The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh

The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh

The Lemon Grove by Helen WalshHelen Walsh’s The Lemon Grove is an absorbing tale of desire and passion amongst the exotic setting of Deia in Mallorca. Jenn is on holiday with husband Gregg and his daughter Emma, but their ritual of holidaying at Deia every year with just the three of them is about to be ruined when Emma insists that her new boyfriend Nathan must join them. Jenn and Gregg have never met Nathan before, but as soon as Jenn sets eyes on him she feels a spark and attraction there that she feels is reciprocated. Set over the course of a week, the novel follows Jenn’s relationship with Nathan as it grows dangerously sexual, and her changing connection with her husband and step-daughter.

The novel is a great holiday read but sometimes I felt like it could have been written a bit better. Though the subject matter is quite serious, the story is nevertheless interesting and atmospheric, and made me dream of sunbathing on a Spanish island somewhere.

The theme of age is really prevalent throughout the novel. Jenn is preoccupied with her aging body and continuously compares herself to Emma, whilst the fact that Nathan is so young makes Jenn feel that the affair is more her fault than his, even though it takes two people to have an affair and Nathan is the one who, towards the beginning of the novel, initiates intimacy between them.

There are some really graphic scenes in the novel which serve to further emphasise the sordid relationship between Jenn and Nathan. Although Jenn feels lust and longing towards Nathan and wants to be around him, most of the time she just feels unhappy, guilty and disgusted with herself. Their sex scenes often seem rushed, enveloped in the seediness of an affair with her step-daughter’s boyfriend.

Jenn is a tricky character to work out. She seems to really love Emma and wants what is best for her, as she has raised her from a young age, but also envies her. Her husband Gregg seems a really nice man but can seem irritatingly self-important. I felt sorry for Jenn at times but overall felt that she was very naive and rash; she must have realised that she couldn’t get away with sleeping with Nathan but she does it anyway, and you wonder how much she can really care about her family if she repeatedly breaches their trust in this way.

I don’t feel that Walsh writes amazingly throughout but despite this her description of the wealthy, exotic holiday destination jumps off the page. The Lemon Grove has many other themes that can be examined but I don’t want to reveal too much to those who haven’t read it.

I would recommend this novel to anyone who is looking for a beach read which makes you think a little and consider the un-relentless pull of youth.

Rating: 4/5

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The Missing Place by Sophie Littlefield

‘The Missing Place’ review

The Missing Place by Sophie Littlefield is an intriguing mystery story. It follows two women’s desperate search for their sons Paul and Taylor, who have gone missing whilst working away at the Oil Rigs in the remote town of Lawton. Weaving through North Dakota and encountering people of many different classes and occupations as they try to piece together what’s happened, the women’s story takes the reader to a different world to that which I am used to in England (or so I felt, anyway!)

The Missing Place by Sophie LittlefieldTold in a different way to the usual crime/ mystery novels, it’s narrated from the perspectives of three people only: the two mothers and another boy named T.L., which means that we don’t see any events from the police’s point of view. Because of this I felt that we get a more personal and emotionally charged story.

The two mothers have never met before and are very different- Colleen is from a rich family who smothered son Paul, whilst single mother Shay struggles by on her minimal wage and takes a more relaxed way of parenting Taylor- but both are united in their worry for their sons’ whereabouts and each have their own interesting qualities.

This novel really drew me in from the very beginning, when we are unaware of what level of danger the two boys could be in; it might just be that they’ve decided to run away, but as the story continues it becomes clear that Paul and Taylor could be in real trouble, and the fact that everyone seems afraid to speak to the two mothers only adds to the tension throughout. I feel that the way Colleen is so worried about what people might think of her son Paul, with his short temper and behavioural problems growing up, was really touching; it highlights the way people who are different are often judged which can only make the problem worse. You don’t know whether Paul has harmed Taylor and this doubt, which even Colleen has, about Paul is quite disconcerting as this is one of he main characters that the reader is supposed to be rooting for.

I really liked the way the author Sophie Littlefield writes, with a fast pace that still is descriptive enough when it needs to be. It’s never too dramatic or ridiculous and the storyline seems well researched and realistic. I never got bored whilst reading The Missing Place as it wasn’t too long or tedious, and the various twists kept me guessing throughout.

