The Whish List

Book Reviews: "Be awesome! Be a book nut!" – Dr Seuss

Month: August 2014

Thursday’s Children by Nicci French

thursdayThis fourth Freida Klein novel in the series is a good read that I read within a couple of days. Freida travels back to her hometown of Braxton to investigate the rape of a local teen. She also catches up with her estranged mother who is terminally ill and to say her mother would not be in the running for ‘Mum of the year’ is an understatement. This journey home leads Freida to facing up to a past trauma in her own life and she begins to investigate the parallels between what happened to her and her modern day equivalent.

Freida is an unusual’ heroine’ but her obvious flaws and frailties only add to her appeal in my opinion and provides the series and this book in particular with someone to identify with and root for.

The Undertaking by Audrey Magee

the undertakingLonglisted for the Bailey’s prize this debut novel is breathtaking. It’s about a German soldier; Peter Faber stuck on the Eastern Front in WWII and his marriage to Katharina who is left in Berlin. The book is brilliantly written and is incredibly moving from the psychological scars inflicted on Katharina’s brother to the Jewish lady with her children Katharina meets in the park who admires her pram as she had one just like it. This scene in particular is devastating in what is left unsaid (eg it could very well be that woman’s pram) as so much was ‘appropriated’ from Jewish families and given to supporters of the Reich, indeed Katharina and her family move to an apartment ‘vacated’ by Jews. Their casual acceptance of such unfairness is haunting and gives a real insight into the day-to-day and everyday cruelty and inhumanity that was all too present.

I can’t praise this novel enough. It is relentlessly involving and some of the conditions that the soldiers at the front are faced with are almost unbearable to read but the dialogue and the understated setting of particular scenes on the domestic front in contrast, leaves you with a deep understanding of what is implied and important.

It’s a very clever book and the futility of war and the contrast in fortunes between those of a different rank and social class are beautifully drawn. This is the Second World War from a side and perspective that is not often foregrounded.  A very assured and affecting debut.



The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

Hunger GamesHaving just seen the first film version of ‘The Hunger Games’, I think that it follows the first book very closely. The book has a definite cinematic quality.   The idea of tributes battling it out in a televised fight to the death is a clever one and a perceptive commentary on our modern preoccupations with reality TV and conflict.

Although I enjoyed the story, by Part 3 of the saga (‘Mockinjay’) I was finding the going a bit tedious. I wanted to know a bit more of the back story; why did the original districts rebel?, why did it take so long to mount an effective resistance? etc and not so much of the day-to-day slow-moving rebellion.

Katniss Everdeen the central heroine and symbolic figure for the resistance movement, is a great feisty, female character but is a slightly unbeliveable catalyst for change. She does what she has to survive and along the way, manages to perform some acts of rebellion that coalesce into a District-wide movement.

Overall as a YA novel, I’m sure it both inspires and moves its target audience in ways that make them more politically and socially aware and most importantly makes them keep reading!


Before the Poison by Peter Robinson

poisonI loved this book. The story of a Hollywood composer (Chris Lowndes) who comes back to England, moves into Kilnsgate House and investigates the story of Grace Fox a previous occupant of the house and who was hanged for poisoning her husband is completely gripping and absorbing.

The descriptions of landscape and the flow of the narrative are really evocative and kept me intrigued and engaged throughout. The interplay of 3 stories set in the present day, 1953 and the 1940s are well done and leave you wanting to read more from each. The central question of is Grace guilty or not is strangely pivotal to the plot and at the same time not as Chris’s quest to uncover the truth is compelling in its own right.





Liberty Silk by Kate Beaufoy

Liberty SilkThis is a wonderful book based on a series of letters and a Liberty dress that were once owned by the author’s grandmother. They become the basis of a tale of three strong women, linked through time and place by a genetic inheritance and a need to find their way in the times in which they live.

The characters of Jessie, Lisa and Cat differ by living in the 1920s, 1940s and 1970s respectively but share a similarity in approaching both triumphs and disasters with equanimity, determination and hope. The characterization and realization of  the different social histories are brilliant and the dipping in and out of each characters’ time frame and story leads to a tale that zips along and leaves you wanting more.

Beautiful, exquisite and fits together perfectly.


The Judas Scar by Amanda Jennings reviewed for Mumsnetbookclub

Judas Scar

Tense, psychological thriller that will have you hooked…” 5


This story of how a childhood incident can still be causing ripples many years later, is superb. The three central characters; Will, Harmony and Luke have physical and psychological scars that are gradually revealed in a gripping,story of a struggling marriage, childhood bullying and the misery of miscarriage. The plot moves along at a cracking pace and I couldn’t put it down once I’d started.
If you like dark, psychological dramas with plenty of twists along the way, you won’t be betrayed by ‘The Judas Scar’


If I knew you were going to be this beautiful by Judy Chicurel. Reviewed for lovereading

If I knew you Image

A portrait of small town life in 1970’s Long Island that focuses on the lives and loves of a group of family, friends and neighbours in a series of stories.



This is the story of small town life in Long Island, 1972 in the shadow of Vietnam. It is narrated by Katie a sympathetic character who introduces us to the diverse cast of characters that make up this close-knit community. It’s somewhere we can draw parallels between it and our parochialisms but also enables us to glimpse the wider generalities of human nature across time and place.

The depiction of a down-at-heel seaside resort is brilliantly drawn and its sense of desolation, faded grandeur and future uncertainty is both a trap and a spur to action for the individuals living there.

It’s not an easy, light read but it’s well written and will make you think about the specifics of these characters and setting and the wider world today.