structure plot.

The book is written in the past tense, from a consistent first person PoV. There are repeated flashbacks, mainly to the narrator's childhood: a large part of this book is an exploration of her relationship with her mother, a woman whose wants and needs dominated and controlled the lives of her husband and daughter. There is a huge amount of sadness here, in the portrait of an American suburb at the end of its life, filled with old people at the end of theirs, and the particular horror of the stifling atmosphere inside this family home. It is a bleak portrait of failure and waste and futility and the situation of the narrator, who has spontaneously murdered a woman who would soon have died anyway, seems inescapably grim.

The book is written in the typical American style with huge amounts of detail which works beautifully when she is murdering her mother; it certainly adds verisimilitude though it can be a little exhausting. 

Some memorable moments:

  • "The thing about dementia is that sometimes you feel like the afflicted person has a trip-wire to the truth." (Ch 1)
  • "Not all of us grew up in the great Northwest, with a rock edifice for a dad and an undulating waterfall for a mother. ... Some of us pushed up through asphalt." (Ch 10)
  • "The material consisted of an inscrutable pattern that seemed to adorn many women's bodies at middle age - a sort of dazzle camouflage designed to keep the eye from being able to focus on the actual shape inside." (Ch 11)
  • "Flexibility did not, in the end, trump gravity. I lived on the borderline between a Venus just holding it together and Whistler's mother in the buff." (Ch 11)
  • "Her house was spick and span and she had once pointed out to me that the best thing about having a cleaning woman was that they did what she called the 'first wave' and left her free to focus on the details." (C 15)

Although this is much less of a page-turner than Sebold's The Lovely Bones (another book with a murderous hook) the depressing portrait of the world is compelling. February 2021; 290 pages

The review was written by
the author of Motherdarling.