Category Archives: Book Reviews

My Brilliant Friend – Elena Ferrante

It seems ironic that an author who is intent on remaining, not anonymous, but ‘absent‘ from her work has fuelled an intense wave of publicity on her very absence. But we live in a world where people thrive on the opportunity to reveal identities. We love it. We want to unite against bullying, raising money for a dancing man, generating a self-perpetuating hype that extends far beyond the original act. We crave the moment where a face is put to a name with the intensity of a criminal pursuit. As a book publicist, there’s always been something unsettling about my purpose. No journalist intends to write a piece on the content of a book alone, they reach out for interesting back stories: ‘has your author suffered an unusual trauma and been inspired to write as a result?’ ‘Does your author have a nice house we can photograph for our interiors page?’ It is unimaginably difficult for a book to be read on merit alone, so I find it admirable when an individual separates herself from her work, taking control over the desperate clawing for personal information and revealing only what is necessary. This person is Elena Ferrante.

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The point is, you do not need to know Ferrante’s entire history to appreciate that she is one of the finest novelists you will ever read. This woman (though some say man), has crafted the most intensely beautiful bildungsroman which has been split into four to form the Neapolitan Novels. I am drawing to the close of the third, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay having been unable to truly commit to another book since beginning the tale of two young girls in 1950s Naples, and the fourth will be published in English this September. The story starts in My Brilliant Friend and if you’re looking for something to read – make it this.

Continue reading My Brilliant Friend – Elena Ferrante

The Girl on a Train

Happy International Women’s Day!

I hope you are having a great weekend. Monday is coming around too quickly for my liking and seems to be bringing grey weather with it just to top off that bundle of joy… But let’s move on from that, shall we?

9780857522313My working week underwent a major change in 2015 when I decided that instead of living across the road from the office in Harpenden (approx 20 second commute), I would rather live in London and commit to a significantly lengthier journey of a 30 min walk, a 25 min train ride and another 20 min walk. And yes, you guessed it, do it all again in reverse at the end of the day. That’s almost THREE hours of my day spent travelling (and don’t get me started on the expense). But that’s also a good 50 minutes of reading time – let’s be optimistic. So when The Girl on the Train was published this January, I knew I had to get my hands on it. One cannot turn down such an apt book to while away train time, especially when it’s billed as the next Gone Girl. Nothing beats a great thriller as you join the masses rocking gently to the rhythm of the locomotive… Continue reading The Girl on a Train

Mrs. Hemingway – Naomi Wood

Happy weekend one and all!

Can you believe that we are almost at the end of January? For some that may be cause for celebration, but I have to say, January’s been pretty good to me this year. Granted, I have my birthday halfway through the month so you can’t go too far wrong with surprises and cake, but aside from that, it’s been an enjoyable time of year! I am ashamed, however, that this is my very first book review of 2015. This is not to say I haven’t been reading, oh no. I’ve devoured many books and cannot wait to share my thoughts with you on A Place Called WinterHold The Dark and Girl on the Train. All recommended reads. But reviewing takes a lot of time – you need to reflect on the story absorbed, consider its depth, impact and your overall opinion before any writing even takes place. I appreciate this is me just making excuses but forgive me, please. My February resolution is to be better. And I hope Perks will be back with some thoughts too!

mrs-hemingway-9781447226888_1 Continue reading Mrs. Hemingway – Naomi Wood

Christmas = Cooking. Here are the books you NEED. [Part One]

 

Happy Christmas one and all!

I hope you are all having a marvellous time filled with sparkling festivities and recovering from the scrumptious indulgences of Christmas day.

The family LOVES Christmas!
The family LOVES Christmas!

I’m raring to go for another afternoon filled with overflowing plates and bottomless glasses to properly get into the spirit of things, but seeing as it is Boxing Day and the shops were teeming with bargain-hunters, I thought it would be a good time to bring your attention to some of the best titles that you need to get in your kitchen, if Santa hasn’t delivered them already…

First, I need to say a huge Christmas thank you to Anna and Catherine of Vintage and Michael Joseph who sent over a selection of their finest cookery books of the year and which I am very excited to share with you. Thank you both! Continue reading Christmas = Cooking. Here are the books you NEED. [Part One]

Books are OBVIOUSLY the #GreatestGift

I’m going to offer a simple, if controversial, equation for the meaning of Christmas.

