Tag Archives: England

“I Let You Go” by Clare Mackintosh

Pages: 371

Published: November 9, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

This book is fabulous.  I don’t usually gush about thrillers, but this one I just might!  The twists are what make this book so interesting, keeping you on the edge of your seat.  I listened to the audible version and loved it.  I thought the two narrators, Nicola Barber and Steven Crossley, did an incredible job, each very compelling in their roles.  The characters in this novel are all so well developed that you quickly begin developing feelings about them, both good and bad.

This is a police thriller.  The novel starts out with a mother walking home with her 5 year old son, Jacob, on a rainy afternoon after school. As he runs ahead of her to cross the street to their home,  a car comes speeding around the corner striking and killing the boy on impact.  The grief-stricken mother does not get a good look at the driver because of the heavy rainfall and the driver backs up, turns around, speeding away.   She withdraws into her own guilt, stating she only let go for a second.

Ray and Kate are two detectives involved in investigating this case.  During their investigation they become uncomfortably close, despite the fact that Ray is married.  Because he and Kate spend so much time together, he finds himself talking to Kate more easily about problems at home and with his children than he does with his wife.

Jenna Gray is so upset because in her mind she is guilty of the murder of her son.  She keeps thinking, “I let you go.”  She runs away escaping to Wales, dropping her cell phone in a puddle, renting out a small cottage, retreating into solitude. One day she rescues a dog that’s been tossed to the side of the road in a bag with another that has already died.  She takes it to the local vet, Patrick, who convinces her to keep the dog, whom she names Beau.  She and Patrick begin spending more time with each other.  It seems she is slowly beginning to recover from her trauma.  She is trusting herself more, developing affection for Patrick, and finding joy in her photography.  It is all interrupted by a knock on the door by Ray and Kate.  Thus ends Part 1 and begins Part 2, which I cannot say anything about without giving away too much.

The novel moves swiftly from there.  It is cunning, well-written and superbly crafted, such that this twist will take your breath away wondering how it could be, how you could have gotten it wrong.  It’s a compelling, thrilling, thoroughly enjoyable book!  I highly recommend it.  

 

Penfach is a fictionalized Welsh town on the lower Gower Peninsula

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Discussion Questions:

  1.  What did you expect was going on with Ray and Mag’s son?  Were you surprised at the truth?
  2. When Jenna Gray is narrating in Part one, did you think she was the mother of the 5 year old boy, the murderer or someone else?  I was certain she was the mother of the 5 year old boy.  What clues were present that would have told us this was not the case?
  3. Compare and contrast the relationship Ray has with Mags to that he has with Kate.  What is it about Kate that appeals to Ray?
  4. Which characters do the words “I let you go” apply to?  Explain.
  5. Discuss Jenna’s mental state when she is living in Wales.  She is fearful of people, experiencing nightmares, and does not trust herself to make decisions.  How did you interpret this when you thought she was the mother of the 5 year old boys?  How do you interpret this knowing who she is?
  6. Why do you think Jenna yearns so much for solitude?
  7. Why do you think Jenna finds relief in being accused of murder?
  8. Discuss the reaction of the villagers in Penfach to Jenna’s arrest.
  9. Discuss the relationship between Eve and Jenna.  What has driven them apart and what brings them back together?
  10. We never found out what happened to Marie, Ian’s previous significant other.  Do you think she made it out alive?  What do you suppose happened to her?
  11. What do you make of the epilogue?  Is Ian still alive or is it only the memory of domestic abuse that will never die?
  12. How do you imagine Jenna’s future unfolds?

Clare Mackintosh’s website

Fellow Blogger, Novel Gossip’s Review

Review by “The Bookworm’s Fantasy” Blog

“The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman

2213661Pages:  312

Published: September 30, 2008

Literary Awards:  Hugo Award for Best Novel (2009), Newbery Medal (2009), Locus Award for Best Young Adult Novel (2009), World Fantasy Award Nominee for Best Novel (2009), Mythopoeic Fantasy Award Nominee for Children’s Literature (2009), Audie Award for Audiobook of the Year (2009), Michigan Library Association Thumbs Up! Award Nominee (2009), Indies Choice Book Award for Best Indie Young Adult Buzz Book (Fiction): (2009), Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award (ALAN/NCTE) Nominee (2009), British Fantasy Award Nominee for Best Novel (2009), Cybils Award for Middle Grade Fantasy & Science Fiction (2008), Carnegie Medal (2010), Elizabeth Burr / Worzalla Award (2009)

“It takes a graveyard to raise a child.”

