3. The Girl Before by JP Delaney

Screen Shot 2017-07-22 at 17.47.18I was really looking forward to this book, it sounded intriguing and that it would be full of suspense. I heard about it first on Simon Mayo’s Drivetime show as one of his Monday bookclubs in February. The reviews were good and this held a promise to be a real page turner. Sadly, for me the book didn’t match its promise. It has also had me questioning the reviews on the radio as I’ve never heard a bad one.

I liked the idea of this book, one apartment, two women separated in time, the first who met an untimely and unexplained death, the second who became intrigued and curious to try to solve the mystery. A lot of scope for a great read but the architect of the minimalist apartment where there were over 200 rules if you wanted to live there was a familiar figure. Set at the centre of the story he was ridiculously wealthy, good looking and fit, aloof, rude and runs rough shod over other people. The two women in the story, supposedly intelligent and both having suffered recent traumas, fall for him and he dominates them in every way, including in the bedroom. A shadow of 50 Shades of Grey was cast over the story. Yet in the end, the architect is a bit of a red herring.

Reading other reviews I am not alone in making the comparison to 50 Shades. As I really didn’t like that book, it was not going to enhance my experience in reading this one. To be fair, there wasn’t as much sex and the focus was more on the architect’s desire to dominate every aspect of the women’s lives using the house as well as his charms, hidden though they were to me.

There were a few twists in the book but none that really took me by surprise and the ending was as I had thought it would be, at least the murderer was who I suspected. The ending in fact was the biggest disappointment, as the architect softened to become almost weak which didn’t stack up to his previous persona.

It was an easy read if not a riveting story, with short chapters which suit my life right now as it was an easy book to dip in and out of. I’m sad I didn’t like this book when it had so much potential.

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2. The Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman

Screen Shot 2017-07-16 at 18.13.12I struggled with this book, it starts very slowly and I felt for a good third of the book that nothing really happened. Having read others reviews it seems I’m not alone. I think the author is setting the scene and drawing the reader into the characters’ lives so that empathy abounds when they do what they do – more on that later.

The book is set in Australia in the mid 1920s, following a young man on his return from the war. He is obviously traumatised by the things he has seen and the friends he has lost and struggling to come to terms with his own survival. His answer is to become a light house keeper in a remote spot where he spends months on end totally alone. On shore leave he meets Izzy who is coming to terms from her own war story, in particular losing both her brothers. And so starts a love story led by Izzy and the two end up married and living in glorious isolation on their island paradise.

Spoilers coming up so stop reading now if you want to read the book and not know what happens.

The book turns on an event which I found somewhat hard to believe. I didn’t feel the isolation and I didn’t get the sense of longing I think I was supposed to get. So it came as a bit of a surprise when a boat with a small baby and a dead man washed up and Izzy was so drawn to the baby to insist on keeping it. Her pregnancies and subsequent miscarriages had been glossed over in my view. So I couldn’t empathise with the choice that Izzy made and why Tom went along with it. They knew nothing about the man or the baby yet somehow persuaded themselves there was no one waiting for the pair or worried about their whereabouts. There was an element of guilt coming through but overall just a happy little family, I think I was more bothered than they were!

When the inevitable happened and their secret was found out, I found it got more unbelievable. Izzy seemed convinced that the best thing for the child was to stay with her, she turned against Tom and wouldn’t talk to her parents. I struggled to understand how Izzy had no empathy with the baby’s birth mother, as one who had suffered loss it seemed natural that she would have some understanding for another who had also suffered loss, but none of that was there. The baby, now a young child spent most of the time screaming. It’s very understandable that she would be upset and confused, but the way it was dealt with was just to place her back with her birth family and use her birth name. Where is the effort to work with the child, help her with this hardest of transitions? I know this was the 1920s and today’s ways of dealing with these things are completely different but it felt lacking to me.

After much angst, screaming and arguing, Tom spent time in jail and Izzy didn’t. The child eventually settled and Tom and Izzy reunited mainly on the premise that an experience such as this means the future can only be shared with the one you shared it with in the first place. I won’t give away the ending here, just say that it was all a little too happily ever after for me, albeit in a bitter sweet way.

I think it fair to say this was not my favourite book, but it was easy to read. It’s been turned into a movie which is no real surprise, the chance to film in a great and beautiful location with a tear jerker of a story. I won’t however be rushing to see it.