Posts Tagged ‘Family saga’

The Strange And Beautiful Sorrows Of Ava Lavender

Leslye Walton

ava lavenderFoolish love appears to be a Roux family birthright. And for Ava Lavender, a girl born with the wings of a bird, it is an ominous thing to inherit. In her quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to join her peers, sixteen-year-old Ava ventures into the wider world. But it is a dangerous world for a naive girl…

Click here to read Caitlyn’s fantastic review.

Posted by Caroline

Publisher: Walker
Publication Date: March 2014
Format: ARC
Pages: 301
Genre: Family saga, Magical realism
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: Debut book
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The Space Between Us

Thrity Umrigar

Set in contemporary Bombay, ‘The Space Between Us’ tells the story of Sera Dubash, an upper-middle-class Parsi housewife and Bhima, the woman who works as a domestic servant in her home. Despite their class differences, the two women are bound by the bonds of gender and shared life experiences – both had marriages that started out with great romantic love and promise, but ended up as crushing disappointments. Ultimately, Sera Dubash faces a decision that will force her to choose between loyalty to gender and friendship or loyalty to her social position and class.

This story does a great job of tackling some of the issues in Indian society head on. There is no trying to tidy away the grim side of the poverty and inequality suffered by many and particularly by women in India.

The women in this story jump off the page and pull you into their world with all its tensions and difficulties. Bhima and Sera are so real and so intriguing in both their similarities and their differences. We find out about their histories through flashbacks, these show what has happened to bring the women where they are today. Both women have very difficult moments to look back on and horrible things that have happened to people in their families. However both of them have remarkable courage and resilience in the face of adversity.

This grimness maybe off putting to some, and there are some incredibly poignant moments in the story, but it does meant that we get a full picture of the relationships between friends, husbands and wives and mothers and children. The events of the story, such as dealing with the AIDS epidemic in India, makes it about real people and not just something happening in a country a long way away. The story also highlights the changes India is coming to terms with as the new generations move away from the values held by their parents and grandparents.

Thrity Umrigar also writes beautiful prose, she has the ability to create memorable and realistic pictures with her words. I particularly enjoyed the way she could incorporate Indian words and terms into her writing, and yet it remains so understandable and accessible.

Ultimately the relationship between these two women is put to the test. Sera has to decide whether her friendship with Bhima, who is so much lower than her, is more important than her status and wealth. The outcome may not surprise but I found it really interesting that the author actually leaves quite a few ends untied and in part the story stops rather than ends. This is not to say that Thrity doesn’t round it off, and the ending is cleverly done, but there is still plenty left to think about and decide for yourself.

Verdict: A brilliant depiction of life in a totally different culture to our own, and yet so many issues that are simply part of the human condition. A great read.

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Harper Perennial
Publication Date: February 2007
Format: Paperback
Pages: 320
Genre: Family Sage, Indian Culture
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: None
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Just for the Summer

Judy Astley

Every July, the lucky owners of Cornish holiday homes set off for their annual break. Loading their estate cars with dogs, cats, cases of wine, difficult adolescents and rebellious toddlers, they close up their desirable semis in smartish London suburbs – having turned off the Aga and turned on the burglar alarm – and look forward to a carefree, restful and somehow more fulfilling summer. Clare is, this year, more than ready for her holiday. Her teenage daughter, Miranda, has been behaving strangely; her husband, Jack is harbouring unsettling thoughts of a change in lifestyle; her small children are being particularly tiresome; and she herself is contemplating a bit of extra-marital adventure, possibly with Eliot, the successful – although undeniably heavy-drinking and overweight – author in the adjoining holiday property. Meanwhile Andrew, the only son of elderly parents, is determined that this will be the summer when he will seduce Jessica, Eliot’s nubile daughter. But Jessica spends her time in girl-talk with Miranda, while Milo, her handsome brother with whom Andrew longs to be friends, seems more interested in going sailing with the young blond son of the club commodore. Unexpected disasters occur, revelations are made and, as the summer ends, real life will never be quite the same again.

This book is a real favourite of mine and even though it’s not new, I felt it deserved a mention, especially now Christmas is past and we start wondering about where our summer holiday will take us this year. I have both the paperback version, well read, and very dog-eared, and as it’s almost fallen apart, I have recently bought it on Kindle.

As you get to know the three main families in this book you can’t help but smile as you know that ‘their’ situations are going on all around you in real life. They are all fairly comfortably off, middle class families and although they live reasonably closely to each other in London, they only meet up when they are on holiday. They are the ‘second homers’ as opposed to regular tourists renting cottages/houses and as such are tolerated by the villagers rather than liked. Although they attempt to be part of village life, they really just stick together and bring all of their ‘up country’ snobberies with them.

I love the humour in this book and have giggled away happily even though I’ve read it several times now. The characters are very ‘real’ and you either love them or hate them! Not many of us have the luxury of spending an entire six weeks away on holiday but these families do and over the course of their summer we see their issues and angst over varying situations all come to a head.

Judy Astley, the author, lives in both London and Cornwall and her knowledge and understanding of both the area and the local cultural differences comes across well and I for one am transported down to Cornwall in my mind very quickly when reading this. It probably helps that I love Cornwall very much and go there often too! This book is delightfully funny and one to add to the holiday pile, wherever you may be planning to journey this year!

Verdict: A wonderful, light-hearted and enjoyable summer read!

Reviewed by Lesley

Publisher: Transworld Digital
Publication Date: June 2011
Format: eBook
Pages: 351KB
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Lesley
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: British Book
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