I picked this up to listen to on a car trip with my children.  I think my young children were scared or turned off by the no frills triple murder with which the novel begins.  I, however, was enthralled and could not wait to listen to it each time I got into my car.   I’ve read Neil Gaiman’s “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” previously and fell in love with his brilliant writing style then.   I was hoping to share that experience with my children…  Maybe in a few years.   Having this book read by the author himself was pure delight.  His English accent and the manner in which he was able to do different voices for the various characters really brought the story to life.  I realized after the fact that there are actually two versions of this audible book.  I listened to the one with Neil Gaiman as the sole narrator, but there is another one with a full cast of narrators.

The storyline itself is enchanting.  I was mesmerized!  I felt my skin prickle in anticipation of what was coming next.  The characters were fabulous.  The plot is complex, yet everything came full circle throughout the novel.  It is a huge puzzle in which all the pieces had just the right fit.  Every bit of this novel is delicious perfection.  It is a brilliant, magical, dreamy, fantastical world and everyone should read or listen to this.  As you can see from all the awards this novel has won, I am not alone in feeling this way!  images

 

Lit lovers Discussion Guide

Harper Collins Reading Group Guide

Reproducible Study Guide for the book – meant for teaching purposes

 

 

 

 

“The Summer Before the War” by Helen Simonson

25776122

Pages:  496

Expected Publication:  March 22, 2016

 

 

 

 

This historical fiction novel is set in the idyllic countryside of Rye the summer before England enters WW1.  It begins as a comedy of manners as Beatrice Nash arrives at the home of Agatha and John Kent to be the new Latin teacher in Rye.  Agatha’s nephews are there for the summer as well and there develops a romantic interest between Beatrice who has decided not to marry and one of the nephews who had planned on proposing to another woman.  The social milieu of the time is explored throughout this book.   The book explores society’s reaction to divorce, upward mobility, women’s rights, homosexuality, pregnancy outside of marriage (even if the result of rape).    The scope of this book is large.   The reader gets to know the Kents, their nephews, and Beatrice intimately through this novel, as well as their closest friends and associates.  You learn how the politics and society are deeply entangled in the way the town functions and decisions are made.

All plans for the future are turned on their head with the start of the war, however.  First, refugees from Belgium arrive and are taken in by various residents of Rye.  After getting to know and love so many young people in this idyllic setting, the young men begin going off to war.  Some are injured, some are killed; all are affected by the war in different ways.  People come together in ways they wouldn’t have pre-war.  You watch the social fabric and rules start to change in subtle ways.  There is a dramatic shift from prewar to wartime notable in the pace of events.  The speech even changes from verbose to succinct.  As Daniel says to Hugh, “War makes our needs so much smaller.  In ordinary life, I never understood how much pleasure it gives me to see you.”  The characters realize more than ever, through war, what and who is most important to them.

I loved the characters, the hilarity of the social scenes, the budding romance between Hugh and Beatrice.  I loved the social banter, the eloquent wordy ways in which they would argue and criticise each other, especially pre-war.  The characters were very well developed such that I truly cared about them, who they ended up with, and how they fared.  I thought that the contrast between the pre-war scenes and after war was declared very well done.  The final reveal in the epilogue was something I had been wondering the entire book, and I was glad that that piece finally came to light.  I gave this novel  images-2  for a brilliantly written, enjoyable novel complete with family drama, societal etiquette,  romance, and major societal commentaries on the values held by the people in England at the time.

My favorite laugh-out-loud scene in the book is when Agatha Kent and Beatrice Nash are naked sunbathing in Agatha’s garden the morning following Beatrice’s arrival in Rye.

East_Sussex_Map

 

Map of East Sussex, where Rye is

 

 

 

Map_Europe_alliances_1914-en.svg

 

Map demonstrating the military alliances of the time

 

 

Discussion Questions:

  1.  Who was your favorite character and why?
  2. Why did you think Agatha Kent favored Daniel over Hugh?  Did this change after reading the epilogue?
  3. How would you describe Daniel’s relationship with Craigmore?
  4. Why does Lord North dislike Daniel?
  5. How would you describe Hugh’s relationship with Lucy Ramsey?
  6. Is the role of social class and standing more or less important in this novel than it is in modern day England?
  7. How would you describe Snout?
  8. Why did the school not want Snout to take the Latin examinations?
  9. Why do you think the Marbely’s felt that Beatrice needed someone to overlook her finances?
  10. What was the common view of the suffragettes?
  11. How does Agatha Kent wield power in this novel?
  12. What are the accepted roles of women in this novel?
  13. Why do you suppose that Celeste’s father sacrificed her to the Germans that were burning their city?
  14. What is the real reason that the German nanny is sent to America?
  15. What is your opinion of Mr. Tillingham?

 

Helen Simonson’s website

New York Times Review

Lit Lover’s Discussion Guide