Book Reviews - June

Book Reviews – June

by Elizabeth Kay

Elizabeth Kay offers Sussex Living readers her thoughts on recent reads that have caught her attention. She gives her views on a selection of books from different genres which may capture your interest.

ME BEFORE YOU

by Jojo Moyes

Introduce one young woman with appallingly low self-esteem to an attractive but understandably suicidal quadriplegic, and you have a ticket to a thoroughly engrossing rollercoaster of a ride. Never sentimental, but full of keen insights and some convincing characterisation it doesn’t shy away from the big questions. Louisa finds employment as a carer for Will, who lost everything but the limited use of one arm in a motorcycle accident. Until his accident, educated and athletic Will led a very full life. The picture of someone who took his advantages very much for granted to a person unable to come to terms with his limitations rings very true, although I did feel that the author skirted round some of the difficult aspects of disability. These are conveniently dealt with by Will’s other carer, Nathan, who does the heavy lifting and the medication. From inauspicious beginnings, Louisa and Will’s relationship evolves over a period of six months. I really had no idea at all how the book was going to end, and I’m not going to give it away here!

ALIAS GRACE

by Margaret Atwood

There was a very good television production of this, but the prizewinning book is deeper. It’s a long read, but never boring. Grace is a celebrated murderess although she says she remembers nothing of the crime. It’s based on a true story, set in Canada in 1840, and we know that the real Grace spent the best part of thirty years in asylums and prisons. Her associate, James McDermott, was hanged. Dr Jordan is a psychiatrist hoping to open an asylum of his own and solving the mystery of Grace’s amnesia would be excellent publicity. Jordan suspects a dual personality which he hopes to reveal through psychoanalysis. You are never sure whether Grace is genuinely disturbed or a consummate liar. Atwood seems able to write in any voice she chooses, and Grace’s rather odd prudishness and her speech patterns sound thoroughly authentic. None of the characters are straightforward, and Grace’s impoverished background and her journey to the New World from Ireland is movingly related by her, without a trace of self-pity.

THE GREAT DRAGON BAKE OFF

by Nicola O’Byrne

We’ve reached a time when rather than television using books as jumping-off points, books are using television. The Bake-off programmes have caught the imagination of young and old alike, and this time it’s aimed at pre-school children. The plot follows the progress of Flamie Oliver, a dragon-in-training who is approaching his finals. He much prefers baking to practising his dastardly dragon skills, and his classmates are much better at being terrifying than he is. Heston Blowitall, Scaly Berry and Paul Firewood perform death-defying deeds, but Flamie has spent so much time practising pastry and creating cakes that he is underprepared for his exams. When Flamie fails the lot, he is given one final task – to kidnap a princess and eat her. The kidnap is no problem, but finding a sauce to accompany a princess is far trickier. She is no fool, however, and comes up with a solution to Flamie’s problem which involves lots of baking and masses of colourful illustrations. This is a delightful picture book for the under fives.