The Secretary by Renee Knight – a compelling contemporary read of devotion and deceit

This is one of those books that you simply cannot put down; partly because you are desperate to find out what will happen, partly because the characters are just so well drawn that you believe that they are somehow real. This is an impressive slow burn thriller, cleverly just sufficiently near to real life that it is totally understandable. The characters really exist on the page, especially the Secretary of the title who narrates the novel. As she gives us all the situations and other characters through her eyes, we are left wondering how a reliable narrator she is, and just how it will all end. I was pleased to be sent a copy of this book to read and review.

This is a book which reveals the danger of someone knowing so much of another’s life that they are just inflict real damage. Christine Butcher is a temp picked out by Mina Appleton to be her personal assistant as she begins to assert her own role in her father’s supermarket company. For a variety of reasons Christine soon makes herself indispensable to Mina; she has a prodigious memory for detail, soon works out how to predict what is needed, and protects her boss even when she has reservations about what is going on. She carefully makes sure she is the only assistant with power to arrange the details which make Mina’s life possible, and actually goes further as she joins in a campaign to rid the company of various people. Christine sacrifices much to support Mina, as all her thought and ambitions revolve around the life of her boss. She imagines more than actually occurs in their relationship as nothing stops Mina’s rise in many fields, television celebrity,entrepreneur, successful wife and mother. There are cracks in the façade quite early on, but the pace picks up as questions emerge about the ethical nature of Appleton Supermarkets’ dealings with its suppliers. There are tense moments as everyone comes under examination, and it seems possible that an eye for detail is exactly what is needed. The twists and turns of this novel maintains the reader’s interest throughout and it is undoubtedly a gripping read.

I found myself really involved in this novel, as I was lulled into a rhythm of Christine’s selfless work on Mina’s behalf, and her careful manipulation of circumstances. The sacrifices made on her part explain a lot, and the carefully timed shocks are powerfully managed. This is a contemporary story of deceit and betrayal, online manipulation and computer records, forces beyond control. There is a lot of human interest in this novel, with a clear view of the sort of woman who operates behind the scenes to great effect. Knight has created some memorable characters in this novel, fitting them well into a context of subtle complexity as the situations develop in a logical way. She shows real insight into a world where there are characters who do not fit neatly into categories. This is an immensely readable novel and I recommend it as a compelling read.


I must mention the great performance of “As You Like It” at The Royal Shakespeare Company theatre in Stratford on Avon the other evening. In modern dress, there was so much life in this production, energy and engaging performances throughout. I have asked to go to other productions…pretty please!



Inborn by Thomas Enger – A Norwegian village rocked by suspicion and murder

A powerful and unsettling book, this is a careful study of a young man’s experience around murder. This is not an American tale of a school shooting; rather it is a steady build up of suspicion and torment as much is investigated, many are suspicious, and everyone has a view as to the probable culprits. This book, set in contemporary Norway, is very much of its time as social media is a commentary throughout in the hands of young people and a lot of the essential contact between all the parties is attempted on mobile phones. An intense book, its taut language and tense plot makes for far more than a murder mystery; the atmospheric treatment of a story from several viewpoints makes for a mature multi-layered novel full of interest. I was interested to receive a copy of this novel to read and review for a blog tour.

The book is essentially written in two times. Even Tollefsen is the young man at the centre of the story, and he relates the story of “Now” as he appears in court, possibly as the accused. Certainly he is asked to go through in great detail the events of the time labelled “Then”, which is the third person narration of various people’s discovery of the murder of two young people. The reader is presented with the story of Johannes Eklund as he is killed by an unknown assailant. It is only as Yngne Mork, the investigating officer moves around the school building when Johannes’ body is found, that another body is discovered. The small village of Fredheim becomes alive as the school at the centre of the village emerges as a murder scene and is cordoned off. Every character has a back story which appears in parallel to the proceedings of the court, but it is only as Even experiences the aftermath of the murders, slowly coming to terms with loss and the suspicions of the community, that he realises that his own family may have more than a straightforward traffic accident in its past. This complex novel keeps the action moving as it switches time and place, searching the experiences of several protagonists. It maintains an honesty about the relationships between young people, and how the many of the adults have a past.

