Books in Brief: The Seed Collectors, Fates and Furies and Soil

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The Seed Collectors Source: Free review copy received from publisher

The Seed Collectors by Scarlett Thomas

Five words from the blurb: woman, love, struggles, seeds, parents

I’ve enjoyed many of Scarlett Thomas’ previous books (especially The End Of Mr. Y) so was looking forward to reading this one. Unfortunately it was a departure from her usual style and I didn’t enjoy it as much.

The blurb and the first page give the impression that this book is a horticultural fantasy novel involving walking trees and poisonous seeds. Unfortunately the truth is much more ordinary. This book is a family saga, charting the changing relationships between generations of one family. There were good sections, but overall I wasn’t impressed. There were too many characters, so I struggled to keep track of who was who, and didn’t care what happened to any of them. There was also a lot of sex, which didn’t seem to add anything to the story.

Overall, this book lacked the passion of her previous ones. I think she enjoys writing about psychology much more than horticulture.

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Fates and Furies Source: Free review copy received from publisher

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

Five words from the blurb: relationships, sides, marriage, envy, friends

I could almost copy and paste my review of The Seed Collectors here too – they share so many of the same problems! I’ve read all of Groff’s previous novels (my favourite is The Monsters of Templeton). She seems to be another of those authors whose skill as a writer is improving all the time, but at the expense of raw emotional passion.

This book is about long-term relationships, but I was so distanced from the characters that I failed to form any attachment to them. The descriptive passages were lovely, but there was no forward momentum and I became bored. I might have enjoyed it more if there had been less meandering, but I prefer Groff when she is writing emotional scenes.

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Soil  Source: Library

Soil by Jamie Kornegay

Five words from the blurb: Mississippi, flood, farm, body, ruined

Soil begins with wonderfully atmospheric descriptions of a man finding a corpse on his flooded Mississippi farm. Worried he might be blamed for the death, he attempts to hide the body. This turns out to be harder than expected!

The characters were all well-formed and I loved the initial tension. Unfortunately the plot began to flounder at the half-way stage – probably because the book was a bit too long. The emotions were all realistic and I could understand exactly why the characters reacted in their own bizarre ways. It developed into a gentler story of rural life/relationships than I expected, but it was an enjoyable read.

I was impressed by many sections in Soil and will seek out this author again in future.

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6 Comments

  1. Alex says:

    I think for readers there is little worse than being disappointed in a new book from an author whose work we have previously admired. I wish you a better experience in the forthcoming weeks.

    1. Jackie says:

      Alex, Yes, sadly it seems to be a very common occurrence for me – debuts are almost always the best :-)

  2. David says:

    I’ve seen a few lukewarm reviews of the Groff (particularly on our side of the Atlantic – the American press seem to have loved it) which is disappointing as I plan on reading it in the next couple of weeks. It is on the shortlist for the National Book Award and I’ve read or am in the process of reading the other four books on the list. I’ll pop back with my thoughts when I’ve read it.

    Oh, and off topic, but I see from your sidebar that you’ve read ‘The Mountain and the Valley’. Can’t wait for your review – I absolutely adored everything about that book.

    1. Jackie says:

      David, I’ll be interested to see what you make of the Groff. I suspect you’ll enjoy it more than I did – as you seem to appreciate great writing more than I do.

      Thanks for recommending ‘The Mountain and the Valley’ – I bought it on your recommendation and really enjoyed it. I’m writing the review at the moment so hopefully you won’t have to wait too long for it to appear :-)

  3. stacybuckeye says:

    Soil looks interesting. I love The Seed Collectors cover so it’s too bad it wasn’t as cool as that.

    1. Jackie says:

      Stacybuckeye, Yes, the cover is lovely. There should be more books about walking trees ;-)

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