I really enjoyed this novel and definitely intend on reading other titles by Sophie Littlefield.

Rating: 4/5

Disclaimer: This novel was sent to me by review by the publisher in return for an honest review. The Missing Place is released in the UK on 14th October- you can pre-order it now on Amazon.

Hundred Year Old Man book cover

The Hundred Year Old Man… review

Hundred Year Old Man book cover
The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared
by Jonas Jonasson is a brilliant, interesting novel set in Sweden which tells the story of Allan Karlsson’s 100-year-long (and still going!) life.

There are two main narratives throughout the novel; one focuses on the present day Allan, who climbs out of the window at the old people’s home he lives in and goes on a trip across Sweden, and the other focuses on Allan’s past and travels around the world to the many countries he’s visited and people he’s met. Witty and entertaining, this is jam-packed story that shows the part he had to play throughout history and the famous people he’s encountered – from Stalin to President Truman, and many more!

It was interesting to read about Allan’s life and imagine what I would be like when I’m a lot older – Allan is a very spritely 100-year-old so I don’t know if I’d be climbing out of a window with ease when I’m that age though!

The writing flows well and the story moves at a fast pace so I never felt bored reading it; however there were a few points where I felt like Jonas Jonasson could have cut out some of the lengthy description. I am aware that this is a translation though (and it seems like a fantastic one at that!) so the description may have come across differently in the Swedish version.

This is admittedly a very far-fetched book, so be prepared to suspend your disbelief – but then that’s part of its charm! Those who like their novels more realistic might not enjoy this as much but, regardless of how realistic the novel is, I certainly hope I have the determination and spirit of Allan if I get to a hundred years old!

At just under 400 pages this is a nice length and there’s certainly lots going on. I particularly enjoyed the historical narrative as it provided a lot of amusement! Give this novel a go- it’s something a little different.

Rating: 4/5

Elizabeth is Missing – review!

Elizabeth is Missing book coverMaude is an 82 year old woman who is convinced her friend Elizabeth is missing (hence the title!). Although Maude lives on her own and is relatively physically fit for her age, she is suffering from dementia and the whereabouts of Elizabeth turns into quite an obsession for Maude. She narrates the story of her struggle to find her friend, and there are time slips which take the reader back to Maude’s childhood, which gives an interesting insight into post-world war 2 Britain and the effect it had on the nation.

Elizabeth is Missing is the first I’ve read where the protagonist/ narrator is suffering from dementia. It’s quite unique in this way, and gives the whole story a quite dreamlike, unsettling feel as you’re never quite sure if Maude is telling the truth or is unwittingly relaying a lie to readers. You really get a feel for what life must be like for people with dementia but the book doesn’t force it on you all the time – you are always aware that Maude has this illness but there are a lot of witty, heartwarming parts to the story that stops it being too depressing. However, I did feel really sorry for Maude throughout and there were parts that did make me feel really emotional as the reader tries to keep up with her jumbled mine and the confusing outside world.

“An ancient noise, like a fox bark, makes an attempt at the edges of my brain”

The story was also really effective at highlighting how hard the illness is on family members; although Maude’s daughter Helen gets frustrated and upset with her mother, you could see and imagine her frustration even though she loves her mum. It must be incredibly hard to deal with and I felt a lot of sympathy for her as well as Maude.

We soon realise that Maude seems to be confusing her friend’s alleged disappearance with that of her sister, who disappeared into thin air when Elizabeth was only 12. Things are all so confusing for her that she, and we as the reader, are not sure which facts relate to which story. This added some mystery which I really enjoyed and which was effectively the foundation for the novel. This is what really drew me in – I really enjoy anything with a touch of mystery!

I read Elizabeth is Missing in 2 sittings and really enjoyed it! I know this novel has had so much publicity as publishers were locked in a bidding war to have the rights to the story, and as Emma Healey’s first novel it is amazing how well it has done, but I wanted to see whether the book truly lives up to all the hype and I feel that really does!

It’s not a very long novel but it packs a punch nonetheless. Definitely recommended.

Rating: 4/5