Friday, 19 July 2013

Summer Reading Habits

OK!  It's important to get comfortable ....

You will need your sunglasses with wrap around sides -otherwise the light gets in and makes your eyes water, and if you have any make-up or sunscreen on that's painful!  You need a comfy seat / sunbed / rug & pillow  on the grass ... maybe you're going all Hollywood and floating on a lilo in a turqouise pool as you read ... if so, I suspect you are in the minority!!  Anyhoo summer is THE best time to read, you can chill almost anywhere with a book, take it in your bag & read on your lunch break, MOST CERTAINLY read on the bus or train [but never try to read when you are driving your car!] 

Girl Friday by Jane Green

This is probably the most typical, girly 'holiday read' of all those I've devoured in the last 3 weeks.  It is set in America, small town Conneticut.  It revolves around a central character who has recently got divorced and downsized her life, becoming a single mom and looking for work.  Her friends are:
  • a mother who lives a high octane life with a financier husband, children at private school, a nanny and start-up business of her own,  
  • a newcomer to the area who seems to be on the 'californian' trail to enlightenment, running a centre for alternative therapies and yoga/fitness regimes 
  • and a lovely elderly neighbour,sharp as a tack, who gets our heroine her job as girl friday to a very famous, successful thriller writer who is a known recluse.
Throw into the mix a mystery surrounding the death of the writer's wife back in the 70s,  an abusive ex-husband in one lady's past, a long-lost relative in another's and  a financial crash and there's your plot:  a hot pot of tricky situations which the characters must deal with.  Having been reading thrillers recently, I did feel that some of the tension was only hinted at before a solution was found, but perhaps that is the 'escapism' secret to a good holiday read.
What a great book!!  The sharp-eyed amongst you may remember me raving about the E4 series made from this book in a previous blog, but I really found another layer of interest in the novel.  Rae has obviously edited the diaries she wrote when she was a 17 year old  obsessed with boys and body issues, back in the 80s.  She wanted to make them a fun read, she did not want to fall out with or upset the people who were in her life then (and some still are) but this does not mean she hasn't dealt with difficult issues.  Her relationship with her mother is terrible - but for lots of teenage girls that's a fact of life.  She has a friend who seems to use Rae as her side-kick, to make herself look prettier, thinner, more fun (bet lots of us have experienced that) and though boys seem to like Rae, it's as a friend rather than girlfriend material.  

Poor Rae - but she has her love of music, her poetry and of course her diary to let off steam and to try to make sense of the dramas in her life.  She suffers mental health issues, and these have not been addressed successfully by the health authorities, as Rae is masking them quite successfully.  Also - a lot like Adrian Mole in his famous diaries - you have to read between the lines of Rae's narration to see what the picture really is.  It is nice to see that Rae now (a forty-something mother living in Tasmania) has made a success of her life and feels that her diaries not only helped her along that process, but will help others with similar issues.

This book contains a young person's voice which needs to be heard - Rae does for plus sized girls and teens with mental health issues what Tracey Beaker did for unhappy children and those in care homes - she shines a light in the dark corners.  Read it for yourself and see another viewpoint.

The Returned : Channel 4 (French with sub-titles)

This is a complex, spooky, classy, perplexing take on a mystery with zombie undertones.  An alpine village in the shadow of a huge reservoir and dam starts to be visited by people who have died years before - a steady trickle of them, but not all from the same disaster.  A 14 year old is back from the tragic school trip when her coach crashed - just as the bereaved parents of all the children have agreed on a fitting memorial.  A young musician returns to find that his bride to be (who got news of his suicide on her wedding day) is about to marry the local police officer and that his child (unborn at the time of his death) now attends primary school. And the most poignant of them all - Victor - a silent child who has latched onto the local doctor, seems to have been orphaned by violent burglars before being shot where he hid in the closet.

We do not yet know why the dead are returning, why they are so hungry all the time or why they make the lights flicker and the water level in the reservoir drop.  Perhaps it has something to do with the village which was flooded to make way for the hydro-electric plant or perhaps, as the local religious leader seems to think, the dead have returned to their family as prophets - but we do know HE is not as squeaky clean as he likes to pretend!

BUT ...
  • why has no-one caught the serial killer who attacks young women and makes vicious slashes into their stomachs
  • why do women in this area still walk home alone at night, knowing the killer is at large?
  • why, if they are flesh eating zombies, is nobody noticing missing pets?

I will patiently watch 2 more stylish episodes to find out.  If you haven't been watching this, you would do well to visit 4OD & try to catch up.

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