How to talk to a widower by Jonathan Tropper

how to talk to a widower imageBased on the title, I wasn’t interested. The words dull, desperate and gloomy drifted invisibly before my eyes. A widower is an old lady right? so this book will be hard to read, it will depress me  and I will definitely struggle to turn the pages. I just need to make some more space on my bookshelf for more exciting books, because after all, life’s too short for ‘bad books’ (by bad books I mean books that aren’t of interest to you, there are no bad books, any kind of writing is an art.)

As I held the book to explore it a little further I read the snippet reviews and the DAILY MAIL has written “A wise-cracking, darkly comical tale….” Comical? How can a story about an old woman losing her husband and living a lonely existence until she dies be comical. How wrong was I?  The protagonist is a man, a young man, who loses his wife in a plane crash. He is struggling to come to terms with his loss and to move forward,  but it certainly isn’t depressing. It’s not often a book makes me laugh out loud but this one did on several occasions.Often I found my husband wanting in on the jokes, which isn’t so possible to share with a book, and particularly this book because it isn’t necessarily the jokes Tropper is sharing, but the witty writing style that makes you laugh, cringe and want to weep all at the same time.

Underneath the sadness of Doug’s loss is the story of narcissism. Almost each character; Claire and the relationship with her husband, Debbie with her wedding, Jim with his new family, Laney with her intimate desires, Russ with his teenage angst and  troubles and Doug, probably most of all, with his loss. Doug has the worst grief in the  world, nobody has experienced anything like the way he is feeling and most of all it is his, and only his, and nobody has the right to share his harrowing bereavement. However, as the story unfolds he begins to peep through the black hole, open up to the world around him and slowly begin to leave his sticky pool of self pity.

The dynamics of Doug’s dysfunctional family made me chuckle throughout, however the book also made me genuinely sad, accompanied by the elastic emotional belt being pulled just below my diaphragm. This was most pertinent in chapter 29, when Doug begins to date again. It all goes so wrong, but not intentionally. It made me think of a young child of 4 or 5 years who thinks they are doing as they have been asked and making the right choices, but in doing so make completely the wrong choices and end up being the ‘naughty’ one.

My favourite quote (which i think sums up the humour of the book but is also a great piece of advice) “Pity, I’ve learned is like a fart. You can tolerate your own, but simply can’t stand anyone else’s’ pg 99 said by Doug

Overall I would give this book 4.5 stars out of 5. Another new author to me but another great one. I would love to read more of his work.

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Ghost heart by R.J Ellory

I really wasn’t desperate to read this book. I wanted to make some space on my bookshelf so decided to give it a try. The title is very subjective and for me it could have ghost heart imagebranched in a number of directions, I presumed it would be a tale with a paranormal twist, but luckily ghosts in the literal sense don’t feature. The front cover also didn’t enthrall me; it has a dull theme that certainly didn’t capture my interest. This was another reason why I almost didn’t read it, but thankfully I gave it a go, and it may have been because I had such low expectations that it impressed me and I enjoyed it so much. Or it could have been because Ellory is an excellent author.

The book revolves around one main character, a girl called Annie. Annie leads a solitary and predictable existence and yearns for her Mother and Father. One day, however, she has a visitor to her small disheveled bookshop who takes her on an adventure and questions her day-to-day life. Alongside her is her dear friend and neighbour, Jack Sullivan, and together they discover the truth about Annie’s past, and the potential for the future.

I enjoyed this book a lot, particularly from the middle to end and actually didn’t want to put it down. Here are my reasons why;

  • I mainly loved that throughout the book I just couldn’t predict the outcome. There are a variety of possibilities but it kept me guessing; I thought I had it figured, and then I doubted myself, and I like this. The plot continued to surprise me until the very end pages. It could have turned out horribly predictable and straight forward but Ellory has managed to keep the story believable, yet secretive and clever in how he allowed those secrets to unfold.
  • I found the protagonist a very endearing character, although I wasn’t keen on her attitude and unladylike language at times, I do like a girl who ‘finds herself’ and through pain and turmoil becomes a better person. Nobody should be unnoticed.
  •  I always feel satisfied in a book if it has a conclusive ending, and ghost heart has exactly that. It always seems to me that to be left hanging is an easy way for an author to end a story so it was a relief when everything was rounded off nicely; except for Sullivan, what happened to him? He is a book in himself….I would read that!
  • Throughout the novel I was draw to Ellory’s careful use of similes. I found the way he described situations and events clever and thought-provoking, often stalling to read them again and savor them.

Favourite quote: “Most people only ask for someone else’s opinion to confirm what they’ve already decided themselves.” Jack Sullivan pg 289. Very wise and psychological words. I will keep them in my mind especially the next time somebody asks for my opinion….

In all honesty there wasn’t anything I particularly didn’t like about this book. He is an author I haven’t read before but would again in an instant. I would recommend this book to adult readers who, like me, enjoy a wide range of genre or those who are fans of mysterious books with dark, hidden family secrets…..