I’m getting married. He’s perfect. It’s a disaster. Note to self: Do not tell psycho-bitch US Attorney future-mother-in-law that you got into Harvard Law School by shagging the Dean of Admissions. Do not sing Beyonce-style while representing in major court deposition (actually, that one kinda works). Do not buy into the social construct of fidelity – even if other people freak the hell out about it. But hey, for an easy life, do not let Will find out about all the other men (esp. my boss/his boss/his best friend). And do not let him find out about the Other Thing. Oh Jesus, don’t let him find out about the Other Thing.
Do you love chick-lit characters who have jobs as cupcake bakers, pine for men they will never approach and sit at home every night shining their halo to perfection? Then you definitely won’t like this book! Lily loves sex, alcohol, her best pal and is pretty sure she loves her fiancé…. although she’s pretty sure he wouldn’t like her sleeping with other men. I found this book incredibly refreshing, especially the array of female characters who all have careers and opinions but are still there for each other. Plus it is a surprisingly insightful look at monogamy and modern relationships.
The year is 1985. East Germany is in the grip of communism. Magda, a brilliant but disillusioned young linguist, is desperate to flee to the West. When a black market deal brings her into contact with Robert, a Scottish research student at Leipzig University, she conceives a plan to escape. Robert stumbles into a complex world of shifting half-truths – one that will undo them both. More than a decade later, Robert returns to post-communist Leipzig in search of answers. Can he track Magda down? And will the past give up its secrets?
If you enjoyed the film The Lives Of Others, this might be a holiday read for you. I’m fascinated by this period in history and how people adapted to the end of the Soviet era. This book was actually published in 2014 but has been one of those sleeper titles, slowly building an audience, mainly thanks to Radio 4. It follows the dual paths of a young East German linguist in 1985 trying to find any way out and a Scottish man in the present trying to piece together what happened when he went on exchange to Leipzig in the 80s. I thought this story was really well researched and structured, making it realistically thrilling.
What if you had said yes …? Eva and Jim are nineteen, and students at Cambridge, when their paths first cross in 1958. Jim is walking along a lane when a woman approaching him on a bicycle swerves to avoid a dog. What happens next will determine the rest of their lives. We follow three different versions of their future – together, and apart – as their love story takes on different incarnations and twists and turns to the conclusion in the present day. The Versions of Us is an outstanding debut novel about the choices we make and the different paths that our lives might follow. What if one small decision could change the rest of your life?
A triptych that explores the ‘what if?’ scenario of two characters. What if they hadn’t gotten married and had kids? What if they’d never met on that particular day? What if they had broken up early on? What would have happened to them? The author explores this in a Sliding Doors meets One Day structure: over the course of half a century we see three different versions of their lives, dropping in every few years to see how everything develops. It’s very well structured and only slightly confusing at times. Thematically, it’s a concept that I like. I’m a bit of a daydreaming ‘what if?’ person and the author does well to make sure that no ‘version’ is any more ideal than the other, they are all filled with happiness and sadness.
In the queue for the toilets at Gatwick, a teenage girl catches 57-year-old Margaret Benson’s eye in the mirror and mouths the world help. Margaret’s reaction leads to the dramatic rescue of the teenager from her trafficker and Margaret becomes a hero.
But when the story gets picked up by the papers, Margaret is panicked by the publicity, as well as the strange phone calls she begins to receive. Meanwhile, Anja makes contact. She wants to thank her rescuer, but she also quickly inserts herself into Margaret’s lonely life. As their friendship develops, so do questions: who is Margaret hiding from, and what are Anja’s true motives? And what is the cost of living a lie?
This is the author’s debut novel and it’s an interesting start. Although the premise suggests that the story is a high-stakes thriller about human trafficking, the set-up actually doesn’t really figure much in the actual story. This is more in Notes On A Scandal territory, exploring the mature-aged character’s loneliness and obsession. I was quite surprised by the twists and turns as we grow to know more. It’s an elegant character study that challenges your assumptions. If you want something a little slower paced, this is a read for you.
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