Nicole Alexander will always hold a special place in my heart. Not only is she a phenomenal author, but she was the first woman to feature as a #WCW of mine on my old site, Don’t Ask Leah. She didn’t know me at all, but from just […]
Swedish authors are incredible. If you haven’t read a book by a Swedish author, do yourself a favour – buy one and read it immediately. I was first introduced to Swedish authors when I read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. It took me three attempts before I managed to get through (and past) the first chapter. The names were unfamiliar and hard to pronounce and even though I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, there was just something different about the way that he wrote as opposed to an American, English or Australian writer. It was as if he was saying things without writing the words.. as if I was reading between the lines without even meaning to. Once I got through the first book of that trilogy, I devoured the other two. And then more recently, I read The Girl in the Spider’s Web and The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye by David Lagercrantz who continued the Millennium series after Larsson’s death.
A couple of years ago I read I Am Behind You by John Ajvide Lindqvist and absolutely loved it. It confused me and challenged everything I thought I knew about story-telling in the most brilliant way. Once again, it were as if Lindqvist was saying far more than the words he provided on the page. I really want to read his 2015 release I Always Find You and only JUST realised that the horror movie Let the Right One In is based on one of his novels with the same name. I had no idea but want to read immediately.
Anyway, I went into one of my favourite bookshops on my lunch break, Better Read Than Dead, and came across The Cult on Fog Island. A few things drew me to this book:
- The cover? LOVE.
- The size of the book? Huge and perfect.
- Swedish author? Check!
- Did the title remind you of Shutter Island? Yep.
- Do I find cults incredibly eerie and creepy? You ‘betcha.
As soon as I started reading The Cult on Fog Island by Mariette Lindstein, I was hooked. It was the kind of book that I found myself thinking about while I was working, while I was cooking or while I was watching a movie with Pete. All I wanted was to be reading. The book’s protagonist, Sofia, attends a seminar hosted by the infamous ‘wellness’ and life coach Franz Oswald who then invites her to visit the island and see what his program and course is all about. Once there, Franz offers Sofia an incredible job and in that moment she can’t think of any reason why she shouldn’t take him up on the offer. Once she is there though, and after signing on for a two year contract, things aren’t what they seem on the island. And Franz? Well, he is not at all what he seemed.
What follows is a truly addictive and thrilling read. I loved how gradually the circumstances on the island got worse and worse, and how closely we were able to follow alongside Sofia. Sofia, as a character, I found really easy to be interested in. She was really well written even though we aren’t given a whole lot of background information about her or where she came from before the island. I actually didn’t mind not knowing much about her as it meant I went into the story with her completely unbiased and unaware of what state of mind she was in when she decided to go to the island (besides the crazy ex). I did have moments where I thought to myself, “SURELY you aren’t going to go along with this, SURELY?!” but then, when we were let in on her inner monologue and her thought processes, everything made sense and had reason.
I do love a good, atmospheric read and Lindstein absolutely nails that in The Cult on Fog Island. To go with the ominous nature of the cult and the mental decline of their leader, the description of the weather and the surrounding conditions sets the scene perfectly. As I was reading it, I could envisage the cliff face that was so often referred to and the sound of the violent swells of the sea. I could feel the change of the seasons as they came and went in the book, the chill in the air as Christmas approached the island. I have to admit that I do rate a book based on the way it handles the sensory elements of the story and this one scored big time. BIG time.
I also learned that the author, Mariette Lindstein, is a former Scientologist! I only found that out after I read the book and it made me think back to all the details and experiences that our protagonist Sofia lived through on the island, and how removed the the cult’s leader Franz was from reality – what real life events took place to inspire these fictional ones? The knowledge that Lindstein was a part of what has come to be known as a modern day cult made me reassess the book as a whole – was it more of an exposé than a work of fiction?! That thought alone excites the hell out of me!!
When I found out that this book was the first in a trilogy (again, I found this out after I finished the book), it made me SO KEEN to read the next one and left me even more excited to find out where the second book would go. The Cult on Fog Island could very easily be a stand alone novel, though you are left with questions at the end it still feels like the story was wrapped up nicely. Props to Lindstein for the ending as it is one that does leave you wondering where what how but in a way that doesn’t take away from the conclusion. I am so intrigued to see what she does with the second instalment of this trilogy and it just can’t be published soon enough!
(I also passed this one onto my boss after I finished and she loved it as well. Rave reviews all round!)
Where do I even begin?! Seriously. This year may have been hard, and challenging, and completely gut-wrenching at times, but it has also been rewarding and the most life-changing, transformative period of my life. And, I do feel that Summer 2018-19 is going to be […]
I first came across The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society when I was working in Angus & Robertson in Chatswood. It was a new release and I remember reading the back of it and feeling immediately drawn to the main character, Juliet Ashton. She is a witty writer stumped by a sever case of writer’s block. Out of the blue, she receives a letter from one Dawsey Adams of Guernsey – by chance he’s acquired a book Juliet once owned – and, emboldened by their mutual love of books, they begin a correspondence and she is introduced to the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society and its members (a colourful bunch). Juliet, emboldened and inspired by their letters opts to visit the island of Guernsey, a trip that completely turns her life upside-down.
I don’t know how I didn’t realise it before, as I flicked through the book many times during my shifts at Angus & Robertson, but the book’s story is told in its entirety through letters. Normally, I steer extremely clear of books that aren’t comprised of simple chapters – the odd letter here and there I don’t mind, but I have never been able to stick with a novel that isn’t just plain ol’ storytelling. Until now.
