On March 3, 1947, in the maternity ward of Beth Israel Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, Archibald Isaac Ferguson, the one and only child of Rose and Stanley Ferguson, is born.
From that single beginning, Ferguson’s life will take four simultaneous and independent fictional paths. Four Fergusons made of the same genetic material, four boys who are the same boy, will go on to lead four parallel and entirely different lives.
Family fortunes diverge. Loves and friendships and intellectual passions contrast. Chapter by chapter, the rotating narratives evolve into an elaborate dance of inner worlds enfolded within the outer forces of history as, one by one, the intimate plot of each Ferguson’s story rushes on across the tumultuous and fractured terrain of mid-twentieth-century America.
A boy grows up-again and again and again.
So apparently this Paul Auster guy is quite famous and there was much hype about this being his first book in seven years. I haven’t read any of his previous stories so I didn’t know what to expect – but what a book! In every way, epic. I can’t imagine sticking with a story this long (all 880 pages of it) and detailed if it wasn’t as beautifully crafted as this one. I’ve mentioned in previous book reviews what a sucker I am for the ‘multiple versions a life’ narratives. I just love the idea of these parallel universe options for the same set of characters and this book is very brave in its attempt to present four possibilities. I ended up having to write notes on my phone so I could track what happens in each version but it wasn’t that confusing really and the author absolutely nails the variation and engagement.
Quite often through the month that it took me to tackle this book, I wondered where this was all headed but (without giving away any spoilers) I have to say I found the ending satisfying in a low-key way. This is a beautiful book, described by many as a love letter to New York, but I feel like it is a love letter to life and how much we are shaped by our circumstances and experiences. If you want a hearty story that you can really sink your teeth into and be carried away by, then this is undoubtedly the best book you could choose in 2017.
When Alice Hopkins’ husband dies in a tragic accident, she returns to the small Essex town of Manningtree, where her brother Matthew still lives.
But home is no longer a place of safety. Matthew has changed, and there are rumours spreading through the town: whispers of witchcraft, and of a great book, in which he is gathering women’s names.
To what lengths will Matthew’s obsession drive him? And what choice will Alice make, when she finds herself at the very heart of his plan?
Ok, I’ll admit that I was mainly attracted to this book because it was set in Essex. I had no idea that the UK’s most notorious county was a hotbed of witch trials in the 1640s. If you’re a bit of English history buff, then this is one for you. The story is centred on Alice Hopkins, the fictional sister of the very real Matthew Hopkins. He was a self-appointed ‘witchfinder’ whose interrogation methods led to the execution of around 300 women between 1644 and 1646 in England and practices influenced the Salem witch trials in the USA. So while the story is fictional, it is steeped in fact and the author does a great job at weaving these elements together. The story is gripping and easy to read. I spent most of the story wishing Alice would run away from her awful brother and frustrated by the lack of options for women at this time. An intelligent, feminist thriller.
1895: London’s scared. A killer haunts the city’s streets. The poor are hungry; crime bosses are taking control; the police force stretched to breaking point.
While the rich turn to Sherlock Holmes, the celebrated private detective rarely visits the densely populated streets of South London, where the crimes are sleazier and the people are poorer.
In a dark corner of Southwark, victims turn to a man who despises Holmes, his wealthy clientele and his showy forensic approach to crime: Arrowood – self-taught psychologist, occasional drunkard and private investigator.
When a man mysteriously disappears and Arrowood’s best lead is viciously stabbed before his eyes, he and his sidekick Barnett face their toughest quest yet: to capture the head of the most notorious gang in London…
Oh, I loved this book! I really hope it is the start of a new series as I am hooked. For my sins, I’ve never actually read any of the Sherlock Holmes books but doesn’t everyone feel steeped in the world of 221b Baker Street these days? There’s the Guy Ritchie films, the Benedict Cumberbatch TV series… I’m even addicted to the New York set TV series Elementary (with the dreamy Jonny Lee Miller as the quirky detective and the awesome Lucy Liu as Dr Joan Watson). So I feel like I have a handle on the world of this story, which is very much in the background but shapes most of the humour in this book.
William Arrowood is a detective who hates Sherlock; he’s wildly envious of his famous competitor and is driven into a furious rage every time Sherlock is handed yet another high-profile case. This is despite the fact that Arrowood operates in shady South London – a world away from Sherlock’s posh, West London digs. The case is very twisted, dark and intriguing, making this a fantastic book to travel with. I was completely drawn into this story and even enjoyed reading the grizzly bits (which is unusual for me). I highly recommend this book!
It’s 1987. Ronald Reagan is in the White House. Prince and Madonna are on the radio. And Wheel of Fortune hostess Vanna White is on the cover of Playboy. Billy and his friends are desperate to get hold of a copy, but no shopkeeper is going to sell one to three fourteen-year-old gaming nerds. The only thing for it is a heist of the local shop. But as they set out on their mission to enter one impossible fortress, they have no idea what lies ahead . . .
This book found its way into my hands accidentally: an advance copy that had been passed to my partner, who read it, loved it and recommended I read it. The idea of a book about a bunch of 80s teenage boys trying to steal a copy of Playboy sounded like a cute but not particularly engaging premise – and probably not one I would be the target audience for. Thankfully, I gave it a shot because this story is full of charm and the pursuit of Playboy is simply the event that launches Billy, Alf and Clark into their coming of age adventure. The story is actually centred around the early days of computer game programming, thanks to Billy’s crush on Mary who is a whizz at creating her own Atari-era games. If you’re looking for a lighthearted, feel-good holiday read steeped in Stranger Things style nostalgia, then this is the book to read.
Affiliate Disclosure: This blog has affiliate links for Amazon, Awin and Commission Factory. This means I may earn a small commission if you click-through and makes a purchase. All my recommendations are genuine and are in no way influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative. By clicking on an affiliate link, you accept that third-party cookies will be set (so that they can link the reason for your purchase to my blog).