I found this novel well written and a complex tale, as far more than a murderer is sought by clearly imagined police officers. The motives of many emerge as the characters are described, and there is a much careful description which can tend to slow the pace a little, making this a careful rather than fast paced novel. It is an intriguing picture of a village which has similarities with villages anywhere, and the fact that it is set in Norway does not prevent recognising the way that news spreads and pressures on individuals are felt. Secrets, suspicions and the sense of loss dominate this novel, which swings between chilling tension and pictures of people who are struggling. It is atmospheric and challenging and is far from predictable. It is an immersive read.


Another novel in translation, set in the Nordic countries. My reading while hosting blog tours has certainly widened! Watch out for a variety of reviews over the next few weeks, as I tackle crime(!), short stories, an historical read and even a book about poetry. Never a dull moment with Northernreader!

The Belle Hotel by Craig Melvin – Food, fun and bad behaviour in Brighton over the decades

Foodie, funny and genuinely fascinating, this food – hotel – chef based novel is a treat for anyone who enjoys contemporary writing with a light hearted flavour. Set in the present day but going backwards to look at the establishment of the Belle hotel in Brighton, this features the training of a young chef in the ways of cooking some fantastic food, and his struggle to learn what is important in his life. There is celebrity spotting aplenty as Franco, the founder of the hotel, and Charlie cook for the well known of the 70s, 80s, 90s and beyond. There are real recipes throughout the text as the reader is invited to admire the skills and showmanship involved of turning out great food. I was pleased to receive a copy to read and review.

The book opens with a description of a truly terrible day for Charlie. The Hotel which has been his life, and that of his immediate family, stands ready to be repossessed by the bank unless he can find £10,000 by noon. To add to the confusion, his ex girlfriend, ex childhood sweetheart Lulu stands ready with her business partner to buy control of the Hotel where she too spent her time. He makes every effort, some of them quite daft, to raise the money; he borrows money, he gambles, he tries to rob a fruit machine. As he tries to get some money to the hotel in time, the narrative returns to his grandfather’s original opening of the Hotel in the early 1970s, supported by some money from “Larry”, a well known actor. He is a showman, a chancer, and he is determined to make Hotel Belle a popular venue for food and more. His son, Johnny, who actually works at another hotel, and his wife Janet are drafted back to help out. It is Charlie, however, that Franco decides will become a chef, carefully trained, sent to various restaurants, suppliers and colleges to learn everything about food and its serving. As Franco’s fame increases and the Hotel becomes a huge success, he collects recipes, receipts and other items of record in his unique book. Charlie seems to be set to continue in his footsteps, but before long the cracks begin to show. Can Charlie get everything together before he loses everything on one day?

This is a funny, affectionate and honest picture of life in a unique hotel during the later part of the twentieth century. The cheeky inclusion of real celebrities and actual events keep the book moving; the realistic dialogue and frank language can sometimes be a bit shocking but always comes over as truthful. This book maintained my interest and I was loathe to put it down; I feel that it conveyed a realistic picture of a fairly recent time in an often painfully human way. The characters were terrific, funny and sometimes touching. Franco is a real hero, whereas Charlie is often understandable and totally human. It appears that Melvin, the author, has a lot of experience in the hotel trade, and it shows throughout this novel. Whether you are a foodie, interested in a fictionalised history, or are simply interested in a funny and interesting read, I recommend this book.


In other news, we went to Stratford on Avon a few days ago. Anne Hathaway’s cottage was looking lovely under a blue sky, and the guides were very friendly and informative. Not really an accessible site for me, but still very interesting. We then managed to park in the town, where we visited New Place, the site of William’s final (and substantial) home. It was well worth a visit and featured a garden that was lovely even in February. I had forgotten how fascinating and lovely a place it is to visit!

