Halloween Party

When a twelve year old is discovered drowned in the apple-bobbing bucket at a Halloween party, author Ariadne Oliver can’t help but remember the girl’s words from earlier that day, insisting that she had once witnessed a murder. Surely the two couldn’t be connected? There is only one option in her mind: consult famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot.

As usual there are plenty of twists and turns in this murder mystery to put Poirot’s little grey cells to the test and on the whole it is an enjoyable story to read.

However (and I really hate to say it) I just don’t enjoy the later Poirot stories as much. Set in the 1960s, Halloween  Party lacks the atmosphere of the Poirot novels set in the 1920s and 1930s. Even the plot itself seems designed to be more shocking – gone are the family intrigues and drawing room expositions. We have a range of disconnected characters and a dramatic ending that just doesn’t feel right for a Poirot story.

Good for a quick read, but definitely lacking the charm of some of the earlier classics.

Before We Met by Lucie Whitehouse

Following a whirlwind romance, Hannah is blissfully married to successful Mark, living together in the enormous home that he bought with money made by his massively successful company. Aside from the fact that she is struggling to gain employment, life is perfect.

However, when she goes to Heathrow to pick him up from his latest business trip to America, he doesn’t arrive. His phone is switched off and she has no way of contacting him and he’s not staying at the hotel she thought he was.

Hannah’s immediate thought is that he’s conducting an affair, but with his eventual return home she soon discovers a series of untruths that lead to a much darker revelation about her husband.

This is a fast-paced, dramatic novel that is an enjoyable quick-read (believe me, you’ll not want to put it down once you start). At times a little melodramatic, but thrilling, exciting and full of heart-pounding moments: I was glad I’d picked this book up.

Jane Eyre 

I can’t exactly remember the first time I read Jane Eyre (probably at some point in my late teens – during sixth form most likely), but I do know that I loved it as much then as I do now.

It’s incredibly difficult to pick out a favourite moment or character from such a brilliant book, and re-reading it this past month, I’m still at a loss: is it Jane with her unusual confidence that still sets her out as a feminist icon (who can forget her impassioned speech to Rochester: “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me”?); is it Bertha Mason, the madwoman in the attic; is it the romantic declaration of love between Jane and Rochester; is it the melodramatic interruption of their wedding?

Admittedly there are also parts of Jane Eyre than I don’t particularly enjoy as much. Even though I keep reminding myself that St.John Rivers is essential to the plot and understanding of Jane and Rochester’s deep connection, I still struggle through that part of the story… I think it is possibly St John’s coldness that makes it such a dry section of the novel, which is of course essential to contrast the passion between Jane and Rochester – maybe I am in fact simply feeling some of what Jane is feeling at this point.

And what about Rochester himself? I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for him to be honest. Yeah, he’s a bit selfish and acts in a way that is morally questionable. I’ve always sort of turned a blind eye to the thought that maybe his only reason for choosing to marry Jane is her lack of family or anyone to object. So why question this now? Earlier this year, I read Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso  Sea for the first time and it has changed the way I view Rochester, probably forever. All of a sudden I question his every action; I can see all of a sudden how he manipulates Jane, the cruelty of his flirtation with Blanche Ingram. He’s no longer a Byronic hero, he almost steps into the role of full-blown villain.

Except somehow, oddly, by the time I’d reached the end, I’d sort of forgiven him all over again. Maybe because Jane forgives him so fully. And what I do love about the ending of Jane Eyre is that she ends the story on her terms: she comes back to Rochester, she is the one in control of her own destiny, and she chooses him.

H is for Hawk

I don’t often read non-fiction books; it’s very rare that I find something that will interest me to the extent that fiction does. For me, reading is an escape, a chance to experience different worlds, and I feel that fiction gives me a better scope to do that.

However I’ve been intrigued by H is for Hawk ever since I first saw its unique cover illustration and title, both of which looked more like something you would find in a children’s book. I found the book on offer in the kindle store and downloaded it at 5.30 am one Saturday morning, thinking I would give the first few pages a go to see if I enjoyed it.

Just under 2 hours of reading later I was almost half way through and I was hooked. 

H is for Hawk is a memoir by Helen Macdonald, all about training a goshawk named Mabel and how the experience helped her to come to terms with her father’s unexpected death. Intertwined with her narrative is her reflection on the author T.H.White, who also trained a goshawk, named Gos. Macdonald reflects on White’s motivations and errors, and in the process discovers her own motivations are not what she thought.

The book is beautifully written and creates an amazing picture of the sheer wildness of Mabel and the impact she has on Macdonald. Even for someone with little to no knowledge of falconry, the book is relevant as it is in fact about so much more: nature; what it means to be human; and grief.

Definitely worth a read.