Rebecca (Book) Review

I know, I know, it’s criminal in some respects that I hadn’t read this before last month. It boasts everything I hold dear in literature (Gothic landscapes, strong women, drama, murder, suspense) and yet somehow I just never got round to it. It’s the same with Jane Austen, I feel close to the subject matter but I’ve never actually read any of it (sue me). But when I saw this cover I was sold immediately and a lot of friends weighed in to confirm that this is their favourite book of all time. Well, it was clearly time to pick it up and give it a go.

And?

Well! It’s one of the best books of all time, isn’t it? While I thought I might be predicting quite a lot of what happened, I can’t be sure I haven’t seen an adaptation and forgotten about it in my 40 year life. But it was magnificent and delicious – and above all, relatable. In the sense that haven’t we all, particularly as women in a patriarchal world compared ourselves unfavourably to others a thousand times?

That our heroine, the unnamed narrator and new Mrs de Winter is living in the shadow of a perfect and lovable ghost is heartbreaking, who could possibly compete? Thankfully there is always more to the story than meets the eye and the tale that unravels is classic and cool as fuck.

82163
Vintage Rebecca cover

In case you’re like me and have been happily chilling under a rock all your life, a cheeky little synopsis for Rebecca:

Our narrator, a naive 20 something companion to a rich American lady meets wealthy widower Maximilian de Winter in Monte Carlo. Despite her lack of life experience, the two embark on a swift courtship that results in marriage. Our nameless heroine soon finds herself back in England, living on Maxim’s sprawling West Country estate Manderley and the phrase fish out of water has never rung truer. Haunted by the ghost (figuratively) of Maxim’s first wife, the breathtakingly beautiful Rebecca, the new Mrs de Winter spends her time wandering the estate, wondering if she’s made a massive mistake.

While Maxim isn’t cruel per se, he is often aloof and Mrs de Winter puts this down to him still being in love with his late wife, who drowned in a tragic boating accident only a year before. She might even be able to get on with it if i wasn’t for the deliberate cruelty of bitchy housekeeper Mrs Danvers (surely stiff competition for Nurse Ratched as baddest villainess of all time), who adored Rebecca and relishes every tiny dig.

But as mentioned above, things are not always as cut and dry as they seem and there is plenty more drama before the book is over. Rebecca is an impeccably crafted, paranoid love story that will make you furious on one hand and desperately sad on the other.

What I enjoyed most is that it gives us a heroine who is cut from a different cloth. She’s mousey, angsty and nothing special as far as she’s concerned and yet she has the steel to stay and fight for what she wants and women like that don’t get enough airtime. Her scenes with Mrs Danvers are stressful and every time Rebecca is mentioned by a staff member I wanted to scream – let it go people, she’s dead!

I think this is a book that will just keep giving, an annual revisit sounds like the most comforting thing I can think of and honestly, I enjoyed every word Daphne has set down for me. And lucky me, our local Picturehouse Cinema is showing Hitchcock’s adaptation on the big screen in a couple of months so I’ll be all over that like a rash.

12 (32)
Various covers for Rebecca, including the copy I have (middle)

Book details:

Rebecca
Publisher: Virago (16 July 2015)
ISBN-10: 0349006571
ISBN-13: 978-0349006574
Gifted paperback (new)

What are you currently reading?

The Woman in the Window (Book) Review

I read this book in tandem with my friend Heather and it was so much fun. We both raced through it in a couple of days and compared notes as we went. This book is impossible to put down, something authors are always quoted as saying for the cover of novels but in this case it’s true.

Anna Fox is a shut in who hasn’t left her home for ten solid months. Currently living alone, Anna moves dreamily from room to room within her own safe haven, only stopping to overdose on old Hollywood movies and to watch her neighbours through the window.

When she’s feeling up to it, she also offers her support to people like her on an online forum for agoraphobics. As a former child psychologist, she knows what she’s talking about. Sadly Anna is too haunted by her own past and mistakes to be any good at taking her own advice.

When a new family moves in across the way, Anna becomes infatuated with their day-to-day movements. But when she witnesses something earth-shattering her life is tipped all the way over and she must fight to prove she’s not a crazy bitch making shit up.

