I read five books in February (must do better). Four of them are reviewed here; the fifth will be in a separate post.
The Emerald Comb by Kathleen McGurl
I knew of Kath McGurl through her magazine stories and her very useful blog:
(which she has now handed over to another womag writer Patsy Collins)
Read on Kindle (gorgeous 'cover' – it would seem covers are just as important for e-books as they are for print).
The Emerald Comb is Kathleen’s first full-length novel and an excellent one it is.
Katie’s tracing her family tree has been just a hobby – but then she and her husband are able to buy a house that belonged to her family two hundred years ago, and she becomes almost obsessed with her researches further into the past. As the story moves between the 21st and 19th centuries the reader can piece together the family’s dark secrets.
Quite often in a novel with a dual narrative one strand is more interesting than the other – not so here; each was equally compelling. I look forward to reading Kathleen’s The Pearl Locket.
The Alphabet Sisters by Monica McInerney
Three sisters, Anna, Bett and Carrie were childhood singing stars in their local area in rural Australia, managed by their Irish-born grandmother, Lola. But the grown-up sisters haven’t spoken since Carrie married Bett’s boyfriend. In an attempt to get the sisters to be friends again Lola arranges an extravagant party for her 80th birthday and demands that all the girls return home.
I liked the Australian background as it’s relatively unusual to read books set there, and I like reading books about sisters, but as the story turned darker towards the end it felt like too many ishoos were being addressed. Plus I couldn’t help wishing that Maeve Binchy had written it – it strived for her warmth but for me it didn’t get there.
At A Time Like This by Catherine Dunne
Four women, Claire, Maggie, Nora and Georgie, have known each other since university – or think they know each other. Narrated by spoilt Georgie who is about to not turn up for their twenty-five years celebratory get-together; we don’t find out the reason for her absence until very near the end. Well written although in rather a detached way. I didn’t know if we were supposed to cheer for Georgie or not. She was the unworthy sun around whom the others revolved and I’ve never liked the thought of that kind of relationship in real life.
She was unbelievably self-centred all her life culminating – *spoiler alert* – in abandoning (in a note-on-the-kitchen-table-kind of way) her own, albeit grown-up, daughters, as well as her nice husband, to live in Italy with Nora’s twenty-something son. You can see how that would sour the friendship …
Entry Island by Peter May
This is the first Peter May I’ve read, and having done so I intend to read his earlier books set on the Isle of Lewis.
Entry Island is a real and remote island in the Gulf of St Laurence, 850 miles off Quebec on Canada’s east coast. When a detective is sent from Montreal to investigate a murder he is convinced he knows the victim’s wife – and prime suspect – although they have never met before.
In a dual narrative (my second one this month) we find out about another murder, in another country, in another century, and the twists and turns that have brought these two troubled people together. Loved it – great story and fabulously evoked setting.