Poison by Charlot King – The first of the Cambridge Murder Mysteries

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A contemporary murder mystery set in Cambridge, a woman of a certain age detecting, poison and corruption make for an excellent and sometimes humourous novel. This book has charm and some passion as clues, motives and mysteries pile up around the unorthodox team of Professor Elizabeth Green, her grandson Godric and Inspector Alby. Cycling around the city or driving the aging Talbot, botanist Elizabeth gets close to her suspects, just as she knew the first victim. This is far from a straightforward murder mystery, as many people have their reasons for remaining silent, and the Cambridge system contrives to make the investigation even more delicate. I am glad to have come upon a copy of this book, the first in a series, in the rather brilliant Heffers bookshop.

The book opens with an assignation which goes wrong, and ends in death. As Edward finds himself in the river Cam, Elizabeth sadly remembers her recent loss, and is traumatised when she discovers a dying man. When Inspector Alby turns up they both remember past investigations and yet Alby warns her off getting involved in this case. This does not stop her finding and talking to Susan, who it seems knew Edward rather too well. Meanwhile, his widow, the despairing Rebecca, contacts her brother, the ambitious M.P. Jonathan Smythe, and he tries to help her with the assistance of his girlfriend. At the same time a college dean begins to realise that he has perhaps taken on too great a challenge in the quest to fund his college.  Elizabeth must use her specialist knowledge despite the advice of her friends, Alby plays golf, and Godric does everything except academic work. As revelations and red herrings pile up, Elizabeth defies all advice in order to get to the truth, as well as attempt to discover just who is stealing her grapes…

This book is in some ways a simple story in the well described setting of Cambridge. It presents a vivid picture of life in the city in the twenty first century, when links across the world mean that murder is not just an enclosed matter. In terms of detection it is actually more logical than some other novels that I have read set in the University. I certainly enjoyed its carefully constructed world, and I liked the character of Elizabeth immensely, as she is quite determined to set the world to rights despite everything thrown at her. The wayward Godric certainly has possibilities as a foil and assistant, though Inspector Alby is not always the sharpest hope, despite his evident concern for Elizabeth’s well being. I found the continuous use of the present tense a bit of a problem, but that was the only downside of this otherwise very enjoyable book. I have already bought a copy of the second book, and look forward to becoming involved again in the puzzling world of Cambridge University in the company of Elizabeth Green and co.


So a book bought from Cambridge and set in that city. It would only work in Cambridge, really, if only because of the position of the river and lovely houses. This book has been on my must finish pile not because I wasn’t enjoying it, but simply because other more urgent books had to be finished first. I think it is a mark of the writing that it was memorable enough that I could pick it up and carry on reading. It is worth finding and enjoying!

Confusion by Elizabeth Jane Howard – The Cazalet Chronicles Volume Three

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A family at war – not with each other, but a family and those important to them during the Second World War. This is the war that seems to go on; not lessening in its effects of separation, reported death and shortages, damaged houses and jobs for the duration. There are half truths and lies, unstated love, and marriage. While much continues from the previous book which covers the early part of the war, this continues into the grim continuance of a state of being in which nothing is guaranteed, and much trauma is to be discovered. Opening in March 1942, this book exposes all the truth of the pain of growing up and being adult, when there are so many unanswered questions and much sadness. Despite this there is a certain element of humour, perhaps grim, perhaps sometimes against people, but always realistic. I enjoyed reading this book over the past few weeks.