I really enjoyed the character of Anna and felt desperately sorry for her at times. Trapped in her own home there’s not a lot of freedom for our protagonist but she’s a goddamn fighter. The concept of the bat shit woman imagining things is not a new one but I feel as though the pace and plotting of this novel lifts it above the rest. The prose is beautiful and the characterisation well padded.

My sympathy is with Anna and her family and even though I thought I could see it all coming, it kept me guessing until the end. As an avid curtain twitcher myself, I really appreciated the Rear Window-esque snooper in Anna and her love of black and white noir doesn’t hurt either. It’s incredibly Hitchcockian and that can only ever be a good thing.

I strongly recommend this to anyone who loves a thriller.

Book details:

The Woman in the Window
Publisher: HarperCollins (25 Jan. 2018)
ISBN-10: 0008234159
ISBN-13: 978-0008234157
Gifted hardback (new)

What are you currently reading?

Such Small Hands (Book) Review

Putzel2

It would be very hard for me to go in too deep on this book because it’s very hard to define. It’s stunning though; macabre, fascinating and eery as hell.

Marina is seven and has just become an orphan, after her parents are killed in a car accident. The same accident strips the skin from her ribs and leaves her body scarred for life. Her personal mantra has become “My father died instantly, my mother in the hospital” and she wheels it out whenever she’s asked to tell her story.

In the hospital, Marina is given a small spooky doll by the doctors and it becomes her constant companion, her confidante.

One day she arrives at the orphanage and creates a ripple amongst the little girls who already live there (less a ripple more a tidal wave, honestly). The girls’ obsession and their love for Marina while pure, isn’t always kind and they torture her daily with their teasing, their silence and their tricks. They steal her doll and deliver it back to her body part by body part, and bury what’s left in the ground.

But at night, everything is different. At night they play Marina’s game.

Based on a terrifying real-life event, Such Small Hands is a poetic horror story molded from the most beautiful prose I’ve read in a long time. It’s nightmarish and pretty at the same time, like some of the most appealing things in life and I couldn’t recommend it more. I hope it leaves you as breathless and creeped out as it did me.

12 (8)

Book details:

Such Small Hands
Publisher: Portobello Books Ltd (3 Aug. 2017)
ISBN-10: 1846276438
ISBN-13: 978-1846276439
Gifted hardback (new)

What are you currently reading?

Kudos to Andrés Barba for his amazing author photo. Look at it! (above).

Misery (Book) Review

Putzel (80)

“She can’t be dead, MISERY CHASTAIN CANNOT BE DEAD!” ~ Annie Wilkes

The latest in my long overdue Stephen King Odyssey and one of the best so far.

When I shared that I was reading this on social media, some of my friends popped up to say how brilliant it is, even in comparison to the film – and they weren’t wrong. The adaptation is great and although it’s been a while since I saw it, I don’t remember it being as tense as the book. I guess your imagination will do that to you and it must be hard to capture the inner workings of a trapped man’s mind on film (even if the film is still terrifying, don’t get me wrong).

Misery is, of course, the story of how famous novelist Paul Sheldon comes to live in the home of ex-nurse Annie Wilkes, seriously injured and against his will.

Following a nasty car accident one snowy night in Colorado, Paul is rescued from the wreckage and dragged back to Annie’s where she nurses him back to consciousness. While there is nothing conventional about this set up, Annie’s former career affords her the skill to keep Paul alive and his pain (mostly) at bay.

Though Paul distrusts spooky Annie from the get-go, he reluctantly becomes dependent on her particular brand of health care, not to mention the very strong medication she has been plying him with. Did I mention that our very own Ms. Nightingale is also Paul’s “Number one fan”? What a coincidence, eh?

12 (6)

Nobody needs me to give away the rest of the story, since it’s a tale as old as time and if you haven’t read it, you totally should.

But Paul’s most famous fictional character, the titular Misery has just been killed off in his last novel.He’s keen to move onto new projects and put Misery to bed for good but when Annie finds out, she goes ape.

There’s only one thing for it as far as she’s concerned, and that’s to bring Misery back to life… I’ll leave the rest up to you.

