My Review of the Lemon Grove… for what it’s worth

The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh

My score: 8/10, just for the ending alone.

I was lucky enough not to have noticed the hype surrounding this book, as it has been deemed as the “summer read of 2014” by some. So I went in with a pretty clean slate, at least before the book club..

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In short, I loved it. Read it. Now.

Embarrassingly I had only read around 40 pages before going to the first ever Underground Book Club (by Books on the Underground) to discuss The Lemon Grove and I felt very out of the loop. Despite knowing pretty much every aspect of the plot by the end of the evening, I still thought I’d give it a fair shot.

The basic story (and this is on the back of the book) is about a married woman who takes an unnatural fancy to the new boyfriend of her step daughter.

The book club members were shocked about all the sordid things that happen in this book. Perhaps because I was ready for this, I wasn’t too put out by it all (it’s only really in a couple of places that you wouldn’t want someone reading over your shoulder on the tube) but the thing that most distressed me was the lack of regret, guilt or care that the main character has in doing the things she does. At one point my heart lifted as she sobbed about her misgivings, but then a few hours later, off she went again! I found this quite unconvincing and I know I’m not alone on this. I felt that her character could have been more fleshed out at the start.

I’ll be honest I didn’t enjoy the book while I was reading it. It felt like the author was patronisingly leading us by the hand – like someone saying “and then I did that, and then we went there, and I felt like this”, and it felt quite immature. I got frustrated with this way of writing, not to mention the excessive detail about everyone’s appearance all the time.

Saying that, I was hooked and I hadn’t even noticed. I had a hundred pages to go when I opened it for the last time and that was that – I had to know what was going to happen. This was so strange as I didn’t even care for any of the characters!

When I reached the end, or what I should describe more accurately as “the point at which the author stopped telling us what was happening”, I felt like I had been slammed in the chest. I realised that the whole reason she was taking us so patronisingly by the hand was so that when we had been led to the end of the cliff, she would let go. And we would decide whether or not we should jump.

Book Review: Why I Loved The Shock Of The Fall

A Review of The Shock of the Fall, by Nathan Filer

I realise now that most readers discovered this book last year, which is when it was awarded the Costa award (whatever that means..). This book really is fantastic, a MUST READ. In this review, I will only give away as much as the blurb on the back of the book – which tells you right away that the narrator’s brother is dead.
 

I don’t want to go into what it’s about in detail, or what happens through the book, because that’s for you to find out. I simply want to talk about what grabbed me about it and why I was so taken with it. 

 
The novel reminded me a little of We’re All Completely Beside Ourselves, where I was constantly aware that there was something not being mentioned, like an elephant in the room. Throughout The Shock of the Fall there is a feeling of uneasiness, as if the narrator is unfurling as much of the story as you need  to know at that stage – and nothing more. The elephant in the room is the death of the narrator’s brother, which is so frequently touched upon but not discussed in detail – and as the reader, all you want to do is find out more. The narrator is clearly carrying a great deal of guilt, and until the last few pages this is left unexplained.
 
I am a big fan of the unreliable narrator. A narrator that you go along with up to the point you realise a few things he said don’t add up – and then you spend the rest of the book wondering what is true. I love the narrator of this book, because though he is not a likable character, he takes you through the story by basically grabbing your hand and pulling you in. At first, I was surprised at the directness of some of the language but as I continued it became my favourite part of the book. It really feels like the narrator is reaching out of the book, grabbing your attention and reeling you in. Like the fourth wall has been breached. I found this technique fascinating and I’d love to find more books that do this. At no point was I disappointed in this book – the end lived up to the build up, and it only got better and better.
 
I can’t quite believe it’s a first novel, what an amazing achievement. It’s funny, scary, intriguing and sad. This is the one book this year that has really grabbed my attention, and I had to read it from start to finish in one day. Watch out friends and family – this will be under the Christmas tree for you all this year! 
If you have read it, please let me know what you thought 🙂