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, 24 April 2014

Judith Lennox - One Last Dance



Babara Simpsons review read live on bookshow 17th April 2014:
this is one of the best and most enjoyable family sagas I've read - every page is an absolute delight.
the story covers the period from 1914-1974 and centres around Rosindell, a decaying house in South Devon.
Devlin Reddaway, who has inherited Rosindell from his father, returns wounded from the war in 1917.  He is in love with Camilla Langdon, eldest daughter of a boatyard owner in Salcombe but when he hears that she has become engaged to another richer and better connected man, he retreats into isolation fuelled by anger and grief.  Camillas younger sister Esme, has loved Devlin for years and when for reasons of propriety, he offers her marriage, she accepts, despite believing she is second best and that Camilla could take him from her at any time.
This doesn't make for an easy marriage but together Esme and Devlin work on restoring Rosendell to something of its former glory and he dos actually love her although she never really accepts that he can.
The years pass, they have children and Camilla flits in and out of their lives and in and out of liaisons with various men.
If you think this sounds rather trivial, rest assured it most certainly isn't.  The plot is gripping, filled with deceit, betrayal, heartbreak and love.  the action moves seamless from the ghastliness of the First World War trenches to the great restorative peace and beauty of South Devon, to the excitement of London between the wars and to San Francisco in the 1960's & 70's.
anyone who was enchanted by the Shell Seekers in the 1980's, Kate Mortons books now and who loves Downton Abbey as much as I do will find this vast novel a sheer and satisfying delight.
Thank ou, Judith Lennox, it was wonderful

Monday, 21 April 2014

Mark Gimenez - The Perk



Review written and read live on the show by Brian Lowen 17th April 2014


Another excellent book from the ‘new’ John Grisham.

The story starts off quite dramatically with a rich film star in his chauffeured limousine accepting the plaudits of his fans as he drives through Austin, Texas.

One particular blonde bimbo takes his eye so he invites her into his car, gives her alcohol and cocaine, gets her high, then rapes her in the back of the car when they are out of town.
He thinks she has fallen asleep, but later finds that she is dead so they speed through the night and dump her in a roadside ditch near the little town of Freidricksberg.

The story then switches to Chicago and the Hardin family. Beck is a successful lawyer earning good money, but his perfect world collapses when his wife Annie dies of cancer and he is left to bring up his two young children, Meggie and Luke. He just cannot manage a full time job and bring up his children so he decides his only way out is to resign his job, sell his house and move back to his childhood home that he has not visited for the last twelve years. He was born on a large ranch in Freidricksberg but left after his Mother died. His Father, who gave him a hard time as a kid, never the less is glad to have him back home.

Now we see how the first two chapters of the book come together as he learns from his old college chum, Aubrey,  that his daughter, Heidi was brutally murdered and dumped in a roadside ditch, but her killer has never been found. Beck is therefore determined to track down this famous film star to make him pay for his crime. He feels he owes it to Aubrey, but we do not learn why until later in the story.

We learn some interesting historical facts about this part of Texas. It is not blacks against whites here as there are no blacks. The community is split three ways: there are the old Germans who set up the original colony of Freidricksberg who do not get on well with the Anglos – the white Americans, and certainly have nothing to do with the Latinos – the Mexicans, mostly illegal immigrants from across the border, who keep their heads down and do not cause any trouble for fear of being deported back to Mexico.

Beck naturally gets involved with all three communities as he continues his investigation.

A thoroughly enjoyable story with some good characters that puts out a powerful message that one should always stand up for the right. Well recommended.
 



Andrew Taylor - A Stain on the Silence





Brian Lowens review which was read out live on the bookshow 17th April 2014.

Not really my sort of book I am afraid. Perhaps I could say, without being sexist, that it is rather one for the ladies.

The story is a complicated one involving two young lads at boarding school and their subsequent lives as adults.

The story keeps switching from their childhood to their adult lives, quite unexpectedly sometimes in the middle of a chapter, but this is not a problem.

Carlo, one of the lads, comes from a quite well off family but James’s parents are away in the USA so Carlo always invites James back to his house for the school holidays, where he is treated as one of the family.

All goes well until James starts having an affair with Lily, Carlo’s Mum. Also, Felicity, Carlo’s younger sister develops a crush on James.

