Monday, 30 March 2020

Last post for March...

It’s cool and overcast, with a chance of rain early in the afternoon, perfect weather for a hot cup of tea and a good book.  I hope to get outside for a long walk before the rain starts, though, as this self-isolation makes me want to binge on junk food all day, a bad habit to get into when there seems to be no end for this new reality in sight.

Last week I reread The Rapture by Liz Jensen, which seemed particularly suitable this time, not just for the time of year, with its uncertain, often tempestuous weather, but also because of the COVID-19 pandemic we are dealing with right now.  Here is what I said about this novel in my post on April 30, 2017:

“Speaking of tempestuous weather, I reread that fabulous eco-thriller I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, The Rapture by Liz Jensen.  This novel, set in the not-too-distant future, tells the story of an unlikely group of people who are trying to save the earth from further ecological disaster on a monumental scale.  Gabrielle Fox is an art therapist who, following a car accident that has left her a paraplegic with serious emotional scars, leaves her home in London and relocates to a remote coastal town to take on a contract position at Oxsmith Adolescent Secure Psychiatric Hospital, where she works specifically with Bethany Krall, a sixteen-year-old who, two years earlier, drove a screwdriver into her mother’s eye.  Bethany claims to have visions of future meteorological events after her ECT treatments, but no one believes she really “sees” things, just that she is spouting off what she has Googled or heard on the news. She dismisses Gabrielle’s attempts to get her to talk about her mother’s murder, but Gabrielle begins to take Bethany’s visions seriously when she predicts, to the day, a tsunami that will hit Rio de Janeiro, a location that never experiences such weather phenomena.  But, stuck in a wheelchair, suffering emotional damage, and having no supports, there is little she can do without allies. A strange woman appears to be stalking her, and when she is finally approached, it turns out that this is Bethany’s former therapist, Joy, who suffered a breakdown and had to leave the hospital on medical grounds. She appears to be the one person who can help Gabrielle, as she seemed to believe in Bethany’s abilities, but it turns out that Joy has other ideas.  A true ally comes in the unlikely form of a Scottish physicist named Frazer Melville, whom she meets at a fundraiser and forms an instant bond. Melville manages to rally a group of climatological experts who must convince the leading meteorological guru to take Bethany’s predictions of worldwide ecological disaster to the media or risk unprecedented catastrophe. Oh, I nearly forgot - Bethany’s father is a pastoral leader in the Faith Wave, a powerful Evangelical movement that is sweeping the UK with its messages of the Rapture, when true believers will be taken up by God while the rest of the world suffers seven years of plagues and pestilence during the Tribulation.  I don’t read many books in the thriller genre; I prefer psychological fiction rather than plot-driven novels that focus on fast-paced storylines, as these leave little room for the character development that I so enjoy. While I don’t feel that this novel had alot of character development, I felt that it had all the elements of a successful thriller. The main characters were flawed yet likeable, even matricidal Bethany, and the story was timely and all-too-believable. There was also a love story, always an uplifting element in a novel that was bleak at the best of times. And the relationship Gabrielle and Frazer develop with Bethany, while seemingly unbelievable, is, in fact, simultaneously credible and moving and heartbreaking.  This page-turner will make you angry and sad, and if you don’t already believe in global warming, you will by the time you reach the last page. This novel reminded me of Peter Hoeg’s book Smilla’s Sense of Snow, and is sure to appeal to a wide audience of readers.”

I can’t really add to this, except to say that I enjoyed it again this time around, and would definitely recommend it to just about anyone.    

And I’m nearly finished The Night Country by Melissa Albert, the sequel to her fabulous debut, The Hazel Wood, which I read and wrote about last year, also at the end of March.  Here’s a recap of that first phenomenal book:

“Speaking of YA mysteries, I’m nearly finished The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert right now... it is astounding in its complexity and character development.  Imagine what would happen if Alice in Wonderland went in search of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and you’ve got the basic scenario in this dark modern fairytale-gone-wrong.  Seventeen year old Alice and her mother Ella are on the run from bad luck; they’ve been on the run their whole lives, never staying any one place for long.  Motel rooms, guest rooms, crashing on friends’ couches, this is a way of life for Alice, and she accepts it as a necessity… until Ella meets and marries Harold, and it seems their luck has changed.  Alice gets a job, goes to a posh high school, and actually starts to make some… hmmm… acquaintances (not friends). Then Ella goes missing and Alice must race to find her, wherever she is, and save her from whoever or whatever has abducted her.  Down, down, down the rabbit hole goes Alice, only to discover the truth about herself… and that’s all I can tell you so far. I will finish today, but I have to say that this book is one heck of a rollercoaster ride through fairyland, and I can see why it got such great reviews.”  
The Night Country follows Alice when she’s back in New York, graduating from high school and hoping to begin a “normal” life… but alas, as an escaped Story from Hinterland, it appears she will never be able to escape her true self and is drawn back into the circle of ex-Stories as they form a sort of support group, talking about their issues and difficulties getting along in the “real” world.  When Alice hears about the murders of three ex-Stories, she is more determined than ever to leave her Hinterland past behind, but then something tries to kill her, too, and she fears for her life. She tries to find help from the other Hinterlanders, but somehow they believe she is the one who is killing these ex-Stories, and so she is forced to find the answers on her own. But can she do this before it is too late?  I’m finding this novel to be unputdownable, the kind of page-turner that is sucking me in and pulling me along like a curse, as though the words on the page have put me in a hypnotic state. It is not as good as the first book, as it is made up more of Alice’s descriptions of feelings and impressions than it is of story line, but somehow, I want to keep reading, the words are that mesmerizing. Thankfully there are a few chapters told from the point of view of Ellery Finch, Alice’s kind-of-boyfriend, a young man who, in the first book, joined Alice on her search and ended up stuck in the Hinterland.  His chapters are a bit more plot-driven, less descriptive, and I look forward to these occasional breaks. Still, I’m nearly done, and it’s really been a quick, easy, almost enchanting read. I worry about this one being in my library’s collection, though. The only issue I had with the first book was the use of the f-word, but this novel is much darker, more violent, and more graphic, and there is alot more swearing in it than I remember from the first book. Hmmm… this is one of the challenges I face when trying to select books for the YA collection. I guess I will wait to decide whether to keep or delete it from the collection once I get back to work, whenever that will be.
That’s all for today.  Read, walk, clean, organize, garden… do whatever it takes to fill your days with joy.  Take care and stay well.
Bye for now…
Julie

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