It certainly feels like spring, and while we’ve had some snow over the past week, we’ve also had April showers, which seem to be bringing out the before-May flowers. Although we are still unable to do much, at least my regular walks are ever-changing, with greenery taking over the browns of winter and colourful flowers popping up, more and more each day, which makes even the most mundane walks interesting.
Speaking of flowers, I finished a book yesterday that I’ve been working on over the past week, The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart, the much-anticipated debut novel by Australian author Holly Ringland. This novel was at once captivating and harrowing, a dense, brilliant novel that I both wanted to keep reading and had to put down. Nine-year-old Alice Hart lives in what appears to be an idyllic home, with beautiful, loving mother Agnes and handsome father Clem, but she dreams of ways to set her father on fire. Isolated in their remote seaside house, no one escapes Clem's unpredictable moods and violent rages, not even Alice’s dog Toby. But, like all abusive men, he apologizes afterwards and promises never to do it again, and yet again and again, it happens. When tragedy finally visits the Hart house, Alice begins a new phase in her life, connecting with a grandmother she never knew she had and learning to speak about the world through the language of flowers at Thornfield Farm. When, as a young woman, she is once again visited with distressing news, she leaves the farm and ventures off, both to escape her grandmother and to find herself. What she finds, though, could be either a new beginning or a tragic end. I don’t want to give away too many details, as part of the suspense that urges the reader on is the sense of not knowing what choices Alice will make in any given instance. Each chapter is headed with the name of a flower that is native to Australia, the meaning or language of the flower, and a description of the plant, its strengths and weaknesses, which are indications of the theme for that chapter. The breathtaking descriptions of the staggeringly beautiful yet wildly varying landscapes in different parts of Australia made this book fascinating, but Alice’s often-tragic circumstances forced this reader to take periodic breaks from the exploration into the dark theme of domestic violence and the difficulty of breaking the cycle. It also explored the ways in which the Indigenous peoples of Australia have been stripped of their culture, and the need to keep their traditions alive for future generations. I found that the text was at times repetitive, and sometimes too dense, but overall, I found myself anxiously turning pages as the details of Alice’s past and her family history were revealed chapter by chapter, until the final satisfying page. It was a book I was putting off reading due to the graphic portrayal of domestic violence in the opening chapters, but I’m glad I went back and stuck with it.
And I finished listening to an audiobook last week, also featuring a main character named Alice, Long Gone by Alafair Burke. This suspenseful thriller opens with Alice Humphrey, an attractive woman in her late-thirties, facing her seventh month of unemployment after being downsized from the art gallery where she worked, ostensibly due to budget cuts, but actually as a consequence of her recent severing of all financial ties with her famous director-father Frank Humphrey. One evening she attends an art showing and meets attractive Drew Campbell, an art dealer who, after a brief conversation, offers Alice a job running a new gallery he is opening on behalf of an elderly, wealthy benefactor. She takes the job, encouraged by her friend Lily, even though it seems too good to be true… and, of course, it is. What follows is Alice falling down, down, down into the rabbit-hole of deception, and we the readers are taken on a roller coaster ride of twists and turns, exposing secrets and lies until we, along with Alice, don’t know who or what to believe. Of course, it is all wrapped up in a neat bow at the end, as Burke’s novels always are, making them dependable go-to audiobooks when I’m not sure what to listen to next. Although not outstanding, if you like suspenseful thrillers, this novel will not disappoint.
That’s all for today. I’m so glad it’s not raining today, as previously forecast, so I can get outside for a long walk. Stay well and keep reading!Bye for now…
PS Happy Birthday, Julie's Reading Corner! Nine years and 489 posts and still going strong. Thanks for continuing to read these posts. I look forward to sharing book and reading thoughts with you for many years to come.