Then moving on to their adult life, when James is now married, Lily is in a hospice dying of cancer and implores James to find her lost daughter Kate. This he starts to do without first telling his wife, Nicky, so when she finds out she assumes he is having an affair with Kate and so she walks out and leaves him. 

This is when it all got rather boring for me as James tries to track down Kate, when I would have thought his first priority would be to explain things to Nicky and get her back. The story rambles on with several twists to the tale. I stuck it out to the end, wanting to know how it finished only to be disappointed with the inconclusive and sudden unexpected end.

I am afraid I did not enjoy this book, but I expect some people would as it is well written.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Andrew Taylor - The American Boy

I read 'A Stain on the Silence' and noticed that people were recommending this book as being better, in fact a Richard & Judy bookclub pick.
It is a murder mystery set in the 1800's.  The American Boy is Edgar Allen Poe but how much is fact and how much is fiction I don't really know.
Tom Shield is a tutor at a school in southern England where Edgar Allen is a pupil.  He is asked to accompany a new pupil to the school from his home - charles Frant.  It was here that he first sees Mrs Frant, for whom love is instant.  Edgar Allen becomes a kind of protector of Charles Frant when he is constantly bullied.
A murder near the school is committed and the victim is believed to be Mr Frant.  Tom Shield is asked to identify the corpse as he had previously met Frant but the corpses head is so battered he cannot say 100%.  Previous to the murder a stranger had been seen around the village and nearly succeeded in snatching one of the boys, charles Frant, but Tom Shield had stopped the abduction.  This stranger became the suspect of the murder and Shield is asked by his school headmaster to find & identify him.  The strangers surname is Poe and the intended snatch victim was Edgar Allan not charles Frant.  But why?
This puts Tom Shield in danger.  Mr Frants banking business collapses and the Frant boy is removed from the school.  Tom Shield finds himself a pawn in this mix of sex, money, murder and lies.
This is a complicated story with quite a few characters.  The period is depicted very well but I found my mind wondering at times.  It was good but not memorable.

Peter May - Entry Island

Review by Sue Majors read live on bookshow April 2014
 
By the writer of the Lewis Trilogy, this is another enjoyable quality novel. Peter May has managed to combine beautiful writing ....poetic at times ...with an intriguing murder mystery, this time set in Canada.
Entry Island has at its centre Sime Mackenzie, a Montreal detective with Scottish roots not surprisingly on Lewis.he is another detective in the sad lonely vein of Kurt Wallander and Harry Hole, but is nevertheless a believable character ...and I warmed to him right away.
The setting and time move between Entry island in the St Lawrence river, and Lewis at the time of the highland clearances. My knowledge of the clearances was sketchy, and this book gives you a full flavour of the terrible treatment meted out to islanders at the time.

Sime is sent to investigate a murder...the first anyone can remember on Entry island...and it is there that he meets the prime suspect, feeling oddly that he has seen her before.

Once I got used to the time slips in the story I really enjoyed this book. Peter May is a writer who has been new to me in the last six months but I shall read more of his work....he's a great talent.

Stephen Kelly - Britsh Soldiers of the Korean War

Bookshow Review  by Maggie Perkovich read live on bookshow 17th April 2014:
Now what does anyone know about the Korean War (1951 to 1953)?
I suspect not a lot like me!!But when I saw this book on a review page, I was
pleased to have it for a Mother's day pressie.
So many facts come to light in this interesting description of what happened as
these very young men remember it.
Did you know that the majority of the conscripts were National  Service??
Did you know that they were sent to fight with the minimum of training?
Did you know that in one terrible occurence the Yanks bombarded our troops with
Napalm, killing and burning many before they were stopped??
All these facts come to light in the telling of War in Korea before, after three years
it came to an end with a realisation that neither side was winning, so an armistice
was declared.
The first Winter was the coldest on record, and of course our troops were not fitted
with anything that was suitable. The Americans were much better attired, better fed,
and in general fitter. They had not grown up in a War time Britain with shortages!!
None of the interviewed troops were complaining about what happened. They took
it all in their stride and looked forward to returning home. Some were quite affected
by the terrible sights they saw, some by being prisoners of war.
The accidental attack by the Americans was but one of several instances where
these young men, some not long out of school, grew up very quickly.
There are pictures to show our veterans as they are today, and in Korea.
When they set out to go to Korea, many were not sure of the destination, but it
seemed like an adventure so off they went. 1000 did not return.
A sobering thought, but a fascinating read. Maggie Perkovic.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Solomon Northup - 12 Years a Slave