The book begins with Polly clearing out her mother’s clothes and personal items while thinking about her death just a week before. As is often the case, there are unresolved issues, things that Polly wished she had said and done. She has to take responsibility for her siblings and her father, who has been left utterly bereft. Like her cousin Clary, she feels the pain of reaching adulthood in the circumstances, being mainly stuck in the large country house which is offering a refuge to so many. “She sometimes wondered whether she had outgrown the house as well, without, so far as she could see, growing into anything else”. Rachel’s relationship with Sid continues to torment both of them in various ways, as Rachel sees her duty to her parents and Sid is desperate to spend time with her. Later in the year the news breaks that Louise is to marry the older Michael, and while some rejoice, others are worried that they want different things. His naval career consumes his time and interests, especially given his obsession with his mother. Hugh’s grief is overwhelming, while he is suspicious of his brother Edward’s affair with Diana, who in turn despairs of ever being with Edward for more than a few brief hours. Both Villy and her sister Jessica have had some romantic interest, and this is to continue. As with the previous two novels, the focus moves from one individual to the family and back again. The strength of this book is in its fluid movement of perspective, as the minutiae of one person’s life and feelings is examined before the scope of the picture broadens out into the interactions between various characters.

This book is given a short foreword which helps to remind the reader where most of the characters are and their understanding of their experiences. I have always found these books to be powerful in their detail, the dialogue between the characters, and the atmosphere of a blighted world. There are layers of loss, but also stirrings of hope, flashes of enjoyment in the unintentional humour of conversations. The people are more than relatable; there is the feeling that these are real people with lives that we are occasionally witnessing. These are characters, people, who change and develop in real time, find love and lose love, maintain hope in the face of tough reality. If you have not discovered the Cazalet Chronicles yet, this is perhaps not the best book to begin with, but wherever you begin, you will feel plunged into a family and associates that are truly unforgettable.


This is one of those books that I read during breakfast every morning, which is an interesting way to start the day, especially if it is a sad section. Having said that, I can usually read on until there is a more optimistic passage.  I enjoyed it hugely and cannot wait to read volume four. When I first read this series there was a long gap before volume five appeared, and though I read it soon after it appeared I must admit to have forgotten some of what had gone before. So I will be reading straight through this time – and happily I still have two thick volumes to get through!

Beton Rouge by Simone Buchholz – a grim picture of the edge of life in Hamburg

A memorable series of crimes, a contrary investigator, a view of downtown Hamburg, this atmospheric mystery novel is an interesting slice of life from a very different perspective. Chastity Riley is an anti – hero of surprising depth and feeling, even if along very different lines from many fictional crime investigators. This is life on the other side, not merely observed but lived, tough and exacting, challenging on every level. While some of the characters are wealthy and powerful, here are people who do not even pretend to conform; the forces of law and order personified by Riley  is not clean and efficient, but sleepless, on the edge, and fuelled by cigarettes and alcohol. Presented at a pace which is fast and sometimes brutal, this translated novel is a powerful picture of European life which is far from the tourist experience. I was very interested to receive a copy of this novel to read and review.

The first scene is of a fairly horrific traffic incident in which a woman dies, then a brief indication of harsh treatment. Chastity Riley opens her narration with a picture of her departure from her apartment. Sparsely furnished, it offers little comfort, a sentiment echoed by the weather outside. She is summoned to a brutally unusual crime scene, as a man is confined in a cage, in poor physical shape, for an unspecified reason. As a Public Prosecutor she goes to the scene and liaises with the attending police officers, surrounded by hostile witnesses. It transpires that the captured man is an unpopular member of the management which has been involved in several schemes of attack on the employees of the firm in the offices standing behind the crime scene. To increase the impact of the crime, a Serious Crime Officer called Ivo Stepanovic arrives, and Riley discovers that she must work with him to find the motive and offender concerned. All is far from what it seems however, as we witness Riley’s confusing private life, her undefined relationships, her tastes in alcohol and unconventional lifestyle. A lead on the identification of a possible motive takes them to Barvaria, which seems the epitome of unfriendliness. As they jointly try to investigate horrendous crimes and adopt some unconventional methods, they compare their views of life and the ways they cope with the desperate scenes which form part of their jobs. As they find some similar habits and obsessions, the situation deteriorates.

