2012 Chick Lit

The War of the Wives by Tamar Cohen

The War of the Wives

Five words from the blurb: married, husband, dead, wives, battle

I was sent a copy of this book by its publisher, but it was a review from Leeswammes Blog that pushed it straight to the top of my reading pile. I’m really pleased that Judith enthused about this book as it was an entertaining read.

The War of the Wives is narrated by two women who discover that they were both married to the same man when they attend their husband’s funeral. Distraught with grief and betrayal, the women must adapt to a life where most of what they previously believed to be true is a lie.

Trapped indoors I lug my rage around like one of those strap-on bellies designed to show men how pregnancy feels. But equally I’m too ashamed to go out. Imagine how people will laugh! There she is, the woman whose husband was married to someone else. What an idiot she must be.

The two women are very different. Selina is rich and thinks nothing of buying expensive flights to Florence to enjoy time in their second home; whilst Lottie struggles to buy everything she needs for her small flat in London. Their personalities clash and neither can believe that their husband could enjoy spending time with the other.

The War of the Wives is one of the most modern books I’ve ever read. It effortlessly manages to include Skype, Facebook and Twitter in a realistic and compelling manner. The short chapters and the continual switching of narrator led to a fast paced read that engaged me throughout.

This book isn’t without faults. The characters, especially the peripheral ones, weren’t fully developed and were often flat. And despite only being published one month ago some aspects of the book were already out of date – some comments, especially about London hosting the Olympics, felt wrong now that the Games have been such a success. The plot was also quite implausible, but I didn’t mind as I was entertained throughout.

Overall this was an enjoyable book that highlighted differences in personality. Perfect for when you need a light, fast paced read.


The thoughts of other bloggers:

…at times droll and darkly humorous, at others deeply emotional and tragic. The Little Reader Library

I was unconvinced by the ending; the revelation was too brutal and sudden. Reading with Tea

I was very impressed with this second novel, I enjoyed it just as much as her first book. Random Things Through My Letterbox


2010 2011 Books in Translation Chick Lit Mystery

Rendezvous – Esther Verhoef

Rendezvous Translated from the Dutch by Alexander Smith

Five words from the blurb: mother, life, unravels, tension, twists

Iris is holding A Month of Dutch Literature on her blog. I wanted to join in, but had nothing to hand. I then spotted this book in a little independent book shop and was drawn towards the following sentence in the blurb:

Rendezvous is an emotional rollercoaster from start to finish and an extremely powerful story about how dangerous getting what you want can be.

That is a bit of an exaggeration, but it was a gripping read with some degree of emotional tension throughout.

The book begins with Simone, a young mother, being arrested. Over the course of the book we see how she goes from being a caring wife and mother, to being at risk of losing everything.

Simone and her family move from Holland to a rural village in the south of France. They have to cope with living in the confines of a caravan whilst their house is being renovated, but also learn the numerous differences between their culture and French etiquette.

Simone’s character is very well developed and I had a great deal of sympathy for her, despite her flaws.

Unbelievable how I was able to lie to everyone, how naturally and easily it came to me. All my life I’ve hated that so intensely, that scheming, lying and deceit. Women who cheat on their husbands with their best friends, men who say they have to work late and are actually carrying on with their secretaries – there’s a reason those kinds of clichés are clichés; they’re far too commonplace, they seem to make the world go round.

This book could almost be described as chick-lit, but the mystery surrounding Simone’s imprisonment also gives it a crime/thriller edge.

I found the entire book to be very entertaining. It isn’t groundbreaking or particularly original, but it is perfect for when you need to read something a bit lighter.


2010 Chick Lit Other Prizes

The Hand That First Held Mine – Maggie O’Farrell

 Winner of 2010 Costa Book Award for Fiction

Five words from the blurb: Soho, birth, motherhood, women, connected.

The Hand That First Held Mine has a dual narrative which follows two women who are separated by 50 years in time, but dealing with many of the same issues. The first thread follows Lexie, a 21-year-old girl, who leaves her 1950s Devon home to start a new life in London. She begins a relationship with a married man and struggles to deal with the problems this causes.

The second thread follows Elina, a Finnish woman who has just given birth to her first baby. The traumatic emergency caesarean affected her and her partner, Ted, deeply. As both struggle to come to terms with the near-death experience they also have to learn to look after their demanding new baby. The writing was vivid and packed with emotion – perfectly describing the turmoil that a new baby brings to a household.

Ted registers again how pale she is, how dark and deep are the circles around her eyes, how thin her limbs look. He is possessed with an urge to apologise – for what he isn’t sure. He scans his mind for something to say, something light and perhaps witty, something to take them out of themselves, to remind them that life is not all like this. But he can’t think of anything and now the baby is rearing back, crying, fidgeting, fists flailing, and Elina is having to open her eyes, sit up again, lift him to her shoulder, rub his back, untangle his hands from her hair and Ted cannot bear it.

I connected with Elina’s thread much more than Lexie’s. I think this is a combination of the fact that I have young children and so can relate to the feelings of a new mother, but also because I have little sympathy for someone who has an affair with a married man. Lexie’s thread felt like a well written piece of chick-lit whilst Elina’s thread had a bit more depth than that.

Both threads come together towards the end of the book, but rather than being impressed by the connection it all felt a bit contrived to me.

The book was easy to read and gripping in places, but I wished that the plot had been a bit more complex or thought-provoking. This book reminded me of  Peripheral Vision, but I felt that The Hand That First Held Mine didn’t have the same complexity or depth. I’m still thinking about the issues of motherhood raised in Peripheral Vision, whilst The Hand That First Held Mine offered no new perspective on the subject.