This book was reviewed live on radio scilly bookshow 10th April 2014, by Ro Bennett.  This is her review:
Product Description
Northup’s only written work is his autobiography, Twelve Years a Slave: Narrative of Solomon Northup, a Citizen of New York, Kidnapped in Washington City in 1841, and Rescued in 1853, from a Cotton Plantation Near the Red River, in Louisiana (1853) Northup’s slave narrative, the tale of a free African American man who is kidnapped, sold into slavery, and lives as a slave for twelve years, was not only a best seller for its genre and time, it was revolutionary. Twelve Years a Slave is praised for its meticulous examination of slavery and plantation society, especially against the contrast to his previous life as a musician and citizen of New York. Northup’s story has also been cited as representative of slavery’s horrors and has been used to support the depictions in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Northup’s narrative is valuable for the accurate description of his experiences and defines many of the slave experiences that are known. 

I was ambivalent about reading this and am still not sure that I could watch the film, but I found it a gripping, well written account. Initially I had to get used to the rather formal language because it was written and published in 1853, however, that did not detract from the quality or content of the book and the style was more contemporary than many written in that era. 

Solomon Northup was born in Minerva, New York in July 1808, to a liberated slave and his wife. Northup is a free man and brilliant musician. In 1841 he has an encounter outside Washington DC with two men "Merrill Brown and Abram Hamilton”. They drug and kidnap him and sell him into slavery. He is sold to the notorious Washington-based slave trader James H. Burch, who brutally whips him for protesting that he is a free man. From there he ends up deep in Louisiana where he spends the next 12 years of his life until rescued by a prominent citizen of his home state who knew him.

From the narrative, Solomon Northup comes across as an intelligent, cultured, caring man of integrity. In contrast, many of the slave owners were despicable, brutish, ignorant thugs. Not all - Northup describes some slave owners who were loved and respected. Of his first master, William Ford,  Northrup says, ‘In my opinion, there never was a more kind, noble, candid, Christian man than William Ford. 
The influences and associations that had always surrounded him blinded him to the inherent wrong at the bottom of the system of slavery. He never doubted the moral right of one man holding another in subjection’. 

Unfortunately after being in that household where he was treated well, due to his owner William Ford’s financial difficulties, Northup was sold on to a couple of vicious, vindictive masters whose cruelty is beyond belief.  First to John Tibeats  who Northup describes as a ‘small, crabbed, quick-tempered spiteful man’ and then to Edwin Epps who he refers to as "repulsive and coarse” and describes as being devoid of any redeeming qualities "and never enjoying the advantages of an education". Northup spent most of his captivity as a slave on the cotton plantation of this drunken, vicious oaf Edwin Epps who used the whip and abuse his slaves savagely and freely. 

Northup comments, ‘The effects of these exhibitions of brutality on the household of the slave holder, is apparent. Epps' oldest son is an intelligent lad of 10 or 12 years of age. It is pitiable, sometimes, to see him chastising, for instance, the venerable Uncle Abram. He will call the old man to account, and if in his childish judgement it is necessary, sentence him to a certain number of lashes, which he proceeds to inflict with much gravity and deliberation. Mounted on his pony, he often rides into the field with his whip, playing the overseer, greatly to his father’s delight.

This was a very interesting, thought provoking  insight into on the one hand, man’s inhumanity to man and on the other, man’s resilience and ability to survive and even find moments of pleasure despite horrendous living conditions and desperate circumstances. 

The story of Northup’s eventual rescue and release was full of suspense and it was such a relief when he was eventually reunited with his wife, children and family - although his mother had died whilst he was in captivity. 

The sad thing for Northup and the reader was the knowledge that the rest of the slaves had no such happy ending to look forward to. 

Subsequently, Northup became an advocate for abolitionism and in the 1860s began helping fugitive slaves via the Underground Railroad. It is believed that he died sometime between 1863 and 1875 but both the date and circumstances of his death are unknown. 

Northup's book only re-emerged in the 1960s after being rediscovered by two Louisiana historians. It’s an excellent read and a very valuable historical account. There is further information available on line.