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 […]
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.
I don’t read a lot of Young Adult work. I did when I was a young adult, and I know that there is a huge adult market for YA books, but they just aren’t my cup of tea.
I had heard a lot of buzz about this book with the film rights having already been purchased by Paramount. Neal Shusterman is an award-winning household name when it comes to Young Adult novels, and for good reason. Even just the blurb for Dry gave me goosebumps and it is no wonder that the rights were snapped up for it so quickly (as well as commissioning both Neal and his son Jarrod to write the script for it).
EVERYONE’S GOING TO REMEMBER WHERE THEY WERE WHEN THE TAPS RAN DRY.
The drought – or the tap-out as everyone calls it – has been going on for a while. Life has become an endless list of dont’s: don’t water the lawn, don’t take long showers, don’t panic. But now there is no water left at all.
Suddenly, Alyssa’s quiet suburban street spirals into a warzone of desperation and violence. When her parents go missing, she and her younger brother must team up with an unlikely group in search of water. Each of them will need to make impossible choices to survive.
RIGHT? You can perfectly imagine the teen-dystopian-gritty movie that they are going to put together for this plot, can’t you?
It was without expectation that I dove headfirst into Dry and I am so happy to report that I was pleasantly surprised with this fast-paced, action-packed YA thriller. As soon as you start the book, the pace does not let up, not even for a moment. Each and every page, piece of dialogue and sentence is completely necessary to the story – there were no ‘filler’ bits, no fluffy side-plots that you need to try and follow, just good old ACTIONTHRILLEREXCITEMENT. Dry‘s strength lies with its plot. Plausible, timely and completely relevant, the crisis that the characters face in Dry is something that is not too far fetched for reality which makes the reading experience extremely different than if it was unrealistic, dystopian fiction.
Dry really made me wonder what I would do in that very same situation. I always joke to people that if I was ever in a survival situation, I have no skills that I could use to help myself or any other survivors around me. I’m not particularly fast, I panic easily, I cannot use a weapon (though admittedly I have never tried) and I’m not great with directions. Straight off the bat in this book, the main character, Alyssa, has a great idea for an alternate way to source water than from straight out of a bottle. I would never have thought to do this. Because Dry was so feasible, it really made me take stock of how I would react and what steps I would take towards survival.
I came up blank.
I would not survive.
I am a sucker for ‘survival’ type situations, movies, television shows, books and scenarios and I found myself incredibly anxious to get to the end to find out what happens and whether they do, in fact, survive. I wasn’t too fussed on the characters, none of them really stood out to me. Much like my review of Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty, I just wasn’t invested in any of them. I think that part of that has to do with the reason why I don’t read YA as a genre: I don’t feel as though I can relate to the characters or their stories. Also, I think that because Dry is so fast-paced, there just wasn’t enough time to craft deep and involved back stories for each of the characters. I was comfortable with the fact that I simply had to accept the characters for who they are with the information that we are given about each of them.
I am a huge fan of a story told from multiple voices so that was a plus for me. However, that was also double-edged as, because I wasn’t invested in the characters, and some significantly less than others, I found myself simply wanting to ‘get through’ some of the chapters. The character, Harry, I really didn’t enjoy reading and so for me, that took away from the reading experience as a whole.
Overall though, I thoroughly enjoyed Dry for what it was – a fast-paced, enthralling and pretty-much-unputdownable YA read. I would recommend to my myriad of acquaintances (Kath and Kim reference for those of you who are uneducated in the Australian arts) confidently and excitedly. Also the cover is so darn pretty and looks damn good on my bookshelf.
I have been incredibly lucky already to have had the opportunity to work with some incredible brands as I begin the journey of The (Oblivious) New Mama. Six months pregnant now, Pete and I are just starting to really think about and plan what we need […]
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 the pleasure of reading. Every time I read one of her books I conclude that that one is my favourite.
Having said that, The Clockmaker’s Daughter? Not my favourite. The amazing cover design by Lisa White, is possibly one of my favourite book covers of all time and all I want to do is take photos of the book in various locations around the world to celebrate its beauty however, unfortunately, that is some of the only positive comments I have to say about the book (which breaks my heart).
Kate Morton is one of my favourite authors and she is one of the very few authors whose careers I watch closely so as to jump on any new releases as soon as physically possible. I await her books eagerly and up until this one, have absolutely devoured and loved each and every one of them. I love the format that her books always take – the three parallel story lines, the three periods of time, the interchanging between characters and time, and the wonderful, delicious suspense of the mystery that cloak the books. The structure of Morton’s books are what I have come to love and respect the most; the rigid anatomy of her books allow her wonderful, rich descriptive prose to roam free and settle with the reader comfortably.
The Clockmaker’s Daughter felt unedited and messy. It is a long book that didn’t need to be (at a rough guess, I think that at least 250 pages could have been cut). The structure that readers and fans alike have come to expect from Morton was nowhere to be seen. Instead of the parallel story lines and voices moving in forward together, I felt ripped and whipped from one time period to another; I found The Clockmaker’s Daughter incredibly hard to follow and was constantly rifling back through the chapters to find my place in the story once more. There were a lot of characters to keep track of which would have been easier if the chapters weren’t so scattered.
Kate Morton is an absolute genius in creating a deeply unsettling central mystery that her books work around. This was another miss for me when it comes to The Clockmaker’s Daughter. Without spoiling anything or going into much detail, the main plot was dull and the big reveal that Morton is renowned for at the climax of the end of her books? Nowhere to be seen. I finished the book and thought, “Really?” It was all I could do to not try and find hidden pages at the back of the book.
There are still some beautifully crafted sentences that immediately whisk you away to the English gardens they are describing. Morton’s language is as stunning as ever, and the presence of inquisitive, curious young women is well and truly there, but they were nowhere near as captivating. My mum has always described me as inquisitive. It has always been a defining trait of mine that I am quietly proud of and I have always been able to see little flecks of me in the characters that Morton creates. That didn’t happen this time around – it actually felt as though the characters were forced to be curious. As all Morton fans know, there is always a protagonist from the present day and I have always found that it is that character that really anchors the story because she (generally it is a female) is the most relatable to the reader. The character, Elodie, in The Clockmaker’s Daughter is far too sparse in her appearances throughout the book. The ‘present day’ character has always been the one to really bring everything together and make sense of all the little details and nooks and crannies of the story, but without her regular appearance, I was scrambling to do it all myself.
I think that with some tighter editing (or simply some editing, period) this book could have been wonderful – maybe not on par with the rest of Morton’s backlist, but still a great read. I’m really saddened that I can’t write a doting review of this book, especially with that sexy-ass cover, but Morton still holds a really special place in my heart and I have nothing but respect for the work that she has produced.
And her fringe.