Here is my second round of book reviews (posted to IGTV in May – sorry for the delay in posting to the blog!). Watch me talk through each book in the video above or read my reviews below. Or both!
As I mentioned in my previous round of reviews, I dislike reading reviews before reading a book, as I feel it sways my decision too much. Shantaram was recommended by the same friend who had recommended ‘The Bees’, which I did NOT enjoy particularly. But, I decided to give it a go. After all, books from the library are FREE (I now get all my books from the Chicago Public Library; whether paperback, e-book, and I’ve started branching out into audio books).
Shantaram gripped me from the start. I had heard it was a HUGE book (it’s harder to gauge this on an e-book), and I did notice the % was increasing very slowly, but I so enjoyed every page that it never felt like a chore. It tells the story of an Australian man who escapes prison after being convicted of armed robbery; he somehow gets himself to New Zealand, and the book starts when he is on the plane to India. He manages to pass through immigration on his forged NZ passport and makes his way into the huge, bustling city of Bombay (now Mumbai). He quickly meets and make friends with both locals and foreigners who now live in Bombay. He travels to the north of the region with his Indian BFF, and stays in his village for months, learning the local dialect. He becomes involved with a mafia-type father figure – the way he describes this relationship is both touching and fascinating. I loved reading the description of Bombay/Mumbai. The slums, the street life, the food, the people, the sights and smells. Although I was very aware that it was written by a foreign white man and therefore an outsider’s view of a place. I need to follow up with novels written by actual locals.
I don’t want to describe too much – you can read reviews or the blurb for this – but suffice to say I read this 936-page epic novel in about two weeks. His writing style isn’t for everyone – a lot of the negative reviews talk about his constant use of similes and metaphors – but it didn’t put me off. 5/5 stars
Still Life and A Fatal Grace (Chief Inspector Gamache Novels 1 & 2) by Louise Penny
I listened to both of these books in quick succession. During my daily walks during COVID lockdown, I really enjoyed having the company of an audio book, and absolutely loved the narrator who narrates all of Louise Penny’s ‘Chief Inspector Gamache’ books. This murder mystery series is set in a small village in Quebec, near the American border. If novels involving murder can be described as ‘gentle’, then that’s what these are. I so enjoyed getting to know the characters; both the quirky and colorful locals (Francophone and Anglophone) who live in the village of Small Pines, and the detectives from the Sûreté (provincial police force) who come to investigate. I loved the few phrases of French that were thrown in and all the typical Quebecois references (my mum was born and brought up in Quebec). I really enjoyed these and look forward to continuing with the rest of the series. 4/5 stars
I can’t remember where I heard about The Silent Patient – I think on a ‘Best of’ Goodreads list or similar. It took a long time to come through from the library and I was excited to read it. It’s described as a Hitchcockian thriller and is just the sort of genre I’m loving at the moment (Gone Girl, Girl on the Train, Woman in the Window etc.). It tells the story of celebrated painter Alicia Berenson, who is convicted of brutally murdering her husband. From the moment she is found next to his dead body, she never utters another word. Six years later and psychotherapist Theo Faber is fascinated with her case and gets himself transferred to the forensic hospital where she is held. He is determined to get her to speak and to find out the truth about what happened with her husband.
Although this isn’t the best book of this genre I’ve read (there was something about the writing and I didn’t really warm to the characters), it’s fast paced and included several ‘gasp out loud’ moments towards the end. The mark of a good book for me is when I can’t wait to pick it back up again and this one definitely did that! 4/5 stars
I hope you enjoyed these reviews – do let me know if you have read any of these books and what you thought of them! My previous book reviews can be found here.