The Thirst by Jo Nesbo
Dates Read: 22/02/2021-10/03/2021
My Rating: 3 of 5 stars
There seems to be such a lot of crime fiction around, I frequently end up reading it even though I wouldn’t say that it’s one of my preferred genres. Still, this is the second of Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole series I’ve read (after the Bat, which was both my and the series first – it feels like it was maybe 10 years ago or more but was it even translated into English then?). However, it’s totally irrelevant that I’ve missed 9 instalments in the series, you really don’t need to read them in chronological order.
Hole is a great character – gnarly and flawed but brilliant at what he does. He’s like your favourite uncle – the one that seems to lead and be immersed in his exciting life. The plot is complex, there’s lots of misdirection to keep you guessing and a few ‘a-ha’ moments. This is a weighty tome and it took me probably till a couple of hundred pages in before I felt immersed enough in the story to not be distracted, but once I passed that stage I really enjoyed it. There are some tangents which felt a bit like scene-setting for future instalments, and if they weren’t that then they’re definitely padding.
The narrative evokes the environments well, the characters are well drawn and don’t always behave in the manner you’d expect them to, which is great. There’s plenty of crossover between the good and the bad protaganists and Nesbo fans will be delighted that the ending points to more Hole to come.
On the whole, I enjoyed this read. A 5 star review from me has to be an absolute cracker, 4 is good but this misses that mark for me because of those first couple of hundred pages. I’ll probably end up reading more Harry Hole in the future, but as I say, crime fiction really isn’t my favourite of genres. If it is yours though, knock yourself out! You’re really going to enjoy this one.
The Wildflowers by Harriet Evans
Dates Read: 09/02/2021-22/02/2021
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
I rather enjoyed this one if I’m honest, it’s ages since I’ve read a good old family saga. I’m not familiar with the author’s body of work so maybe I don’t have the context of her regular readers, but I didn’t find the pacing of this in any way slow as others have suggested. Yes, it’s sweeping across 80 years so there’s a lot to take in, but the central characters within a single family are absorbing and well drawn.
What’s interesting is that their relationships are defined in many ways by what they don’t say and share with the rest of the family. Behind a veneer of beauty and success, there’s trauma, post traumatic stress, inadequacy, lies, self-indulgence, all manner of human failings. At the heart of the story, though, is love, and understanding that truly loving someone means accepting them for everything that they are, whether you like it or not. Family ties don’t always mean blood ties, what connects us is more than that; the shared history, people, places and experiences that define who we are.
Set against the idyllic backdrop of the family house (the Bosky) at the coast, this had me reminiscing about my own childhood – I swear it never rained and we were always out playing and usually filthy. The Bosky here almost becomes its own character, ever present and always a source of comfort, as well as a catalyst, and, until the closing chapters, where it’s always summer.
It’s a pretty beefy tome but don’t be put off by this. It was perfect reading for a dark, cold, locked-down February – escaping into a summer at the seaside was just what I needed!
I’ve taken a while since finishing this one to actually write my review because, if I’m honest, I’m not 100% sure how I feel about it. I know and understand that this was an important period in the history of our country, and it feels a little strange knowing that the central character, Matthew Hopkins, really existed and was instrumental in the deaths of so many named in the book. These were real people, and telling their stories is important, however, this book is for the most part a fictional account.
I think I have a natural bias against the prose and linguistic style used here – it just feels old fashioned and bloated and frankly irritates me and maybe that’s my problem. The book is narrated from the point of view of Matthew’s (imagined) sister who, until the final embers of the book, is basically a damp squib. I get that emancipation just wasn’t a thing, but while she purports to react horrifically to the witch hunts, she doesn’t actually seem to do anything, or at least anything effective.
I know, it’s probably the context but I found this read in many places rather tedious and flabby, it could have done with a good edit. There are Americanisms littered throughout which is, more than a bit annoying. There were some characters I enjoyed and would have liked to have seen more of, such as Bridget and Matthew’s mother, hence it gets 2 stars but I struggled to finish this if I’m honest.