This is a powerful read with much to say about the side of life which would be too unconventional for many, and too dark and desperate for most. It a surprisingly bleak book, offering a hopeless picture of the lives of many only partly relived by appropriate music. It is nevertheless a compelling and gripping read, which kept me involved and interested through the short chapters which reflects the pace of lives lived on the edge. Chasity Riley is a memorable and unlikely heroine, sometimes more observer than protagonist, constant commentator and unpredictable character. I found this a challenging read, to be recommended for its consistency and power, and having a unique style.



Last night we went offer to Soho House in Birmingham. It is where the Lunar Society used to meet in the 1700s to conduct meetings and experiments. We went to hear Dr Kate Croft speak on the Women of the Lunar Society, and have a guided tour of the house from the perspective of Anne Boulton who lived there. It was an excellent talk, featuring women who were the exact opposite of the characters in the novel above! We are such culture vultures…

Fade to Grey by John Lincoln – the story of the “Last Resort Legals” of Wales…

A team of people that call themselves “Last Resort Legals” may well represent a desperate crew, and in some ways they are indeed a faint hope. Happily there is a sense of humour and some continual optimism which runs throughout this book which lifts it out of the sad or humdrum, and the characters represent some recognisable people in difficult circumstances very well. The plot executes some neat swerves as investigations into several situations are logically pursued using all the possibilities of the twenty – first century; this is a hunt which features online resources and mobile communications to great effect. The value of locality is well developed as well as people’s reactions to organisations and everyday situations as well as dramatic and tense events. I found this book a compelling read and a fascinating insight into the world of paralegal investigations, and I was very excited to be given an early opportunity to read and review this book.

The book begins on a happy note. Gethin Grey is shown arriving in his office in the well described Cardiff Docks area with the knowledge that he has been offered a lucrative job investigating the conviction of a famous activist, Ismail Mohammed or Izma M., who is currently in Gartree Prison. Better still, the investigation is to be bank rolled by Amelia Laverne, star of a cult favourite film. As Gethin and his associates, Lee and Bex swing into action, they follow up some interesting leads reinvestigating the murder of a young woman, Hannah Gold, years before. As the murder took place in Bristol, there is much travelling in this book, which keeps it fresh and not tied to an office. Other characters are introduced; Catriona, Gethin’s wife, and Hattie, his daughter. Deano is a streetwise contact and operative who acts as a part time investigator to great effect, and his discoveries give some leads. As the group investigate the theories and leads which may show the truth, Gethin struggles with his marriage and his addiction. This is a flawed hero or protagonist; it is a sign of the confidence of the writer that he does not give him all the skills necessary that allow him to find this a straightforward case. As Amelia becomes more involved, and the surprises pile up, this book becomes a complex tale of emotions, some violence, and considerable achievement.

This is a book which more than maintained my interest throughout as I tried to keep up with the twists and turns of revelations which came as genuine surprises. There are plenty of references to actual places in Bristol and south Wales, as well as journeys undertaken by various characters. I enjoyed the detail of the people, the small touches of description which make them seem real, the words and style which give vivid impressions of their individual styles. There are several descriptions of the cases which the group have undertaken in the past which give a fascinating background to this novel. At times tense, at times touching, this is a novel which is vibrant, complex and enjoyable.


We took ourselves off to the cinema again to see a play again – an NT production of “I’m Not Running”, a David Hare play. Centred on a woman, Pauline Gibson, who has become an Independent M.P in order to save a hospital, it has much to say on women in politics, the Labour Party (brilliant timing!) and the battle to change the world. As these showings are at least nationwide, if you get the opportunity to go, it is an incredible production which is highly recommended.