I loved this book because it completely engulfs you, putting you in Paul’s shoes. Things could not be worse for him either. Not only is he a disabled prisoner aware of the expiry date above his head, he’s also being systematically tortured by the person who’s supposed to care for him. His only bargaining chip is his mind.

My only issue with the book is that I pictured James Caan as Paul Sheldon throughout and that was hard to shift. Further proof I let myself down as an adolescent by not reading more SK before watching the films.

Book details:

Misery
Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks (7 July 2011)
ISBN-10: 1444720716
ISBN-13: 978-1444720716
Bought paperback (new)

What are you currently reading?

Final Girls (Book) Review

I love me a Final Girl. The trope is one of my favourites, even though the rules of being a true FG could make your head spin clean off your neck.

Someone who hates the label though is Quincy Carpenter, the third survivor to join the infamous trio of the media dubbed Finals Girls. Comprised of Miss Carpenter (the amnesiac), Lisa Milner (the original) and Samantha Boyd (the enigma), this group of women share just one thing in common – they were all the last ones still standing after horrifying massacres.

Quincy is doing fine now, thank you very much. She’s moved on from the events of that night and even though there are massive chunks of memory missing, she’s faced her demons and come out the other side smiling. Now she’s a baking blogger in the big smoke with a handsome and supportive lawyer boyfriend and a nice home (paid for by insurance money from the deaths of all her friends, but still).

But are things as perfect as they seem? Given that this is a thriller I’m guessing we’re all here to witness the picture perfect world of our heroine unravel – and unravel it does.

When Lisa seemingly ends her own life one night, Quincy’s world is rocked – and it’s rocked even harder when Samantha Boyd turns up on her doorstep, fresh from a self-inflicted exile. And Samantha brings out a side of Quincy she never knew she had.

Is there more to Lisa’s suicide than meets the eye though – and what about the volatile Ms Boyd? Where’s she been and what’s she been doing with her life since she fought so hard for it all those years ago?

I will say that even though I enjoyed the premise of this story and the setting of Pine Cottage  (described to us in flashback), it was very predictable. I am the worst plot-guessing person on this planet and hardly ever figure out an ending before it’s presented to me, so it says a lot that I clocked it from almost the beginning. Go me. 

I could have described exactly the very last scene to you too so I think that says a lot. But, it’s still enjoyable, particularly if you have an interest in classic horror scenarios. The massacres take place in quite traditional horror movie settings and although the book is descriptive, it is not gratuitous. It tries to go deeper into the psychology of surviving an ordeal like these women have and I liked that.

It just could, and should have been so much better.

Book details:

Final Girls
Publisher: Ebury Press (Fiction) (13 July 2017)
ISBN-10: 1785034022
ISBN-13: 978-1785034022
Bought hardback (new)

What are you currently reading?

Winter Reading List ❄️

Putzel (4)

I didn’t do so badly with my Autumn Reading List, crossing off all but one of the books I’d planned to read.

I’ve been reviewing them where I can on the #onewomanbookclub tag (which you can access via the menu up there at the top, if you wish). And now it’s Winter and that means I’m even less inclined to leave the confines of my cosy, messy flat unless I absolutely have to – perfect reading conditions.

Here are the books I’m planning to devour over the next few months. You might notice a theme:

Little Deaths

I’m a few chapters in and this already has me hooked. I bought this because I thought it was the next book by The Girls author Emma Cline. It’s not, and I’m an idiot but it was a happy accident as this is written beautifully and has a sheen of mystique to it that I so far love.

Oh, the synopsis? Ruth Malone is an attractive single mother of two kids who go missing one day in 1965. When the police make a horrifying discovery, all eyes point to the woman in charge of their care – and her provocative appearance and ‘questionable” lifestyle do not go in her favour.

Because of course they don’t.

The Devotion of Suspect X

This book had me at ‘The Japanese Stieg Larsson’ tbh. Which is one of the taglines printed on the cover. I didn’t even look deeply into what it was about, just clicked buy and here we are.

For those interested this is Amazon’s synopsis, in a nutshell:

Yasuko lives a quiet life, working in a Tokyo bento shop, a good mother to her only child. But when her ex-husband appears at her door without warning one day, her comfortable world is shattered.

It’s well rated and it’s been compared to one of my favourite authors so I doubt I’ll be disappointed. I’m a massive fan of Asian cinema (mainly Korean) so I’m expecting to be blown away. No pressure, Mr Higashino.

