Friday, 30 June 2017

Tidal Zone - Sarah Moss

photo courtesy:
A slice of life in contemporary society.

Sarah Moss was a new writer to me but a quick search told me of how celebrated a writer she is. I am glad to have had the chance to read this one and have bookmarked her other books too.

Moss is an academic and her book The Tidal Zone reflects that. The book cover is a very compelling and stands out. It was a pleasant surprise to find that its stark, forceful cover matched the writing inside.

The story is about a family and how it copes
with the uncertainties of an illness. However it also operates on various other levels: reflections on parenting, academia, the state of our medical services.  There is also a parallel narrative about a cathedral that runs alongside the story.

What works:
  • The style is very different. It doesn't force your attention but it draws you in slowly and resolutely. It forces you to keep going to find out whats going to happen next, even when it bears no traces of a thriller.
  • The characters. Loved the stay at home dad - a very different sort of character. It was great to see a Dad with maternal instincts and Moss does a good job of bringing him to life.
  • I loved the way relationships are portrayed here. The friction between the husband and son and the husband-wife relationship. It also paints sympathetic shades of an overworked doctor's life. As the wife of a GP, I would say the personality sketch is very impressive and spot on. 
  • This is written by an academic who does not bow down to the market formula of a snazzy and attention grabbing narrative. I appreciate that. I haven't read too many books about academia and although this doesn't focus completely about academia, it surely offers a perspective and made for good reading.
  • It is nice to see how Moss has included her knitting hobby by attributing it to one of her characters. Love instances of how the writer's preferences seep into their characters.
What doesn't:
  • The  style though good is taxing at times. Since there is not much happening in terms of plot, it can a bit meandering, wondering where is this all leading to.
  • This is not a plot driven novel but more like a reflection on the times we live in. Those going in expecting some past paced action will be disappointed.
Having said that, the book has some great paragraphs. It is amazing how she captures the fear of parents and the emotional bonding they share with children.

The writing is superb and powerful. I recommend it for that reason alone. 

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Sophie Hannah - Kind of Cruel

An arresting premise, an OK revelation.

Hannah's stories always have an compelling premises: a bizarre event that forces the reader to pick it up and stick through right till the end. In this case, the bizaare event is about a family that disappears on christmas day and reappears on boxing day.

Hannah is a good storyteller. She does have a knack of telling a story. What I like is the way she uses the psychological aspect rather than violence to tell the story. A sucker for stories that deal with the workings of the mind, not surprisingly that I was instantly drawn to it.


Amber Hewerdine is an insomniac who sees a hypno therapist to sort it out. However, during the session, she blurts out the words, Kind, cruel, Kind of Cruel and she thinks it is because she had read it in the book of a woman, a patient, waiting with her outside. Three hours later, she finds herself arrested for a murder of a Katherine Allen, a woman she had never heard of.

Something else has happened in her family. Years ago, her sister-in-law Jo disappeared with her husband and family on Christmas day and returned on Boxing day with no explanation whatsoever. Amber is the only one who is looking for answers and would not rest till she found out what it was.

 What works:
  • It is almost like watching a spool of thread unravel. A bizarre occurence that has no explanation and then the attempt to make sense of it through logical reasoning and psychological deductions.
  • The character of Amber is so good. A flawed yet a sensible character whose psychological profile is etched out so well. 
  • I had not read any other Spilling book before, therefore the story of Charlie and Simon did not mean much to me. It doesn't matter the personal lives of the detectives are in the background anyway.
What doesn't:
  • It is not easy reading. The beginning sucks you in, but then the psychological analysis can be a bit obtuse, with random explanations that seem to be going nowhere, demanding a lot of focus from the reader. 
  • There was a point where there was so much analysis about the family disappearance and then about Amber's friend's murder that it really got a bit much. 
I remember reading Hannah's Vistors and other stories and enjoying it. This one is an OK read. 

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Restless - William Boyd

A spy story with a woman protagnist at the heart of the story.

Now I am thinking what I mean by that. Well, for me, spy stories usually mean Fleming's Bond stories or the Le Carre's Smiley stories. I am trying to recall a story that has a woman as the protagnist and I struggling to remember one.

I came across this book at the library and loved the cover. The premsied appealed to my feminist instincts but for some reason I did not pick it up. Later, when I went looking for the copy it was gone. It was a bit annoying. The woman in the red overcoat was really intriguing and I was desperate to read her story. 

Months later, I happened to see the copy again. Believe me, there is nothing more exciting than chancing upon a book that you have always wanted. It is a delicious victorious feeling to savoured for a long time. It filled me with a sense of achievement the whole day.

Now, all I had to do was to escape to some quiet and get started:


Ruth Gilmartin is a 30 something single mother trying to finish her Phd, while looking after her 5-year old-boy and her mother in Oxfordshire. As an English teacher she ekes out a living teaching foreign students. However, things get interesting when she finds her mother acting strangely and claims to fear for her life. Things get more interested when her mum reveals she had another identity as Eva Delectorskaya, a spy recruited in the World War. For some reason her past was catching up with her but she needed her daughter's help this time, to sort it out once for all.

What works:
  • The plot flows so smoothly. Eva tells her story in her own words whereas Ruth's story is told in third person. 
  • The pace is flawless. There is nothing dramatic about it, yet it is compelling, hooking the reader to keep moving to find out what is going to happen next.
  • Loved the characters. Eva the Russian girl who just chanced into becoming a spy, Ruth placed in the modern way world, rubbishing the thought of a spy. 
  • The plot is so effortless and shows off the writer's panache in creating such a believable world.
What doesn't:
  • There was a portion in Ruth's life which left me a bit confused. Perhaps it was to set the comparison between hers and Eva's life. It stuck out a bit for me.
  •  The action in the story is very subtle and does not have the drama of a Bond film. No fancy chases. But I guess that is what made this such an enjoyable read.
Loved the book. A good, rollicking read.

Braided Ball

I have been knitting on and off for the last 6 years. However, all I managed to do is blankets for my kids: first as babies and scarves when they grew older. Now I decided to get a bit ambitious and explore other easy projects.

I came across this braided ball pattern on ravelry and loved the challenge. Apparently, it takes hours to make it (it took me days). Anyway, what I liked about this was that, it did not require expertise as much as logical application of how to place the strips so they don't look like a mess.

It was really an interesting challenge. The strips were regular stockinette stitch. I was not very good at it and the strips were a great practice. I used up my leftover yarn and working with so many colours felt therapeutic.

Here is the picture to give you the inspiration: 

I got the pattern from ravelry but this video really helped me get it right.

Cheryl's Brunette's video on how to get it right..was really helpful. Thanks Cheryl!