Not only am I madly in love with the edition that I have of Mary Ann Shaffer’s The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society which I picked up second-hand from Gertrude & Alice in Bondi, but I really enjoyed this story and the way it was told – at least for the first 60-70% of the book..
Overall, I think that the book was intriguing, interesting and really beautifully compiled. Readers are actually able to derive a lot of detail from the letters which I wasn’t expecting, and the story flows really well. For me though, I need all the other text around the letters and the dialogue to really grasp a story. I have always been told that I am a very descriptive writer, and maybe that is what I subconsciously look for in a book as well. I love reading about the intricacies of an English garden, or the sound of waves crashing against a cliff face or in-depth descriptions of the way someone looks. I felt that that was missing in this book. The voice of a narrator allows for unbiased descriptions, allowing for the reader to completely control the imagery the words evoke for them whereas I found that I couldn’t picture things as they were described when it was with the voice of one of the characters. Towards the end of the book I also found that I was skipping letters from the characters whose storylines I found boring.. which isn’t a great sign.
I won’t end on a negative note though. I really loved the character of Juliet and how sassy she was. I found that I could relate to her whilst also wanting some of her traits to be my own. I also found myself very invested in her relationships with the men around her, and loved that I didn’t know who she was going to end up with. I also really want to acknowledge how different this book is, it is unlike anything I have ever read before and that deserves mentioning. For a book that had a lot of things working against it for me personally (letter form, historical setting, references to war – none of which I enjoy reading about), The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society was a beautifully written book, and I want to comment on the ending, but I won’t for fear of ruining it for those of you want to read it.
Much like Kate Morton, I live for Liane Moriarty books. I read Big Little Lies first a few years ago and from there, it was a very quick landslide working my way through the rest of her novels. Moriarty is the absolute queen of ‘domestic drama’, creating that sub-genre almost single-handedly. I love the mystery that surrounds each of her characters, their demons slowly unveiled as the story goes on. Liane’s writing is uncomplicated and completely consuming and with each of her books, once I started it was hard to not just hunker down for the day and read it from cover to cover. Though Nine Perfect Strangers certainly sucked me in like all of its predecessors, I have to admit that this one was a bit of a miss for me.
Much like my experience with The Clockmaker’s Daughter, I found that Nine Perfect Strangers could have used some tightening up (and some culling of pages). The book diverges from Liane’s usual domestic setting and takes place at a health resort ‘Tranquilum House’. Nine strangers all head to the retreat, located in rural Australia, to better themselves in one way or the other. Each of the attendees has a past (don’t we all?) that they are seeking to make peace with. Pretty quickly though, the group realises that something is amiss with both the retreat itself and the founder of Tranquilum House.
I will admit that I was a bit hesitant (but intrigued) that the story was not in her usual suburban setting and unfortunately for me, I was right to have felt that way. Many other reviewers out there really enjoyed the fact that the backdrop for the story was different to her usual, however I felt that this was the biggest downfall of the novel. So much of Moriarty’s strength lies in the conviction and descriptions of suburbia and the women, families and children who inhabit there. When I read both Big Little Lies and Truly, Madly, Guilty I was whisked back to my days in primary school, fondly remembering Mum picking my brother and I up every afternoon and the weekends spent by the pool of one of the other schoolyard mums and her three boys. So for me, without that signature solid baseline that I have come to expect from Moriarty, the story was already missing something.
None of the characters felt relatable to me, personally. Having said that, there was an incredible range of demographics amongst the characters which I appreciated and although none of them ‘spoke to me’ personally, I can see why many other readers out there would have loved it. Because I was not emotionally invested in the story or its players, I did find myself reading it at some points just to get through it.
Another thing that Moriarty has come to be known for is the way she draws out the core mystery and secret of the story; it is her ability to keep readers on the edge of their seats that has seen her shoot to international stardom. In all of her other books, I was hypnotised until the last page, always waiting for that extra plot twist (that always delivered). I found that the twist was revealed far too early, and when it was, it was both not terribly shocking and not plausible. Every other book of Moriarty’s feels so real, their conflicts and events have always been plausible and extremely ‘real’ whereas in Nine Perfect Strangers, I found it to be completely farfetched and, dare I say it, a little bit too fictitious. I just didn’t buy it, people. When the big reveal was made I actually said, “Really? That’s it?” out loud. Following the unveiling of the big mystery, the scenario that the characters then found themselves in was even more ‘out there’ and improbable that I found myself completely disinterested and just wanted to get through the rest of the book (which I cannot believe I am even saying about one of Liane Moriarty’s books).
Maybe that’s why I wasn’t such a fan of this one, because I can’t help but compare it to her previous books. Perhaps if this was a stand-alone release from an author who isn’t Moriarty, I would be more accepting of the things I wasn’t too keen on with this release. Unfortunately though, I have come to expect a certain calibre of chilling, psychological suspense from her books which this one, for me, just simply didn’t deliver on, far from it actually.
To put it simply, I really did not enjoy this book (at all), but it won’t stop me from reading her future books because she is, and I am hoping will continue to be, an extremely talented author.
And also, the title ‘Nine Perfect Strangers’ is a bit misleading now that I think about it. Of the nine people that attend the retreat, there is a family of three and then another couple. So really the title should be, A Family of Three, a Couple and Four Perfect Strangers.
I am madly in love with Kate Morton. Hideously, wonderfully and hopelessly in love. Not only does she look like Jessica Biel (and rocks a front fringe like no other), but she is possibly the most eloquent and beautiful writer that I have ever had […]