book reviews , different studio guests each week. Join us every Thursday between 12 and 1pm on Radio Scilly 107.9fm or log on to radioscilly.com.

Missed any programmes? See below for list of guests, books and other details discussed.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Val Wood - The Harbour Girl

review written by Maggie Perkovic and reviewed live on the bookshow on 28th May 2015

This is another page turner by Val Wood. Historically factual she tells
of Jeannie's life in Scarborough 1880 as her mother who is a Widow
works as one of the womwn mending nets for the fishermen who ply
the dangerous waters and the difficult problems that occur when the waters are
so dangerous that many boats are lost, and to make a living is well nigh impossible.
As Jeannie grows up she realises hat Ethan a young fisherman who works hard
and suffers a tragedy when very young, is the man for her, but encountering a
handsome and silver tongued stranger from Hull she falls for his charms and
has to face reality that she has made a big mistake when he shows himself
in his true colours. Determinedf to mke her marriage a success she sets to
and makes a life despite all the problems that ensue.
Well written and well researched. Recommended.
Maggie Perkovic.

Santa Montefiore - The Italian Matchmaker

review written by Maggie Perkovic and reviewed live on the bookshow on 28th May 2015
This is the second book by Montefiore that I have read and also enjoyed.
Her hero is Luca, another dishy looking man in his forties with a broken
marriage and two little girls he hardly knows so he goes to Italy and stays
with his mother and father in their Palazzo Montelimone restored to its
former beauty but full of ghosts from its murderous past.
Here he sees a beautiful young woman obviously in mourning for someone,
and who has a strange little boy following her that only Luca can see!!!
Many characters abound in the Palazzo, Ma, a large amusing confidante,
an elderly Professor who wants Luca to help him with some transalations
and other various inhabitants who help Luca to make sense of his life and
all that it throws at him.Very good and very well written. Recommended
Maggie Perkovic.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Tom Rob Smith – Child 44



Review by showhost
Story begins in 1933, Ukrain, Soviet Union.  People are dying of starvation, the animals are gone –all eaten.  People boil shoes, eat the bark off trees & even each other.
We jump to Moscow 1953.  Stalin has the country in a grip of fear, run by the state police, it is a brutal regime.  People are tortured/murdered if they speak out against the state or are accused of doing so.  People are still scraping around for food & living in hovels but crime does not exist, that is an order.  If a family is killed then it is for the good of the state, it is not a crime, it is necessary to keep order.
When the body of a young boy is discovered on the railway tracks in Moscow his family are convinced he has been murdered.  The boys father is an officer in the Malitia.  Leo, a high ranking officer in the state security, has been sent to convince the family otherwise.  But later events make Leo question this, he sees an innocent man interrogated and killed and then he is asked to follow & interrogate his own wife. .  His dissent has him disgraced and sent to the Ural mountains with his wife Raisa.  The discovery of another childs body with the same cause of death remind Leo of the boy in Moscow.  As Leo and his colleague start to ask in other towns a pattern of child murders, near railway tracks & woods, begins to immerge.  Leo begins to think the unthinkable, that there is a murderer killing children for no reason – a serial killer.   The state need to silence Leo before he causes anarchy.
This story is connected with real events.  It is a disturbing but addictive thriller.  It portrays excellently the terror and hardship that the Stalin regime inflicted upon the Soviet people and what a dictatorship was like.  It’s an amazing book.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Elizabeth Peters - The Falcon at the Portal

review written by Ro Bennett and read live on the bookshow 22nd May 2015
 This is another book I listened to thanks to the library Oneclick Audio service and ended up buying… It was really enjoyable to listen to but it’s quite a long book, and quite complex in parts, so I bought it so I could flick back and forth for clarification. It’s 375 pages with small font, so I’m glad I could listen to it as well, to save my eyes - and the narrator was excellent. I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I hadn’t realised it was number 11 in a series, but it was fine as a read alone, although I would like to see how the characters have been introduced and developed in the earlier books. 

I love Elizabeth Peter’s witty writing style, it makes me smile, and the narrator is excellent and really captures the humour. 
Here’s an extract from the Preface: 
"The quotations at the head of each chapter were taken from A captive of the Arabs, by Percival Peabody, Esq. (He’s the detestable nephew referred to earlier) , (Privately printed on London in 1911). We were fortunate to be able to obtain a copy of this exceedingly rare volume through the good offices of a friend in London who found it on barrow in Covent Garden, Price 50p. The text is an astonishing blend of the worst of two literary forms: the swash buckling romances popular at the time and the memoirs of travellers and officials of the period. The views expressed by Mr Peabody are no more bigoted and ignorant than those of many of his contemporaries, however the parallels between his work and other memoirs are so exact as to suggest he borrowed freely and directly from them. The word plagiarism might be actionable, so this editor will not use it".

I really enjoyed this book - it was pure escapism with a blend of romance, mystery and murder and I will certainly turn to others in the series when I feel in need of the feel good factor.
She is a prolific and successful novelist with over 50 novels to her credit. Mrs Peters has six cats and two dogs…

Susanna Clark - Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

review written by Ro Bennett and read live on the bookshow 22nd May 2015

I read this book when it first came out in 2004. I got the hardback version and it had a beautiful black cover and was very long, very heavy and very expensive.
The book took me ages to read - you can’t really skim it or skip bits - but I found it an interesting and unusual and memorable book, very intricate and absorbing with loads of suspense and unexpected twists and turns. 

