Flash Reviews (16th January 2014)

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake – Aimee Bender ****

‘The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake’ by Aimee Bender

I had been looking forward to reading The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake for rather a long time, ever since I spotted its delicious title and striking cover design in Birmingham’s main branch of Waterstone’s just after its publication.  I read it whilst on holiday in France in December, and found its prose pure poetry.  Rose Edelstein, our protagonist, is in the third grade when she samples a lemon cake baked by her mother, and finds that thereafter, ‘Every food has a feeling’.  Rose can tell, just by nibbling a particular foodstuff, how its chef was feeling as they were making it.

Bender has created such a thoughtful novel, and I warmed to Rose and her family immediately.  She writes beautifully.  The narrative voice which she has crafted is both believable and flows wonderfully.  The way in which she has made use of all of the senses throughout is masterful, and it makes the entirety of the novel so very vivid.  Bender is an author whose works I shall actively seek out in future.  I sense that I have some real treats in store.

Purchase ‘The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake’ from The Book Depository

Clock Without Hands – Carson McCullers ***
I had been meaning to read Clock Without Hands for quite some time before I finally began to.  I kept picking it up and then not getting around to it.  It travelled with me to Menorca in September, where I got distracted by my Kindle and the use of a swimming pool, and it has been in my bag on several occasions since.  I took it to France on the same trip which I mentioned above, in the hope that I would finally get around to it.

I love McCullers’ writing.  The Heart is a Lonely Hunter is one of my favourite novels, dripping with beauty and emotion.  Clock Without Hands tells the story of J.T. Malone, a pharmacist living in a small town in Georgia, who is diagnosed with leukaemia.  He is given between a year and fifteen months to live.  From the start, the story which McCullers presents is quite engrossing, and she builds up sympathy for her protagonist immediately.  The racial disparities throughout are exemplified well, particularly towards the end of the novel.  Sadly, it did not feel as thoughtful or as thought-provoking as the other novels of hers which I’ve read to date.  I enjoyed it on the whole, and I felt that the ending was marvellous, but I doubt that it is a book which I will pick up again in a hurry.

Purchase ‘Clock Without Hands’ from The Book Depository

The House of Special Purpose – John Boyne ****
My boyfriend very kindly bought this for me as a congratulations present for reaching my 2012 reading target.  I was eager to start it, loving Russian history as much as I do.  As soon as I opened the first page, I was immediately immersed into the story.  The House of Special Purpose is based upon the last months of the lives of the Romanovs, the royal family who were cruelly murdered during the First Bolshevik Revolution in February 1917.  Alongside their story, Boyne has crafted a fictional narrator, and the mixture of both plots works so well.

The plot was appealing, and the characters were so well crafted.  As with all of Boyne’s novels, his scenes are vivid and his plots believable.  I love the way in which he is faultlessly able to insert his protagonists into some of the biggest events in history, often in quite unusual ways.  Here, a seventeen-year-old boy named Georgy is taken from his rural Russian village in order to protect Tsarevich Alexei, after one gracious act causes him to be seen as a hero.  This story runs concurrently alongside that of when Georgy has become old, and is losing his wife to cancer.  The entire plot was thoughtfully constructed, and I admire Boyne for treating the Romanovs with the utmost respect throughout.  I did not adore this novel as I did The Boy in The Striped Pyjamas, but as far as historical novels go, The House of Special Purpose is a great and gripping one.

Purchase ‘The House of Special Purpose’ from The Book Depository


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