Overall, this was an entertaining diversion, but I don’t expect to remember much about it in a few months time.

The thoughts of other bloggers:

Every word is perfectly chosen, every sentence is perfectly constructed. Fleur Fisher in her World

…it didn’t pack the same punch for me as After You’d Gone… Leafing Through Life

It’s a vivid story of motherhood that honors the whole woman. The Literate Housewife

2009 Chick Lit

One Day – David Nicholls

I loved Starter for Ten and almost rushed out to read One Day when it was first published. I was stopped by a series of negative reviews and having read the book I now understand why. The two are very different and I think fans of one will be unlikely to love the other.

One Day is essentially a romance story following a couple who have a one night stand at university. We glimpse one day of their lives each year for the next twenty years – seeing their ambitions and accomplishemts develop and change.

I loved the beginning of the book. The characters were very well developed, seemingly coming alive on the page. I found their conversations realistic and, at times, moving. Unfortunately I found that the plot lost a lot of momentum in the middle section. 100 pages of this 400+ page book could easily have been removed without loosing anything. The book regained its magic towards the end and I thought the last few chapters were especially powerful.

One Day had far less humor than Starter for Ten and I also felt the extended time period meant that it lacked the magical remisicing power and sense of place. One Day is basically a very well written piece of chick lit and so will have a much narrower group of fans than Starter for Ten. I did enjoy reading the book, but there were times when I felt the plot was contrived in order to fit everything into that one day each year.

Overall it was an entertaining read that I’d recommend to anyone looking for a well written romance, but I’d encourage you to try Starter for Ten first.

Opinion is divided on this one:

I laughed and cried whilst reading this book in one sitting. Savidge Reads

I was less than impressed. Lucybird’s Book Blog

One Day, is at times moving, funny and sad, and then you’ll turn the page and laugh your face off! Highly, Highly recommended. Bart’s Bookshelf

I failed to be moved by the couple’s blindness to one another — and grew tired of reading about more unhappy choices and bitter affairs. Write Meg!

2010 Books in Translation Chick Lit

Bad Karma – David Safier

 Translated from the German by John Brownjohn

I receive lots of email pitches from publishers and authors asking if I’m able to review their books. Most are dull and uninspiring, so I was pleasantly surprised when I read the synopsis for Bad Karma. Perhaps it was because I’d had a glass or two of wine before reading the message, but I found myself crying with laughter. I read the email to the relatives I had staying at the time and they all ended up laughing too (although maybe they were laughing at me?!) I instantly accepted the review request and went on to do a bit of research about the author. I discovered that David Safier is a successful German screenwriter, having won many awards including an Emmy. This book became a best seller in Germany, selling 850,000 copies.

Bad Karma is a funny, but thought provoking book about discovering the important things in life. Kim, the central character, is crushed to death by debris from a Russian space station and due to the fact that she mistreated her staff, ignored her daughter and cheated on her husband she is reincarnated as an ant:

Krttx glared after the. ‘Stupid males!’ she snarled. ‘They’re totally useless!’

That, I reflected, was a remark you often heard from human females.

‘The only thing they can do is mate with the Queen.’ Krttx growled.

That, I reflected, was a remark you didn’t so often hear from human females.

I stared after the flying ants. I was so inundated with sensory impressions, I didn’t even hear Krttx cussing. Which was unfortunate, because if I had I would have heard her shout: ‘Move, or I’ll bite you in the backside!’

‘OUCH!’ I yelped and lurched into action again.

Kim then goes on to be reincarnated several times – coming back as a guinea pig, a dog and even an earth worm. The animal point of views were realistic and insightful, but also highly amusing. It was great to see everyday human objects described from the the point of view of tiny insects. The only downside is that I now feel a bit bad about spraying “the Great Mist” at them!

Kim slowly realises what a terrible human being she was and makes an effort to become kinder, building up her karma so that she can be reincarnated as as more intelligent animal. It was only while reading this book that I realised how comforting a belief in reincarnation is. I was surprised at how many important issues were raised during the course of such an amusing book.

This has to be one of the most original books I’ve ever read and I really hope that it is able to gain the audience it deserves outside Germany.

Highly recommended.



2009 Chick Lit Orange Prize

The Very Thought of You – Rosie Alison


Short listed for Orange Prize 2010, Short listed for Amazon’s Rising Stars award 2009, Long listed for the RNA Romantic novel of the year 2010, Long listed for the Le Prince Maurice Prize for Literary Love Stories 2010

The Very Thought of You is set during WWII and follows eight-year-old Anna as she is evacuated to a large country house in Yorkshire. The house belongs to a childless couple, Thomas and Elizabeth Ashton, who decided to covert their home into a school in the hope that children will bring some happiness back into their lives. Unfortunately the children only seem to exacerbate their problems and their marriage falls apart.

The theme of the book appears to be loving someone that you can’t have. All the characters seem to be in love with someone that they cannot be with; whether that is due to being separated by war or yearning to be with someone already in a relationship.

The Very Thought of You was very readable and I finished it quite quickly, but it left no lasting impression on me. There were too many characters and so each one failed to develop its own identity, all seeming to have the same voice.

The book also lacked atmosphere – I couldn’t picture the places mentioned or feel the emotions each character experienced.

Overall I’d describe it as a light romance book, similar in style to The Morning Gift by Eva Ibbotson.  I have no idea why it was short listed for the Orange prize.

Opinions seem to be divided on this one:

…it is intelligently written with an eye for detail… The Truth About Lies

It is the narratorial voice that kills it stone-dead for me. Eve’s Alexandria

This is an impressive book, particularly as a debut novel. Pursewarden