The novel opens in autumn 1806 with a meeting of The Learned Society of York Magicians, made up of "theoretical magicians" who believe that magic died out several hundred years earlier. The group is stunned to learn of a "practising magician", Mr Gilbert Norrell, who owns a large collection of "books of magic" he has spent years purchasing to keep out of the hands of others. 

Mr Norrell subsequently moves to London to revive practical English magic. He enters society with the help of two gentlemen about town and meets a Cabinet minister, Sir Walter Pole. Mr Norrell attempts to recall Sir Walter's fiancée, Emma Wintertowne, from the dead. He summons a fairy—"the gentleman with thistle-down hair” . who strikes a bargain with Mr Norrell to restore Emma but half of her life will be spent with the fairy.

This is an extract which shows the book’s writing style and subtle humour and wit: 
"It has been remarked (by a lady infinitely cleverer than the present author) how kindly disposed the world in general feels to young people who either die or marry. Imagine then the interest that surrounded Miss Wintertowne! No young lady ever had such advantages before: for she died upon the Tuesday, was raised to life in the early hours of Wednesday morning, and was married upon the Thursday; which some people thought too much excitement for one week”. 

So - after the news spreads of Emma's resurrection and happy marriage to Sir Walter, magic becomes respectable and Mr Norrell performs various feats to aid the government in their ongoing war against Napoleon.

Then, however, Norrell is challenged by the emergence of another magician: the brilliant novice Jonathan Strange. Young, handsome and daring, Strange is the very opposite of Norrell who takes him as a student. So begins a dangerous battle between these two great men which overwhelms the one between England and France. And their own obsessions and secret dabblings with the dark arts are going to cause more trouble than they can imagine.

Thus the reader is drawn into a web of fantasy woven into a story with some of the factual characters of history - Lord Byron, the Duke of Wellington. The Book is divided into three volumes. The first focuses on Mr Norrell, the second introduces Jonathan Strange and the third begins with John Childermass, Mr Norrell's long-time servant, experiencing strong magic that is not produced by either Norrell or Strange but which in due course traps both magicians in Eternal Night. 

This section is brimming with action and unexpected dramatic twists and turns, bringing resolution to some problems, but also creating others.  
It is a long book and it does take a long time to read. It took ten years to write so as might be expected, it is many layered and the plot and the characters develop with real depth. 

It has been nominated, long listed, short listed and won various prestigious Awards which I consider well deserved. 

It’s worthwhile taking your time with this book and savouring it. It’s an excellent novel to read during the winter evenings in a little cottage in front of a crackling fire which is how I first enjoyed it.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

David Lodge - Therapy

Review written by Brian Lowen & read live on the bookshow 14th May 2015



This book is written as a journal, partly as a diary by the central character and partly by his friends all giving their record of events. It has a slow start, bogged down, as are all David Lodge’s books by excursions into the meaning of words and phrases and studies of the English language, but it is worth sticking with the book as it does get better as it goes on and finishes up with a good ending. There are several boring references that refer to books that delve into the depths of your mind.

Laurence Passmore is a successful script writer for a TV sitcom series and is comfortably well off.

He has a lovely wife, two grown up children, yet he suffers from depression for seemingly no good reason. He has tried all sorts of therapists to no avail. Aromatherapy, physiotherapy, chemotherapy, acupuncture, yoga and psychiatry.

He is always morose at home, much to his wife’s annoyance, not listening to what she is saying. Finally, when he fails to hear her say that his daughter is pregnant, she walks out and leaves him.

Laurence is distraught and goes off with a girl friend with whom he has been having a purely platonic relationship for what he hopes will be a dirty weekend in Tenerife, which is an absolute disaster.


He then gets deeply involved in the books of a Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard and he tries another weekend away in Copenhagen to do research into his life and works, with a young girl from the TV studio, but this is also a disaster.

Towards the end of the book we hear about his first love, whilst a schoolboy and his attempts to woo Maureen, a strict Catholic, amid the confines of the church youth club.
This was very enjoyable and brought back some memories for me.

As I said, I enjoyed the book which got better towards the end. Not as good as the first book I read by David Lodge, which was Paradise News. I have read several of his books, but none are as good as that first one of his that I read.

 

Dudley Pope - Ramage and the Dido


Review written by Brian Lowen & read live on the bookshow 14th May 2015

One of the series of books featuring Captain Ramage during the Napoleonic wars in the glorious days of fighting sail.

An enjoyable story centred on the island of Martinique in the Caribbean which at this time was owned by France.

Ramage is now the Captain of a ship of the line, a 74 gun man of war in the Royal Navy who has been ordered by the Admiral in Barbados to blockade the port on Martinique to prevent the French getting out to greet and protect an expected convoy from France, desperately needed to supply the island with the essential materials of warfare.

Dudley Pope goes to great lengths to explain the sailing terms and ship details in what seemed to me to be an unrealistic way, by his wife asking Ramage lots of questions when he is commissioning the ship in Portsmouth before setting out for the West Indies. He has been a Captain for several years  and I thought that his wife would have known all these details by now!

To me Captain Ramage is really too good to be true in that everything he does turns out to be a great success and this does not strike true with me. I have been following the stories of Julian Stockwin and his hero Captain Kydd which I find much more realistic and enjoyable.

But maybe I am being a bit too harsh as this is an enjoyable story but to me it lacks that cutting edge so necessary in stories of this type.