The Wilder Aisles 

Janice Wilder has been a legend of Sydney bookselling for over 40 years.

Trollope

 - Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Balancing Act is the latest novel by Joanna Trollope. I think the last Trollope I read was a few years ago—Girl from the South. This new book tells the story of Susie Moran, her husband Jasper & her three daughters, Cara, Ashley & Grace. Susie is the successful founder & owner of a pottery company based in Stoke-on-Trent, in Staffordshire, and her three daughters all work for the company, as does Cara's husband, Dan. The company is Susie's obsession and has always come first in her life, before her husband and children. Now, as she is growing older, and the girls are wanting a bigger role, Susie must face the fact that change is in the air. As do her daughters—with Grace, the youngest, finding inner resources she didn't know she possessed. How the changes come about, and what lies in the future for the family makes for entertaining and interesting reading. I liked the description of the pottery and how it all worked, Trollope having spent time in a Stoke pottery when researching the book. It's great literature, but I found Balancing Act a relaxing & enjoyable read.
A very different book, and one not for the faint-hearted is Irene by Pierre Lemaitre. Set in and around Paris, this is the first in a trilogy featuring Commandant Camille Verhoeven of the Brigade Criminelle, whose rank is the same as Detective Chief Inspector in the UK. The second book in the series, Alex, was translated first, but you don't need to read them in order. Irene is quite gruesome, but apparently not as much as Alex. The 'Irene' of the title is Camille's wife. They are very happy and eagerly waiting for the birth of their first child. This picture of married bliss is shattered by a terrible murder that takes place on the outskirts of Paris in Courbevoie. The murder scene seems to be meticulously arranged, a warehouse apartment, newly built, not yet inhabited but furnished with a large sofa, a very large mirror and a well-stocked bar. Someone has gone to a lot of trouble to set the scene, and Verhoeven is reminded of something he can't quite put his finger on. I won't go into details, but I found the description of the crimes a bit difficult to read. When the next crime takes place Verhoeven finally figures out what's been bothering him—the crimes are copycatting, in great detail, those committed in famous crime novels. When news of the murders is leaked to the press, supposedly through a bookstore ( I do love a book with a bookstore), the murderer is quickly named 'The Novelist' by the Paris press. This is  a very clever novel, with surprising twist at the end. I really liked the character of Camille Verhoeven and Louis, his chief offsider. Whether I get up the courage to  read the others remains to be seen.
Before We Met by Lucie Whitehouse is a more conventional crime story. But one I enjoyed. Hannah, unmarried, living in New York, is swept off her feet by the gorgeous Mark. In no time at all she finds herself married and living in London. Having no job, she spends a lot of time on her own especially as Mark is away on business trips so often. When one Friday night, Hannah goes to meet Mark returning from a business trip abroad, and he doesn't appear, she at first thinks he has missed his flight and will be on the next. However, all flights are in and still no sign of her husband. He fails to appear the next day and the one after, and with no contact from Mark, Hannah becomes increasingly concerned. The situation becomes even more disturbing when Hannah finds that all the money has disappeared from her personal bank account and she finds that all their financial papers have disappeared. Because it is the weekend there is no one from Mark's work available, so Hannah decides to go to his office to see what she can find. As the story unfolds, things get more and more complicated and Hannah comes to think that maybe a whirlwind romance and marriage to someone who is almost a stranger was perhaps not such a good idea. This is also quite a clever book, but very different to the Lemaitre. This is more of a thriller, I found myself wanting to read ahead at times, just to know what happened next!
Just as an end piece, I saw the film Her the other day, the story of a man whose wife has just left him, and who comes across a new operating system, with which he starts a relationship. I liked this film a lot. I thought it was both funny and sad and very touching—and it made me think of Chocky by John Wyndham. I am a great fan of Wyndham's works and Chocky is one of my favourites. For those who don't know the story, Chocky is an alien scout who has been sent on a mission to find another planet for her people as theirs is dying. She enters the mind of eleven-year old Matthew Gore and shows him things that he has no other way of knowing, such as binary maths—which of course causes a lot of trouble for Matthew and his family. Unfortunately Earth turns out to be of no use to her people, and having failed her mission, Chocky must leave. Despite the trouble that Chocky has caused, Matthew is very sad to see her go.  A lot of John Wyndham's books have been released in lovely new jackets. I was tempted, but I think I like my old orange penguins the best.