Monthly Archives: November 2019

‘The Ex’ by Alafair Burke

After agreeing to defend her ex-fiancé when he is arrested for a triple homicide, top criminal lawyer, Olivia Randall begins to have doubts as the evidence mounts against him. Twenty years ago she ruined his life. Now she has a chance to save it.

This was a fun and easy to read stand-alone legal/detective crime novel. A good one to snuggle up with on a cold winter’s evening. Nothing remarkable about it, and I had it pretty much figured out early on, but enjoyable all the same. The author teaches criminal law and lives in Manhattan. I’ve heard that her more recent books are twisty and suspenseful and have put them on my TBR list: The Wife and The Better Sister. Funny thing–when I arrived at the gym yesterday a fellow fitness class member had just picked up The Wife from the library. I’d never heard of this author before and now I’m seeing her everywhere. My fitness colleague said she’d group Burke with Joy Fielding, Mary Higgins Clark, and Mary Jane Clark in terms of read-alikes.

‘The Gown’ by Jennifer Robson

Books become very enjoyable when there are lots of points of contact–places we’ve been to, experiences we’ve had, or activities we are familiar with. The Gown is historical fiction about the women who embroidered Queen Elizabeth’s wedding gown. It brilliantly highlights the postwar era in which the wedding took place and points out how in many ways excitement around the wedding was meant to lift the mood of a war weary country. The novel captures that spirit of hope.

For me it was a treat to read because it was about sewing, embroidery, the city of London, the royal family, and immigration to Canada–all points of contact and interest for me. Three women narrate the story that is woven together so well–a seamstress from France, an embroiderer from England, and a granddaughter in Canada blend their voices to move the story forward. This highly readable novel isn’t only about sewing. It’s also about the value of friendship, the intrigue of legacy, and the revelation of family secrets.

This Canadian author also published an article in Time magazine with interesting background information about the real event as well as Norman Hartnell’s Fashion House commissioned to make the gown. Click here.

‘Olive, Again’ by Elizabeth Strout

Olive Kitteridge is one of my all time favourites, so I was excited to read the sequel Olive, Again. And it did not disappoint. In fact, everything I would say about this second book, was said in my previous post about the first book, so you might as well turn back to that now: click here.

Strout is a genius at capturing many varied moments in one novel: holy, ordinary, heartbreaking, endearing, frustrating, joyous, sensual, horrible, humorous, and awkward. I think she writes ‘awkward’ best, I can’t imagine it’s easy to do. The sequel carries on seamlessly from the first book and holds the same tone and form: loosely connected stories about people in Crosby, Maine but what you can count on is that Olive will show up, and it will be intriguing. This book in particular is poignant and real in describing aging Olive, the way she copes, and what she learns about herself. Olive continues to be a strange and enigmatic woman, brutally candid but also refreshingly honest–I can’t get enough of her.

Most public libraries have the four-part HBO miniseries of Olive Kitteridge in DVD format starring Frances McDormand, or I would think it could be streamed online. It’s very true to the book and is a pleasure to watch.

‘The Stationery Shop’ by Marjan Kamali

This is a unique story set in 1953 Tehran against the backdrop of the Iranian Coup. It’s about a young couple in love who are separated on the eve of their marriage, and who are reunited sixty years later, after both have moved on to live independent lives in America. It’s a sweeping romantic tale of thwarted love amidst the chaos of unrest. There’s really not enough information to classify it as historical fiction, although it does give a flavour of that place during that time.

The novel begins very effectively at the end of the story, when Roya and Bahman meet again, begging the question of what happened all those years ago. As the author flashes back, the story slowly unfolds. Why did these young lovers fail to meet up? How did they manage to find each other again so late in life? What was the truth in the tale and what deceptions may have been at play? Despite being a bit tedious and occasionally cliché, I really liked this book. I did feel hugely sorry for one character, and it’s not who you might think.