If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie
Five words from the blurb: never, outside, mother, anxiety, freedom
If I Fall, If I Die had an amazing beginning – the observations of Will, a child living with an agoraphobic mother, were perfectly captured and the claustrophobic atmosphere was built up beautifully. Unfortunately it all seemed to fall apart when Will ventured outside. The other characters weren’t as strong and the plot meandered too much.
Michael Christie does a fantastic job of capturing the anxiety and emotion of mental illness, and this book might be worth reading for these aspects alone, but don’t go into it looking for a compelling plot.
Esperanza Street by Niyati Keni
Five words from the blurb: Philippines, destruction, community, houseboy, choices
Esperanza Street is another book with a great start, but a disappointing middle/end. The novel opens with eight-year-old Joseph beginning work as a houseboy in Puerto, a coastal town in the Philippines. I immediately bonded with Joseph and loved learning about his difficult life. As the book progressed a large number of other characters were added. I found it difficult to keep up with them all and I failed to form an emotional connection to them. This detachment meant that I began to notice other problems with the book. There was a lack of atmosphere and I didn’t feel any real passion for the country. I later learnt that the author isn’t from the Philippines and wonder if this is the reason that the book isn’t as culturally rich as I’d hoped?
Overall this book had some good scenes, especially towards the beginning, but the rest fell a bit flat for me.
The Sweetest Thing by Fiona Shaw
Five words from this blurb: Victorian, York, factory, asylum, gentleman
I bought The Sweetest Thing because a quote on the front compared it to Sarah Waters. It is also set in York – a city I know well. Unfortunately this book isn’t in the same league as Fingersmith – it is much lighter and doesn’t contain the atmosphere of a book written by Sarah Waters. If you’re after a simple piece of historical fiction that zips along then you’ll probably love this one, but I prefer the characters to have more depth. After about 100 pages I decided that I didn’t care what was happening and so abandoned it.