Few novels have such a recognisable opening line. A Tale Of Two Cities perhaps, and Pride and Prejudice. Already in the opening line, there is atmosphere. We never learn the name of the narrator, she is simply the second Mrs De Winter. Naïve, vulnerable and young, whilst working in Monte Carlo she meets and is romanced by Maxim De Winter who marries her and takes her back to his stately home, Manderley. There she is greeted by Mrs Danvers, the housekeeper, a character so deliciously evil and manipulative she undermines our narrator at every available opportunity OOH, I LIKE A GOOD BADDIE, TELL ME MORE…
Set in 1960s small-town America, this is the first instalment in the life of Harry ‘Rabbit’ Angstrom, a 26 year old trapped in a life he’s not sure how he got. Rabbit is a former high school basketball player who has somehow wound up as a salesman for a kitchen gadget called a MagiPeeler. He is married to Janice, a salesgirl and they have a young son, Nelson and another kid on the way. Unsatisfied with his lot, tired of middle class suburbia and looking for the missing element, Rabbit decides he’s had enough and just walks out. Unsure of where to go, he stays with his former basketball coach, Marty Tothero
Whilst staying there he meets Ruth, a part-time prostitute and they begin an affair. Fast forward a few months and Ruth and Rabbit have a fight and he leaves, as Janice is in labour. Believing that their new daughter is the missing element, Rabbit stays with Janice, but makes the mistake of encouraging Janice to drink, in order to relax. SO WHICH GIRL DOES HE CHOOSE?
Poor little Owen. If you read this book you’ll know what I mean. Offbeat and tender, this is the story of Owen Meany and his best friend, the narrator, John Wheelwright. Owen is a peculiar child, he’s undersized with a squeaky voice and a strange aura about him. Owen tries hard to fit in, yet he never quite can.
The story is told in two time frames, the first follows John as an adult in self imposed exile in Canada and bookends the second, far more intriguing story, which follows John and Owen as kids in small town New Hampshire. John is middle class, kind of wimpy, unambitious and pre-occupied with the identity of his errant father. Owen is working class, very intelligent and determined. Owen is from a stable family background, but has a curious relationship with his parents, both of whom seems afraid of him. TELL ME MORE ABOUT THIS FREAKY KID
On paper, this book totally appeals to me, mystery, romance, history – 3 things I enjoy in a novel. Yet somehow it just didn’t work. I’m not sure why, I just didn’t get it.
The primary story is set during WW2 in Italy. Hana, a Canadian nurse is living out the war in an abandoned villa, filled with hidden bombs (sensible?) She has a patient there with her, who has a strong English accent (hence the title) but he is so badly burned she has no way of identifying him. He remembers his explorations into the North African desert in great detail but cannot say his own name. Also in the villa is Caravaggio, a spy friend of Hana’s father, who was killed in the war. Like the patient, Caravaggio is addicted to morphine. Lucky for them they have a nurse with a handy supply!
After a time, two British soldiers turn up at the villa, one of whom is Kip, an Indian sapper who quickly becomes friends with the patient. Encouraged to reveal his story, the patient unveils the tale of how he came to be there… SO, WHAT IS HIS STORY?