The Brazilian by Rosie Millard – a very different book!

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This is a romantic comedy for the slightly older person. There is a little romance in terms of people revaluating their priorities, or discovering new ones, and there is the comedy of the making of a reality celebrity programme with people who do not even recognise themselves as stars of tv. It is a confusion of motives, attraction and people’s dreams being upset. In short, not a great literary treat, but an interesting book about what people truly want from a short time in their lives set in a holiday resort. It is a short, quick read, which has a lot of entertainment value.

Jane is a dissatisfied woman who devotes herself to maintaining the body beautiful. She is in a financially secure marriage but has had her flings, has a husband who has had his own scandal, and a son with whom she is bored. For a change of background to her life of few friends and lack of interests, she organises a holiday in Ibiza which is not really that family orientated as she is taking a nanny for George, Belle, who works out how to meet up with her boyfriend, Jas. This beginning of a farce is confused by the filming of a downmarket celebrity show with a tired format in the same part of Ibiza which features neighbours fixated on money to be won. Even the producer of the programmes longs to be somewhere else, filming gritty genuine reality. With inane activities, misunderstandings and Jane’s ambition to get into the tv shows, a competition emerges which is less about surviving the voting and more about creating a fiction of what people truly want from life.

This is a light read, with moments of genuine humour as George, the small son, manages adventure and Belle realizes that a great nightlife is exhausting. Gemma, a slight celebrity emerges as genuinely attached to her unlikely compatriots in adversity and becomes more interesting as she undertakes the reality of ‘reality’ filming. Yes, there is innuendo and ‘sexual content’ but it unsubtle and a cursory theme to a book which is trying to have broad appeal, and probably tries a little too hard. The dynamics of interconnected relationships over a short period of time in a confined space is far more interesting.

If you want a book to read in one sitting which has enough entertainment value to maintain interest and offer some insight into life in the comfortably off British abroad, this will fulfill requirements. It is a jolly read where there is no real peril, no one gets really hurt, and life is a holiday that does not really meet expectations. I found it a different book to review from a copy supplied by Legend Press, who have an admirably mixed list!


The Whitstable Pearl Mystery by Julie Wassmer

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Occasionally I enjoy reading a book that will probably never be described as a classic, but is a really enjoyable light read, especially for the holiday season. This contemporary murder mystery is a loving evocation of the life and times of Whitstable, particularly at Oyster Festival time. I do not know Whitstable at all, being in the Midlands, but I feel I have learnt something of coastal towns, grateful for yet challenged by the yearly onslaught of visitors.

Pearl is a single mother whose beloved son, Charlie, for whom she has sacrificed a promising career in the Police, is now at Canterbury University. His relationship with his new girlfriend Tizzy adds to her feeling that she must find new activities to fill the gap his absence has caused. Pearl (yes, the name is one of the deliberate bits of humour that run throughout this book) already runs a successful oyster based café with her memorable and loveable mother, Dolly. Dolly has a ripe sense of humour and an extravagant love of life.

Polly, missing her police career, has set up a detective agency which is not exactly bringing in a huge clientele. Her first prospective client is an unattractive man, but everything is put into perspective when she discovers a body. Death in suspicious circumstances is followed by investigations both official and unofficial, as a friend’s background becomes convoluted and emotionally complex. Pearl finds herself becoming attracted by Chief Inspector Mike McGuire whose own grief is affecting his judgement and impartiality.  Other characters may or may not be significant to the mystery, but the lonely Ruby and the suspicious rich visitors begin to confuse the pictures being built up by Pearl and the reluctantly involved Mike.

There are lots of lovely pictures of the community in a small town, challenged by a mysterious death. All is not doom and gloom in this book, as Dolly creates confusion with her unusual dance classes and other high jinks. This is not a great literary book, and in particular there are inconsistencies of character and unlikely coincidence which make the outcome of the mysteries frustrating. Also, I found Pearl’s involvement a little unrealistic, given that her detective experience would have been limited.

This is an enjoyable read, which maintained my interest despite its unevenness. I am looking forward to reading the other two paperbacks I have tracked down, and hope to find out more about Whitstable and its inhabitants.

Meanwhile life in the Midlands continues busy as ever. A recent birthday for Northernvicar meant a huge treat for over sixty people on a steam hauled train followed by a fish and chip meal and party. No oysters though!