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Posts Tagged ‘Snow White Must Die’

It’s the start of a new year, and therefore the start of a new reading challenge.

I must admit I am quite excited to have a fresh start on this, and have been over-eager already – so this is a very long post, sorry!

Book 1 – Requiem for a Wren by Neville Shute (known as The Breaking Wave in the US).  I started reading this in 2014, but as I finished it on New Year’s Day it fell into this year’s list!

This book explores two stories – that of Alan Duncan, a WWII pilot disabled in service, and of Ordnance Wren Janet Prentice, the woman Alan’s late brother had planned to marry.  Alan is the storyteller and his thoughts and feelings bookend each section, but this really is a requiem to a Wren – Janet is the subject of the book.

We are shown Janet’s wartime experience and subsequent inability to find her footing in peacetime.  She is overwhelmed by loss, and ill-equipped to deal with the guilt she bears for the deaths of seven men whose plane she helped destroy.

We see she was a force to be reckoned with during the war, and how she disappears into oblivion as the war concludes: not even the friends who shared her wartime experience retain contact after she leaves the Wrens.  By the end even her name is no longer hers.

Alongside this we see Alan finding his way back from the brink of despair, his search for Janet giving his life purpose and meaning, enabling him to find his own strength of will.  Alan becomes the opposite of Janet, ending up with a plan for the future that he would have shunned prior to the war, but one which gives him peace and satisfaction.

The way Shute wrote Janet really affected me; he wrote women in a way many of today’s male writers cannot better.  She is a strong woman who cannot find peace, a woman who feels that she has no place in the world once the war is over. You hope there is a happy ending even if you know it is impossible.

I’m sure you can tell I appreciated this book (this review was even longer originally!).  I don’t know that I enjoyed it as such – there’s not a lot of hope in there – but I found it powerful, moving and engrossing.

Book 2 – Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver.  I was looking at Kingsolver books thanks to NavasolaNature‘s recommendation of one (which I couldn’t get so quickly), and I was attracted to this one for some reason I can’t actually remember!

This book is what I consider to be a ‘human experience’ novel, set against a background of climate change.  The main character, Dellarobia, on her way to an illicit meeting with a young man, sees a mountainside which looks like it is silently burning.  For her it is a sign and she returns home filled with a sense of wonder.  The novel follows the discovery that the flames are in fact butterflies which are roosting in the mountains for the first recorded time in history – and the interaction between Dellarobia’s family, the church community she attends, and the scientists who come to investigate the abnormal behaviour.

Dellarobia’s whole life is affected and the novel explores the relationships between poverty, necessity and environment.  Ultimately it is about Dellarobia taking some control and ownership of her life back and finding something exciting and challenging that isn’t related to affairs and attraction.

This was a really long book, much longer than I would generally attempt for this challenge, to be honest.  Some sections of it were very strong and some seemed overlong, which is probably inevitable in a book of 500 pages.  There also seemed to be a lot of repetition of ideas, images and information; the concepts were really drummed home.  I didn’t mind that particularly, but there were points when I was reading and I wondered when the story would proceed.

I loved the setting though – the Appalachian mountains were described in ways that reminded me of a place I love, and I could really imagine the scenery.

Book 3 – Snow White Must Die by Nele Neuhaus.  This book was set for reading group and I failed to read it so I was playing catchup! It starts with the release of convicted killer Tobias from jail.  He moves back to his hometown, and the community rises up against him.  However, it soon becomes clear that there is far more going on in the town that the locals would admit – and far more to the deaths of Laura and ‘Snow White’ than previously imagined.

The police get involved due to a related crime, questions are asked about some of the evidence from the original case, and in the midst of all this another young woman goes missing…

This book was one I couldn’t put down, even when I was exhausted and knew I ought to go to sleep!  I worked out some elements as the story progressed, but so many more were mysteries I was unable to unravel.  It was this book which inspired Sunday’s post and made me wonder what I could learn for my own work by trying a crime-based story.

There were a few phrases and comments that seemed a little unnatural but I think part of that is that the book is translated from German.  For example, there was a lot of reference to people and lives being ‘bourgeoise’ which isn’t a word I would expect to see multiple times, and certainly not in the speech of a 17-year-old character, in modern English-language novels.  Still, it being so absorbing and challenging in translation is an amazing feat and testament to both the writer and the translator.

The book has a lot going for it – the violence isn’t what I would consider graphic, the characters are well defined, the outcome is not what you would think.

I am going to stop there because this post is very, very long, but as a final point I would re-read any of these books without hesitation.

Happy reading,

EJ

🙂

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