Thursday 19 December 2019

Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Review by The Mole

Many of us know of this story of slavery in the 18th century and dismiss this book as irrelevant today - which I think is a mistake.

The book follows the story of Tom and begins and ends with his cabin. Tom is fortunate in that in Kentucky he has been acquired by a benevolent owner who treats all his slaves well. But they are 'property' and when the owner falls on hard times he needs money.

The story tracks Tom and some of the slaves he comes into contact with during his travels. Some escape and make it as far as Canada, some don't make it to the final chapter.

Throughout the book the author, using research sources open to her at that time, explores the attitudes of different owners and their treatment of their slaves. She also explores the relationship of attitudes (including racism) in the slave free north and the slave owning south. She further goes on to compare the slaves of America to the workers of Great Britain at that time.

While much pain and suffering is inflicted on some of the slaves throughout the book these incidents happen 'off camera' so as not to offend public taste at that time.

This is, in truth, an anti-slavery publication with messages that are still relevant today regarding racism and slavery. I was left wondering about the concept of freedom over the ensuing decades.

****There are many versions of this book available still today and I acquired a free kindle copy from the kindle store which (sadly) had been scanned in and OCR converted which left MANY errors making reading a little challenging at times.

Thursday 12 December 2019

White Bodies by Jane Robins

"Callie loves Tilda. She’s her sister, after all. And she’s beautiful and successful.
Tilda loves Felix. He’s her husband. Successful and charismatic, he is also controlling, suspicious and, possibly, dangerous. Still, Tilda loves Felix.
And Callie loves Tilda. Very, very much.
So she’s determined to save her. But the cost could destroy them all…
Sometimes we love too much."

Tilda and Callie are twins - but possibly as un-alike as could be. Tilda has always been attractive, outgoing, admired; at 27, she's a well-known actress, able to pick and choose her roles. Callie has remained in her shadow - quiet, reclusive, and dowdy, she works in a bookstore. Despite their differences the two have always been close, but now Tilda has a new boyfriend, Felix, of whom Callie doesn't approve. She feels Tilda is being dominated by him too much, letting him decide too many things for her. She even thinks he might be violent, and is determined to do everything possible to save her besotted sister. Tilda meanwhile is determined to marry him.

As the book opens Felix is found dead in a hotel bedroom. As with any unexpected death how? and why? are the obvious questions, and the story takes us back through the preceding months as Callie's mistrust of him builds, and then forward to the aftermath of Felix's death.

Like most psychological thrillers, it strings you along by only revealing the truth in installments. The story is told from Callie's point of view, so we see her quick distrust of Felix, and the bizarre actions she takes in her attempt to separate him and Tilda, but aren't privy to the thoughts of any other characters. It's definitely a page-turner - I wanted to speed through it non-stop to uncover the ending - but I'm not sure it's one for me.

Unlike most of my 'review' reads, this isn't a newly published book. It's been sitting on a TBR pile for a couple of years because I didn't feel in the mood for the tension and drama of a psychological thriller. If you're a lover of this genre, and somehow missed this on publication, go and check it out; for me, although I found it a hard book to put down, I'm still not in the right head-space for it.

Thursday 5 December 2019

He Wants by Alison Moore

A while ago - a long while, actually - at the launch for Alison Moore's novel Missing, I picked up a copy of one of her previous books, put it on a shelf, and half forgot about it. I have quite a stack of my own personal books which tend to get neglected in favour of review copies, but this last month or so I've been trying to take time out to read them. So here I am, over a year later, to tell you about He Wants.

Lewis is a retired school teacher. He's had an uneventful life, and retirement is even less exciting. Now a widower, he still lives in the village where he grew up. His daughter visits regularly, bringing lunch that he doesn't really want, and making sure he's okay, but there seems to be little love or companionship between the two. This isn't the middle-age he wanted, in fact much of his life he seems to have just drifted along the easiest path rather than make active choices. With time on his hands, Lewis wanders through his memories, regretting chances he never took, wishing he'd done things differently. He's made to feel worse by the return of an old friend, Sydney, who seems quite glamorous in comparison - he's traveled and seen the world, and seems to have generally made a success of his life.

As with Alison Moore's other work, this is a gently-paced, quiet, contemplative story, focusing on the inner turmoil and hopes of her characters.

I read this at a point when I was feeling very low, and although, with its themes of loneliness, regret and missed chances, it's hardly what you might call a cheerful book, I found it soothing. It's not all doom and gloom though. There are many instances of Moore's wry humour, and the ultimate message is one of hopefulness. To me it said 'it's never too late; if you've got an unfulfilled dream, give it a go'