Gallows Court by Martin Edwards – London in 1930 is not a safe place to be…

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London in 1930 is a strange place. Puzzles, death, suspicions, and one man is sure that he has the key. Rachel Savernake is always there – powerful, wealthy but at heart an enigma. Martin Edwards pulls out all the stops to create not only characters that fill the complex and many layered novel, but to create a world in which seemingly anything can happen, expectations can be overturned, and no one is safe. Edwards has used his unique knowledge of the period and the Golden Age Mystery novel to produce a powerful story which does not hinge on one murder, however complex. This novel describes a series of deaths which are perhaps suicide, perhaps extraordinary accidents, perhaps unconnected, but all seem to hang together, as the wisps of a story come together into a strong conclusion. I was delighted to receive a copy of this brilliant book to read and review.

Jacob Flint is a determined young man. He has moved from Yorkshire to make his name as a journalist in a London where self made men were common. For reasons that are perhaps unclear, he becomes convinced that a mysterious young woman, Rachel Savernake, knows something about not only the notorious crime that she has been rumoured to have solved, but also has special knowledge of various unexplained deaths among rich and powerful men. After all,  she is extraordinarily well informed about seemingly unconnected things, she is in the area when many of the deaths occur, she has few but absolutely devoted servants, and she has a great deal of money. Jacob begins to make links by determined efforts to be at the right place at the right, or wrong, time. He does begin to wonder, however, as he experiences first hand not only near misses, but the actual death of those around him. While he could walk away, be sensible, be safe, he becomes enthralled by the desperate hunt for the truth. Rachel meanwhile seems not only an observer of these desperate deaths, but also have some strange involvement. Also, throughout the novel there are inserts of a journal of a young woman, concerned with her life on an island where Rachel and her cruel father are frequently mentioned. Who is Rachel, and how does she feature in this account of collective destruction?

This is a colourful book, where no death, no murder, takes place in an isolated or colourless    manner. This is a London of seedy boarding houses, new art, gaudy theatre and new ways of death. Not that this is a gloomy novel; there is great strength of purpose and some flashes of humour as Jacob, Rachel and others act, observe and discover various truths. This is a mature, effortlessly confident novel in which Edwards uses all his skills and experience of writing contemporary murder mysteries to create mysteries within a mystery which absorbs and compels the reader to become involved. I was really bewildered at times by this book at times, but in a really good way, as just as I thought that I could see what would happen, it would suddenly plunge off in another direction. This is far from the common woman detective solving murder mysteries in the 1930s novel which is surprisingly common at the moment; this is a novel of unexpected heroes and villains.  I can whole heartedly recommend this unusual and unique book to anyone with an interest in the Golden Age of detective writing, the social life of London in the 1930s, and how the motives of a few affect the lives of many in unique ways.


We have gone north over the last few days to view our son’s new house and to allow the Vicar to go on a five church crawl around York today. All has gone well, as much effort has gone into the new (actually quite old) house and its period features. has got much material for blog posts in the near future, and daughter and I found many wonderful books in Waterstones and the Oxfam bookshop in York. I even found a folio set of Jane Austen in the latter, which is very beautiful…..

Mills & Boon DARE – Mr One-Night Stand by Rachael Stewart – An Adult Book

In a market full of romance themed novels, one of the leaders has always been Mills & Boon. This novel is under the DARE imprint, and new M&B author Rachael Stewart has written a book full of passionate encounters which are more frankly described than in many contemporary reads. So an adult book, with fulsome descriptions, but also a real story of a man and a woman with family responsibilities, ambitions, and all the doubts and insecurities of people in a new relationship. This is a book in which, while perhaps disturbingly detailed and pushing the edge, there are several things to notice. This is a novel about consenting adults, where no one appears to be forced or exploited, and where both Jennifer and Marcus struggle to discover what they should be doing. This is far from a one dimensional novel; it tries to explain why the couple do what they do, and how much emotion and thought their relationship, though perhaps unconventional, involves. I was interested to see this perhaps surprisingly complex novel worked out beyond the obvious content, and was grateful to receive a copy to review.

