Back to Back by Julia Franck

A book based on a fairy tale……

As with most books I seem to choose these days I did so with this one based on the front cover as a quick choice from the library. It looked heartfelt, yet heartbreaking and full of love and betrayal. It wasn’tquite  what I expected or how I expected it to unfold. I didn’t actually realise it was based on a German fairy tale until I had already begun reading and happened to flick back to the front insert where it held a small explanation. Perfect! I thought, perfect for the fairy tale category.

It all started well. I loved the beginning. It was heart wrenching to think about how these poor children were being treated. Being a Mum now I relate everything back to my little boy and it is all so much deeper and more wrought with emotion. To me it was stereotypically German back to backand knowing a small amount about German fairy stories in general I know that they are hard and barbaric and not particularly pleasant. I continued to read on, as predicted it didn’t prove to be any less uplifting as it progressed. The secrets, the coldness. the lies, the rape, the abuse continued until I unfortunately and with slight embarrassment (as i don’t like to think of myself as a quitter) gave up. I just couldn’t bring myself to continue. It felt like I could predict what was going to happen and realised that my life is too short to drag myself through. After 170 odd pages, my emotion towards it had evaporated and my next book sat watching me with an awful lot more potential charisma.

It would be an excellent read for anybody who wants to learn more about Germany during the 1930’s and wants to know more about communism and the Berlin Wall. The character structures are established and strong with dark childhoods that resonate through into their adulthood. It is excellently written, unfortunately is just wasn’t for me.




Love and treasure by Ayalette Waldman

A book set in a different country……

I bought this book with my Christmas voucher. The front cover is beautiful with it’s elaborate peacock and golden glint and it offered something a little different; something a little extra. I don’t normally sway towards books around the time of the war, mainly because it’s just an area of history that I don’t find too interesting but I suppose the front cover led me to believe it wasn’t just about the war and that was correct. It is set during this time but that isn’t fundamentally what it is about.

Jack is old and not long in this world. The story begins with him meeting his Granddaughter Natalie before heading back to the time he served as an American infantry captain and in charge of a fugitive train from Hungary, full of Jewish treasures. Among these treasures of home wares, gold and jewelry, Jack found a dazzling pendant in the form of a peacock.

I really enjoyed the Narrative of this book. It is really well written and the wording is enjoyable, with excellent and believable characters throughout. The three story idea is interesting, all linked together by the pendant, but as I neared the end I just needed more. I needed it to tie together; to be summed up; to be brought to a conclusion, maybe for the pendant to have found it’s true heir. It just underwhelmed me.

The Last Time We Spoke- Fiona Sussman

A book published this year….

So, the year is 2016 and I found this book in the new releases at the library. The choice was based on this fact and that I liked the look of the front cover. It looked deep, with substance and it is an award winning book. I was hooked from the beginning although it wasn’t a pleasant start to a story.

The book is about 2 very different families. On the one had is Carla and Kevin Reid and their long awaited and deeply loved, successful son Jack. On the other hand is Ben, who was born to a loving but misguided Mum who is abused and who, initially wanted the best for her ever growing brood but through circumstance and her emotionally drowning life has lost her way. Ben, her eldest son has also lost his way and has become involved in gang culture. One night Ben and a mate is high on drugs and break into the Reid household, causing havoc and completely destroying lives of the happy family. The rest of the story is about Carla’s brave struggle to find some light and hope to move forward in her life, somehow, and through perseverance and deep struggles she does manage to, in her own way.

It is a really touching book and Ben’s story is so current for many of the problems in society today. My husband and I have worked with such a range of children and young adults and have experience and some understanding of how this can happen, how broken homes, drug addictive and neglectful parenting negatively sets these children up. It can never be emphasised enough how critical a stable home life is. No matter who the role models are, children need to feel  safe and secure to flourish. The story line Fiona has created is SO unfair. It is so devastatingly unfair that I was almost in tears after the first pages and I really felt myself there in the house with Carla. Why? How can it ever be ok for anybody to completely shatter the lives of others for nothing more than petty personal gain. I wanted to be there with Carla to help her through, as I would anybody going through such trauma but it was only Carla herself who could find her way out of the turmoil and heartbreak. Her choices and endless strength to face Ben head on began her healing process.

I wouldn’t recommend this book for anybody after a light , pick-me-up read but it really is worth a read even if it is just to remind yourself how lucky you are and to appreciate what you have.


Alice and the Fly- James Rice

A YA best seller……

I’ve always enjoyed young adult books despite not often picking them up to read. I’ve always found they tackle real issues prevalent to the daily struggles of so many teenagers in a way that is accessible- without the extra words and gumpf! I chose this from the library whilst finding books for my little boy. It looked interesting and as if I might learn something from between the pages. It is James Rice’s debut novel and he didn’t disappoint. I’m not sure if it is a best seller, but if it’s not it should be!

I was immediately interested. I always am when it comes to issues for children because it might in some way help me to understand, even just a little. I didn’t read the blurb (because Ialice and the fly don’t) so I had to figure out what his difficulties were. The main character Greg lives with his Mum, Dad and Sister, Sarah. It’s not a happy family. Each member has their own life problems that they are tackling, and although each are aware and care deeply for Greg, he is swept under the carpet and left to fend for himself with regard to what is going on inside his head. Not only does Greg have schizophrenia, but he is also very socially awkward and finds school and socialising a really challenging part of life, especially when his hallucinations rear their ugly head- literally! With the guidance of his English teacher- who also has life problems- it is suggested to Greg that he keeps a journal, and it is through this journal that we learn the inner workings of this vulnerable, thoughtful, sweet but misunderstood teenager. It all goes wrong for Greg but not through his own intentional wanting and the book ends without much resolve for the family. Although the read learns the truth- his family don’t and you’re left wondering whether they ever will; whether this poor, poor young la
d will ever have anybody who will understand him.

I just thought this book was fascinating. I don’t know much about schizophrenia at all. I’m only aware that it can manifest itself in a split personality or hallucinations, but of course there are other repercussions, self-confidence, self-esteem and social belonging must be so present as it was for Greg. The uncertainty of not knowing if/when he may see them and know the everything that follows afterwards. It seemed, in the book, that Greg coped really well considering his circumstances but I just wanted to take him home and help him! It was a really easy read and to me a book is very good when I don’t take any notice of how many pages I have read.

I would highly recommend this book to both young adults and adults. It is a really insightful read that won’t take you long to finish.