Christmas = indulgence

Don’t look at me in horror. I completely agree that Christmas is a time for giving, reflection, gratitude and all that warm fuzzy goodness. But let’s face facts. The festive season is also a time for stuffing our faces with rich, gorgeous food, guzzling all the fizz, donning our finest garb and swanning away from the office, happily thinking, ‘oooh ’tis the season, go on, let’s treat ourselves‘ (again and again and again…) Continue reading Books are OBVIOUSLY the #GreatestGift

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour – Joshua Ferris

I think this post should start with an apology. We have reached the morning of the Man Booker shortlist announcement with a mere two longlist reviews on the blog. I agree. Disappointing. I have tried to make up for this with inspiring baking recipes and cool literary products out there, but sometimes, all you want to see is a book review. I understand. So please do accept my heartfelt apology. I know you haven’t heard from Perks in a while either. She’s still with us, but has been incredibly busy too – I’m sure she’ll explain when she returns soon!

In a last ditch effort to redeem myself, I’m sneaking in another review before the announcement. This weekend, I finished Joshua Ferris’ To Rise Again at a Decent Hour – Ferris’ third novel that is billed to:

‘cut to the very heart of modern existence: the meaning of life, the certainty of death and the importance of good oral hygiene’39.Joshua Ferris-To Rise Again At A Decent Hour cover

Continue reading To Rise Again at a Decent Hour – Joshua Ferris

Us – David Nicholls

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And so, the long awaited day dawned of the announcement of the Man Booker longlist. I say long awaited – long awaited mainly by those who work in literary publishing and by those who seem to eagerly wait 365 days to complain about it. It dawned two hours earlier for me in fact, as I was in a holiday villa on the coast of Turkey at the time. The world of publishing for once seemed a distant dream, and reading the longlist by an azure pool it was a challenge to pull myself back to those daily realms of literary fiction. Books never let you get away that easily of course. I had stuffed my suitcase with the novels I had missed out on over the past few months (being an editorial assistant leaves a scarily slim amount of time in which to read outside of your own list I have found!). I had also given one very special book to the long suffering boyfriend to carry in his hand luggage, because as I very clearly explained to him as he staggered through security, as there was NO WAY I was letting a proof of David Nicholls’ Us go in the HOLD.

So imagine my delight that unwittingly, I had brought my first longlist candidate on holiday with me – the much anticipated follow up to the literary sensation that was One Day.

Continue reading Us – David Nicholls

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler

 POTENTIAL SPOILERS (THOUGH I PERSONALLY DON’T THINK THERE ARE ANY….)

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On this day, only 3 months ago, we celebrated the launch of Franny & Perks and already we have filled the blog with almost 20 book reviews, 8 bookish event round-ups, a few delicious recipes and even some recommendations on things to see in London (watch this page tomorrow as Franny’s heading to the dizzy heights of Duck & Waffle where she’ll report on her midnight skyscraper experience). So this seems like the right moment to launch our Man Booker 2014 Longlist Challenge. This summer, we will be bringing you our honest reviews of each of the Man Booker titles and will round it off with a special Man Booker longlist summary (for those who may not have found the time yet but want to look well-informed… we’ve been there) and also a shortlist prediction feature! It’s going to be a busy August but challenge accepted. Continue reading We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler

Her – Harriet Lane

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It has come to my attention that this blog has a distinct lack of psychological thrillers within its review pages. Her is a fantastic example of the genre, building the layers of suspense over a ground work of female jealousy and domestic minutiae in an engaging and tense read, leaving us guessing until the very end.

Two women living in one of London’s wealthier suburbs. One of them recognises the other immediately, while the second has no recollection of her new friend. The book flits between Nina and Emma’s POV on each chapter, giving us an entirely different depiction of the same events. Nina appears like a guardian angel to Emma, being a collected woman with a wealthier income and a respectable job as a painter. Emma’s life is a mess of enforced domesticity as she raises her two young children without hopes of ever going back to the television career she once loved. Nina, however, has her own reasons for appearing suddenly in Emma’s world, for motives that are slowly revealed to us as her immersion in Emma’s lonely existence begins to be total.

Continue reading Her – Harriet Lane

The Miniaturist – Jessie Burton

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Picador are on fire and it seems like they can do no wrong. They are publishing the work of some of the finest contemporary literary writers of the year and with each new announcement, my wish list grows ever longer. We all know that I was crazy about Burial Rites (let alone Hannah Kent) and I am getting excited for the release of Station Eleven having contributed to the unbelievable hype that has surrounded it. But not only are these books intelligent, captivating and thought-provoking, they are also beautiful objects to own. If you check out some of their latest titles you’ll see that each one has been designed thoughtfully, creatively and with the end-user in mind.

But none more so than the cover for The Miniaturist.

Courtesy of @picadorbooks
Courtesy of @picadorbooks

Continue reading The Miniaturist – Jessie Burton