Marcus Wright is in a bar. Wealthy, handsome and with a driving ambition, he is getting frustrated waiting for Tony Andrews, who is entering into some unspecified contract. He knows that there is a partner involved who is probably the real drive behind the business. When a beautiful and stylish woman enters the bar the atmosphere changes, and they both indicate their willingness to get to know each other better (to put it euphemistically). When he discovers that this woman who has insisted on paying their bills is Tony’s partner, he wants to forget the whole thing, by which time it is too late. He discovers a new level of intimacy with this woman, which rebounds on him when she finds out about their new business links. They have to find a way of coping with their desire for each other in the light of their business commitments, and their own family backgrounds.

Although this book could be seen as a “Guilty pleasure”, it actually has a lot going for it in terms of a novel. There is no violence, no murders and does represent a relationship of equals. It is an engaging read which does present an extreme of sexual content, but actually it has a lot of narrative power and although it revolves largely around high powered business (of an undefined nature) and wealth, there are still aspects of reality represented, as the health of families and the underlying ambition are relatable. Perhaps it may seem an unlikely choice to review, but it is likely to be a popular novel, and deserves success.




Gap Years by Dave Holwill – contemporary life in the most entertaining style

Families can be complicated, and the family which is central to this book is very complicated. Not only that, in addition there is an unhappy teenager, a late lamented dog, and some genuine teenage angst in this book of contemporary life. The language is frank, the story is funny, no holds are barred in this honest account of life, love and boring jobs. This is a jolly book, full of incidental and open humour based on the sort of relationships which do not fit into easy categories. Sometimes shocking, always realistic, I was grateful to have the opportunity of reading a copy of this book as part of a blog tour.

The book opens with a dramatic scene of an accident which affects two of the characters, and the reader quickly discovers much about the characters; especially Sean, a nineteen year old who has recently returned to his father’s home after spending several years with his mother and her extravagant life style. He finds it a huge adjustment as he has lived a lonely life without friends and certainly no relationships, a situation that one of his new friends is determined to change. He has refused to go to University despite his abilities, and even his cycling ambitions have got to be put on hold. His father, Martin, has also got to adjust to a son who he has little in common with, a dead end job, and most significantly, Rhiannon who seems to be taking an unhealthy interest in him. Rhiannon is also the subject of Sean’s ambitions, as she puts on a brave face and seeks to give the impression that she is coping. Alison, Martin’s wife and therefore Sean’s stepmother, is a shadowy figure for most of the novel, yet is the subject of much of Martin’s reflection. As Martin and Sean alternate the narration as they give their own versions of life in the chaotic house, this is a cleverly constructed novel which keeps moving and entertaining with the sometimes fulsome details of relationships in the present, and in Martin’s case, in the past. Whatever happens there is humour and affection, even love as Sean’s ambitions always start small and rapidly increase.

I enjoyed this largely feel good book, with characters who get themselves into some extraordinary situations, groups, cafes, and friendship groups.  While there are some painful and difficult elements discussed, this is basically a book of real life, where nothing is as it seems, there are petty frustrations and realistic disappointments; but there is still the optimism of everyday relationships. This is a book where the younger characters have much to experience and learn whatever they may believe, but also that older people have to adjust and change to fit changing times, as they realise that life will keep moving with or without them. This is a quirky view of life, written with a keen eye for the small things of everyday life as some of the characters have to readjust to their lives. Not for the easily shocked, I found it painfully true to contemporary life, and overall very entertaining.


Last night we went to the cinema, again, to see the National Theatre’s production of Richard II. It was a very different version. They called it “pared down”, but it was actually incredibly minimalist. Certainly not for those who enjoy costumes, settings and realism! The live feed films certainly give the opportunity to see productions that we would otherwise miss, and we get a wide variety of plays. Something to look out for in many parts of Britain!