Final Girls

I’m cheating a little bit by including this on the list as I’ve just finished it. I thought it was worth a mention anyway. I’m intrigued always by the concept of the Final Girl and this takes that a little bit further by offering us three real life versions.

When the original FG, Lisa seemingly kills herself, it’s up to her fellow club members to find out what the fudge happened, and why. Given that our main FG, Quincy Carpenter has a massive hole in her own memories of that night at Pine Cottage… she might already have more than her fair share to contend with.

I think I’m going to review this in a couple of days so you can find out if I like it or not. Spoiler alert – it was okay.

Alex

This was passed on to me by my lovely friend Alice and I can’t wait to get stuck in. She handed me a pile of horrid sounding thrillers which is both amazing and a little disconcerting. The comfort I get from reading/watching horror/thrillers is hard to explain and sometimes feels like my dirty little secret so when someone else just gets it, it is amazing but odd.

Amazon’s synopsis:

Alex Prévost – kidnapped, beaten, suspended from the ceiling of an abandoned warehouse in a wooden cage – is in no position to bargain. Her abductor’s only desire is to watch her die.

Doesn’t sound like a walk in the park now, does it?

Six Four

Another Japanese crime thriller that is meant to be unique and fantastic. I couldn’t be more in. Again, I haven’t really done too much digging about this one but I am expecting to be impressed.

Amazon’s synopsis:

For five days in January 1989, the parents of a seven-year-old Tokyo schoolgirl sat and listened to the demands of their daughter’s kidnapper. They would never learn his identity. They would never see their daughter again.

The Roanoke Girls

Sometimes, when I see a book has been recommended by the Richard and Judy Book Club it makes me want to avoid it. But this looks too good to pass up. Another book about family secrets and mysterious girls – delicious.

Amazon’s synopsis:

The girls of the Roanoke family – beautiful, rich, mysterious – seem to have it all. But there’s a dark truth about them that’s never spoken.

Ooooooooooooooh!

Under the Skin

Last but not least, a book I’ve been intending to pick up for a long time, even before I saw the deeply weird film versionWhat Page Are You On mentioned it in their episode about book to film adaptations and I took from that that this is far more accessible than the Scarlett Johansson starring movie (which I loved but found very hard going).

I’m not a massive sci-fi nerd really (besides Star Wars) but I think the earthly setting and seductiveness of main character Isserley will keep me gripped. Here’s hoping.

What are you guys reading? Let me know!

The King & I

565656

I didn’t grow up with Stephen King, which seems odd to me now. I liked horror alright but I just never got around to plundering SK’s catalogue. In place of his classics I was all over Judy Bloom, Jilly Cooper and Jackie Collins.

I guess I was a precocious kid in my reading tastes, I like the feeling of being more adult than my years, even if I didn’t understand most of it. I loved Dean Koontz too and the Sweet Valley High series (you can decide which is scarier).

In some ways I’m sad I don’t share the same nostalgic feelings my loved ones have for his stories but I’m in the happy position of having an awful lot of material to work through now. In the last few years I’ve done: The Shining and Doctor Sleep. Needful Things and Rose Madder.

More recently, the mammoth IT and Carrie. Next on my list is Mr. Mercedes. I’ve also got On Writing waiting for me on the shelf. It’s safe to say then that, along with the rest of the world who can’t get enough of his adaptations this year, I am very much into The King.

His books aren’t without criticism and he has written characters unflatteringly, AKA fat. See Carrie, her mother Mrs White, one of the kids’ mums in IT – more. Fat isn’t a problem as a descriptor obviously but there’s a way to do it. As I read more of his books I’m sure I will uncover more comments of this nature.

So King can be problematic (certainly for the fatphobia) but I love him. He’s such a compelling writer who taps into something deeper. Yes, it’s part nostalgia for the children we were, sometimes it’s guilt, hope, terror – magic. I don’t know if you can pinpoint exactly what it is about Stephen, all I know is that is one of the most satisfying relationships I’ve ever known. He’s part of me now and I’m so happy to have found him.

Which Stephen King stories are your favourite? 🎃🍂👻🍁🔪