I've recently finished two different but equally brilliant books that I want to share with you. Apologies for the lack of posts recently - a little self doubt and lack of motivation hit and I struggled with getting words down. But now I'm back into the swing of things and not beating myself up about it, we're only human after all. She repeats to herself over and over!
To the books!
First up is The Heart's Invisible Furies, John Boyne. Man was this a good book. I had heard many a good thing and it had been on my radar for a while, so when I spotted it at the library I snatched it up and I'm glad I did. There are some books that resonate with lots of people and this is one of them. I've had endless comments and people getting in touch to say how much they loved the book. Boyne is known for The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, a devastatingly good book and the film equally so. If you've not come across his writing before then you are in for a treat.
Boyne's writing style for starts is wonderfully descriptive as well as beautiful, he places the reader in the story and it feels as if you are being given exclusive access in watching it unfold. Not only are the characters vivid but you feel as if you get to know them and become invested in what happens to them. Cyril Avery is a complicated character to say the least but not unjustly so. There are so many aspects of his life that have absolutely no connection to my own but it doesn't matter. So rich is the paint Boyne uses - it could be your story.
Though this story focuses hugely on identity, it doesn't use the facts of Cyril's life to define it. Yes he's gay, adopted and Irish but that isn't solely who he is. The journey Boyne takes us on, is to try and find out. Yes we can have labels but do they truly show who we are? That's just one of the many thoughts you'll be left with after turning that final page.
I also loved the structure of the book. Each part is set seven years apart which timelines a lifetime perfectly. There are no chunks missing or huge skips forward which helps bind reader to character.
This story is a labyrinth of emotions and deals with everything from sexuality, discrimination and unrequited love to family or the lack of and forgiveness. I would highly recommend this book. It's over five hundred pages so what I consider a longer read. It would make a good commuting and holiday read - though it is terribly hard to put down and I did find myself still reading at 3am the other night!
Next up, The Great Alone, Kristen Hannah. Again this another book that received a lot of praise and attention. I've mentioned The Nightingale before as it is up there as one of my favourite books. So there were big expectations going in to The Great Alone and I'm happy to report that I wasn't disappointed.
Set in Alaska, starting in the late 70's - which for starters couldn't be further from The Nightingale's Nazi occupied France - It's a tale about a young girl living with her mother and abusive father in the remote and dangerous wilderness of Alaska. The detail in this book immediately transports you to life in Alaska - what it is to hunt, fish and to live in constant fear of making a mistake that could cost you your life. This book implants that anxiety within you. Again not the easiest scenario to relate to but it doesn't impact your enjoyment of the story one bit. The magic of writing right there.
Though the landscape of this book is wild and unforgiving - it is the family home that Leni (our protagonist) finds the most dangerous of all. The book deals sensitively with domestic violence using the remoteness of countryside to test the boundaries of relationships. The story at points is as bleak as the winters described but it's an important story to tell.
One of the reasons I feel in love with The Nightingale was down to the characters. Kristen Hannah, like John Boyne, has a beautifully vivid way of creating characters that you feel you know or at least want to know. It doesn't feel like fiction. The Great Alone does the same. We're often trapped inside Leni's head and feel alongside her, the sheer weight of loneliness. I keep coming back to the remoteness of the landscape but it helps showcase human nature in a sharper light. There is nowhere to hide from the damage we can do to each other as human beings. Heavy Stuff. However this isn't about leaving you miserable, underneath it all, there is such a strong element of hope in this book that you really can't grumble.
The tension alone makes this a good story but throw in the unpredictable Alaskan winters and a family at war with itself, you've got yourself a winner. This would be a good commuting read or something for a bank holiday weekend when there's no requirement to move from the sofa.
If you do pick up these books then please let me know how you get on! And if you haven't read The Nightingale then pop that on your list too.